Modern Indonesia is on the cusp of cultural greatness, in keeping with the economic and technological boom of Asia Pacific. The island nation will be the Market Focus of The London Book Fair 2019. Sheila Rooswitha Putri talks to us about the modern Indonesian experience, the rich history that inspire her comics, and the cultural confidence possessed by Indonesians.
I see that you still use ink on paper in your work, which is refreshing. At a recent Comic Con, during a manga comics illustrator demo, we were shown that most of the artworks are now created digitally. How do you find using the latest digital tool like Procreate compared to hand drawing? Is it necessary for artists to invest in expensive tablets and software to be able to produce a quality work? Also, while we’re on this topic, as an Indonesian artist, do you find that the expensive tech gadgets a barrier to artists, or should artists find a way not too rely too much on technology to work freely?
Technology is the best help for artist nowadays. I do both traditional drawing and digital because doing digital can help me finish my work quickly. I am working with iPad pro now. It is not necessary for artist to invest in expensive gadgets because I still believe it is the man behind the tools who matters more in creating a good work. Digital drawing helps artist to work efficiently but it is advisable that artists do not completely leave the traditional way. Both have their own benefits to improve creativity.
I’m intrigued about your statement on Instagram that comic artists from the present are too spoiled by internet convenience. As a Creative Director, I see where you’re coming from. Today, we rely a lot on generic stock images. So, everyone’s work ended up looking the same. Is it still imperative for an artist to go out there and stand in front of the subject to draw it? How do you capture authenticity in your stories?
Going outside to get inspirations is still a good way to improve our creativity, hence the flourishing movement of Urban Sketching or sketching on location all over the world. Because we experience what is happening surrounding us and that is important in creating stories. This would work best when artists create stories about current situation or personal experience like I do. It depends on what genre the artist is working on.
I really enjoy looking at your work on Instagram. You’ve successfully captured Indonesia and its rich characters by talking about your own’s life experience as a comic artist and a mother. You’ve given us a wonderful peek into the tapestry of everyday Indonesian life. How do you navigating being a comic artist as a woman in a male-dominated profession? It’s still a male-dominated profession in the West, let alone in Southeast Asia. Do you have any advice for aspiring female artists out there who want to venture into this role?
In general I experience equal treatments in this male-dominated industry, and I would say this happens to the other female artists as well. As long as we keep working hard, we show our worth by creating great works, we will be highly regarded despite of our genders.
Indonesia is the leader of storytelling in the Nusantara region because of its long history, rich culture and a shared language with 300 million people of Southeast Asia population. As a British-Malaysian, I find that Indonesia is culturally confident and not apologetic of its past history, unlike some of the Southeast Asian countries that are constantly re-writing their histories to fit into the latest or popular narrative. What inspires this confidence?
Indonesia has rich culture comes from a big diversity. We should never stop exploring our diversity as it will enrich our creativity. We are confident that there are unlimited possibility to be explored of our culture.
I find Indonesia mystical and mysterious, but on the verge of a great cultural phenomenon at a global scale. Do you think that Indonesia could potentially follow the footsteps of Japan with its manga literature, or South Korea with its pop culture? If Indonesia gets there, will it be visual arts, literature or music?
The art of Indonesia is rich in all medium, in music, performing arts, visual arts etc. Each of them has their own potential to stand out amongst the other Asian culture.
Sheila at the London Book Fair 2019
Session: The City and the Sea
1-2 pm, 14 March 2019
London Book Fair
More on Sheila Rooswitha Putri
- Instagram: @sheilasplayground
- Website: Sheila’s Playground
- British Council profile: Sheila Rooswitha Putri
Indonesia at The London Book Fair
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- Mind the Supernova: Dee Lestari trailblazes at The London Book Fair
- Photo Gallery: The London Book Fair 2019