Realism Sketching with Artist Joel Rong

Today, we have the privilege for an exclusive behind the scenes interview with an Artist Joel Rong (@Jlron), specialising in Realism sketching and Digital Art. Having interacted with Joel, I find that he has a certain breath-taking quirkiness that makes him so lovely to chat with. The following is a short informal interview with Artist Joel, who’s currently 30 and working freelance as an illustrator.

Tell me more about your childhood, what made you want to pick up a pen and start drawing? When did you discover you had this flair/innate talent for drawing?

I started drawing at a young age and I do like to sketch things randomly for no reason. I recall spending a lot of time doodling things on my textbooks in secondary school. For me, this aptitude for drawing stems from me being an introverted individual. I use it as a coping mechanism strategy to handle stress and anxiety, and over the years of practice my drawing skills develop to where I am now.

Operation Tuna Takeover, Artist Joel Rong (2021)
Operation Tuna Takeover, Artist Joel Rong (2021)

What was your source of inspiration and why realism sketching in particular? What aspect of realism sketching stands out you such that your works revolve around this art style? How do you perceive things when you do your realism sketching? Does it differ from how Artist Celine Chia does things?

Music is my greatest source of inspiration. I usually listen to soundtracks and production music because they help me generate ideas and imagine scenes that I can translate into sketches. Cats also inspire me to draw. Cats sometimes do silly things and I like to incorporate some of that silliness into cartoon-y art. I also love drawing tiny details because they add a lot of depth to a drawing and help make it pop out better on paper.

I don’t really see my ink sketches as realistic, I just really like to keep adding things and maybe that is what helps to create a more realistic setting. Sometimes I do very realistic digital art, but I usually see those as a test of my ability to imitate a scene or photograph. It is also not that enjoyable trying to paint realistic scenes although the end result is satisfying to see. I think it takes a lot of technical know-how to do realistic art. You have to make sure the colors, lines, perspective and small parts work together correctly.

My art style focuses largely on detailed black and white ink or digital drawings, and not so much on coloured artworks and paint whereas Artist Celine Chia’s style is focused on vibrant and colourful artworks made with traditional paint and medium. I chose to do digital painting because I am unable to correctly produce colours from mixing paint from traditional mediums. And the high chance of messing up the canvas with one wrong paint stroke scares me. So I have huge respect for artists that use traditional mediums like watercolour to make art.

Japan-style buildings, Artist Joel Rong, 2021
Japan-style buildings, Artist Joel Rong (2021)

I noticed that most of your works revolve around Japan, may I know of your preference? Why Japan infrastructures in particular?

I just love Japanese buildings in particular. I think the streets in Japan and the layout makes it so fun to sketch. I like buildings that have a nice shop front with posters, plants, some pipes, clean walls and messy roof tiles. Japanese houses have a balance of heavy details mixed with some nice plain areas which I think makes a good composition for me to sketch. Also, with streets of houses lined up next to each other and are basically everywhere in Japan, one can never run out of good sketching inspiration.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who want to learn this particular style? On this note, any tips or tricks for beginners?

I think the best advice is to practice as much as possible. Sketching buildings require a lot of perspective accuracy. Don’t be afraid to use a ruler and trace out perspective lines for practice. It will help you grasp the basic angles in the long run when you draw without rulers or tools. Even now, I sometimes make mistakes with perspective drawing!

Also, when I sketch I draft out shapes in pencil first before I move on to details. Instead of potted plants draw some cylinders and circles, doors and windows are rectangles and basically every object is a simple shape. Using these shapes, you can create a simple layout of the composition and fix any mistakes easily. Thereafter you can safely move on to inking details with a fairly accurate base pencil sketch.

What’s your plan for the future? Do you have plans to go into this industry full time?

Right now my focus is solely working on art commissions and expanding my art reach!

Any opinions/thoughts about the industry? How do you feel about the art scene in Singapore?

I think it is already pretty vibrant and with more people exploring the arts it is safe to say the art scene will continue to grow over the years. Even though the pandemic has created difficulties for all of us, I am sure when everything goes back to normal there will be a lot of fresh creative energy ready to jump back into the scene!

Check out more of his works on his socials today!

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