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Yellow Mushmellow draws from hardships to create art

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InterviewsYouth features

Freelance illustrator, Aida, creates light-hearted comics about caring for people with special needs.

Growing up with two special needs sisters has placed Nur Aida Sa'ad and her family in a couple of unexpected situations.

During their unexpected tantrums, her family had to deal with broken mirrors at home. Aida also had her computer thrown onto the floor once.

"Growing up with special needs sisters is unpredictable, but it is where you find gems and pleasant surprises that really catch you off guard," said 27-year-old Aida, who is better known as Yellow Mushmellow on Instagram.

Last August, Aida worked on a series of comics that depicted the mayhem that ensued at home when their parents left for a religious pilgrimage to Mecca.

Over a month, Aida shared several short stories about coping with the challenges she faced at home on Instagram.

Her comics were so well-received that Aida is now compiling all 70 comics into a book, which she plans to release by the end of May.

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It was the first time Aida was tasked to care for her younger sisters.
PHOTO CREDIT: NUR AIDA SA'AD

"Drawing forces me to process the events [that happened at home], and publishing it forces me to make light of the situation.

"It can be quite frustrating because every scenario is new, even for my mom who has done it for 20 years," explained the freelance illustrator.

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She prefers to use her work as a coping mechanism, often drawing to destress or express her thoughts.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/YASIRA HANNAN

Two weeks ago, Youth.SG met the 27-year-old at her cosy art studio on Lim Ah Woo Road. Since 2014, she has worked on client commissions for big brands like Starbucks, Redbull, McDonald's and Uber, as well as personal projects that revolve around her two younger sisters, Aisha and Sheila.

Her love for her sisters is evident not only from the artwork she shares with over 4,800 followers on Instagram, but also from the décor of her studio.

We spotted a big rainbow painting leaning on the wall and a stack of drawings displayed on the shelves – all created by her youngest sister Aisha, who is autistic.

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Aida reserved a 'rainbow corner' in her studio so that Aisha can create her masterpieces.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/YASIRA HANNAN

"Aisha likes repetition. She's obsessed with rainbows. Every time she comes [to my studio], she draws rainbows," said Aida, who spoke fondly about her 17-year-old sister.

"Her obsession with rainbows shows that there are many ways to express what rainbows are," added Aida, who is currently working on a rainbow-inspired installation for The Artground, a public play area for kids opening in late August.

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When they are not creating art in the studio, Aida (right) takes Aisha (left) out for pottery lessons.
PHOTO CREDIT: NUR AIDA SA'AD

Aida, whose parents are in the creative scene, has always been fond of making things.

"When I was in JC, I drew about how I 'died' after every exam…People started to look forward to the drawings, and even the teachers would ask me [about them]," she shared with a laugh.

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One of the doodles Aida created when she was studying in Temasek Junior College.
PHOTO CREDIT: NUR AIDA SA'AD

"That was when I realised that there is power in my drawings as people liked and related to them," said the visual communication graduate from Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design and Media (NTU ADM).

Similarly, her followers enjoyed her comic series on Instagram as it provided a relatable glimpse into the everyday chaos that comes with caring for two special needs sisters.

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For her final year project in NTU ADM, Aida created Spit Out That Hairball! and Other Strange Rules, a book that illustrated the chaos that came with having special needs sisters.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/YASIRA HANNAN

Whenever Aida features her sisters in her artworks, albeit unintentionally, she hopes to give an insight to the behaviour of special needs people in a light-hearted way.

She said: "I feel like humour is a good way to talk about things that people might be uncomfortable talking about."

"I want to bring to light the way I see my sisters. People commonly associate [people with] special needs with being burdensome or less capable, but they are inspiring and brilliant to me."

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/YASIRA HANNAN