Humana: Perceptions and motivations to thrive as an artist


Artists are creatives that bring color into the world across different mediums. Their artworks can evoke powerful emotions that influence the opinions, beliefs, and actions of people in society. A unique story told through their own expression and style that reflects their voices and true selves through art. The dark side of this is the manipulation and societal discrimination that forces artists to struggle for survival.

Bringing back our local talents, we begin our digital artist series with Humana, also known as Vanissa Foo. Her artworks never fail to stand out and excite our hearts with her quirky characters and bright bold colors. The abstract shapes and lines bring structure and movement, paired with facial expressions that add a hint of satire. Apart from that, Vanissa produces stationery goods such as notebooks, postcards, and stickers in hopes to spread joy in our daily lives. If you journal or need to spice up your inspiration wall, we recommend you to check out her Shopee page!

Facing the challenges as a graphic designer and artist, Vanissa shares her thoughts with us as she walks her path to success.

Who is Humana? What is the story behind your artist's name?
Humana is a fictional character inspired and created during one of my classes back in university. Humana’s world is my imagination playground. Humana can be anything – a chair, table, cup, clothing…etc. Inside each object holds a soul. In another perspective, they are human, they exist like humans. Through Humana, I want to express that each object in our lives has its unique existence. Every time I draw something, I would put sincere efforts to bring them to life. When someone asks, “What is this cup? What is this object?”. I would answer, “It is human lah, human ah”. That’s how the Humana concept was born.  

Tell us more about your art style and the message you want to convey.  
As I said, they [each object] have their way of existing. Through my art, I want to encourage people to be more present and be aware of their surroundings.

Looking at your past artworks, it seems you have a specific palette of colors you use. Why?
I gravitate towards these bold colors, it brings me joy, especially red. You can see that I always incorporate red, it makes me happy when I draw. When others see my artwork, I hope they can embrace the happiness of the Humana world.

Do you visualize the final artwork before you start working on it?
When I work on a project, I would sketch out my ideas, do a lot of research, and plan everything out before executing it. Personally, it is hard for me to work while thinking of ideas along the way. I need to plan everything to assure the direction is clear before I start drawing. Normally, that is my process.

"Art is more emotional whereas
graphic design is more informational."

As an artist, it is hard to continue to pursue art as a career, particularly in Asian society. What motivates you to achieve where you are now?
Back in my foundation or bachelor's degree days, I took a course on the history of arts. I realized those artists slowly improve and evolve through time. They would research, study, develop their unique art styles, and improve during each point in their lives. This is something I want to achieve. Although this is the digital art world and I’m also a graphic designer, I want to slowly experiment and mold myself to be an artist.

Many people in society, particularly the older generation prioritize information over art. They may prefer information but the artwork is not pleasing or can be quite complicated to understand. What are your thoughts about this?
Artists and designers both play a role to create visuals. For artists, the artwork can be ugly such as Dadaism. It is not ugly, but if you look at another perspective, you can start learning how to appreciate them. It is also a form of art. Their [Dadaism] goal is to express emotions and not care about how others judge the aesthetic of the artwork. If we merge information and art, that is graphic design as they aim to deliver the message through art. Coming back to the question, I believe the problem focuses on graphic design, more specifically, the communication between the designer and the client. Art is more emotional whereas graphic design is more informational.

Reflecting on the past 2 months, do you have any takeaways, or learned anything? Could you share any plans on how to propel you forward toward your goals or resolutions this year?
2 months ago, I participated in the KL Art Book Fair and managed to display my artworks for people to notice. Art Book Fairs have been established in other countries for many years. 2021 was the first time Malaysia had this event and the response was great. This is a very good opportunity for Malaysian artists and designers and I hope Malaysia can continue this yearly event to highlight and discover local talents.

I want to fully focus my career as an artist in 2022. My goal this year is to have more collaboration opportunities and hope more people notice my work. Since graduation, I have always worked as a graphic designer. I want to try new things this year and hope everything goes smoothly.

Any projects we should look out for this year?
I would like to create more zines for the art book fair this year. Zines are indie booklets that consist of independent artworks such as illustration books and photobooks. You can create and produce your copies without a big publishing company. The purpose of a zine depends on the individual. It could be to raise awareness or purely express what they love and like for others to see. The purpose of my zine is to display my ideas, thoughts, and unique artworks that see the world from Humana’s perspective.

Last year I focused on my job as a graphic designer without enough time to work on my creations as an artist. There were a lot of last-minute artworks. This year I have more time to experiment and am excited to see what will happen.

What is your advice to others as an artist?
Personally, as a designer or an artist, I believe we should analyze more materials, do more research, and read more books. I’m not saying you have to read books with lots of words. I prefer reading picture books as I tend to focus on their visuals. First, we should study their styles before we develop our own. Emphasize more research rather than visuals.  

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