Quick on the draw

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 12:00am

CARTOONIST Lai Tat-wing likes making faces - drawing them and making them when posing for the camera. Ask him to pretend to be serious and he screws up his nose. To him, this is something that he cannot stomach - like watching a Wong Kar-wai movie.

He detests moody and sentimental movies and music and, of course, false photographic poses. Lai hastens to add that this doesn't mean this type of movie and music is bad, it is just a matter of taste - his.

'It's just not my cup of tea,' he says.

Today, the 30-year-old who signs himself Lai Tat Tat Wing, draws for a living, but as a child, as well as drawing cartoons, he was an avid photographer.

'I used to take photos all the time when I was a kid and I liked to do naughty things in front of the camera, such as making funny faces and dressing in my mum's clothes,' he says.

Lai is speaking at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (APA), where next month he will hold a series of workshops for those aged 18 to 25 about including elements of theatre in comics.

Lai looks like a cartoon character with his cheeky face and lively bespectacled eyes beneath heavy black eyebrows. He talks and smiles a lot and his head is filled with quirky ideas which sooner or later will turn up in his comics.

His inspiration comes from watching music videos and his theatrical experiences with art group Zuni Icosahedron. A graphic and illustration graduate from the First Institute of Art and Design in 1990, Lai worked backstage for the group and learned everything about theatre. The experimental drama productions had a great impact on the impressionable newcomer, and he started to explore how to insert theatre elements into his comics.

'For instance, there are always loads of close-ups in comics. But in one of my comics I've tried not to include any. All the images are like what you would see in the theatre - characters at a distance,' he says.

Experimental elements such as non-linear story-telling can also be found in his works, challenging people's reading habits.

In 1995, he published his first comic book and got himself followers. Since then he has released 11 more.

When not drawing, he writes a daily column for the Oriental Daily.

Like thousands of children, Lai was a fan of local comic character Master Q and Japanese cartoon Doraemon. At primary school, he started drawing comics and giving them to his classmates. 'After reading a comic or watching a movie, I would try to create my own version,' he says.

However, in adolescence he opted for school work over cartooning in an effort to make up for lost time.

'I had spent too much time drawing and had neglected my studies,' he says.

Influenced by his elder brother, Lai threw himself into music. With the 1980s came a breakthrough in music videos with some of them abandoning a storyline.

'But there was plenty of visual stimulation. It was so fascinating,' says Lai, who owns a big collection of music videos.

'It was an era when people dared to try new ideas.'

This inspired him to take up cartooning again and see whether he could inject music video characters into comics.

'Music, and not comics, was the big influence,' he says.