The rise of illustrated art in Singapore

The rise of illustrated art in Singapore

CNNGo reader Alethea Jane Seet catches up with two Singapore-based illustrators whose work is seen beautifying global brand campaigns and decorating hip, local spaces
Hairloom and Caramel
Sip on coffee and get a haircut at Kuanth's artsy Hairloom and Caramel.

Some 10 years ago, admiring art while getting a haircut or sipping on tea was unheard of, unless this was happening in your own backyard. Similarly, freelance illustrators were not individuals you would often come across.

For Singapore, the design scene has been looking rosy with a new breed of independent illustrators, two of whom are making waves globally with their work for brands such as ABSOLUT, Nokia, SilkAir, and at home with their designs adorning the walls of local salons and cafes. 

Sokkuan: Vodka and art

ABSOLUTThe ABSOLUT Bloody Sophie mirror is Sokkuan’s creation for ABSOLUT.

The winner of the “IN AN ABSOLUT WORLD” installation during the Singapore Design Festival 2009, Sokkuan has been honing her craft as a freelance illustrator since leaving her previous job as art director in an advertising agency.

Her design alter ego, Sophie Black, has since produced the Think Chair from Steelcase, the ABSOLUT Sophie mirror, and is also found on the walls of the hip club, The Butter Factory (#02-02/03/04 One Fullerton 1 Fullerton Road, tel +65 64239804).

For this illustrator, the Singapore arts scene is growing.

“It is getting more motivating for artists to push their boundaries and move into a higher level of expression with commercial labels and government open to nurturing young artists and creating opportunities for local artists to collaborate," says Sokkuan.

Platforms such as blogs and online galleries have also emerged in recent years providing additional exposure to local young artists to hone or showcase their talent. Now, who says Singapore lacks creative talent? 

Sophie Black’s latest adventure is seen on the walls of Evolve Salon (#02-09 Liang Court, 177 River Valley Road, tel +65 63361538), a hair salon which has a concept quite unlike any other space that offers to trim your locks.

Here, a giant mural of Sophie and her luscious locks decorates the salon’s walls and you also find a collection of manga comics, in addition to the owners framed-up snapshots and travel memorabilia.

In response to commercial spaces embracing the arts, Sokkuan says it offers a break from the traditional concept of what the interiors of commercial spaces are supposed to be. “It visually enriches a consumer’s experience."

To find out more about Sokkuan, visit

Kuanth: Coffee, books and art

KuanthKuanth’s life-sized journal for SilkAir, featuring Kathmandu.

A freelance illustrator and owner of Hairloom and Caramel café (#01-50/52 Shaw Towers, 100 Beach Road, tel +65 62952088), Kuanth's days as a self-confessed loner paid off after spending huge amounts of time as a kid doodling on paper and drawing in sand with sticks.

At the age of eight, he coined a cartoon bunny character which he applied to items such as paper bags, notebooks, erasers and his pencil case; and also discovered his interest in the arts.

Since then, Kuanth's craft has gone from his paper bags and pencil case as a kid, to gracing the glossy advertisements of Heineken, Coca Cola, Hewlett Packard, Kodak and more -- he's also found time to open the Hairloom and Caramel café.

"It's in my nature to appreciate beautiful things in life to learn new skills and venture into different fields," says Kuanth when asked what prompted him to become not only an illustrator but a café owner. 

No stranger to the arts, he also observes that the local arts scene has grown.

"Within 10 years, the arts scene has become very vibrant with creative communities such as OIC (Organisation of Illustrators Council), and," says Kuanth.

"Places like Old School and Haji Lane make it easy for like-minded individuals to get together. All these platforms allow artists, both experienced and new, to network with and inspire each other."

While he declined to call his café a work of art, he thinks its interiors are best described as "random mixing and matching of stuff collected over the years."

Asked on how he felt when SilkAir created a life size installation of his illustration of a travel journal, Kuanth was humble in his reply.

"It's very moving to see my tiny journal being blown up to a 3D giant tome," says Kuanth. "The perfect workmanship and the attention to the details would not have been possible without a dedicated production team."

"As I'm someone who adores everything made by hand, the craftsmanship has made it even more precious.”

The busy artist has also just created an iPad skin for and is currently working on a project for the Singapore Zoo.

To find out more about Kuanth go to

About the author: Alethea Jane Seet is a freelance writer who loves the arts and lifestyle topics. She's a star food reviewer on and runs a camera blogshop called myskinnyaunt at When she isn't writing or running her business, she enjoys being in the great outdoors, traveling and most of all, having a great cocktail.

Alethea submitted this piece as part of CNNGo’s CityPulse section. To find out what other stories we are looking for, go to our CityPulse page