Animator & Artist Boey talks Styrofoam Cup Art, Inspiration, & Happiness | Art Attack


-My name is Boey. I’m an
animator, artist, and an author. And I am best known
for my art on Styrofoam cups. I grew up in Malaysia. I moved to the States in 1997. I started drawing
on Styrofoam cups when I was out at a café and I didn’t have anything —
I was people-watching. The only white surface I got
was a Styrofoam cup. I took that,
drew on the first one, and then I thought,
“It’s kind of nice.” I liked the fact that it was much more
challenging than paper. I don’t like to, say,
draw on paper today and then draw on a cup tomorrow, so I wanted to amass
a collection of it, and so that’s what
I started drawing on. And then I just kept on with it. First thing I drew
on a Styrofoam cup was me walking down
the streets of San Francisco. I gave that to a friend,
and I told him that — because it was his birthday,
you know, I said, “Keep this because it’s gonna be
worth a lot of money one day.” The theme I chose to explore is basically
Japanese woodcut prints. One of my favorite artists
is Hokusai, and one
of the very first few cups I did with the wave motifs
was inspired by him. Inspiration comes
from everyday observations. You know, like whatever I see,
the people I interact with, things they think about,
you know. Like, if they mention something
to me, I’ll be like, “Oh, you know, I’ve kind of done
that before, too,” or it will spark an idea and I’ll just go off
on my own tangent. What makes me happy
is having complete freedom in doing what you like to do
is what makes me happy. People have a very hard time
coming to grasps with paying a couple hundred,
thousands of dollars for art on Styrofoam cups. Think of it this way —
if the recipe for Coca-Cola was written on a napkin, I don’t think people
would have trouble trying to pay a couple
hundred dollars for that. They’re not gonna say,
“Oh, it’s on a napkin. I don’t want it.”
You know? They would immediately
see the idea behind it. And that’s what’s important. I recently took
a trip across the country. I think it’s important
to learn about the lives of other people,
because that way you’re not basing everything
off yourself, you know? Like, when I was working
and I was making good money, all I was concerned about
was just what to buy tomorrow. I did not really think about
the problems that the rest of the people
around me may have or — I became very selfish, I think. When I draw, I start off with a rough idea
of what I want to draw, and then I will start off
with drawing a face because the face is usually
the hardest thing to get down. Once I draw that, I spend a good amount of time
just looking around the cup and thinking of
how I’m gonna compose the shot. The process is a lot different from how I learned to draw
in school, because in school,
you draw the big shapes and then you fill in
the details later on. But in this case, when you don’t have
the opportunity to sketch, so you kind of have to work
everything out in your mind before you place it on it. That’s really the hardest part
of drawing. I spend a lot of time because I fear messing up
more so than I’m planning. Fear doesn’t really help me, but it makes things
very, very interesting, I think. If it’s always a success
for every stroke, then it doesn’t seem as fun. I feel great
about a final product of what I drew
and things like that, but when I was drawing it
and when I started, I was — You know, when you have
just floating pieces of, like, the face
and then the arms, you really don’t know
where you’re going with it. As you draw and time progresses, when things start coming
together, you start realizing that it’s gonna be
pretty amazing when I’m done. My advice to other artists is to look beyond the canvas,
you know. Think of all the possibilities
out there. A canvas
doesn’t have to be flat. You know, it could be anything. It really is the idea
behind your concepts and things like that. To everyone else,
I tell them the same thing I’ve told everyone —
that the difference between a dream and reality
is just doing it. So if you want to get
something done, just do it.

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