The Malaysian Comic Artist Who Became A Celebrity By Drawing Them

Loh live sketching a special Pocotee & Friends doodle for R.AGE.Loh live sketching a special Pocotee & Friends doodle for R.AGE.

An interview featured Dasein Illustration alumna, Pocotee Loh by R.AGE. She is an online comic artist and entrepreneur whose work for Jackie Chan movie’s was impressive that she was invited to attend his birthday party.

NOT many people get to meet their idols; even fewer get invited to their birthday parties. Comic artist Pocotee Loh managed both.

Loh, 28, is an online comic artist and entrepreneur. Besides drawing Pocotee & Friends (P&F) – a popular online comic centered on her namesake character – she also licenses and incorporates those characters into commercial advertisements and campaigns.

So chances are high that even if you haven’t heard of her, you’ve probably seen her work somewhere, like on bubble tea franchise Chatime’s water bottles or WeChat’s stickers, which have been downloaded over six million times.

Contrary to the starving artist stereotype, business is booming for P&F.

“Sometimes we have multiple projects happening at the same time, and we’re always coming up with proposals to submit to prospective clients. We’re already working on designs for Chinese New Year!” said Loh with a laugh.

Despite the hustle and bustle of her life now, she couldn’t be happier.

“This is my dream,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to draw my own comics.”

Loh mostly draws posters for Hong Kong movies because, according to her, Malaysia hasn’t caught the trend yet.

Loh mostly draws posters for Hong Kong movies because, according to her, Malaysia hasn’t caught the trend yet.

According to Ang, Loh gets paid in the five figure range to produce these posters.

Cashing in on comics
It’s not just the comics that are bringing home the cash. According to her manager Dylan Ang, who’s also the director of Safetree, the company that licenses P&F, they also work with movie distributors to design promotional content for upcoming movies.

The walls of Safetree are decked out with Loh’s work. Probably the most eye-catching ones are her caricature-style sketches of movie posters like Ip Man 3, Pixels and Police Story 2013.

According to Ang, Loh gets paid in the five figure range to produce these posters.

It was thanks to her work on these movie posters that Loh had the opportunity to party it up with Jackie Chan himself.

Both Loh and Ang attended the official premiere of Police Story 2013, where Chan, impressed by her artwork, invited her and all the other artists who worked on the movie’s marketing campaign to his birthday party.

It was the Rush Hour star’s 60th birthday, so the celebrations were pretty next level. It lasted five days, and it was a very star-studded affair.

“It was the highest point of my life!” said Loh, who has gone on to meet and draw other international stars like Andy Lau and Donnie Yen.

Students from Kasetsat university in Thailand posing with Pocotee & Friends merchandise. Thanks to her collection of Line stickers, Loh has an enormous following in Thailand.

Students from Kasetsat university in Thailand posing with Pocotee & Friends merchandise. Thanks to her collection of Line stickers, Loh has an enormous following in Thailand.

“I wanted it to be something that was mine and nobody else’s,”

Beginner’s luck
But all this glam only came after a fair amount of grit. Just five years ago, Loh was an art graduate, fresh out of college, slogging away at an illustration company, spending her days trying to design the closest thing to what her clients wanted.

P&F was just a hobby, something to do when she wasn’t working.

“I wanted it to be something that was mine and nobody else’s,” she said.

But soon the weight of her workload began to eat into her personal drawing time. Starved of the time and energy to do anything else, she considered taking a break from her comics to focus on her job.

In a stroke of luck, she met Ang at a public showcase for fresh graduates. Ang was there for another event, but when he spotted Loh’s eponymous red-hooded character, he asked for her name card.

“I remember seeing one of her paintings,” he said. “It looked like a fun fair, and there was one red character that just stood out for me.”

A few weeks later, he asked her if she would like to license her characters and market them. She happily quit her job to work with him.

Before she knew it, not only was she being paid to work on her passion project, she was working with international brands who simply loved her art.

When Chatime contacted Safetree for someone they could collaborate with to design their new water bottles, Line stickers and cup covers, Loh landed the job.

“That was the first time I got to see my creation on a billboard!” It was an LED signboard in Bukit Bintang. “It felt so unreal.”

Drawbacks of success

“One client even said ‘luxury brands don’t do cute’”

But with the recognition came people looking to ride her wave.

“We do get some copycats,” she said. After P&F’s number of sticker downloads on WeChat blew up overnight (their last count was around six million downloads earlier this year), a messaging app in Taiwan more or less copied her characters.

“I had very mixed feelings,” said Loh. “On one hand, I was really happy because people were starting to notice my characters. On the other, it felt so unnecessary. Why couldn’t they just contact me to work together?

“I’m not sure if I should feel more disappointed in the companies that do this, or in the artists who drew them.”

In the five years P&F has been marketed, Loh has garnered a legion of incredibly supportive fans. Her Facebook page alone has over 100,000 “Likes”, some who would drive all the way to Safetree’s office to take pictures with her characters.

It’s a far cry from the early days when she counted herself lucky to get a single “Like” on her Facebook posts.

The feedback she gets from her fans are usually overwhelmingly positive. She believes most of the negative comments are from local clients who’ve turned down her artwork on the basis of being “too cute”.

“One client even said ‘luxury brands don’t do cute’” Loh said, “Well that’s what I do. Cute and ugly.”

Weeks later, Loh was signed on to collaborate with Lancome, the French cosmetics and perfume brand.

Loh knows full well she’s very lucky to be able to make a living out of her passion – and knows she very nearly missed her big chance.

Her words of advice to those who want to follow in her footsteps: “Don’t stop drawing. Draw what you want to draw. Put it out there. People who like what you do will come to you.”

Originally published in R.A.G.E http://rage.com.my/drawing-inspiration/

达尔尚艺术学院 Dasein Academy of Art
http://www.fsi.com.my/会员专区/college-profile/?sponsor_id=410
http://www.fsi.com.my/dasein/

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