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Behind the #gram: Mok Zijie of @artcrop

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He creates miniature watercolour paintings with a Singaporean twist.

His artworks are so small and detailed that you may need a magnifying glass to view them clearly.

Specialising in miniature watercolour drawings, Mok Zijie, better known by his Instagram handle @artcrop, paints pieces as small as 50-cent coins.

Youth.SG met up with the 21-year-old product design and innovation graduate in his home, and watched as he carefully sketched out a small gemstone with steady hands before starting on the watercolour painting.

Mistakes are common when dealing with minuscule paintings, as one wrong move may ruin the entire piece. Zijie shared that he cannot multitask and would tune out his surroundings to fully immerse himself into painting, which is why he only paints in his bedroom.

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Zijie usually takes two hours to draw and paint something small, but his bigger works could take anything from eight hours to a few days.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/DEXTER LIN

Zijie grew up in an artsy household, as his mother used to be an artist. He always loved art growing up, and the paint sets his mother ownd were passed down to him.

"I used to do huge works with pens and colour pencils, but then it got smaller and smaller," he said.

First inspired by another artist on Instagram who specialises in miniature paintings, Zijie describes his style as clean-cut, and enjoys drawing astronomy and earthy objects. He also draws architecture and people.

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The 20cm long watercolour painting of the National Museum of Singapore was drawn and painted over four days last year, as Zijie juggled painting with school and his internship.
PHOTO CREDIT: @ARTCROP'S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT

"I initially started my Instagram account [in 2015] to archive my art pieces," said the Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate.

After an art-featuring page featured his Instagram, the followers started coming in, and the friendly artist started interacting with his followers in the comments and direct messages.

"It's really fun, but it sometimes gets stressful. I don't want to post 'bad' works, and I used to post once every two days but it was quite sian (tiring). Now, I take it more 'chill' and post about every two weeks," shared Zijie, who currently has 14,600 followers on his account.

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For most of his art pieces, Zijie only uses a pencil, eraser, ruler, two paintbrushes and his watercolour set.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/JOCELYNNA SEAH

The popularity of his Instagram account has allowed him to work with several watch brands such as Klasse14, PAUL HEWITT and Daniel Wellington, which he says is quite a new experience for him. He also enjoys collaborating with other artists.

Beyond creating artwork for companies or his own room wall, many of Zijie's other pieces are given to his friends and family.

"My friends and family are quite supportive of what I do, but my mom says she can't see my work because it's so small," Zijie laughed.

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He takes his photos with his iPhone and edits them on VSCOcam.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/DEXTER LIN

When asked how he takes his Instagram photos, the cheerful painter gladly demonstrated the process. As he likes using plants as decoration for his Instagram photos, he grabbed a pair of scissors and left for the balcony, where his parents keep their house plants.

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Using his parents' plants without their permission, Zijie cheekily laughed and said: "I think they know…but they don't say anything about it."
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/DEXTER LIN

He then frames his drawing using his brushes, palette and the fresh leaves he just cut. Satisfied with the positioning, he whips out his phone to take the perfect Instagram flatlay.

For now, Zijie is waiting to enlist into National Service and is doing art as a hobby. In the future, he hopes to hold his own solo exhibition and have a steady career as an artist.

He shared: "I think you should really love what you do. If you don't and you try to force it, it'll really show in your work and you can't go far. I just really love to paint."

This is part of Behind the #gram, an ongoing series on Instagram influencers. In this series:

  1. Shirley Wong of @LittleMissBento
  2. Chester Lee of @oddtattooer
  3. Lee Yik Keat of @yk
  4. Naomi Anneliese of @nehohmee

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/DEXTER LIN