SOTY 2017: Visual Artist winner on stepping outside her comfort zone, the IB exams, and why good art doesn't have to be serious


2017 Student of the Year (SOTY) Visual Artist winner Jasmine Lam says that art isn’t just looking at something and copying it – it can be so much more

Nicola Chan |

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Stepping outside her comfort zone wasn’t nearly as difficult as Jasmine Lam expected.

The black-and-white world of sketching was once a place of comfort for 17-year-old Jasmine Lam. But once the 2017 Student of the Year (SOTY) Visual Artist winner started playing with cool paints and brushes, there was no going back.

“I actually only started painting two or three years ago. For a long time I only did pencil drawing, because I was too scared to paint with colours,” explained the Singapore International Student.

Although getting the tints and shades right was intimidating at first, the self-proclaimed perfectionist eventually overcame her fears, and began experimenting
with different mediums.

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Stepping outside her comfort zone wasn’t nearly as difficult as Jasmine expected. Whether it was painting with acrylics, water colours, or oil pastels, she seemed to get the hang of them quickly. She started sketching when she was seven, and has since cultivated a belief that artists must be incredibly passionate about their work if they want to produce works thought of as masterpieces.

“Sometimes, when you do art in school, teachers ask you to look at important social issues, when a lot of times you might not really know about … or particularly feel for those topics,” Jasmine said.

It’s because of this that Jasmine thinks there is no need to touch on serious subjects to make good art. “If you make art based on your own experiences, it’s a lot more real and interesting,” she said.

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Jasmine is living proof that an artist can be successful finding ideas from her everyday life. One of her favourite original art collections was inspired by photographs of a good friend looking at her from three different angles. “Sometimes I take pictures [of my friends] when they’re not looking … they get annoyed when I paint them, but I think it’s fun,” said Jasmine, who loves taking pictures of anything she thinks might inspire her art. “Every time I see [the works], I think of them.”

When asked to describe the most eye-opening moment of her artistic journey, Jasmine recalled the time her art teacher brought in a broken rice cooker, and asked them to make something wearable with it.

“[That’s when] I realised art can be insane and unbounded,” said Jasmine, who gets frustrated whenever people equate art to something as mundane as “sitting at a desk and drawing fruit”.

Jasmine recently completed her IB Diploma, where she chose to study higher level mathematics, physics, and visual arts as her electives. She wants to combine her art skills with science to become an architect or interior designer. “I’m interested in seeing how art can also be practical,” she said.

Edited by Ben Young

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