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Chase the dream: Joycelyn Wong

Youth features

Drawing on her passions has turned her visions into reality.

One essential trait that an artist should have is imagination, and Joycelyn Wong is not short of it. While others see a dry mountain on a hot American summer, she sees a potato instead.

Joycelyn, or Joy for short, fondly recalled her trip to the US in 2013: "There were plenty of dry grass all around, so (the mountains) looked like potato spuds."

The LASALLE fine arts graduate's imaginative mind and hard work led to her first solo exhibition, Enroute to Joy; Enjoy! in 2011. Joy showcased 22 still life painting of desserts during her eight-month exhibition. 


JOY ILLUSTRATED MANY DESSERTS FOR HER SOLO SHOW.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOYCELYN WONG

Recently, the 31-year-old full-time independent artist was part of the Pioneer Portraits initiative that was launched on Pedestrian Night. 24 local artists were handpicked to interpret iconic milestones in Singapore history, using 32 glass panels along Orchard Road as their canvases.


JOY WITH HER GLASS PANEL ILLUSTRATION OF PLAZA SINGAPURA.

We went to ION Orchard, where her panel was located nearby, to have a chat with her.

Amidst the evening crowd, I spotted Joy tapping out of Orchard MRT station. Dressed in a striped dress, a minimalist watch on her wrist and Nike free-run shoes, it was easy to see why her friends saw her more as a fashion designer, rather than a graphic designer.

However, Joy did not strive to be one of those. She wanted to be an artist, and was lucky that her parents saw her talent in the arts.

The road towards becoming an artist was not easy for Joy. Though the awards she chalked up in primary and secondary school were a validation of her talent, she realised that a career as a full-fledged illustration artist was not easy.

Graduating from Temasek Polytechnic's visual communication course may have opened more doors for her to be a graphic designer, but Joy had a stronger desire to become an artist.

In 2009, Joy settled for a four-month gig at a design agency to have a stable job after taking on multiple freelance projects.

"I got so bored. Every day, I went to office, switched on the computer and worked. Maybe I felt a bit disconnected (from art), so I stopped," said Joy.

Furthermore, illustrations were not trendy during the mid-2000s, so Joy's talent never went beyond her sketchbooks.

"I had some graphic designer friends who told me that maybe, I am someone who enjoys the more organic way of doing things, like an artist or a teacher," she added. 

She later stumbled on an opportunity to teach when she was asked to be a relief teacher at her alma mater, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls School. Joy's passionate and outspoken personality suited the profession.


JOY HAD LOADS OF FUN WITH HER STUDENTS.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOYCELYN WONG

Joy took on most of the school's graphic design work, which included designing pamphlets and posters for events. This added more work and tight deadlines to an already demanding teaching schedule.

"My motto in life is to just start. If I have a deadline tomorrow, I'm not just going to sigh (about it). Just do (it), whether you like it or not," she said.

Despite her zest and determination, Joy sometimes struggles when she has to handle large scale projects. "My biggest challenge now is that I do a lot of big projects, and I have only one pair of hands. I do (wall) murals, and some of the murals are huge, so I need (extra) hands. For big projects, I have to call down my assistants to help," said Joy.

She is fortunate to have supportive parents who helped her paint, and even transported her equipment home.


THE SIZE OF THE MURAL COMPARED TO JOY.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOYCELYN WONG

Most of these commissioned murals are also done in neighbourhood void decks and under her moniker, "mslatenightjam". She hopes to start a registered company with her moniker as its name, and be in charge of a team of art assistants.

"It is tiring, but the most comforting thing about my profession is that I do what I love. We have to climb ladders and scaffolds, but there is an instant gratification I get from my work," she said.

Looking back at her journey, Joy wants youths to set realistic targets and to celebrate their achievements, no matter how big or small.

She said: "If you want to be a millionaire, you have to make your first hundred, first thousand and so on. Don't demean the small steps you take because it is still a step to achieving your dreams."