Ton Mak is an illustrator based between Hong Kong and Shanghai. She originally graduated from University College London, majoring in Anthropology. Ton never actually studied art, she just has always loved to doodle. When she was a kid, she says, “I had major anxieties dealing with school stuff I sucked at. The school back in Hong Kong was super strict and it was a lot of ‘watch, copy, repeat’ in everyday teaching.” For Ton, this kind of learning environment was pretty intimidating. Her mother wanted her to learn in a much more relaxed environment, so they all later moved to New Zealand. Ton says, “I would just doodle and experiment with artsy fartsy stuff all the time. My family was all about finding passion through exposure, and I feel like this has helped pave the way to what I am doing today.”
In her artwork, themes and expressions often just occur intuitively. Ton Mak enjoys giving everyday mundane objects a new kind of spirit or emotion. “Whether it’s a meatball or a spud,” she explains, “giving these seemingly soulless objects some human-like qualities silently puts into perspective the emotional connection that we may have with these little things.” Her creative process is actually quite fluid and meditative, and it shows in the style of her work. It’s not about representing what is “right”, but more about being able to tell a story freely. In our interview with Ton below, we talk to her about Flabjacks and what inspires her.
Neocha: Who are the Flabjacks?
Ton: Flabjacks is a friendly collective of chubby creatures. They tend to have fat lips, an occasional mole, and some kind of “flab”. They all live in an imaginary wonderland that is full of good vibes. It’s free entry. Anyone can be a “Flabjack”.
Neocha: What inspires you to draw Flabjacks and other “friendly creatures”?
Ton: My anthropology backbone has a lot to do with my obsession in observing people and objects. If you have a funky haircut, I could be drawing you right now. The creatures may be chubby and imaginary, but they definitely have a sense of agency. I love it when people point at a fatty and go “That’s me!”. It completes the doodle tale a little more. Even if you take away all information on the artwork, you may find relevance in it. I want people to participate in this mystical world, create their own narrative, to find a common connection.
Neocha: Why are you especially drawn to elephant seals, fat, moles, and root vegetables?
Ton: My favourite animals since childhood are elephant seals and kunekune pigs. Root vegetables have this stubborn shape to them and I love how each and every one look awesomely awkward. And as for moles, you can’t escape moles. They are a living reality. They have character. All these have uniquely fantastic curves and features that inspire the creation of Flabjacks. At the end of the day, some doodles are unintentionally autobiographical.
Neocha: Who are some of your favourite artists who have inspired you?
Ton: David Choe, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and David Shrigley. All of their works are marked by liberating, informal, somewhat obsessive strokes. They taught me back in school that it’s totally okay to not draft everything till the cows come home.
Ton: David Choe、Jean-Michel Basquiat和David Shrigley。所有他们的作品都印记着解脱的、轻松的，
Neocha: Tell us about some of your side projects. What are some future projects that you have planned?
Ton: I am working on giving Flabjacks a more tangible presence. Something that you can poke. This includes new soft toys and some installation art projects for real estate spaces that are under development right now. In the more immediate future, I am also working on a new series of greeting cards, a tote bag and some tee shirts. In the immediate, immediate future, I am going to take a nap.