Apricotsushi Interviews: Foo Swee Chin (FSc)

While most of the influential artists of my youth were undoubtedly Japanese, there is one non-Japanese illustrator I followed from a young age that stands apart from the others for her eerily beautiful style. I’m referring to none other than the Singaporean artist, Foo Swee Chin, who is an all-around amazing creator. I actually had the privilege of meeting her last year at a conference in Sydney, and she also happens to be one of the sweetest professional artists I’ve ever met!

An example of FSc’s quirky, dark style (source)

☆ When did your first start drawing? Have you always wanted to be a comic artist?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. Drawing is a substitute for friends. I wasn’t allowed to go outdoors besides school and the library. So drawing is like a friend. We travelled together. XD
The comic thing kind of happened gradually. I enjoyed making up stories and creating worlds so the best medium was comics. I submitted some drawings and short comic stripes to a student newspapers in my teens. They published them, so I continued to send them more. After that I uploaded some online and sent samples to Slave Labor only because I enjoyed reading the comics they published. I kind of never stopped making comics since.

☆ Many of your fans probably came to know you through your work on Nightmares and Fairy Tales by Serena Valentino. What was it like doing the art for someone else’s story?

You are right, majority of them came to know my drawings because of Nightmares and Fairytales.
Serena was very nice and straightforward. She gave me a lot of freedom so it was quite fun to work on NNF. I didn’t feel very stressed out.
She explained everything very clearly so it wasn’t very difficult.
The only difficult part was that… being used to Japanese comics I found it hard to fit a lot of panels and dialogues into one page. But I got used to it after awhile, and now it is difficult to not over fill a page.

One of FSc’s character designs for Wayforward’s game, LIT 

☆ Is Wayforward’s LIT your only experience working on a video game? Is that something you’d like to do again in the future?

Kind of I guess. I did character designs for interactive games too but I guess that is different from video games.^^)>

☆ Interactive games still count! It’s really interesting that you’ve been able to work on projects in different mediums. You’ve also had the rare opportunity as a non-Japanese to work with a Japanese publisher and have your comics published in Japanese. What was that like?

It was… I was very honoured. I felt very lucky.
It wasn’t easy. Making Japanese manga is so different from making alternative comics. The editor and the manga artists have to work together as a team. I learned a lot from the experience. It made me humble.

A couple volumes of FSc’s comic, MuZz, at Mandarake in Shibuya
(photo taken by me)

☆ Back in January 2013, you spoke at the Women’s Manga in Asia: Glocalizing Different Cultures and Identities conference about being a female comics artist with Japanese influences. However, your style is probably not considered very manga-like by some. Do you consider your art manga?

No. I don’t anymore. I used to, simply because everyone said my comics are very manga. When I went to Japan I was told that my art is very European.
I don’t know anymore. My brain is a mashed potato.

☆ I personally don’t think it matters how you define it… Just keep drawing in your own amazing style! As for the future, what do you hope to be doing in five years?

I hope to get more art related work, at least enough to pay the bills and feed my cats XD
I’m open to any art related work, be it illustrations, concept visualisations, comics or manga, clothes designs, merchandises…  galleries (that is if anyone sane enough wants to see pages and pages of scribbly wiggly black and white line drawings LOL)
But my dream would be to have my own comic/manga series which can support my lifestyle and pay the bills someday. That dream is getting more and more difficult by the second.

She also posts lots of comics about her life on her blog.
Keep at it, FSc! 

A rather melancholy note to end on, but thanks so much to FSc for chatting with me about so many interesting topics! If you’d like to see what she’s up to, you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. She always needs the support, so to read or, more importantly, purchase her work, please head over to her website!

About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.