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Like in "Squid Game" (illustrated here by Fira), this artist's path to a career in animation has been a series of twists and turns. Illustration: Instagram/@firamint2, Photo: Fira Razman

Artist Behind The Art: This LASALLE Grad's Anime-zing Work Is Taking Her Places

“Come whatever, on the road ahead - we did it before, and we’ll do it again.”

One of the things I loved the most about this year’s NDP was “The Road Ahead” (can’t tell you how many times this song played in my head in August). And, like the MVs of the other new NDP songs this year, this one was illustrated and produced entirely here in Singapore.

Fira Razman was part of the team of animators behind "The Road Ahead", and was also the art director for her portion of the animation, in which she chose to spotlight the diversity in Singapore's culture, "so that whenever the audience watches it, they feel like they were represented - like, oh, that's me!"

Watch this informative and eye-opening clip about the making of that awesome MV:

That’s not all. Fira also worked on "The Woke Salaryman" animation. So, it comes as no surprise that this LASALLE College of the Arts grad has managed to sell quite a few of her pieces at many an anime convention.

The freelance 2D animator/illustrator, who has had a passion for drawing since she was very young, also has an interesting hobby - she loves raising caterpillars from her mum’s garden

Here, the 26-year old tells us about how she got into animation, the joy and importance of being part of anime conventions, and how Blossom from "The Powerpuff Girls" kick-started her love for drawing.

How did you get into animation industry?

Through a series of trials and errors! I originally planned on pursuing tourism as my career, but halfway through, I spontaneously switched to media design. Through my media design diploma, I was introduced to animation and got interested in it. So I pursued my Bachelor's in animation, fell in love with the medium - and here I am!

You were part of the team behind NDP 2021’s theme song, “The Road Ahead”. How long was the whole process and what did you enjoy most?

Honestly the process felt super fuzzy to me. The production time was very short and tight (all the segments were animated around the same time) but animating the MV felt like ages!

It was more challenging than usual because we wanted to animate it as perfectly as possible, and many of the scenes were something that we’d never tried before or were unfamiliar with.

As for me, I was given the opportunity to be the art director for my segment, which is something I’d never done before! Being in that position taught me how to be responsible with my tasks and look out for the animators when they needed help.

We poured a lot of love and effort into bringing out the essence of the simplicity and wholesomeness of Singapore, and we were very happy to receive positive feedback in return.

What is your definition of “The Road Ahead”? And which part of the song resonates most with you, both as a Singaporean and as an animator?

I love Shye’s verse! I think it fits with our current situation during this pandemic. Life feels very uncertain at the moment, but then again, it has been since... forever. Worrying too much about the unknown will not make things any better, and it’s important to keep a positive outlook on the future.

Shye’s verse:

Our home, the home we share
Where the garden always grows toward the light
Though the road ahead is daunting
I know we're gonna be alright

You also did some animation work for "The Woke Salaryman" and have one solo episode to your name (wow!). Tell us more about the experience and how it was different compared to "The Road Ahead"?

"The Woke Salaryman" is very special to me because it is the first animated series I’ve ever animated! It was definitely different from "The Road Ahead" in so many ways.

As the series is adapted from the original comic strips, it has a clear narrative and requires extra steps beforehand (for example, script and voice acting). There are a lot of different animators/directors working on each episode too, so the biggest challenge was to maintain an overall consistency in the art style and tone.

It was a very long commitment, but I enjoyed working with the team a lot!

Do you create your own animation?

I do sometimes animate for fun! However, a few seconds of animation can take days to finish, so it is very tedious. I always end up regretting it in the middle of the process hahaha! But the moment I’m done and it starts moving very smoothly, all my complaints fade away...

(Watch her animation here)

Who and what inspire you, and why?

I draw a lot of inspiration from various artists, photographs, and musicians. I usually get my ideas by creating a mood board or listening to music. These help in setting up the mood and overall thumbnail.

Currently some of my favourite artists are Yoshitaka Amano (best known for his work on "Final Fantasy") and Shingo Tamagawa (creator of "Puparia"). I love how delicate and fairytale-like their art styles look.

As for musicians, I love Devonte Hynes/Blood Orange's and Frank Ocean’s music!

Do you remember the first thing you ever drew? What are your favourite subjects to draw?

My earliest drawing that I can remember is Blossom from Powerpuff Girls, I think I was four at the time!

I love drawing hands, I think it’s very therapeutic and fun. Aside from that I also love to draw environmental artworks. I’m not very good at it compared to drawing characters, but it’s the challenge to improve on my skills that keeps me interested!

You also exhibit and sell your own artwork at anime conventions. How did that come about and what motivated you to do so?

Honestly.... money ! My first convention was when I was studying in New Zealand back in 2015 and it was one of my bravest and most life-changing experiences to date. At the time, I was very curious about convention culture (and the profit) so I decided to try it out.

In my opinion, it's the best way to get your artworks exposed and meet other talented artists. I made a lot of friends at cons and learnt so many valuable lessons on running a small business as an independent artist. I’d recommend it to all new budding artists.

What’s next for you and what’s your dream project to work on?

These past few years, I’ve been very occupied with my studies and work, to the point where I've almost neglected my overall health and inner growth. I have more flexibility and control with my time now - this has given me the opportunity to reflect on myself and what I really want to do.

Professionally, I’ve been thinking of exploring the animation industry outside of the local scene, as well as working on a personal animation project! Let’s hope either one of them comes to fruition .

What do you enjoy most about being an animator/artist in Singapore?

Meeting other artists/animators! Being around like-minded people brings out a childlike joy and curiosity in me. I think the local art community is still very small and new; you really have to dig deep in order to find these precious gems.

I love to see and listen to what they’re trying to show with their artworks and animations. They really help remind me of why I love art in the first place.

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