We haven't featured a digital illustrator yet and found Ong Wei Ting. Little did we know, she does a lot more than just digital illustrations; photography, graphic design, art direct and many more. She's currently a producer over at Freeflow Productions, an award winning film production company.
We spoke to her about her journey, about having varied skills and career advice for similar creatives. Read on!
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
“Hello! My name is Wei Ting. It’s like waiting for someone but an E instead of an A”. This is pretty much how I introduce myself and get people to remember my name.
I am a Post Production Producer for a production house.
During my time, I enjoy crafting stories and making short films. Here are some of the works that I have done: "Breathe" (2016), an experimental art film, " Quotidian" (2016), a commercial advertisement, and "The sand and the sea" (2017), a collaboration effort with film-makers from the 10 Southeast Asian countries and South Korea.
Whenever I am not doing these, I indulge in baking, hiking and playing water polo.
You have a variety of different works and your skill sets are varied. Is there a particular area in which you particularly like and lean towards to?
I am greedy! I want to be a Jack of all trades, master of EVERYTHING! There is way too many things that pique my interest. However, if I do have to pick one, I aspire to be an artist who observes.
When I was younger, my parents enrolled my siblings and I in art classes to acquire technical drawing and painting skills. To be completely and blatantly honest, I think my mom just wanted to get all four of us out of the house so that she could have some alone time on Sundays.
Throughout secondary school and junior college, I have been exploring different art forms, themes and medium through individual projects but I never gave much thought to Art. I realised that while I was becoming proficient as a painter, I wasn’t necessarily becoming an artist.
An episode during my childhood provoked further thought about the matter. When I was 5, I made a video of my mum while she slept, on a closed-circuit camera. While it was mesmerizing to watch the everyday environment reproduced on TV, it was the mundane scene of my mum sleeping that struck a chord. The video was hardly technically brilliant but looking back, there was something beautifully profound about the observed moment, something truthful rather than pictorial.
I now realise the wider significance of what was then, just a sensation. There is a difference between the aesthetically pleasing and the truly artistic. Artists who please the public are perhaps, people who churn out highly technical or skillful work but fail to reveal essential emotions. To me, these ‘artists’ are really craftsmen. The essential difference is what separates depiction and deep observation.
Specifically, what interests me are “fragmentary passages” that reside within the mundane - moments most overlook, that the artist brings to light. My vision is to bridge the conceptual gap between what is obvious and well known, and what is neglected and concealed. I want to unravel and translate thoughts, feelings and sometimes wildly spontaneous and inventive concepts stemmed from human agency into tangibles that will arouse vicarious experiences within viewers. I would like to think of my creative work as an “enlightenment capsule”, a reflection of my examination of a narrow facet of life even, and challenges my audience and me and refines my view of others and myself.
Through visual and thematic amalgamation, I strive to work outside of the usual representational approaches that underpin classical narrative cinema and transcend artistic boundaries. Inspired by colour and mood evoked by various settings and time, I desire the visual approach to be impressionistic. I envisage employing metaphors to paint allegory, fiercely evocative of human feelings, create a sense of familiarity and trigger emotions. Ultimately, to tell a story that tugs at heartstrings.
We’re particularly intrigued with your digital paintings. Bring us through the process of how it’s done?
I binged watched a lot of Youtube tutorials. I observed how the layers were being applied, the type of brushes and colours used. I started with smaller subject matters such as just the eyes, nose and ear. When I was more comfortable, I began painting portraits. I usually work with 4 layers:
1) Background layer - I usually fill this layer with a pale colour. Imagine it like a primer to your canvas.
2) Sketch layer - sketch in detail, mark out the shadows and highlights, create the colour palette
3) Details - This is where the fun part kicks in. Painting in the details, exploring different paint brushes and creating textures
4) Hair - I feel that it’s a lot easier to paint when the hair is a on a separate layer. It allows me to focus and gives me the freedom to sketch strands of hair without having to worry that it will ruin the eyes or lips that I just painstakingly painted.
How long does a digital painting usually take?
When I first started out, I took about half a day to a full day to complete one portrait. Now I take around 4 to 10 hours to do one.
Emma Watson took me about 4 hours while Ann Hsu was around 8 hours (illustrating the hands was insane!).
Are there any difficulties to doing a digital painting?
Whilst I have been acquiring technical drawing skills since young, digital painting is a whole new realm to me. That being said, my first digital painting was horrendous! I did a portrait of my friend and she didn’t know that that was her.
I still struggle to do my painting freehand and getting the proportion right. That’s the core foundation and especially so for realistic painting.
Apart from that, I think recognizing and picking the right photoshop brushes are important as well. It’s very different from traditional painting where you get to hold a brush and have direct control. In digital painting, you are holding a pen to do all the magic - from tracing, sketching to painting. Therefore, understanding the medium you are working with (for example, the same amount pressure applied on apple pro create and Wacom tablets can result in different brush strokes) is also essential.
You’re also working as a producer full time. How is that experience like and what exactly does a producer do?
As a post producer, my role stretches beyond the production process. I learned to understand and interpret requirements from the film concept. My role also pivotally requires me to ensure that the project budget is manageable and achievable.
Apart from that, I have recently dabbled into animation directing. I lead an animation cloud creation platform where I tap into and leverage a global knowledge base. I also handpick artists from different parts of the worlds and spearhead the team as an art director. It is a very humbling experience. Having access to world-class capabilities, not only gives us the opportunity to create a more dynamic range of enthralling animations, it also provides us a first-hand insights into the intricate analytical thought process behind each artistic intention, re-shaping our way of thinking to be more creative and critical.
What are some of the difficulties of being a producer?
Prior to my job as a post producer, I had the opportunity to intern as a storyboard artist and script supervisor for Singapore’s first Hollywood film, “The Faith of Anna Waters.” The diverse roles allowed me to engage and exchange ideas with the director, editor and director of photography. I was exposed to different interpretations that taught me to point out multiple complexities within a script, consider varied perspectives, and question pre-existing assumptions.
Through my internship, I saw the intertwining relationship between production and postproduction. While I had some understanding on production, I had little to no prior knowledge on aspects that encompass post production. I couldn’t even differentiate between 2D and 3D animation! That was one major hurdle I experienced when I first started out.
To provide valuable artistic contribution and realise the vision of the film, having an extensive knowledge of both production and post production is important.
Aside from that, I think being a producer requires one to be very organised, eloquent and sociable. It can be exhausting especially when I am the complete opposite (oh no!)
For those who have a varied skill set, and unsure of what job to take on, do you have any advice for them?
I feel that more people need to recognise that having a varied skill set is important and valuable. We should not think and treat skills as independent elements. Skills are transferrable.
Water polo impacts my decision making, my thought process, and my risk taking.
What I learned in Physics class helps me in interpreting and understanding physical motion which, provides me a vital tool of the complete animator.
A fashion class that I attended a few years back taught me about mood board. We would gather photographs and images that enticed us and pick a stripe of colours for our dress. My sensitivity to colours was heightened. And it doesn’t just end there. The knowledge stays relevant and applicable to film as well. I find myself referring to what I learned when I have to evoke or convey the essence of the story in my director’s treatment and more often than not, colour grading sessions.
Learning what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what you value most in your life or work environment is necessary before you embark on exploring possible careers. If there’s none out there, create your own.
Steve Jobs once said, ”You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
I couldn’t have worded it better myself!
Lastly, a message for readers?
We are allowed to just do things for fun. Be fearless in anything you want to do!
In this modern society, we seem to have this attitude that we shouldn’t do something unless we are aiming to be the best at it. Life does not have to be a race. It’s fine that we pick up something at a later stage and not going to master it. We should be allowed to do something out of curiosity. It’s perfectly find to just get okay at something or even be terrible at it. Nothing should stop you because there is nothing to be shameful about.
I am a living example of the cliche, “one is never too old to learn.” (Honestly, who in the right frame of mind picks up water polo at the age of 24?!)
The most gratifying victory comes from giving our best in everything we do. I am convinced that we should always give ourselves the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone to do something we fear. There may be moments when I backslide into feelings of exasperation, but I always pick myself up after each piece (laps, for my swim set) that I was not satisfied with and put in 100 percent effort for the next.
Ong Wei Ting
Years of Experience
5 years +
Freelance: 2 years
production: 1 year
Post production: 2 years +
Focus. Concentrate and think on one thing at a time. Let all parts of my mind to come into play, give my brain a chance to make associations and arrive at an original idea.
One thing you want people to know about you
I won my bed through a colouring contest!
Is there something you’re FUSSY about?
Not being perfect.
I want to have the perfect execution, the perfect concept, the perfect script, the perfect idea; I just want to be good at what I want to do.
This mindset has of course, jeopardised my progress quite a number of times. I have learned (still learning) to jump in and say "okay Wei Ting, screw this and just freaking do it already!"