Candice Phang looks like she’s stepped out of one of the dreamy watercolour fantasies that she creates. Bubbly and warm, with silver hair and kooky clothes, she has as much fun with her personal style as she does with her whimsical, character-driven illustrations – think elephant-unicorn hybrids and rainbow coloured dogs.
This is because Candice the person and Puffingmuffin (her work pseudonym) are one and the same. “I am my brand, and it’s important to stay on point with its identity,” she explains. “So I like to add lifestyle elements like behind-the-scenes photos or OOTDs to my Instagram account so my followers can get to know the person behind the posts.” For Candice, authenticity is what matters. “I use colours (like pink, purple and blue) in my artwork because they make me happy. The same goes for my attire,” she adds.
Candice was one of the early adopters of Instagram as a platform to showcase her work (she started in 2013; her current following exceeds 8,000), and in a way, it launched her illustration career. As her number of followers steadily climbed, enquiries for work started coming in. But her full-time job as a designer for a magazine here meant that she had to turn offers down.
Candice and Puffingmuffin dance on an iPhone – which is where her journey started when she created an Instagram account.
Then in 2015, she decided to go full-time with Puffingmuffin. Her gamble paid off. Now, two years after making that call, the 32-year-old boasts a portfolio of clients that includes big names like Rimowa (her work adorned a suitcase), the National Library Board (for a sticker illustration workshop), and Samsung (she did live drawings at an event).
She gets most of her gigs through word of mouth and, of course, the visibility of her art in public spaces (she’s done a window display for Swatch and an ad board at Citylink mall) and in cyberspace. Clients know that hiring Candice means getting the otherworldly, tongue-in-cheek art that populates her Instagram feed. She curates her posts for a consistent look, deleting older posts that don’t represent her aesthetic.
But not all clients buy in, even though they’re convinced she’s got talent. “There is stuff that I take on just to pay the bills, like work clients want to do in a style that’s not my own.” It doesn’t happen often, but it’s all in a day’s work.
So what’s the story behind the moniker Puffingmuffin? Candice laughs. “I tell people different versions. Sometimes I say it was created during the cupcake craze, and I thought of a muffin puffing in anger,” she says. “But I just happened to be drawing a smoking muffin when I set up the Instagram account. That’s all, really!”
This story is part of a series on local illustrators. Click here for more.
This article was first published in the December’17 issue of Her World magazine.