KUALA LUMPUR: Many Malaysians today while away their free time on social media, binge watching movies or online gaming.
But for Jacqueline Molly Yong, 52, a self-described “normal auntie”, her free time is precious as it allows her to pursue her lifelong passion that is art.
In her home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, evidence of her artistic ability is everywhere. From her collection of painted stones to the papier-mâché sculptures scattered around her living room, it is clear that Yong takes her passion to heart.
A Fine Arts graduate from the Malaysian Institute of Art, Yong is a freelance graphics designer and she has one daughter.
She mused to FMT about how much computers have changed the graphics design industry. “Nowadays, to change a colour, all it takes is one click. In the past we had to redo the whole artwork to change a colour.”
She said she has been passionate about art from a very young age, drawing anything and everything from the moment she could hold a pencil.
Left largely to her own devices by her parents, she had the time and freedom to develop her artistic skills. She sketches and paints but Yong has particular fondness for working in papier-mâché.
“I like to create something out of nothing,” she said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy art materials.”
Most of her papier-mâché artworks are made with recycled newspaper. She attributes her use of scrap material to her poor background – things were not discarded but reused to save money.
And she enjoys sharing the fruit of her labour, donating several pieces to her church.
“I do this for my own pleasure mostly,” she said. “Anything can inspire me … I am inspired by my surroundings. Mostly, I like cute things.”
Noticeably, most of her art depicts animals. She says it is because animals are much more pleasant than human beings and people are harder to portray.
“I paint portraits sometimes, when people request it. But a portrait is subjective because it is a human face. People expect you to replicate it like a photograph.”
Some clients provide her with minimal reference material, a blurry photograph, for example, and they sometimes complain that the finished portrait is not what they expected.
“I think the problem is that when painting from a photograph, it’s very one-sided. It’s just what you see in the photograph. People’s expectations are different. They expect the portrait to be like a photograph … Some clients’ expectations are too high.”
The time she spends on each art piece varies depending on how much effort is required. Her painted rocks take a few hours to finish while her papier-mâché projects can take an entire month to complete.
Asked if she plans to pass on her artistic talents to her daughter, Yong laughed. “She has her own style. Nowadays, young people have so many distractions.”
Yong said she is content to let her daughter explore her own artistic avenues, adding that art cannot and should not be pushed onto people.
“They don’t have the patience we had. She likes dancing to K-pop though,” Yong says, whipping out her handphone to show the video of her daughter participating in an online dance challenge.
She does have some advice for aspiring artists. “Do not restrict yourself, ever. There is no good or bad art to me as long as you do it and it makes you happy. When you put your heart to it and try hard, you will eventually come up with something good.”