“I’m always excited about breaking the rules,” states illustrator and art director Kong Wee Pang. “Illustration and art allow you to create your own world to share with others.”
The Malaysian-born, Memphis-based creative isn’t joking: she’s a master in pushing her craft into new, unexpected places. Her abstract, mixed-media artwork is informed by a unique fusion of east and west influences – with surprising, hidden treasures to be found inside the intricate detail and vibrant palettes.
Sometimes, however, experimenting and taking a risk can land you in hot water, especially when a client’s involved – as Kong Wee knows all too well.
“I remember taking some risks when I over-promised something to a Japanese client,” recalls Kong Wee, who’s an art director at the Mid-South’s largest ad agency, Archer Malmo, by day.
“The project was a laser-cut metal Bonsai tree and map of the world. I had never done anything in metal before. After two weeks with my design file, the vendor called and said that it wasn’t possible, right before the deadline!”
Kong Wee did what she always does in situations like these, and thought on her feet. “Luckily, I was able to come up with an alternative plan, and had some real angels help me,” she admits. “In the end, the client was thrilled with the result.”
So what advice can she share for other designers and illustrators who want to push the creative boundaries further in their client work, but aren’t sure how to reduce the risk?
01. Always have a back-up plan
“The important lesson from this experience was to always have a plan B, C and D,” she laughs. “It’s so important to be flexible when disasters come up.”
02. Invest in relationships
“What really saved me was that I had built up a relationship with another vendor over time, who understood the situation and was willing to put in some overtime hours to help me out,” she explains.
Every year, Kong Wee travels back to South East Asia to reconnect with her family and heritage. Her personal work is concerned with transformation, and serves to provide a link between her Malaysian roots and life in the United States.
“In Chinese we have a saying, which translates roughly to: ‘When you drink water, remember the spring,’” she says. “Simply put, it means ‘remember your roots’. It’s very deep and beautiful in Mandarin Chinese.”
“When I do large-scale watercolor paintings, I see reflections of myself and memories of my life and family in Malaysia,” she continues. “To me, the saying means ‘embrace your soul and be grateful for it.’”
Her go-to tools include a pencil or Faber-Castell brush pen, Bienfang Graphics 360 Marker paper and a cup of tea. “After that, the Adobe Suite is something that’s hard for me to imagine living without these days,” she says, adding that her favorite RetroSupply product is the Sour Chews halftone texture pack (which you’ll find in the Diet Vector Textures bundle).
Lately, she’s been excited to start designing 3D objects. “It’s possible to do many things with different collaborators and new technologies, even if you’re not very handy,” she explains.
“My biggest achievement so far has been to exhibit my watercolor work in Europe. Although I haven’t always able to attend the openings, it’s very exciting to know my work is traveling to new places.”
Creative Giants: In this new series we’re looking at inspirational creatives with a thirst for learning and pushing the boundaries. They aren’t afraid to take risks. They face each new challenge with optimism, grit and passion. And they’re changing the world around them, one step at a time.