IAF Poster Highlights #02 : Interview with Esther Goh

Today’s Poster and Illustrator interview is the with very talented and award winning Esther Goh ! Esther has been making waves in the Illustration scene since transitioning into a independent Illustrator – we’ve been huge fans since. Her work on the Lien Foundation Annual Report with Agency Couple, was a stunning piece of comic art and a beautiful project with narratives that could only be brought to life with her illustrations. She’s worked with clients like Ikea, Esquire magazine and you definitely recognise her vibrant sushi illustrations for Maki-San ! We knew we had to have a chat with her to find out more ! ( editor note : this interview took place awhile back but it made sense to post it now together the amazing poster she’s done for IAF )

OIC : Hi Esther, can you tell us about yourself ? What excites you and what Inspires you as an Illustrator ?

Esther : Hello Kaiyee! I’m an illustrator and designer with a background in interactive media design. For three and a half years I worked for the agency, Kinetic, and had opportunities to work on projects that span the creative fields of branding, packaging, print and web. I’ve been freelancing since then.

As a person who thinks visually, I would naturally be drawn to good designs and illustrations everywhere I go; be it an ad, window display, street signs or an album cover. It’s like how when you walk into a footwear store the first thing they look at will be your shoes. In particular I make it a point to study drawing techniques, colour palettes and details of inspiring artworks that I come across. That’s how you understand someone’s work and gain new insight.

I’m fascinated by the sublime in nature and ephemerality of dreams, which I ponder over very often, especially on my travels. The human condition is a topic I’m keen on exploring, while on the other hand, science fiction inspires me equally and often it serves as a form of escape from the daily grind. Ideas strike me in the most random situations. I make it a point to jot it down, let it sit for a while and come back to it later, or next year. It’s exciting to see the idea evolve; the end product almost always deviates from the original idea. That’s probably my favourite part of the art process.

The Lady Vanishes – Reimagined movie poster

OIC : Having worked on different kinds of projects, what made you decide to become a full time illustrator?

Esther : I am really grateful to my bosses and mentors for my time at Kinetic; without which I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. What I had learned was ever relevant and helped build my foundation. It became all the more apparent when I realised I was able to apply those principles in my current work and practices.

At the time I wasn’t doing much personal work and I just knew I wanted time to explore and make more art. So I decided it was time to carve my own path. Honestly, it was more a leap of faith than an actual plan; getting lost at first then slowly but eventually figuring out how to go about being an independent illustrator here. The flexibility of freelancing allows me to work uninterruptedly on my style and make more personal projects happen. Being independent also means making all creative and financial decisions, learning from mistakes when things don’t go as expected.The biggest thing for me was the fulfillments in drawing not just for myself, but also for an audience. One they see it and go – Oh! I get it! – that makes me really happy and proud. I definitely see myself doing this for a long time to come.

Heart of the City – The National Collection (Supermama x Kihara x Kinetic)

OIC : What kind of projects do you enjoy most ? Tell us more about a notable piece of work in your portfolio that you’re most pleased about !

Esther : The sort of projects that I really love to work on are the ones without too many restrictions, leaving much room for interpretation. I work faster and better digitally, and have a soft spot for animated gifs as well as movie-inspired fan art. But of course as a commercial illustrator, I feel inclined to return to using watercolours and acrylic because it’s equally important to have a range of styles.

Of all the work so far I’m most pleased about the re-imagined book cover for ‘The Teenage Textbook and Workbook’ that I illustrated early last year. I was still experimenting on how best to expand my style of digital painting. Thankfully, it was a breakthrough and therefore I was able to use it as a yardstick for illustrations that came after.

#OOTD – For Kult’s group show, ‘Girls of the Underworld’

OIC : Who inspires you as a creative person, why ?

Esther : I’m constantly inspired by creatives of many disciplines, including interior design, food styling and lifestyle product design. And then there are my favourite artists whose works I frequently refer to for inspiration, such as Rene Magritte, Micah Lidberg, Mario Hugo, Team Macho, Tadanori Yokoo, Sachin Teng, Pon-chan, Monica Ramos, Rachel Levit, Lilli Carré and Cinta Vidal. Different aspects of their art speak to me. Some have been produced on a range of mediums, which adds on to the charm. Their artworks aren’t just beautiful to look at, but most importantly they are backed with great concepts and stories, be it from the use of motifs, symbolism or characters.

By The Sweat Of Their Brows – Featured on the cover I-S magazine

OIC : Are there any recurring themes or subject matter in your work ? Why does it interest you ?

Esther : I’ve found that my interest in darker subject matters has led me to create art as a reaction to social issues and the real world. It’s like taking on the role of an observer while exploring my feelings through the same piece; from within and without. Often I make references to pop culture, which is so prevalent in our everyday lives, due to its huge influence on our perspectives and attitudes.The approach I take is generally of satire and surrealism, sneaking in layers of irony and injecting a little (dark) humour because it’s great to not have to take art so seriously all the time. For that reason, I feel it is also likely to elicit a response in the viewer, generate discussion and lead them to think about the topic. When someone interprets the art differently from the original intent, it brings about a fresh perspective and I stand to gain from it.

The Teenage Textbook & Workbook – Reimagined book cover

OIC : Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators? 
Esther : I speak only from experience

1. Experiment often. It’s totally okay to fail (because I was afraid to, and still am).
2. Have integrity, try to find your unique voice and purpose. Own your work and be proud of it.
3. Push yourself to do go the extra mile for your art because it always pays off.Thank you very much Kaiyee and OIC for this interview!

OIC : Thanks Esther !

Check out more of Esther at :
www.esthergoh.co | Facebook | Behance


The Singapore Illustration Arts Fest is coming up in less a week – get your tickets quick! Leading up to the event, we will interview a lineup of awesome Illustrators who will be present at the event – Featuring the posters they have done ! So stay tuned 🙂

Tsunami – A reaction to the 3/11 disaster in Japan