Some people may know Stephanie Wong as the illustrator of best-selling children’s book series The Diary of Amos Lee. This June school holidays, she is collaborating with Angie Featherstone, a children’s book author and copywriter at BBH Asia Pacific, to present Leave Your Mark!, an exhibition of photography, illustration and stories for children, which opens at Objectifs Gallery on Saturday (Jun 8).

As children of Singapore themselves, Stephanie and Angie feel that children need to have a little more fun. Children need to lighten up because life isn’t about burying their heads in books and screens and worrying about next semester’s exams. It’s about observing the world around them, and deciding for themselves, how they can make a difference.

Capturing familiar landscapes and icons of Singapore through black and white photography, kids are invited to look at this world and then leave their mark by improving what they see using tools such as giant crayons, stickers, and stencils. There are no rules. There are no right answers. Kids just have to bring their imaginations and get creative.

Caterina from Objectifs speaks to them about the exhibition, and what it’s like working with each other.

Caterina: What is it like to be collaborating with an illustrator/a writer?

Stephanie: Collaborating with someone offers a different perspective to the project. A writer can help express visual ideas into words to bring in additional inputs to a character, scene or story. Having a writer on board also helps with providing visual cues to improve the scenes. (eg. piano teeth, oogling eyes, evil mice).

Angie: Working with someone who has the same ambitions always improves the work. As a writer, I love working with visual artists who have a knack for simplifying things. I admire the ability to tell a story in an image. It’s fun to build on each other’s ideas, and it’s satisfying to see the result.

Caterina: Have you worked together on other projects before? Can you tell us more about them?

Stephanie: Yes, we have done a book and a postbox together. 

The book is called The Little Nightingale Who Can’t Sing. It’s about telling kids that being different is okay, that it’s about who you are and what you do that matters more. It was awarded the First-Time Writers & Illustrators Publishing Initiative grant by Media Development Authority (MDA) and the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS). The story was also adapted into an animated short by Peach Blossom Media for MediaCorp’s Okto Channel, and was republished in a new format early 2013 by Epigram Books.

Larry the postbox was done as part of a competition organised by FARM. We used the form of the postbox and transformed it into a monster.

Caterina: How did the idea for Leave Your Mark come about?

Stephanie: We had lots of ideas for the exhibition but the main two factors that we had to consider was time and money. We also want our idea to involve kids, where they can interact with our work and be involved in a creative way. We have a support grant from NAC’s pocketrocket, which means we can do more stuff to the exhibition. 

We added on to one of our earlier ideas and decided to make it more interactive for kids. So Leave Your Mark! is about you leaving your mark in the city, where you see some unexpected creatures or encounters in familiar surroundings. We want them to be involved and see what’s going on in their minds when given certain scenarios. 

It’s also nice to break away from the digital world and work organically with crayons, markers and stamps. Drawing together is also very social, so kids can make new friends with fellow drawers and in some sense, they are also learning about collaboration.

Caterina: Why did you choose to use Singaporean landmarks or scenes as the backdrop of your images for this project?

Stephanie: Singapore because it will be familiar to all of us. We’ve been to most of those places to the point where, there’s nothing much to see or do there anymore. So by putting a twist on the familiar we are allowing both kids and adults to look at things differently. Objects, architecture and nature that we see everyday can be an inspiration for ideas, stories and characters. 

Angie: We were hoping in some sub-conscious way to make children see that their world is as exciting as they want it to be. You shape your world.

Caterina: What do you hope for kids to get out of after participating in this exhibition?

Stephanie: I hope after being part of the exhibition experience, they can learn that art is sometimes not the end product but the process that matter. It’s about who you meet, what you did and the fun you had. It’s also about looking at things differently, and expressing themselves with more confidence.

Angie: It was a conscious decision to let kids do whatever they want. Quite a number of adults we shared the idea with were initially taken aback (“You mean they can just do whatever they want?”), and our reaction to that was, “Why not?” It’s the school holidays, why not let them have a little fun?

We are looking forward to seeing what the kids will create. We expect some really far-out left-field thinking that will inspire us for sure.

Caterina: Any plans for this project to continue after this exhibition?

Stephanie: We plan to do a collection of the contribution, by combining it into a book or have the work up on a social site so kids can continue the collaboration process online with their peers and us. 

I also hope this idea can be used on locations overseas as well, using content that is relevant to each country. For example, I can imagine the Eiffel Tower as a posh creature having tea, and kids colouring it in and adding their own marks to it. That would be quite fun 🙂

© Stephanie Wong and Angie Featherstone

Leave Your Mark! opens at Objectifs on Jun 8 (Saturday), and runs till Jun 26. There is also a series of workshops for kids aged 6 to 12 that Stephanie and Angie are running as part of the exhibition. More information is available on https://www.objectifs.com.sg/gallery.htm.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Angie Featherstone is a children’s book author and a Copywriter at BBH Asia Pacific. To see what she does, visit angiefeatherstone.com.

Stephanie Wong is the illustrator for the best-selling The Diary of Amos Lee children’s book series, and a Graphic Designer at Epigram. For more adorkable stuff that she has done, visit steffatwork.com.