Shannon Chan Ziali, better known as ‘whamonster’, is a name that has been turning heads in the art industry.
Her recent standout piece, commissioned by KFC Malaysia for International Women’s Day in 2018, was a quirky portrayal of Claudia Sanders on the KFC logo, in place of her famous husband and founder of the fast-food chain. It was a clever tribute to commemorate Claudia’s efforts into their family business.
Such was its impact that Shannon’s work even bagged air-time on famous talk shows such as the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show.
Locally, Shannon and her team bagged the Golden Kancil Award and the EFFIE award in 2018.
An undeniable look-out artist of 2019, this impressive 25-year old is currently working as a storyboard artist in an advertising agency.
Apart from art pieces that Shannon puts out under her agency, she also freelances for clients and produces comic strips. Shannon’s comic strips such as the ‘An Ode to Public School Kids’ have gone viral online and gained much recognition as well as a large follower base in the online community.
Shannon shares with us of her steps that have led her to where she is today as an artist.
The flair to draw has been a loyal companion of Shannon since she was 6-years-old and at 14, she chose the career path of being an artist. She kick-started her journey in One Academy, continued her higher education at Sunway University and finally completed her degree at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.
“Deciding to be an artist was a challenge as many didn’t take me seriously,” Shannon recalls. “Ever since my schooling days, I’ve constantly faced criticism from school teachers and adults around me who did not believe in my chosen path.”
Many people were critical of Shannon for being unapologetically herself but her parents stood firmly behind their daughter, as a result of which they were frequently accused of bad parenting.
“I do not blame society. Asians, I feel, are mostly designed to survive life, and art still doesn’t seem like a career that could promise survival and stability to many. I believe art plays a big role in every society and it’s such a shame that many can’t see its value,” says Shannon.
She acknowledges that this profession, like many others in the art field, is frequently looked down upon as it does not fit the ideals of what most people would consider a stable, professional job.
Instead, creative arts are constantly correlated to being mere hobbies.
Apart from dealing with sceptics most of her life, there are other challenges that Shannon continues to face as she fiercely pursues her passion. Artists like herself are frequently under-appreciated as many are not willing to pay a just figure for artworks, due largely to lack of awareness and understanding.
Lack of ethics is also a major hurdle for most artists, and Shannon is no exception. She says, “It’s quite common to find your work republished without being credited or placed on other products as decorative art.”
Likewise, Shannon acknowledges that the art industry can be a ruthless one for those wanting to make a career of it.
“Most artists do not even have the support of their family members. In a developing country like Malaysia, being a professional artist is still not a viable career option as there’s no guarantee of a steady, regular income. This can be daunting for a young start-up, and often, can cripple one’s fire.”
However, Shannon wishes to remind fellow artists that if there is a will, there is a way. An artist needs to consistently put in hours and hard work.
“One will always have it harder or better than us but that shouldn’t prevent you from pursuing your dream. It’s important that the younger generation not be too hard on themselves as pursuing one’s dream is easier said than done and will not happen overnight. Talent alone isn’t enough.
“Self-education and proactively enhancing skills through workshops and classes, go a long way in establishing a firm footing in the industry.”
Personally, as an artist, Shannon seeks inspiration from the moving world around her; the stories of people she meets and by actively observing the motions of life. Works of art produced by others, be it songs, movies or stories, are her muse.
All in all, Shannon hopes for a more progressive society that could create an ideal atmosphere for promising artists to grow.
“Start by supporting your neighbourhood artistes. This can be done by watching local movies, going to theaters, listening to locally produced music, visiting galleries or paying your artist friends justifiably,” she urges.
As a society, there’s much that we can do to nurture rather than curtail children with potential in the arts. With so much emphasis on the sciences and other ‘career oriented’ subjects, little encouragement is given to promising talents such as Shannon.
Yet, the budding artist chooses to be optimistic. “I truly believe change begins with us. There is so much going for the Malaysian art industry and we are headed in the right direction, slowly but surely. I’m eager to watch our industry reach its full potential.”