Chloe Chang is Illustrator of the Year at first Singapore Children’s Book Festival

SINGAPORE – Chloe Chang’s lively depiction of children at play across different eras – from the kampung days to growing up in early HDB estates – helped her win the Illustrator of the Year Award.

The 31-year-old was honoured at the inaugural Singapore Children’s Book Festival opening ceremony on June 21 and took home $10,000.

Co-organised by the Singapore Book Publishers Association and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa), University of the Arts Singapore, the award recognises outstanding Singapore citizens or permanent residents who have illustrated a work of children’s literature published locally from 2022 to 2023.

Chang’s artwork, which was among more than 40 entries received, was from The Little Singapore Book’s second edition released in 2022.

Written by Sim Ee Waun and Joyceline See Tully, who are also the founders of Pepper Dog Press, the book takes kids through Singapore’s history in a fun way. Its first edition, published in 2015, was illustrated by another artist.

Singapore Book Publishers Association president Edmund Wee tells The Straits Times: “Chang’s winning illustration not only demonstrates artistic craft and creativity, but is also a vibrant depiction of uniquely Singaporean childhood adventure across eras of historical development.”

chloe chang is illustrator of the year at first singapore children’s book festival

Chloe Chang’s lively depiction of children at play across different eras – a spread from The Little Singapore Book – helped her win the Illustrator of the Year Award. ILLUSTRATION: CHLOE CHANG

He adds: “There are existing prizes for children’s book authors, but one focused on illustrators is long overdue.

“We hope that with this prize, more illustrators will feel encouraged to continue honing their craft, and that we can attract aspiring illustrators to the blossoming scene.”

chloe chang is illustrator of the year at first singapore children’s book festival

(Front row from left) Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts undergraduates Bernadeth Bertha Sondjaja, 19; Jessley Sim, 20; Debbie Yuen, 20; Elly Sabrina Arun, 21, and (back row) Stevie Ardhena Loka Djaja, 19, are among the six winners of the Student Illustrator Book Prize at the Singapore Children’s Book Festival. Leow Jiayee, 20, was not at the photo shoot. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Six undergraduates, aged 19 to 21, from Nafa’s School of Design and Media were presented the Student Illustrator Book Prizes.

Collaborating in pairs as part of their academic curriculum, they had impressed with their illustrations for different manuscripts, such as Mummy’s Nasi Lemak.

chloe chang is illustrator of the year at first singapore children’s book festival

The three winning works by six undergraduates from Nafa’s diploma course in Illustration Design with Animation. PHOTOS: NAFA

They now get the opportunity to work with publishers and authors, and have their selected works published.

‘Artists are like ducks’

chloe chang is illustrator of the year at first singapore children’s book festival

Illustrator Chloe Chang has more than 20 children’s books published locally and overseas. ST PHOTO: BRIAN TEO

To be an illustrator, one needs “perseverance, discipline and lots of moral support”, says Chang.

She recalls taking two weeks to complete the winning spread, a digital illustration, in The Little Singapore Book.

At 88 pages, it marks her longest book. She spent a year on it while working concurrently on other projects.

“I think there is a common misconception that artists and creatives just float along on a cloud of inspiration that they summon at will. But most of it is sitting down and staring into space, then drawing and discarding a ton of drafts,” says Chang. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Animation with honours from Nanyang Technological University.

She has come a long way since her first published children’s title, My Colouring Book Is Ruined!, with author Jill Lim in 2019. The book highlights the importance of empathy and inclusivity in relationships, as one of the book’s characters has autism.

chloe chang is illustrator of the year at first singapore children’s book festival

Illustrator Chloe Chang has come a long way since her first published children’s book, My Colouring Book Is Ruined!, with author Jill Lim in 2019. ST PHOTO: BRIAN TEO

“Jill found me through social media and I was really drawn to her story as she is a mother of a child on the autism spectrum. It was a huge learning curve, from the essentials of pagination to font design.

“Thankfully, Jill and the team at (publisher) Straits Times Press were very kind and helped me bumble along. I’m still really proud of that book.”

Before she became a full-time freelance illustrator five years ago, she was a storyboard artist at a creative agency and a lead character designer at an animation facility.

Chang has more than 20 children’s books published locally and overseas.

“Most of what I draw will never be seen, and rightly so,” she says.

“Artists are like ducks – calm above the water, but paddling furiously underneath.”

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