Artists Behind The Art: This Duo Has 8 Eyes For Details
STORY: Nicholas Yong
31 July 2021
This cool “Where’s Wally”-esque mural at Shake Shack Jewel Changi:
And this delicious makan-makan AR mural at Uniqlo ION Orchard:
It’s extremely likely that you’ve seen the murals above as well as other bright and colourful artwork by 8EyedSpud – a fun duo comprising bespectacled BFFs Natalie Kwee (Nat) and Jacqueline Goh (Jackie) who look like such a fun tag team in their IG videos that we wish they could be our BFFs too.
Some of their other quirky creations include this mouth-wateringly detailed hawker piece (this is only one sixth of the complete work) done as part of #OurHawkerCulture when UNESCO recognised Singapore’s hawker culture as part of its list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
And this cool #NikeByYou collection that you can print on Nike t-shirts at the sports brand's flagship Jewel Changi store. It might be evident that we're gushing but 8EyedSpud's artwork is seriously chio.
Enamoured, we caught up with Nat and Jackie to talk about their cool collabs, how they manage to work together (and not kill each other in the process) and... doing the Lindy Hop.
You've had awesome collabs with Uniqlo, DBS, Tangs, Nike, Shake Shack, McDonalds and many more. How do these projects come about?
Nat: Magic! Just kidding… To be honest, we’ve been really lucky. Sometimes clients would have seen our work and reach out to us directly, and quite a few contact us through Instagram! Never underestimate the power of social media. We also have quite a few clients and agencies who work with us repeatedly on different brands. (Thanks guys! We love you.)
Jackie: It’s quite surreal every time we see a new client name in our inbox! When we first started out, we used to wonder if some of it was spam. It’s hard to believe that what began as an excuse to draw stuff together for fun became our full-time gig.
How long does the whole process take on average from start to finish?
Nat: It really depends on the client and the project. We’ve run the gamut! There have been projects that began in the morning and were done by the end of the day, and there are others that have been ongoing for over a year just due to the scale and approvals required.
What's the most challenging piece you’ve done to date?
Jackie: I know it sounds cliche, but every piece has its own challenges. We’re basically allergic to doing the same thing/drawing the same style over and over again, so the most challenging thing for me is making a conscious effort to not do something we’ve done before, and always come up with something new.
Nat: The most challenging projects are usually the ones where we get the most freedom from clients! It can be really overwhelming when everything is a possibility. We end up having lots of options and have to start narrowing it down and committing (gasp!) to the direction we feel is best suited for the project.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Nat: Working with my best friend! I never thought I’d want to go into business with a friend… I’ve heard too many horror stories about how things can go south. Not to jinx it, but it’s been 3 years since we founded 8EyedSpud and so far we haven’t run out of things to talk about!
We also like hanging out with each other when we’re not working, so the line between work and life gets really blurred. In any other situation, that would be a bad thing, but I’m glad to be the exception to the rule!
Jackie: Ditto. I love that we both agree that work-life balance is important but I’m also very okay with receiving a text about a project idea at 1am.
What inspired both of you to become professional artists? And can you remember the first thing you ever drew?
Jackie: I remember having a super thick Disney story book and I traced and copied most of the characters in it. I was pretty sure I wanted to work at Disney when I was a kid.
Nat: As a kid, I used to read a lot of Archie comics, and would copy the scenes and characters and make up my own stories.
My journey as an “artist” (still sounds weird to refer to myself as one) really has been a series of well-timed accidents. I never even knew “illustrator” was an actual job! I was working at an architecture firm in the US and used to do small portrait commissions during my free time.
When I moved back to Singapore, I kept doing that while trying to settle in a “real job” here… After a while, I began getting some corporate clients and was able to make the switch from part-time to full-time. I was about 2 years into that solo journey before I met Jackie and 8EyedSpud was born.
As co-founders of 8EyedSpud, what have you learnt most about creativity and the creative industry from this venture?
Jackie: I always thought that it would be challenging for me to collaborate with another artist, given that everyone has a different style and way of working. But Nat threw that whole perception out the window.
We both match each other’s energy really well, and the process has always been very organic for us. It also helps that there’s someone else to bounce ideas off and look at things with fresh eyes.
Nat: I used to think it would be impossible to be an artist in Singapore. Having lived in the US for 7 years, Singapore seemed really small in comparison. However, that actually has its benefits too… Because the community here is relatively small, we’ve met lots of other creatives.
Sometimes, I wonder if we will run out of ideas and inspiration! But each time I sit down to brainstorm with Jackie, I’m reminded that creativity is not something that can be depleted permanently… It’s all about asking questions, poking, and prodding the brief, working and reworking a sketch, until you get to the end.
(Taking a break in between when you’re stuck also helps a lot haha)
What are some big misconceptions people have about Singapore artists and illustrators?
Jackie: That drawing is a hobby and that it cannot pay the bills. What’s even more frustrating is what happens when people think that since it’s “just a hobby”, they can ask artists to draw a “quick illustration” for free. And, no, exposure bucks don’t count!
What or who are your inspirations and why?
Jackie: It would be Dr. Seuss for me. I love how there’s always a deeper meaning to his stories behind the rhymes and silliness.
Nat: I love Charles and Ray Eames. It’s almost impossible to label what they were (Architects? Artists? Industrial designers?) They just applied their creativity, curiosity, and fun in everything they did, and that's evident in every piece of work they produced, no matter what the medium was.
What's next for you and what's your dream project to work on?
Jackie: Oh boy… So many dream projects! I think it would be amazing when we can start travelling again and do more projects outside of Singapore.
Nat: Anything that lets me work with Jackie. Haha. But... I also wouldn’t mind if it involved hopping on a plane!
Before we let you go, we have to find out more about #HotPotatoesParty and Lindy Hop - is there a relationship between dancing and drawing?
Nat: When we went into the COVID-19 Circuit Breaker period in 2020, we decided to learn something new so we wouldn’t get bored during lockdown. We both really like swing music and have seen people dancing to it when we did a road trip to New Orleans.
We started learning on Zoom with Sinclair from Jazz Inc. and recorded our choreographies to chart our progress. Eventually, we ended up collaborating on an NAC grant with Sinclair and our director/animator friend Nick, and #HotPotatoesParty is the by-product of that.
We wanted to visualise the creative process and talk about how inspiration can come from anywhere.
Lindy Hop doesn’t take itself too seriously. Once you cover the basic steps, there aren’t that many rules, and this leaves a lot of room for individual styling and expression.
Jackie and I are very different dancers! She keeps things cool and has a lot of swag while I like to use my arms and dance with more energy - this contrast makes it even more fun to perform and watch!