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The Journey of a Homegrown Artist
Updated 2017-10-09
Lum's concept art from Art Station.

Lum Siew Hong graduated from The One Academy’s Diploma in Illustration in 2013. He used to be a freelance artist before starting his career as a Concept Artist at Passion Republic, one of the biggest local CGI providers for international games and movies.

For more than two years now, he has been a part of the KL team that caters to some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. To provide an understanding of the magnitude of his work, some of his clients include Uncharted 4, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Injustice 2, Trivia Saga and Titansgrave.

Environment Design – One of the personal portfolios posted on Lum’s ArtStation.

What’s a Concept Artist?

In his sharing with The One Academy students, he stated that concept art is a rather specialised term that is difficult to explain to the average Joes, with it being a small industry. He still tries to explain his occupation as “doing designs for games and movies”.

‘How To Art Industry’ sharing by Concept Artist Lum Siew Hong at The One Academy.

In actual fact, being a concept artist requires one to be a highly knowledgeable jack of all trades as they require thorough research to come up with concept art about everything under the sun and beyond.

“It’s sort of like being an engineer, fashion designer, doctor, director and architect all at once. It’s every Asian parents’ dream come true,” he joked to his juniors. “We can even earn as much as them, just that we need to work hard and smart – which is important for doing concept art.”

To Lum, concept art is more than just drawing and designing. It is all about solving problems with beautiful ideas and designs. And despite the aesthetic beauty commonly depicted, the main focus of a concept artist is to ensure their work meets the practicality criteria.

Fall and Rise

Before getting a steady income one would be privileged to have from a full-time position, Lum’s journey was filled with tests. After graduation, he had taken a total of four qualifying art tests set by hiring studios Lemon Sky and Passion Republic. He failed all of them.

Unable to secure jobs, he went to travel and took up the short course by Eduardo Pena at The One Academy to sharpen his techniques while gaining portfolio and his confidence back. He also worked at a coffee shop for his much needed pocket money.

Fortunately for him, despite failing the final test, he was hired by Passion Republic because he showed potential. He was delighted at first, but the circumstances of his hire caused severe self-doubt that lasted for six months.

In his own world, Lum was a burden to the elite team of artists he had just joined. He felt so inadequate to the point of losing all motivation and treated it as a nine to five job. He also stopped his routine of doing personal projects after coming home from work. But the silver lining was that he started to pick up photography as his new hobby and skill.

Until a time when his studio was attempting to pitch a project to Blizzard Entertainment, he still fooled around, submitting mediocre work to his lead artist. That was when he got his wake up call.

“He said something that I will remember for the rest of my life,” he adds suspense. “I’m not sure hiring you was a good thing.”

Feeling challenged, those words sparked the fire in him. He swiftly went back home to renew his design, and his superior was impressed the next day. Since then, he realised what he truly wanted and loved – what he has been doing for a nine to five job every weekday.

How to Art Industry

He has improved a lot since his enlightened days and was eager to share advices and experience at the talk. On creative block, this problem occurs to everyone. Overworking, seclusion, lack of input and unnecessary feedback all cause this. The trick is to get enough rest, remember to reward yourself and ask yourself why you started this in the first place.

“There’s a point in life you just have to tell yourself to keep going.”

Lum’s artworks are mostly inspired by nature because “whatever is designed in nature perfectly fits into any environment”. Having the natural elements also make a concept art look realistic, believable, functional and professional.

He also gets his creative juice from watching movies he considers good like Fight Club, Enemy, Prisoners and Gone Girl because they are great in providing insights to artistic techniques such as lighting, casting and acting.

He frequents online creative works to remind himself of his need to improve. Sites such as ArtStation, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr update Lum on the latest trends and what artists around the globe are up to.

Another one of Lum’s concept art from his ArtStation.

He has the desire to work for other real industry game changers such as Weta Digital and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) or explore for opportunities overseas. But at the meantime, he is still eager to help build up the niche industry in Malaysia.

He reassures the students that at the current state, the industry is stable and offers plenty of opportunities. However, with a small industry, it is best to put in effort when it comes to job applications. Graduates, for instance, should examine a company’s works. To stand out from others, portfolios should contain both the elements of the company and personal style.

[The One Academy of Communication Design was established in 1991 with the aim of promoting the region as the world’s center of creative reference. Strategically located in the thriving creative hub of Bandar Sunway, Selangor, with a branch in Georgetown, Penang, The One Academy is today a top notch leading international institute in art, design and creative multimedia, renowned with graduates who steer successful careers in creative capitals worldwide. The courses offered are Multimedia Design with Digital Media and Interactive Design, Digital Animation with Game Development, Film Visual Effects, Illustration, Movie & Game Art, Advertising & Graphic Design, Interior Design, Paris Fashion Design & Pattern Making and Fine Arts.]