Prolific illustrator and museum enthusiast Darel Seow talks bringing design into children’s lives, reinventing the museum space, and new curatorial projects.
Darel Seow always held a deep love for nature and narratives, unearthing the potential for natural landscape and fauna to be settings for a story. Spending his younger days sketching animals and complex rainforest landscapes in great detail, Darel initially aspired towards wildlife photography as a profession. After exploring several options, Darel received advice from established photographer Robert Zhao that he could illustrate for a living as well, as a more financially viable option. Keen to pursue a profession he enjoyed, Darel took these words to heart. He picked up digital art by himself over the weekends while serving in the army. There he entered his first illustration competition, where he submitted a winning design to street-famous T-shirt company Threadless, who had his design printed and sold on their T-shirts. Since then he’s earned our 2010 DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) Scholarship and pursued his Bachelors in Graphic Design (with Honours) at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in the UK. Today, he’s grown a distinct illustration style emphasizing simplicity that highlights the ingenuity of ideas. Concurrently, he’s expanded his design practice to include designing picture books for children, curating museum exhibitions and designing activity booklets, and conducting illustration workshops.
Darel’s first project out of graduation was an informatics brochure commissioned by The British Museum. It was during his time studying in Central Saint Martins with the Dsg Scholarship that Darel first discovered his love for museums. The sheer scale of the exhibits fascinated him, alongside the diversity of artefacts, that were once objects he only saw through television screens. Of course, he was also drawn as a college student on a stipend to its free entry policy. Entitled Teaching History With 100 Objects, Darel designed and illustrated an infographic brochure accompanying the popular BBC Radio 4 Series, A History of the World in 100 Objects. It was an inspiring and fulfilling project for Darel, working with his favourite institution in London, and appreciating how his work was also distributed to classrooms around the UK as an educational resource.
Perhaps the most surprising experience in Darel’s creative journey was discovering how much he enjoys working with children, and conducting workshops for them. He is constantly inspired and amazed by their innocence, unbridled curiosity and creativity. While working on a series of workshops with Club Rainbow during the Dreamseeds Arts Festival, Darel felt the far-reaching impacts of his work on children exploring illustration and story. He was impressed by how the lessons he taught could be carried forward into their own stories, and how creative yet impressionable they could be. Seeing them adopt skills that he’s used in his own stories, such as placing a hidden mynah on every page in his book Where Are All the Birds, humbled him and gave him an appreciation for how much his work can influence and inspire creative young minds.
In envisioning the future, Darel has emphasized design as a point of convergence for different creative forms and industries. Much more common now are author-illustrators, writer-curators, and so forth. In his own work, Darel has exhibited a wide range of skills that have converged to create unique projects that bring new narratives and possibilities to the table. He credits the Dsg scholarship for supporting his initial foray into graphic design, and the support received after returning and being an active member of the Dsg family gave him many connections and opportunities for collaborative projects – as evident in his Future of Craft exhibition. What one can expect next from Darel is an upcoming picture book exhibition in June which he will organise, as well as a website in the works, kwaychap.com. At once a whimsical ode to the local hawker dish Darel can’t get enough of, the website will feature poems of appreciation, journal entries, and dedicated illustrations to this unique, and polarising dish.
To learn more about Darel and his works, visit his website: https://darelseow.com/
To find out more about the DesignSingapore Scholarship, click here.