PETALING JAYA: Many young people would remember spending their Saturday mornings watching cartoons. For most, it was a rite of passage – a few hours of entertainment that were well-deserved after a long week at school.
These same cartoons, with all their vivid colours and designs, can inspire adults even many years down the road. This is the case with local artist and animator Jennifer Teh, whose creative works take a page out of classic cartoons, albeit with her own personal flair.
Looking at her work, one could think she were an official artist with Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar or Lucasfilm, given how beautiful and professional they are.
Indeed, she has dabbled in professional animation, and continues to do so, with her credentials including contributions to Adult Swim’s “Rick & Morty”, and Amazon Prime’s “The Boys: Diabolical”.
“Because of work-from-home culture, international studios are opening up to animators from other countries in this day and age,” she told FMT Lifestyle recently.
When she isn’t busy on the computer, Teh can often be found manning her own booth at local fan conventions and fairs, where visitors often stop by to admire her creative works.
Just earlier this month, she was at the “Star Wars event”, the “Festival of the Force”, taking commissions from fans who wished to see themselves portrayed as their favourite characters.
The 37-year-old Subang native said her fondest childhood memories involve watching hours of cartoons on weekends – Disney, “Looney Tunes”, “Tom & Jerry”. She remembers how their hand-drawn movements captivated her even then.
“I didn’t know it was called animation at the time. I was like, ‘Wah, the drawing can move. Very nice ah’!” she said, laughing.
Teh would eventually learn about animation when she was 14, even though she was later torn between studying to be an animator and being a veterinarian, as she loves animals as much as cartoons.
Ultimately, though, her passion for the arts prevailed, and she pursued her studies in multimedia, majoring in 2D animation at Limkokwing University.
According to Teh, her art style is influenced by those western cartoons she enjoyed as a youngster, plus “Japanese manga such as ‘Dragon Ball’”.
“I liked their depictions of masculine figures – they have really nice anatomical drawings. And their proportions, too!” she added cheekily.
She thus calls her personal style a “mixed bag”, blending Japanese stylings with the flexibility of western-style cartoons.
“The way western animations move is livelier and has more flair compared to Japanese anime. But anime has its own beautiful way of depicting movement.”
Asked how she first got involved with fan conventions and such events, she said she basically learnt about arts markets and decided to put her work out there.
She found that having people admire and purchase her art pieces was nice, while having more exposure as a result was a bonus.
Still, “whenever I paint these pieces, I paint them because I’m a fan, not because I’m just following whatever trend is out there”, Teh stressed.
She is particularly fond of character montages, sharing a few examples that feature characters from Disney’s “Zootopia” and the “Big Hero Six” films.
Teh tends to play around with mediums, curious to experiment with anything and everything. As such, her works primarily consist of digital paintings, watercolours, and acrylics, even though the latter tend to “require more time and focus”.
In addition, she is aiming to create more original works than fan art. “Original works require more of a thought process,” she pointed out, “whereas fan art helps train your skills.”
All in all, though, does she ever wish she’d gone down the path of animal treatment, rather than becoming an artist? Not at all, she said, adding: “I’m very grateful for the opportunities out there.”
Currently attached with a Thai studio for an undisclosed project, Teh concluded that the work of an animator could be “gruelling” but, “at the end of the road, it can also be quite rewarding, especially when the project is done and you can see your work on TV”.