Three-time Host’s Choice Winner Cedric Cha has designed anything and everything from album covers & inlays for local bands, gig posters, t-shirts to even delivery boxes. With local acts such as Darren Ashley (Scott Pilgrim-esque 8-bit art for his single releases), Mordo Blasters (EP MMM’s artwork), and Busco (EP In Search Of artwork) to his name, Cedric has even designed t-shirts for international bands Our Lady Peace and Switchfoot, the latter being his most fulfilling project as an artist. Commissioned works, as it turned out, don’t always take away the heart of an artist’s work, especially if you are a freelancer.
“If you can make a living doing what you’re passionate about, why not?” Cedric asked us rhetorically. “As a freelancer, I get to choose the work I want,” he elaborated, saying that he doesn’t see an issue with being paid for doing what he’s always wanted to do as long as the monetary value of the work he takes isn’t the focal point of his decisions. Still, there’s a misconception about designers that relates to the value of the projects they choose to do; clients often time think that they crave exposure and publicity more than getting paid well.
“’This project doesn’t pay well, but it’ll be good for your portfolio’ is the lowest and weakest – sadly also the most familiar and relatable – proposal anyone could ask of an artist. Why not just say there’s not much value in your work, but I need it for my revenue-earning project?” Cedric told us empathetically, no doubt already familiar with the trappings of being a designer here. He has never harboured animosity towards working in Malaysia though – the opportunities and experiences here are as fertile as anywhere else, you just need to know your priorities.
“I have learnt (and am still learning) to keep it 40.35% about the money and 59.65% about the opportunities and experiences,” Cedric revealed to us. Adding that in the world of design there are 2 types of designers; those who are excellent at servicing clients and those who create for self-fulfilment. Based on what we had established in our conversation, Cedric is obviously the latter, but as he said; “in the real world — where Bono isn’t President – I know I have to be the former before eventually becoming the latter.”
At just 21 years old, he has a refreshingly realistic idea of how to work around being his own artist vis-à-vis making a career out of it. Even despite the awards that he had won, you won’t find any vainglorious chest-thumping from this guy, folks. In fact, Cedric downplays the recognition he’d received thus far.
“Most of the awards I’ve won (the noteworthy ones at least) were outside of Malaysia and not limited to a specific genre of work, so I’m still better known as someone who shares the same name as a Harry Potter character.”
Self-effacingly realistic instead of self-aggrandisingly idealistic? Cedric is a rarity in the industry in more ways than just his skills at both pen and Adobe Creative Suite, often time talented designers are more likely to be the latter. Unaware that they can work within the system and still fulfil their creative whims and desires, even if it has to come later on.
A freelance graphic designer and illustrator by trade, the KL-based lad held his first pen as a toddler, filling his childhood with “scribbled storybooks and walls,” an act that developed art as an irreplaceable base desire of his psyche. Cedric was like every other teenager – videogames, sports, what not – but nothing gave him the same joy and fulfilment as making art. And he is still very much that same boy-next-door now, just older. Consider this, like any other early 20s Joe, he is a huge music fan, so much so that he gets the most enjoyment out of his works that relate to music; from album art to band merchandise to poster.
“I love music but I can’t play it for the death of me – other than 4 chords on the guitar that is — so I get myself involved in it every other way,” revealed Cedric in his trademark self-deprecating manner. Despite that, Cedric isn’t quite sure whether he’d want to be a designer associated with the music scene or keep his artistic forte ambiguous, which would leave more rooms for opportunities. Based on the works he had done though? We say go for it. Not every 21 year old designer gets to design t-shirts for their favourite international bands after all.
Cedric sees “eccentric people, offbeat music, and peculiar art” as inspirations, adding that living in modern day Klang Valley has blessed him with seeing those trifecta of muses just about anywhere around the corner. There’s an attraction to the oddball that he can’t resist; “They’re proof that imperfection and beauty can be found in the same place, much like art.”
A believer of art as a universal concept, Cedric believes creativity exist in everyone (“from the government officer to the entrepreneurial hipster”). Some might express it by filing tax reports, some by making music, others by opening up trendy ventures, and as for Cedric?
“I’m happy I can do it with a pen and a sketchbook.”
More on Cedric Cha at www.cedriccha.com.