Call Tinee Dino an influencer. But one who’s way more down to earth than what you’re used to on Instagram. The chubby dinosaur – who has more than 5,600 followers – tries to keep fit (he’s big on sit-ups though his tummy gets in the way), but can’t help having cheat meals (he eats cabbage for dinner because he wants cake for dessert). His favourite yoga pose is lying flat on his back, but he also does cool activities like zip-lining and hiking in Bali.

You could say Tinee Dino is 30-year-old illustrator Rachel Tan’s response to influencer culture, and she’s built her brand around it.

“Influencers have an aspirational life. People follow them to get tips on where to go, how to dress, what to eat. While I can see that there is entertainment in that, I wondered how real the scenes were,” explained Rachel. “So I created an influencer people could identify with.”

Tinee Dino does all he can to keep fit, but will cut himself some slack when he needs it.
Image: Tinee Dino

 

Rachel, who studied journalism, has always enjoyed sketching and painting in her spare time. But it was only in January this year that she began posting about Tinee Dino on Instagram, sharing daily musings and vignettes of his life, inspired by her own observations. The response to her rotund creation was positive, and this encouraged her to take her work offline. At her first art fair two months later, Rachel sold more than 20 drawings in a day, and decided to take the leap into illustrating full-time.

To grow the relationship between Tinee Dino and his followers, Rachel has to build him as a living character, so people can get to know him. That means responding to followers as Tinee Dino, and putting herself in his shoes. “I think in terms of Tinee Dino. In a way, he’s almost become me. He’s so positive, it’s therapeutic for me,” she says.

 


Examples of Tinee Dino's illustrated cards
Image: Instagram/Tinee Dino

 

Rachel makes a living mostly from custom design work for individuals and brands (she’s worked on body positivity, self-love, and animal welfare campaigns), but also sells notebooks, prints and cards. “It’s not just a drawing, it’s a piece of positivity,” she says.

A recent project is working with Singapore lingerie brand Perk by Kate to create sketches about body positivity for Christmas. Next up, working with Earthfest to encourage people to live greener.

 

This story is the first in a three part series on local illustrators. 

This article was first published in the December'17 issue of Her World magazine.