Alumni Mei Lian Hoe is an animator and freelance comic artist from Malaysia. She graduated with a Masters in Character Animation from the prestigious Central St Martins, UK, as well as a BA in English Literature from UCL. Her graduation film ‘Left Unsaid’ has been nominated for the MullenLowe NOVA Award 2020, and her webcomic, My Husband is a Cultist, has also been shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Publishing Prize 2020.
Mei, what has been your journey after GIS?
I left GIS after doing my IGCSEs to go to Sevenoaks School in the UK, where I studied the International Baccalaureate. From there, I went on to study English Literature at UCL. In my three years at UCL, I continued to participate in the arts, primarily in theatre. It was a very fun and rewarding experience to step out of my comfort zone and try something entirely new. I then pursued an MA in Character Animation at Central St Martins, which was a pretty big change in direction from my previous degree.
I’ve always been an artist, and was still making comics and art outside of my degree. It made sense for me to eventually find my way back into the visual arts, it just took me a little while longer to get there! Animation is a tiring medium, but one that is so incredibly rewarding. I’m glad that I took the leap of faith into animation, where I can combine my love of storytelling with my love of visual art.
Please tell us more about your work.
I’ve made a few movies during my time at Central St Martins. I made a microfilm in collaboration with The Children’s Society, which was about the dangers of social media. I also developed and directed a short film for the English National Opera called ‘Last Kiss’.
My Final Film ‘Left Unsaid’ is a short experimental animated film about cultural dysphoria and the disconnect between grandfather and grandchild caused by an ever growing language barrier. I hope to continue having the chance to tell stories and develop animations for people to enjoy and to connect with.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
With art, there are no shortages of challenges. Every new thing you wish to create comes with their own form of difficulties to overcome. I think that is what makes it fun. Art is not something you necessarily ‘master’; it is a skill that you are constantly growing and honing to fit your needs and aesthetics at any given time.
For me, the main challenges would have to be my lack of foundation outside of character drawing. In this last year, I have been forcing myself to draw more locations and objects (like cars, for one) in an attempt to train my own eye and hand. It’s difficult for me, though it may come naturally to others. Another challenge I find is within myself. I think it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not good enough, or thinking you’ll never ‘make it’ or be ‘perfect’, and it’s easy to start comparing yourself to your peers.
I’ve had long bouts of feeling like my art is going nowhere, or that it’s not where I want it to be. It’s a tough road, but I think it’s important to remember that you are your own worst critic. You are the one who can spot the flaws that others barely even notice. The best way I found to overcome this was to find friends who are also artists, where we can all support each other, offer advice, and help each other out. This mutual friendship and respect is beneficial, because it helps you develop your critical eye whilst also allowing others to offer feedback on things you may not have noticed.
Your memories at GIS?
I was in GIS from Year 4 until Year 11, so I have a lot of fond memories growing up with my classmates there. I still fondly remember the chaos that was Mufti Day when I was a prefect, running around trying to sort everything out and make sure things were organised. Fun fact: I was a part of the design team for Mufti Day 2012! I designed the little paper money that was used.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
When your art teacher tells you that you aren’t on track for an A, don’t worry; you get to be smug about the fact you graduated with distinction from your MA in Character Animation! Thanks, younger self, for wanting to tell stories so much that you went on to write all sorts of bad stories that eventually got you to a place where you would write slightly better stories!It’s all a journey, and one bad stroke is just the road to a good one.
Thank you, Mei Lian Hoe, for sharing your GIS journey with us. To find out more about other inspiring Alumni stories, click here.
Do you have a story to share? We always love hearing from our GIS Alumni. Do get in touch if you would like to showcase your work. You can do this via Facebook or LinkedIn, or by emailing us at email@example.com, because every story matters.
The paper money that Mei created for Mufti:
Some of Mei’s recent comic work: