Art, Anime, Action! Fulfilling Artist Dreams at Collateral Damage Studios |

From left to right: Cherie, WaHa and Zakary

by Quek Yoke Ling

A career in the field of arts is hardly easy – apart from having to put in long hours, one is also expected to bring his/her “A” game to the table by constantly producing fresh ideas. 

In a bid to get more Singaporeans interested in – and involved with – arts of all forms, plans such as Our SG Arts Plan have been carried out in recent years.

Our SG Arts Plan, which covers the local literary, performing and visual arts sectors, was launched last year, and will be in place until 2022. According to the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, the aim of the plan is to develop “a nation of cultured and gracious people, at home with our heritage, proud of our [the] Singaporean identity”.

We talk to 3 artists from Collateral Damage Studios (CDS) – WaHa, Cherie, and Zakary – to find out more about the aspects involved in the drawing-illustrating process. 

Cherie is a fresh graduate of Singapore Polytechnic, a former intern with CDS and currently freelancing there. When it comes to inspiration, Cherie says having an “escapist” nature helps her to translate abstract ideas and concepts into illustrations. More crucial than that, though, are the “various artists I’ve [she has] followed over the years [online]”. 

Cherie’s artwork for her Final Year Project

“If it wasn’t for their masterful works, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to hone my craft that would lead to a more aesthetic presentation of my ideas,” she says.

For Zakary – who also goes by the moniker Heimao (black hat in Chinese) – art was something he enjoyed doing, but was uncertain about, when it came to making it his career. The Digipen Institute of Technology Singapore graduate revealed that he had once contemplated studying something more “reliable”, like programming.

A lightbulb moment, however, came in the form of a chance encounter with a taxi driver. According to Zakary, the driver had thought his stint would last for only 3 months… but ended up making cab-driving his permanent career.

“What he said really struck a nerve with me. I don’t want to be doing a job and just going through the motions of life. I [would want to] see myself doing art for the next 10, 20, 30 years because I have a passion for it,” Zakary muses. Like Cherie, he’s a former intern who’s now freelancing with CDS.

Zakary’s fanart of Vtuber Luna

A good piece of art – one that gains recognition from the field – is not easy to make. A veteran of the industry, WaHa – whose real name is Low Zi Rong – has over 10 years of digital art-making experience under his belt. The 34-year old illustrator regards the most fulfilling aspect of his job as “the ability to draw to the clients’ expectations or even exceed them and receive positive feedback from them.”

Echoing WaHa’s viewpoint, Zakary attributes his sense of achievement to “finishing a drawing that I [he] am [is] satisfied with, and the client liking the art piece that I [he] worked on”.

Apart from recognition from clients, it is also important for artists to gain recognition and support from the public. 

What is encouraging is that in recent years, participation rates in art-related events have increased, and are continuing to do so. Anime conventions with the likes of Anime Festival Asia (AFA) – a crowd favourite – see a sizeable number of attendees every year. CDS also illustrated the official artwork for last year’s Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention (STGCC).

Zirong fanart of GBF Cagliostro

“Recently in Singapore, there has been definitely more demand for Japanese-inspired anime conventions due to the growing community of fans and artists here. Even though it is still not close to the frequency or scale of Japan’s conventions, it’s certainly nice to see not only more locals getting involved, but also more overseas fans and artists making a pit stop over here to take part in our events,” says WaHa. 

Artists at CDS have made an impact overseas too – WaHa recently illustrated the official artwork for Anime Expo 2019 in Los Angeles.

Zirong artwork for Anime Expo 2019

The art scene in Singapore is booming – right now, more Singaporeans are open to having a career in arts than ever before. Statistics from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) show a marked increase in the number of students enrolled in full-time tertiary arts courses – from 4,492 in 2012 to 5,409 in 2013.

At Collateral Damage Studios, “imagination comes alive on paper”. What advice, then, do these artists have for young people looking to work full-time in the industry? 

“Do your own skills justice and be proud of what you make. Beating yourself up over every mistake only leads to a toxic cycle. As long as you know what you want to make, every little step forward is always an improvement,” advises Cherie.