Nadhir Nor’s characters in his watercolor series Segan (‘Shy’) and Masih Segan (‘Still Shy’) look like magical sprites that could have appeared in a Studio Ghibli film or a vintage Walt Disney feature. The Malaysian illustrator brings his anthropomorphic plants gently to life with magic and wonder.
Nor’s interest in art has humble roots. He dabbled in drawing as a child, but it wasn’t until secondary school, when he discovered the online art community Deviantart, that art became a passion. Seeing all the various beautiful and wonderful works made by everyday people like him sparked Nor’s creativity, prompting him to pick up a tablet and experiment.
The mythical stories and the fantastical worlds ubiquitous in video games and animated films had always fascinated him, and that eventually brought on an epiphany. “We don’t have to only consume these interesting stories and worlds,” he says. “We could also create them ourselves.”
马来西亚插画家 Nadhir Nor 在其水彩画系列《Segan》（《害羞》）和《Masih Segan》（《依然害羞》）中，将各种植物拟人化，描绘成各式各样的精灵角色，看上去就像是吉卜力动画片或老式迪斯尼动画片里的角色，充满魔法和奇妙的魅力。
Nadhir 从小就开始绘画，但并非涉猎深入。一直到中学在他发现了在线艺术网站 Deviantart 后，艺术才真正演变成一种热情。当他看到那么多美丽而精彩的作品都出自像他这样的平凡人之手，这大大激发了他的创造力，促使他开始尝试创作。
Segan grew out of Nor’s time in the residency program at Rimbun Dahan, a Malaysian center for the development of traditional and contemporary art forms. Before he began the program, he worked full-time as an animation concept artist and could only explore his personal projects on nights and weekends. He decided to take up the residency to rediscover himself as both an artist and storyteller, and to have the chance to immerse himself fully in his watercolors without having to worry about catching up on work and sleep the next day.
《Segan》系列诞生于 Nadhir 参加 Rimbun Dahan 驻地项目的期间。那里是马来西亚发展传统和当代艺术文化的中心。在加入这个计划之前，他是一名全职的动画概念设计师，只能在晚上下班和周末时创作自己的个人项目。后来，他决定参加这个驻地计划，重新找回自己作为艺术家和故事讲述者的身份，并乘此机会全心沉浸于水彩画创作中，不必再担心为了赶工作，第二天上班还昏昏欲睡。
Like many happy accidents, the series didn’t start off with a concrete plan. It began with Nor’s “segan-ness” both in his exploration of watercolors and in his presence at the well-known art center. The idea stemmed from an emotional source rather than tangible inspirations, coupled with the influence of being surrounded by the pristine nature that surrounds Rimbun Dahan. Segan also stems from his culture—namely his interest in the belief of bunians and jins, spirits that quietly live among humans going about their everyday life.
“I want to remind people of the beauty in being sensitive, in being vulnerable, and how we can use it to help us,” he says. Of course, he’s aware of the irony of his title: had he truly been “segan” and not done anything with his works, he would have missed out on many opportunities. By recognizing his own insecurity, he managed to turn it on its head and use it to his advantage, instead of allowing it to overshadow him.
如同许多惊喜的意外，《Segan》系列并不是诞生于一个具体的创作计划。而是源自于 Nadhir 身处在这个著名的艺术中心，以及自己才刚刚开始对水彩画展开探索的“羞怯之情”。这个想法更多是受到情感方面的形塑，而不是单纯地被灵感光顾。Rimbun Dahan 四周的原始自然风光，以及他自身的文化背景都对他的创作产生了一定的影响。他深信着关于 bunians 和 jins（马来西亚民间传说中的超自然生物）的传说。据说，这些精灵一直安静地生活在人类四周。
Nor considers himself vulnerable, but he’s in touch with his own vulnerability. “I think the beauty in being vulnerable is that it’s a good reminder that at the end of the day, as worried as we might be about things affecting us, it also means that we are allowing ourselves to grow. It’s about opening our door to possibilities, instead of shutting things down just because we’re afraid.”
He presents his stories through plants for their timelessness and omnipresence. They lack “any tinge of period or context” that would otherwise occur if he had used modern or prehistoric objects. “Vulnerability will probably be with us until the end of time, and I hope plants will too,” he says.
After the successful release of Segan, Nor followed up with Masih Segan. This second series took three months to complete, and it serves not just as a continuation of the first series, but also as a sort of commentary—on the good that came out of pushing himself to release his work, and the beauty of the uncertainty and possibilities that followed.
Nor is now basking in the sunlight, and there’s still plenty of time for him to bloom. Though he hopes to move on to other mediums, he believes there’s still much more to discover in the softness and unpredictability of watercolors. He’s also keen to go back and explore his lifelong fascination with the art of fantasy role-playing games and possibly collaborate with other Malaysian artists.
“A big part of my shyness—my ‘segan’-ness—with the series came from the fact that I am not from the fine arts scene. I focused heavily during college and worked on entertainment art, which is more commercial. So it’s definitely daunting to be dipping my feet into this scene. But it’s been exciting, and people have been supportive.”
在成功发表《Segan》后，Nadhir 又创作了后续系列《Masih Segan》，后者历时三个月完成，不仅是第一个系列的延续，更是一种注释——表达因为推动自己发表作品所带来的好处，以及随之而来的那些美妙的不确定性和可能性。
现在的 Nadhir 像是沐浴在阳光下，并有足够的时间让他绽放。虽然他希望转向其它媒介创作，但他相信，柔淡而不可预测的水彩画还有更多值得发掘的东西。同时，他也热切地回归探索他对角色扮演游戏（RPG）艺术的迷恋，并可能与其他马来西亚艺术家合作。