Friday, December 6, 2019

Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) 2019 - Artist Alley Booth Highlight on Versatile Illustrator Soefara Jafney

Freelance illustrator Soefara Jafney may be based in Amsterdam, but there is no denying that there are very recognisable South-east Asian touch points in many of her drawings. More importantly, Soefara has a special skill - she is able to depict various women characters in history as well as in pop-culture as interesting personalities in their own right.

Having worked in the commercial world as an art director, her versatility is evident as she her work is seen in various forms, including children's books illustrations, designs for headscarves and leggings, and also high-end collectible toy statues.

It was wonderful to know that Soefara will be having a booth at Singapore Comic Con's Artist Alley this year. Red Dot Diva recommends that the geek ladies (and of course, men too) should head there, get to know her and her art, and show what woman power can be and do!

Here's a Q&A with Soefara, where Red Dot Diva chats with her about the art scene, representation for women, and her dream project.

Red Dot Diva: How is it like being a Malaysian artist living in Amsterdam, and now, in Singapore? Do you think there's hope for Singapore's local arts scene?
Soefara: Hmm.. what can I say about the art scene here? It is glorious! The level of artistry is eminent. From their Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh to other forms of art such as ivory carving, cheesemaking and Taxidermy, The Dutch seem to have mastered their craft beautifully. Take for example Taxidermy, there are courses available here for those who are interested to learn but the wait list is 2 years and the course is pretty hefty. That itself shows how much commitment they’re willing to atone to advance in a skill. Having said that, the Netherlands have had the economic and art boom since the 16th century. That gives them one big head start compared to Singapore. And time is a precious commodity when it comes to mastery in any field. Singapore is one melting pot, reminds me of London on a smaller scale ( But Singapore has better train system heh..) The buzz and the speed of the city is inspiring. Singapore has always welcomed talents from around the world, hence there is a lot of transfer of technology and ideas to inspire the local art scene. But like I've mentioned earlier, the path has been made, perhaps what we need is just time to see it bloom.

Red Dot Diva: I love love love your vibrantly coloured, beautiful drawings of women, and unique takes on their costumes, like the one for Cleopatra and Cik Citi Wan. Also that gender bender Joker! How much research do you do when drawing historical characters?
Soefara: Thank you! I do take the extra mile when it comes to research for historical figures. It helps to know about their history, personality, contributions and such. For example, for Cik Siti Wan Kembang, as she is not a popular character, I didn’t want to deviate too much from her original portrait of her, drawn with her favourite mousedeer, so I kept the original composition in my illustration. I enjoyed researching her costume, traditional headgear, accessories, her songket and the patterns on them. I did use some creative license to have her hold a keris. This is to represent what a badass she was. She was a skilled warrior and queen who led an army of women on horseback. She’s my hero :)

Red Dot Diva: Where is the line drawn between a female character looking sensual and looking sexualised?
Soefara: The line drawn between looking sensual and sexualised for me is about control. One example would be the memorable Slave Leila scene in Return of the Jedi. I remember watching that scene as a kid, Leia chained up, dressed in that golden bikini while seated next to the bloated Jabba the hut. She looks amazing, but it was definitely an uncomfortable scene. How she was sexually objectified wasn’t right. And that is where the line is drawn, when a woman in your drawing is in a situation where she doesn’t have control of and when she is objectified & sexualised. Besides, that kind scene and story has been done to death and I think people now want more different views and perspective, like those coming from a woman.

Red Dot Diva: With the topic of feminism, the call for diversity and representation in media, and the rise of #MeToo in discussions these days, what do you think are the healthy ways that women can help women achieve to the best of their abilities?
Soefara: The best way that women can be involved in the #MeToo movement is to come forward and share their story. It sounds simple enough but that’s when things will start to happen. Put yourself, your talent and your story out there whenever the opportunity arise. When women tell about their injustice, they will not just get empathy but support from people who are facing the same issues and inspire others to step up and to take action. To me, it's more profound when a woman tells her story because I can relate to it. For example 'Speak' the graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll. It resonates with me a lot because it's told by 2 women through the eyes of a girl and the story and the artwork is beautiful and devastating at the same time.

Red Dot Diva: Do you see your artwork achieving that in some ways?
Soefara: I do hope so! My style and subject matter changes as I am exposed to more things. But at the same time, my childhood favourite memories are compelling me to revisit and to somehow rehash them. Like for example the gender bender Joker has an 80s vibe to her. I'm also obsessed with Netflix's GLOW and so I came up with an idea to remix the X-Men girls with some 80s Jane Fonda-esque aerobics outfit. I guess when I draw women, be in a pin up, a comic character or GLOW inspired ones, I like to include a story behind the visual and hopefully that would resonate with someone out there :)

Red Dot Diva: Who is/ are your top favourite female comic book heroes?
Soefara: She Hulk, Kate Bishop, Wonder Woman to name a few.

Red Dot Diva: You have drawn several kids' books for Epigram, designed and collaborated for a Spider Gwen collectible statue with XM studios, produced a limited series of postcards with Straits Times press on cats!, and you also provided gorgeous designs for leggings and such. What else do you want to do.. .what are your dream projects?
Soefara: I love doing commercial work, like the work I do with dUCk and the leggings illustrations, but at the same time I have a soft spot for graphic novels and picture books. I did a tribute to Kwan Shan Mei for AFCC a few years back, she was a highly talented illustrator who resided in Singapore in the 60s. She published the Moongate series, a collection of Asian folktales and as a kid, I would gawk over them for hours. Until now, she's still a big inspiration to me. Having an effect like that on another human being is something I wish I can achieve in my lifetime :)

Red Dot Diva: What has your experience boothing at conventions been like? Any tips for those doing this for the first time?
Soefara: Conventions are fun. I feel it’s a great way to come out of your bat cave to meet and connect with like minded people, to take and give inspiration, and then head back to the bat cave again :)

Red Dot Diva: What are items that would be available your booth at SG Comic Con? Do you have a message for those attending the convention?
Soefara: I will be having some posters, postcards, enamel pins, some leggings and picture books and stickers! Loads of stickers, so come on over to Booth TF27.



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