What makes good art stand out? With the intensity and depth of social media, we come across so much artwork on a daily basis that we sometimes tend to forget quality over quantity. Malaysian graphic artist/illustrator Sherwan Rozan makes you think of that notion with his unique work and abstract way of thinking and delivering. With his signature colour palette and incredible attention to detail, Rozan’s work was a standout at first sight. We spoke to the artist about how he dabbled into the world of art, what his creative process looks like and the struggles graphic artists face.
“I don’t think I can really pinpoint when I started as a graphic artist. In uni I had one or two design classes, which led me to do the graphic design work for my own thrift/vintage retail brand. Within those two to three years I got to experiment and explore my limitations of not going to art/design school. I guess I could also thank a very close friend of mine for introducing and encouraging me to put myself out there doing what I do now. The very first work that I did was because of her and it was done for her, and for some reason that particular work of mine influenced my entire body of work. It wasn't until recently that I started introducing myself to people as a graphic artist/illustrator.”
With no formal education in the arts, it’s intriguing to know how someone comes up with ideas and what their creative process looks like. It also triggers the whole notion of whether or not a formal education in the arts is really necessary for you to make it as a creative whether you’re an illustrator, graphic designer or photographer. “I’m a sucker when it comes to generating ideas and concepts. You could say this is the design side of me coming through. The ideation process would usually start with me trying to make it more appealing to myself. It just takes one eureka idea for me to elaborate it into a whole story and it’s my job to translate and communicate that in my work. I believe that ideas come to you as if they are floating around in the air. If it doesn’t then you kind of have to ponder and focus until it does. But I’m not saying that I would wait and just do nothing. I sketch, scribble and draft out some ideas hoping that that would do it. Sometimes it takes weeks for me to get a general sense of direction on what to do but again, if it doesn’t come to you then maybe it’s not the right time or you’re not ready for it. I believe this is the best way for me to come up with ideas by not forcing it out but instead, welcoming it to the world like an infant.”
Rozan’s body of work spans across commissioned murals, designing caps and clothing, but one of his ultimate goal is designing album covers for musicians. “Music related work is always fun. I’m slowly (very slowly) working my way towards my dream on doing album cover artwork for musicians – especially the music that I like listening to. I’m relatively new to painting murals and starting to like it. I always come up with new work for murals because every wall is literally different. My work is mostly done digitally on Adobe Illustrator. With murals for example, I draft and plan it out digitally beforehand. I have a long list of things that I want to do like learning how to use CAD or producing animation, but there’s also the question of me liking the idea of using other mediums than actually doing it. Eventually I would also want to venture out in doing set design or product design. I have explored other mediums before but for now, I am most comfortable hiding behind my laptop, still using just the trackpad instead of a mouse."
With such precision and detail in Rozan’s work, it’s almost hard to believe that he is self-taught with no formal education in art/design, and individuals like Rozan are the embodiment of hope that you can still pursue your art no matter what. "I guess the main struggle graphic artists face, and one that I am personally am going through is materialising the work, only because my work is mostly done digitally. As much as I want to do more art-related stuff, people always treat me like I’m a graphic designer – doing consumer-oriented work. It’s very hard to define because I still take up graphic design work. Ideally, I would want my work to be regarded as more of “graphic fine art” if that exists. It definitely shouldn’t be regarded as any better or less but just acknowledged that you can make art digitally. I’ve been working towards having my first solo exhibition after many suggestions from my peers and independent galleries here in Kuala Lumpur. I fee like I’m not ready yet but also preparing myself for it, and I’m also trying to get myself out there to do more murals."