Malaysian Cartoon: An Interview with Izzati Suza (Malaysian Cartoonist & Illustrator)
Do you remember as a child before the prevalence of smartphones and the rise of entertainment apps (like Youtube, Netflix), how you used to spend the days away? The majority of us probably remember a childhood filled with comic books and animated TV shows. Although those materials originated from abroad, I’m sure we can fondly remember Malaysian cartoons like Lat’s Kampung Boy or comic books like Gempak Starz or Lawak Kampus. And a currently emerging local cartoonist/illustrator, Izzati Suza is doing just that by taking inspiration while still making her own style of cartoons.
We met up with the cartoonist/illustrator (formally known as kobismenghijo), for a quick interview to get to know this talented individual and her illustrations a little better.
The Cools Bears: Tell us about yourself and your background
Izzati: Hi, I’m Izzati Suza. I’m 24 years old and I was born in and still live in Melaka. Ever since I was a child, I always liked the arts but funnily enough, writing was my first hobby but I felt like there weren’t enough words in the world to adequately represent and express my innermost emotions so drawing became my go-to outlet. After SPM, I went for an architectural course in UiTM but unfortunately, my time there was cut short after 2 years when my father got into a major accident. As my mother was so busy taking care of him, I honed my skills to start selling merchandise as a way to support my family and after he passed away a year later, this business is still continuing on.
The Cool Bears: How did this passion for arts develop?
Izzati: My late father used to draw a lot but really weird stuff like cockroaches. *Laughs* But even when my mother asked him all the time “Why do you like to draw all these weird stuff?” He would just reply “If it’s you, it’s you” which gave me the encouragement to draw whatever and however I wanted to.
The Cool Bears: What inspires your illustrations?
Izzati: Growing up, my mother bought me a lot of comic books like Lat’s Kampung Boy and Doraemon which I attest my sense of humour and passion for storytelling to. Then when I started buying my own comics, I got into Gempak Starz like their Under 18 & Lawak Kampus series really helped me developed my own style. Later on, my mother gifted me an iPad and that’s when my digital illustrating skills became fully fleshed out. I used to hate colouring my drawings (on paper) because it gave me a certain anxiety of “What if I regret this colour later on?” so the iPad was truly a blessing for my indecisive & anxious self.
The Cool Bears: From all your cartoons & illustrations, they are super relatable especially to female Malaysian millennials.
Izzati: That mainly stems from the need to express and drawing it out is the best way to show people how I truly feel.
The Cool Bears: Is selling your illustrations a full time gig or something you do on the side?
Izzati: Yes, it’s completely full time because not only do I sell all these merch but I take on custom designs as well, from shoes, jackets to skateboards and last month, I had a mini-exhibition at Bank Negara Museum. These opportunities have helped sustain my income.
The Cool Bears: In 2017, you joined the Vans Custom Culture and your design, Negaraku got into the next stage of the competition, how was that experience?
Izzati: It was so unexpected. I just posted on Facebook, asking people to vote for my design and somehow overnight, those votes accumulated to around 50,000! Getting into the second stage, I was given a white blank shoe to design it however I wanted so I went with a different design (from the initial winning one) and sadly, that didn’t garner me as many votes to get to the finals.
The Cool Bears: Why did you decide on a different design?
Izzati: Because macam rugi je to waste that opportunity to unleash my creativity and to do something completely different, you know?
The Cool Bears: So did that experience help you in anyway?
Izzati: Yeah, I actually think that’s when people started recognizing the specifics of my style: the strokes and all. Of course, I gained more followers as well.
The Cool Bears: Selling your products on Instagram, how has social media help support your business?
Izzati: I think it’s probably the main reason why my business is still surviving, to be honest, *Laughs* Because I actually have a physical gallery in Melaka but walk-ins are rare so I think social media is the only way to get consistent & loyal buyers.
The Cool Bears: What do you think about the art scene in Malaysia?
Izzati: In my opinion, many of us artists have a negative view on the support given by Malaysians to local artists but I think in reality, it’s just lack of the purchasing power. That’s a reason why I focus on selling stickers because it makes my products more accessible and affordable, especially to the millennial-aged group. That’s how the loyalty to your brand develops and when there’s already that love for your art, customers are more likely to start purchasing bigger items such as prints or clothing.
The Cool Bears: Any advice for aspiring artists?
Izzati: Just go for it, because honestly when I started out, I didn’t expect to get recognition or even open up my own store! But what gets me going was just that desire to well, keep on going.