His name is Chen Ruihe in Chinese, but everyone calls him Sting. Growing up in Taipei, Sting had a very ordinary family background. In college he studied Fine Art and Visual Communication, and today he works as an advertising art director and a freelance illustrator.
When Sting draws, he likes to think that his hand is actually holding a surgical scalpel, and that he is like a doctor performing surgery, suturing creative ideas together. He says that in his work there are many secrets and layers of hidden meanings. Sting laughingly describes his illustration work as being “neurotic, claustrophobic, and schizophrenic”. At times, there is even an underlying sense of catabythismomania, or the impulsive desire to drown oneself. This feeling is perhaps most evident in his eye-catching new series of drawings Our common pre-existence exists in the ocean, which illustrates a dense world of underwater marine organisms.
The idea for this series of drawings came after he took a body sketch class. Sting quickly became fascinated with the beauty and textures of anatomical forms. He started work on the drawings, by first collecting hundreds of pictures of whales as reference materials. He then achieved the texture of the skin with many repeated hand-drawn strokes. During the process of making this work, he soon came to the realization that marine creatures also had very real and mysterious souls. After all, as he says, we share a common pre-existence in the ocean. In our interview below with Sting, he tells us more about his own personal journey as an artist.
Neocha: What do you enjoy most about illustration?
Sting: Just the act of creating something and then trying to comprehend what I’d made. I really enjoy the process of creating things purely from scratch, starting out with an intangible idea and then making it into an actual physical piece of work. During this whole process, because I am constantly thinking about and analyzing the work – both by itself and in the greater context of things, my understanding of what I’m making is always evolving. For me, it’s not about having a right or wrong answer. It’s about forcing myself to think more critically.
Neocha: Tell us about your creative process. How do you normally come up with a new piece of work?
Sting: My creative ideas very rarely ever come to me all of a sudden. Most of them brew inside me for a very long time, until I feel the moment is right for me to start drawing. I tend to work on a few illustrations at a time. If one drawing doesn’t feel right to me, I’ll take a break from it and work on a different one. Maybe some time will pass and then I’ll come back to it later and look at it from a fresh perspective. Maybe I will have some new ideas, and then continue working on it. This happens over and over again until the work is finished.
Neocha: What do you do, or where do you go, to get inspiration?
Sting: I actually get a lot of my inspiration from going to music festivals. Recently over the years, I’ve been to a lot of local and international ones; for example, up in the mountains for Japan’s Fuji Rock, or next to sea at Hong Kong’s Clockenflap or at Spain’s Primavera Sound, or outdoors in the city at Japan’s Summer Sonic Japan and Taipei’s Formoz Festival. That is, when I’m watching a band play live on stage, drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette, I feel completely free to do as I like. After dancing, cheering, losing myself in the crowd, if I’m really tired, I can just lie on the grass, bask in the sun, and chat with my friends. Inspiration comes to me quite naturally in those kinds of moments.
Sting: 音樂祭是我靈感最大的來源。這幾年參加了許多國內外的活動，例如在山林裡的日本Fuji Rock，在海邊的香港Clockenflap與西班牙的Primavera Sound，在都會裡的日本Summer Sonic與台北的野台開唱Formoz Festival…… 就是邊聽喜歡樂團的音樂，一邊喝點酒，抽些煙，無拘無束，還不時大叫與堆擠衝撞，累了就躺在草地曬太陽聊天。靈感在那時候就會不斷地湧現催促著我。
Neocha: Was there a decisive moment in your life when you said to yourself “this is what I am going to do”? How did you discover your own talent?
Sting: When I was three and was in kindergarten – when I still hadn’t learned how to ride a bicycle yet, I realized that I was actually really good at drawing. No one had ever told me this, but I just knew this about myself. And not only that, I also believed from early on that this would be something that would be a part of me for the rest of my life.