Han Chiang University College Of Communication | Is that difficult for an artist to generate income?
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Is that difficult for an artist to generate income?

Is that difficult for an artist to generate income?


Lim Chun Woei explaining patiently to students about the development of the art industry in Malaysia.

In this money minded society, when students are faced with the choice of which course to take, they will always struggle between ideal and reality. This is especially so for those students with a passion for art, they will need to contemplate whether to insist on pursuing art or just give up because it may not allow them to generate an adequate income and security for their future.

Most people will think pursuing a career in art is difficult to earn a living. But when students insist on pursuing an art course, what should they do in order to make sure that they can generate a decent level of income in the future?

Most people will have a stereotype that “one’s interest won’t generate sufficient income to live on”. When faced with having their children declare that they want to pursue a career in the arts for example painting, photography and song writing etc, parents will normally oppose these desire of their offspring because they think this sort of career path is not realistic and won’t generate a decent and stable income.

“Whether artists can earn money or not from their work depends on themselves. ” said Mr Lim Chun Woei, Han Chiang College multimedia design lecturer cum co-founder of Urban-Creatures Visual Lab. He disagrees that “interest won’t generate income” and thinks that interest is an motivating factor for a career. The income for an artist could be high but not all artists take up a career in the arts because of the income. Taking himself as an example, Lim disclosed that he founded Urban-Creatures Visual Labs because of his passion for art.

He said, “Earning money is not the criteria to judge an artist’s success. But doing our level best in our career is a better criterion.”

He pointed out that normally parents don’t like their children asking too many questions when it comes to the choice of their studies. Furthermore our education system which emphasizes heavily on “memorization only” has been limiting our students thinking space.

He emphasized that an artist is like a scientist. When an artist created an advertisement or a piece of animation, he/she needs to have creativity and to study hard about the structure of the product in order to make the work realistic.

For example, a graphic designer needs to learn the material and packaging of the product before he/she can design an appropriate and attractive advertisement. A game designer when designing a shooting game needs to learn the structure of guns and bullets featured in this game in order to design a logical and realistic game.

“A good artist will patiently experiment using different materials or techniques to gain the strongest audio and visual effects for his/her work,” Lim added.

He said, an artist works in a similar manner as a scientist, the only difference is the content and context of the study. The spirit of perseverance is the same.

Recently “theme cafe” concept has become popular in Malaysia. These cafes are usually well decorated with some artwork or paintings which coincide with the respective themes of these cafes. Does this means that art is starting to become popular in Malaysia?

But Lim opines that most people here are only following the trend originated overseas blindly without thinking of their own culture and value. They think that by following the mainstream is the best to develop a career in the arts. In fact this will only cause a regression of the local art industry because the real art is in innovation.

He disclosed that, “theme cafe” is a good idea to earn money. But local artists should shoulder the responsibility to create art using their own ideas. He cited Uncle Ben’s quotation in the movie “Spiderman”: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

He advised local artists to innovate so as to change the way people think of art and artists. If they only follow a trend blindly, this will only foster foreign trend but not really develop our local art culture.

“If you want to go abroad, you have to think what a foreigner is able to design in the foreign context. If you want to be successful, you will need to upgrade yourself. You have to ready yourself before the opportunity comes to you.”

He said that there are many students in School of Multimedia & Information Technologies in Han Chiang College who have great potentials. He hoped they will upgrade themselves. He will try his best to help them too.

“Art is not a personal job.” He suggested that students studying filming and videography can cooperate with student reading multimedia design. When their collective talents are being combined, they will hopefully produce a great piece of work as a team.

“We have to be humble. Although you are a teacher or a boss, and may be that we know more than our students. But there are things that a student knows which we may not know too. ”

Lim thinks an artist shouldn’t be arrogant but be humble and keep on learning to upgrade himself/herself.

A journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step. When students choose to study a course or enter a career, they need to think properly whether they really like the particular course or career. Whether it is difficult for an artist to generate sufficient income depends on how they put their passion into their career.

Each of us has our own interest and dream. If you are scared that your dream won’t be realized or won’t generate sufficient income and thus give it up, you will won’t enjoy what you do and will not be happy doing it.


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