Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I liked to draw when I was a few years old but I was not determined, dedicated and disciplined enough to push this interest at heart forward to pursue it further. But I drew on and off over the years really randomly, using only ink and 0.05mm fine-liner. Deep at heart, I want to be recognized as an artist instead of just a marketer or branding specialist which is what I do professionally. Last year, my mom was not feeling very well and I wanted to stay home to be with her a lot more. I found myself stuck in the house and I told myself - there must be something I can do at home to be productive. I looked around and I picked up my pens and started to draw again because I can stop any second and resume any moment. And I commited myself to producing at least a piece every weekend so I can bring this initiative to become a habit, and then build the skills and become better at it. Putting up the drawings on Instagram @snailomorphesis motivates me as I notice there are actually people out there liking my work. The more I draw, the more I post, the more I get to see positive feedback. Then I got myself a logo and then a website and things are falling in place in less than a year. Now I will say I love to draw and don't just like it. Drawing is something I want to do so much that on Friday night I will be happy that I can wake up early and get my creative energy burst for the weekend.
Ink stroke is something that interests me all the time. I took Chinese calligraphy classes before and thought that it could help with my basics and understanding of skills and crafts. But it's not true, you don't need to take a proper class to draw. If you have the love for it, it will come naturally. My style of art is mixing broad ink brushstroke with super fine dot masses known as pointilism to create unique art compositions. I like the contrast between strokes and dots, but the simple monotone of black and white makes things appear in their original form. It's full of contradiction and contrast which I feel is similar to life that it's full of uncertainty yet we are looking for stability.
Were you always interested in helping the elderly or did this mission in life evolve later? What sparked it and how did it lead you to start doing what you're doing to give back via your art?
Born with a humanitarian outlook, I loved to do volunteer work since college years but I was focusing in children more. Then when I returned to Hong Kong from the States after studies, I volunteered time nursing babes of underage mothers. It's pretty insane to see that there would be a long waiting list for volunteers. When you are lucky to be chosen to be on duty, you will notice the ratio of adult volunteers to infant is 4 to 1. That is really not a very good use of my time as I have to compete with the fellow volunteers to help the babies. Circumstance motivates me to look at helping another extreme age group instead, which is our elderly. Because they are so neglected and under cared for in the society. Their needs are super similar to infants, they need us to feed them, bathe them, play with them etc. But why are most people so fond of babies and how come it turned out to be so difficult to take care of our older folks because they are wrinkled, immobile, couldn't really see and hear? But they contributed all their lives to support our society. This appears to me as social injustice, and I have strong desire within to fight for the weak, poor and the old.
For the reason that I cannot spend my time in doing the same amount of volunteer work like I used to do, I want to turn my art into a source of funds for the elderly instead. So I started to merchandise my work and hoping people will remember to help the elderly to walk their late chapters in dignity and comfort knowing they are not abandoned or unwanted. I hope people remember to take care of their own parents like how they used to take care of them. It's our responsibility and duties to do all these, it's not even something we should be complimented for, as it's basic and fundamental.
Would you tell us about your big dream to run a loving elderly home where the folks would feel loved and cared for as part of a thriving community? I'd love to hear in detail what this big dream would look like.
It's really a huge dream of running an elderly home. I once even announce on social media that I want to operate one so I am under pressure as everyone knows that now, haha. My background is advertising and branding, and I seriously think I can utilize my knowledge and skills into setting up a properly branded elderly home. All those institutions I visited in HK before are so poorly decorated, the household is not well designed, caretakers don't appear right and professional, and they are just crappy walls for the folks to keep them inside 'safe'. It's miserable to live there, and not inviting for visitors, and it's a vicious cycle making the elderly further neglected. My network and friends are architects, interior designers, graphic designers, photographers, lawyers, chefs, entrepreneurs and many professionals, and I feel that I can connect them to source their talents to contribute to this brand new elderly homes and even turn it into a chained establishment spreading across different parts of HK. Hurdles come in as huge as my ambition as this project involves a lot of legal issues which I have no idea how to sort out. But our city is ageing so quickly that the needs is becoming acute. I cannot wait up for this dream to actualize so I quickly try to raise funds at this point of my life. Funds raised will be small but I know that every dollar counts and I am sowing seeds now, who knows what type of fruits will that blossom into, but we all should not overthink about our inability and action forward as soon as possible, as time does not wait.
Can you tell us about some of the people you have helped? The photographs you've taken put the attention on the individuals, and is quite touching. What are ways that we as ordinary citizens can do small things to help the elderly in our own lives - both close friends and family or acquaintances in the community? Do you have any tips?
It's quite many of the folks I have helped before, all through home visits with local NGO. It struck me how much misery and mental pain they are going through as lots of them have not seen their own children for years. I was helping folks with suicidal tendencies and it's really terrifying to know the ways these elderly would go to kill themselves. The hit rate is super high as they are really determined to end their lives when they have no money to buy pills, no strength to hang themselves, no visibility and ability to move around when they are in wheelchairs... These elderly just want someone to talk to, and they are so loving when you just reach out to them. I also have experience visiting Kolkata India taking care of the dying elderly at Mother's House founded by Mother Teresa. Things are just the same on global basis, give our attention and time to these elderly and they would feel a lot better at this last chapters of their lives.
Not all of us would have time to do volunteer work - but we can still do something on a daily basis. Give our granny a hand when she needs to get on the bus; help her get on the escalator when she is staggering and not able to step out on the moving steps; say good morning to the uncle on the street when he is walking slowly; hold the door for them; give them a super big smile and that adds warmth to their heart. It's a gesture of respect honestly, and that does not take you a lot of time at all. I promise you will feel really good after doing it, and later you will do it so naturally that you would not even notice you have done it. Just one thing: don't be shy. Show that you care. This applies to those around you, tell them you love them, hug them and smile. The city is tense enough and don't be timid on your showing the love you have in your heart. Chill out and smile, you will look absolutely beautiful without even needing to go to the gym or putting on make up or the best dress.
I love the writing you mentioned. Do you have a call to action or something we could do to help? I think many in our community would enjoy writing a letter to someone to make a small difference. How about giving us a small assignment?
My intention is to sell more postcards - so 80% of the money I collected would be donated to a local NGO whose elderly program is quite strong. At the same time, I encourage people to pick up a pen and write a loving message to their friends and families. It's too long ago we all each get a friendly mail except Christmas. Mailbox nowadays are just filled with bills, tax demand note, advertising flyers, where have the love letters gone? Everyone only writes through keyboards and we cannot see handwriting anymore. I have printed a note card with a message which says ""Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember you're the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside."
I hand wrote to nearly 130 of my friends and mail each one out, it's quite time consuming but everyone told me how pleasant it is to receive a mail and I hope they will do the same to another 130 people with the note card I gave them, hopefully it's their mother. This digital age boosts convenience and speed, but we also lose the human touch and connection, lets revive snail mail and spread love.
Michell's Assignment: Pick up your phone and call your mother and tell her you love her.*
*or a loved one of any type - we know everyone may not be lucky enough to have their mother in their life.