Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) 2022 Interview - Multi-Disciplinary Artist Quinatasya and Her Unique Creative Vision

Are you counting down to Singapore Comic Convention (SGCC) 2022, the pop-culture event of the year? Personally, Red Dot Diva cannot wait to walk through the show floor at Sands Expo & Convention Centre on 10 & 11 December 2022. She is all ready to stalk the guests, prowl Artist Alley, and most of all, yak with the geek community after two long years!

There are so many convention guests this year, even more than previous shows. On the SGCC 2022 guest list is locally based multi-disciplinary and award winning artist, Quinatasya Afridi. Quinatasya has a unique way of visualising neuroanatomical structures and incorporating them into her art, including unforgettable renditions of well-known pop-culture figures, like Batman and Neil Gaiman. She is also a co-founder of a media agency called Ohai Media, a creative video production company, which names Ferrari, Cartier, Harper's Bazaar and National Arts Counctil in their portfolio.

Red Dot Diva had the chance to ask Quinatasya's some nosy questions, and the multimedia creator's curious, tenacious and vibrant personality was evident in her answers. Here's how the interview unfolded:

Red Dot Diva (RDD): Hi Quinatasya! Do you have any childhood memories of how your interests led to art? Would you say that your creative vision and aesthetic were formed, or were they cultivated?
Quinatasya: As a young kid growing up in the early 90s, I spent many happy hours sticking my nose in my late dad’s Lat comic book collection. My dad was a bibliophile, and our study room walls were lined with a wide range of books, from classics to comics. As I worked my way through the bookshelves, molded by dozens of new titles every month, I started to create my own comic series — about a fretful boy name Dolah and his silly misadventures on his first days of school. When I was eight, it was published in Malay daily Berita Harian and that milestone paved the way to more creative pursuits.
Baby Quinastasya and her stick drawing!

My artistic skills were cultivated from youth and developed over time through deliberate practice, exploration and imaginative play. My parents and teachers actively encouraged me to express my ideas freely through art and engage in various art-related activities and competitions.

I also found joy in recreating my favourite Goosebumps book covers and producing my own illustrated books, packed with crossword puzzles and comic strips. They were laboriously hand-drawn and handwritten on copier paper and stapled together. I gifted them to teachers, friends and family and then obsessively drew some more. By nine years old, I taught myself how to create art and comics digitally on my dad’s clunky ol’ Macintosh.

Looking back, I’m tremendously grateful to have grown up in such an enriching environment filled with books and basic tools that helped to foster creativity and imagination!

Red Dot Diva (RDD): The recent pandemic has been tough for most of us. How did you cope during our lockdowns and various transitional phases? Many people also started indulging in hobbies and creative endeavours during those two years. Since you are already a multi-disciplinary artist, did you try out or experiment anything new that was out of your comfort zone?
Quinatasya: The pandemic’s early days were immensely harrowing as I was coming to terms with grief, loss and chronic illness. In late 2019, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, located in my pituitary gland. Although the tumour is benign, it exerts pressure on the optic nerves, resulting in frequent visual disturbances, headaches, and a myriad of other symptoms.

Two weeks after the diagnosis, I lost my dad to a sudden heart attack. As I confronted the various stages of grief and acceptance during lockdown, I felt compelled to immerse myself in an intensive process of learning, unlearning and relearning. Specifically, I picked up new skills like baking, made concerted efforts to shed unhelpful and unhealthy habits, and improved on existing skillsets (e.g., digital painting).

Yes, I’m a walking cliche! Like many people, I discovered a love of baking during the pandemic. The newfound interest spurred me to enhance my portfolio by creating delectable food videos. Consequently, I was hired to produce food-related videos for various brands after the circuit breaker measures were lifted.

During quarantine, I was also finishing up my degree in behavioural sciences. Since my enrolment in 2015, I’d used art to deepen my understanding of the concepts and theories, and sometimes included my visual explorations in my school assignments.

Overall, the recent pandemic provided invaluable time for solitary reflection which gave rise to profound personal and creative insights. The major life events that occurred very close together inspired and motivated me to turn adversity into advantage through creativity and self-expression in deep, meaningful and unexpected ways.

Red Dot Diva (RDD): Do you read a lot of comics? Which are your favourite titles, and why do you like them so much?
Quinatasya: I’ve always been drawn to Batman’s ethos and pathos; he’s one of the most psychologically compelling characters. Specifically, he proactively turns struggle to strength, and adversity into action. I grew up watching Batman: The Animated series and my first comic book is Frank Miller’s Batman Year One, which I bought from Uncle Bill’s Comics World. Since then, I’ve been filling up my bookshelves with mostly Batman comics. Every now and then, I find myself revisiting Killing Joke just to re-experience Brian Bolland’s incredible art and Alan Moore’s brilliant storytelling. It’s like reconnecting with an old friend and discovering that they are still electrifying in every way.

I’m also a huge fan of the Tank Girl series by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett. I discovered Tank Girl through Brian Bolland’s whimsical cover art. As I thumbed through my first copy, I was instantly charmed by Tank Girl’s tendency to swear and not give a sh!t. I really enjoy the anti-authoritarian spirit and absurdist humour of the series.

Similarly, I’m intrigued by the humour and tongue-in-cheek portrayals of kampung and urban life of Lat comics by Malaysian cartoonist Datuk Mohammad Nor Mohammad Khalid, fondly known as Lat. The stories reminded me of our delightful annual visits to my relatives’ kampung in Penang, Malaysia. Overall, I love how comics provide an interesting window to understand our own differentiated identities, values, practices, and discourses as humans.

King of Spies cover

Red Dot Diva (RDD): Recently, your art has graced the covers of King of Spies and The Department of Truth by Image Comics. How did your art get noticed by Image Comics?
Quinatasya: Sometime in October last year, I got a message from Randolph from Comic Grail Vault (CGV) asking if I was interested in working with him on the cover of King of Spies. Ran and I had been working in the same industry for a long time — as a fashion stylist and multimedia producer respectively — but we’d never worked on anything together. Recently, he co-founded CGV, a comic book retailer that specialises in exclusive variants. He discovered my art through Instagram, felt my aesthetic was suited to the synopsis, and went on to pitch my portfolio to Mark Millar and the Image team. I’d say he took a huge risk, given that I’d never worked professionally on a comic book cover. Thereafter, everything unfolded at breakneck speed — the team gave us the green light and I started roughing out various concepts.

Incidentally, the protagonist Roland King is diagnosed with a brain tumour. In one of the concepts, I decided to use my MRI brain scan reports as a starting point and added other elements to depict mayhem. Instead of submitting one cover, Ran took another risk and pitched for a front and back cover. I was completely floored when the Image team approved of his proposition and proceeded to select two illustrations for printing.

At every opportunity I’ll sing praises of Ran from any available rooftop for taking the leap of faith. I’m grateful beyond measure for the confidence, enthusiasm and trust he has for me both personally and professionally.

Red Dot Diva (RDD): Your anatomy series of art is so fascinating! I really like the ones on Batman and Spock. You mentioned in your profile that you have a deep interest in neuroscience. What is it about that field of study that intrigues you? Whose brain do you wish you could study?
Quinatasya: Thank you so much! I’m insatiably curious about neuroplasticity — the brain’s remarkable ability to change in response to experience throughout our life span. I love the idea that we can rewire our brains by conscious habits of thought and action.

Everyone has a unique brain anatomy worth studying! But I’d be utterly thrilled if I got backstage access to Neil Gaiman’s mind. Having read his novels, poetry and comics, I’m convinced that he’s one of the most divergent thinkers of our time. I’d like to study his brain to unravel the mysteries of his creative mind and determine if he does, indeed, have a more superior brain than most of us mortals.

Red Dot Diva (RDD): You are also a small business owner, and there are all these administrative and financial aspects that come along with it. How do you balance the business side of things, with the artistic parts of you that gives you a fulfilling life? Do you have one practical tip you could offer to a fledgling indie art business owner?
Quinatasya: When I was studying cognitive psychology, I learned about the Pomodoro Technique, which recommends 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest for each cycle. I modify it to 50/10 or 90/20 intervals, alternating between focused mode and diffuse mode throughout the day.

When in focused mode, I prioritise what matters, eliminate distractions and give my full attention to the specific task. Thereafter, I switch to diffuse mode and try to build pockets of stillness or play within these brief rest periods. For instance, I’d cuddle my cat, stretch, or dance with abandon. Then, I’d repeat for 4-5 more cycles before taking an extended break. Interestingly, my best solutions and ideas are conceived during high-quality breaks, far from my workspace. Without this necessary stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.

I also find that it’s helpful to schedule my priorities in accordance with my biological peak time. Some of us may experience focus peaks in the morning and sluggish dips after lunch. I’m more creative at night, so I schedule analytical tasks in the day and save creative work for late afternoon or evenings.

These approaches have fundamentally improved my workflow, productivity and creativity, and I hope they might benefit your own journey in some small way!

Mad Love by Quinatasya

Red Dot Diva (RDD): How excited are you for SGCC to be back as a physical event? What can fans look out for at your booth?
Quinatasya: I’m getting really jazzed up about SGCC ’22! Not gonna lie, as a seasoned attendee, it’s strange and a bit daunting to be going as a guest artist this time around. Still, the idea of building meaningful connections through art, comics and pop culture always excites me.

What to expect at my booth? Brains, brains, brains! If you’re into felines and other furry creatures, you’re in luck too. I’ve also teamed up with Comic Grail Vault and Source Point Press on an exclusive cover for Good Boy Vol. 3, available only at SGCC.

Ask me to draw a cat or the neuroanatomy of your favourite character and you’ll definitely get a lil’ gift from me!
Cover of Good Boy Vol 3

Say hello to Quinatasya at SGCC 2022, and check out her artwork at the Guest Zone, Booths L1-AA13-15.

You can also follow her social media sites:




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