There's art inside your head

Updated: Mar 25

You can release it out onto the world or keep it to yourself – no worries. Just revel in the worlds and characters you build.

There are times when it’s infinitely better to live inside your mind.

Think of all the worlds, the characters and the stories you get to create… and escape to. It’s all up to you.

It’s exhilarating. 😊

And the ideas can come anytime, anywhere.

“They come in all forms – through music, walks in nature, taking a bus ride, dreams, meditation, reading, zoning out, conversing with someone, while taking a shower,” states Foo Swee Chin (also known as FSc), an illustrator, comic book and manga artist based in Singapore, whose work includes the Zeet, A Lost Stock of Children, Chimney 25 and Mince comic books.

Foo Swee Chin
FSc recommends a stroll

“The ideas tend to grow on their own if we don’t restrict them. I think they can come anytime as long as I am not on my phone or computer, usually when I am alone.”

So do value – and don’t underestimate – the things you can accomplish with your “alone” time. You may produce a character (or two) that’ll fire up your imagination and inspire you to keep on going, like FSc.

After all, there are no risks, ifs or buts. You just have to enjoy the characters and the creative process, and inject your own personal stories or experiences into them.

Or not. “Sometimes it (the character) is for work, sometimes it is to convey messages. Often they get to live out stories and adventures in the worlds I dream up,” she admits. So let everything flow freely.

You don’t even have to have a favourite part or character – because they all are. “It’s difficult, because I don’t have a favourite character. In a way, my artwork and characters are my friends and children, imperfect and need to grow.”

muZz Foo Swee Chin
muZz is one example; it's "a character from my comics that grew over the years", recalls FSc

You can refine your characters

They’re not static, and that’s the best part. Like FSc said, they grow and develop into many different things, and evolve depending on the situations you cook up.

But if you need suggestions, FSc has a few. (They apply to designs such as mascots, she says. Plus if you want them to come to life, in a way.)

#1 Start with basic shapes

“Shapes that most represent the character,” she adds.

#2 Research

“And do lots of thumbnails.”

#3 Take a rest

“If you run out of ideas.”

#4 There are two things to keep in mind

“Your branding and target audience.”

#5 Who’s your character?

“Think of it as a real person with strengths and flaws, an age, moods, etc.”

Foo Swee Chin
Case in point: FSc's cat portrait. She explains, "Animals have their own personalities and quirks too, but since humans often look at them as mere animals, many do not notice it. People who work with animals or have pets will say otherwise. To present the personalities of animals in a relatable way, often we humanise them, giving them human properties such as wearing clothes (and) doing what humans do."

#6 Put it on paper

“If it’s something personal, anything goes. Ideas grow as time flows. It’s a good habit to sketch the ideas you have.”

You might be surprised

Your characters might not come out the way you envisioned, and that’s okay.

“Most of them come out different, (but it’s) neither good nor bad. Usually it’s how they needed to be in the end,” FSc declares.

“The creation of personal characters and characters to sell – such as games and mascots – are two different creative processes. Both are fun. Characters in manga and comics tend to ‘grow’ on their own as the story goes along.

“I’m not an expert in creating characters that sell, but overall my experiences have been a great learning trip,” she continues.

“There are often times where the stories and characters were not accepted, and never did make it onto any medium or media after working on it over a long period of time. That can be disheartening and discouraging, but sometimes you just have to let it go.”

And the great thing is, you don’t have to if it’s for your own personal pleasure. I feel that daydreaming can keep anyone sane, because it lets us take a break from work and our daily lives. It makes anything possible.

FSc agrees. “Daydreaming, the imagination, is actually good for de-stressing, though it isn’t for everyone,” she ponders. “(It’s) a relaxing way to pass the time while riding on the train or bus. I actually find the need to constantly stay connected to social media stressful. In a way, you’re ‘building’ something layer by layer through imagination like a 3D character designer or animator. So I suppose it’s good for the brain too?”

There are also no rules with your creativity and art. “Go with your instincts on what to follow,” FSc tells us. “There are rules to follow, but not all advice always serves (us) well. Your intention, being in the right place at the right time, helps propel you and your creation forward.”

Foo Swee Chin, Zeet
Zeet is a character "that sprouted on its own"

Your tools

Designing worlds and figures in your head, and thinking of potential and possibilities through them, are worthy exercises – a way to maybe soften these tough times even for just a while, and for just a tiny bit. We need these pockets of peace.

You have your imagination, but sometimes you might also need accessories. 😊

You don’t need much. “Pencils and ballpoint pens,” FSc points out. “I really love my Copic markers, but they are too expensive for me to afford.”

Engaging in new activities helps too. FSc also happens to be a Usui Reiki energetic healing practitioner and animal communicator. 👏

Can you imagine the characters and stories you’ll get to make up when you have cool interests to feed on?

Try this

So if you could generate a self portrait, what form will you take?

The sky's the limit. Here's what FSc has done before, an "interpretation of existing figures" as she refers to it. ⬇️

"(It's ) drawing myself for a comic series, but in a way that readers will be able to relate to... or in a way that fits the comic and style. It is me but then only a perception of myself, in a way YouTubers (and) online personalities are all like that," she muses.

"We will never know another person fully because what we know is only from our point of view. I don't know fully about myself either. I suppose it is the same for characters we create. The same can be said for the two images below."

So let go. Because aren't you the least bit curious about what you can create? 😊

Check out Foo Swee Chin and her work through her site, Patreon, Facebook and Instagram.