Thursday, 10 March 2016

Illustrators Arise: Lia Hartati (Malya)

Hiya there, art lovers! How's it going this fine morning? It's going to get better 'cause I've got some great news: it's time for another edition of Illustrators Arise! Woohoo! In case you're unfamiliar with it, it is where I introduce my favourite illustrators from all over the world every month through an interview so you guys can read along and get to know them too. This month the Indonesian feature will continue with a domestic taste and motherly touch. Please welcome the illustrious cook, Lia Hartati! I thought I found her last year when she opened a booth at POPCON Asia and sold her illustrated recipe cards—which I'm guilty of never having tried yet, but she actually came to my attention through deviantART beforehand—under the name Malya. When she's not working, Lia spends her time trying out new recipes and looking at cat videos on the internet.

Hi, Lia! Why don't we start with how you started drawing and why you keep on doing it?
I started drawing as a kid, but probably fell in love with it when I was about nine. The reason I kept going, I guess, is because I started to learn about comic books. My parents introduced me to them and little by little I started making comics. I just kept going from there.

I hear you study Japanology in uni. Why didn't you go to an art school?





Actually, I wanted to enter Institut Seni Indonesia in Yogyakarta but it was far too difficult for me. The preparation was also—sadly—lacking. I ended up entering the major I got accepted in, which is Japanology in Universitas Indonesia in Depok. It influences me in the way I approach the things around me, but because I didn't study in the Fine Arts department, a lot of my drawings simply revolve around daily life. And I'm more interested in drawing people too, because I got a lot of illustration jobs from my friends on campus.

What kind of materials do you usually use?
Hmm...Snowman markers and drawing pen. For the colour, I usually use watercolour. Digitally, I like working with Painttool SAI. I've been trying to work with other softwares but, so far, I'm still most comfortable with that one. Too bad it's no longer being produced. It was so light too, not to many features and really nice for sketching.

Only recently did I realise that I've seen your work before, but you didn't use to draw about cooking. Since when did you love to cook?
I've actually loved to cook since junior high school, a long time ago. But drawing about cooking started out only around 3-4 years ago. I guess I was stressed out working in a studio, drawing action comic books. My brain was exhausted from the amount of thinking I had to do.

Speaking of which, you created the community page on Facebook called "Semua Bisa Masak" (Everyone Can Cook). How did this start?
Oh, that one was actually created by the publisher, Octopus Garden. It was for socialising and promoting my cooking comics. The main admin is from them, so that I can just focus on making the comics. Although, I do still check from time to time to answer questions about cooking or if I want to post something myself. The comics will eventually be printed out and sold as books, but that is still in progress. Online you can find cooking tips and a few recipes. So far, I seem to be the only illustrator working on this project, but there may be others in the future—all up to the publisher. The book will hopefully goes on sale in March, but we shall see.

What about Mamomics? How did that one start?
At first, I was asked by my friends to make comics there. It started out as a community for women to facilitate their hobby, which is drawing. Little by little it became more serious and even got some commissions. Then ta-dah! It became a virtual studio, where we contact and help each other out if there's a job. The community consists of mothers, except for me who's still single. There are 7 in total, but only 5 are active at the moment—because the other 2 just had a baby. Although only 3 of us made the studio.
Your style used to have a completely different feel. Do you think there is a turning point in which your style changed?
'Change' might not be the right word, maybe it just has more variety now. For example, if I want to make something for children, there is a certain style. Then for adult, another style, and for teenagers, a different one. The style I'm still using until now is the semi-realistic one—almost manga-like—and the simple one for "Semua Bisa Masak." I tried many different styles, to determine which one is the most efficient time- and energy-wise. It wasn't until I was working at the studio did I start to think to use them for different functions. I've learnt my lesson after having hurt my hand in the past. Haha. No more of that.

Have you always worked as a freelancer? What has been your greatest obstacle and what have your learnt?









Actually no, I started out since Uni by making a comic about legends with some high school friends. That was 2001, I was in second year. From then on, I started drawing for other people too, until my uni friends asked me to create comics for an NGO for women. After graduation, I worked in an Islamic publisher then started to go freelance. But because I hurt my wrist, I couldn't draw for four years and took the job of a teacher for a while. After I was healed, I worked at a studio until I decided to work freelance since 2013. It's not as bumpy anymore now because I have my virtual studio which I set up with my friends. The hardest things to manage are time and money (LOL). At first, the work was very awkward, I took all the job offers even though it wasn't realistic time-wise. In the end, everything was in disarray. Now I've learnt not to take new jobs before finishing my current one, unless it was a favour for a friend.
What does the future look like for Lia Hartati?
The future, huh? Hmm...well, more stability in creating comics and illustrations, to be honest. In the near future, I'm still focusing on the cooking comics and explore the art more. Afterwards, I'm not sure, maybe I'll move out of town.

If you stumble upon a newbie illustrator/cook, what advice would you give them?
Take care of yourself! That is the most essential thing. Which style you'd like to develop, what kind of illustrations specialty you'd like to take, working at a studio or freelance; remember to take care of yourself! Get enough rest, food, drinks, exercise and take care of your relationship with other people, in order to survive.

A little note from me

First of all, I love the concept of Lia's illustrations. I love how easy she makes cooking look and how she encourages everyone to try it too. Her works are so honest and natural, as if they simply poured out of her brain straight onto the papers. Her use of the Indonesian language is also endearing, as it makes her works more relatable and down-to-earth. There is something incredibly homey about her creations—and the food she illustrates—which appeals to just about anyone. Her approach to food is also very gentle and kind, influencing people to think of culinary as an everyday necessity as opposed to the high-class culture of chefs and fancy restaurants. It is also clear that she wants everyone to start cooking, regardless of their gender and role in society. Aside from her art, her friendly character and witty ideas simply make her out to be approachable. I will definitely try out some of the recipes from her cards.

Semua Bisa Masak || Mamomics || Facebook || deviantART || Blog

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