From the get-go, Anngee Neo was an artist at heart. She’s worked as an illustrator since the pre-Instagram era – you know, when artists actually had to network, make contacts, and showcase their work at exhibitions and art fairs to get gigs.
Now 30, Anngee was discovered when she was a design student at Temasek Polytechnic, and was one of the first illustrators invited to exhibit her work at the nowdefunct gallery-bar Night & Day. That introduced her to well-established illustrators, who handed her gigs they didn’t have time to handle. Anngee was also part of the early days of the former MAAD (Market of Artists and Designers), where she befriended experienced artists who gave her invaluable guidance.
And unlike many illustrators who are adamant about sticking to a particular aesthetic, she’s happiest experimenting with various styles – from intricate line work to sketches and graphic cartoons. “When I started, a lot of mentors told me that if I stuck to just one style, I would be a lot more well known,” she says. “I tried that and got bored. I like adapting to new things.”
Anngee pays tribute to people who have raised her up, and kept her head above the weeds - especially when things got tough.
That versatility might have something to do with the fact that when she started out 10 years ago, clients were less open to using an illustrator’s personal style, and preferred them to imitate a certain style they’d seen elsewhere. “I had to learn different styles without plagiarising, and still make them distinctively mine,” she adds.
Having built a solid reputation over the years, Anngee now has the luxury of being able to cherrypick her projects. In fact, she doesn’t look for work – it’s the clients who seek her out, either through recommendations or because they’ve seen her work and liked it. “If I’m interested and available, then I send them a fee quote. I don’t send sketches and illustrations for their project before we’ve signed the contract.”
One of Anngee's recent projects is this set of illustrated plates, commissioned by and sold at Cat Socrates.
Currently, she makes a living largely from commissioned projects like children’s books as well as corporates like Singtel (she illustrated an ad) and the Centre for Liveable Cities (she creates art for its social media channels and publications).
A book she illustrated – The Rock and the Bird – has won awards, and she’s also illustrated a book written by late President S R Nathan called The Crane and the Crab. Most recently, she did the drawings for The Mermaid Who Became a Champion – a children’s book about Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu.
This article was first published in the December'17 issue of Her World magazine.