Sehati Sejiwa: Sharina Shahrin tells us what it's like being a full-time visual artist in Malaysia

Sharina Shahrin is a mixed-media visual artist and founder of an independent creative studio, Everyday Studios. She is also founder of Baju by Sharina, a batik-centric fashion label that aims to reclaim and promote the beauty of Malaysian batik as well as co-founder of Safe Space, a platform for women to express, connect and learn. With a background in both creative direction and fine art, her work explores themes of femininity and identity through her emotive paintings, portraits and digital work. Passionate about self-expression and creative engagement she is currently focusing on the power and importance of art education within her local community through art workshops.

We spoke to Sharina earlier this week to know what it's like being a full-time visual artist in Malaysia

Tell us more about yourself!

Sharina: My name is Sharina Shahrin and I’m a visual creative currently based here in Malaysia. I’ve always loved the arts growing up so it was natural path for me to pursue university onwards. A few years ago I return back to Malaysia after living overseas and I’m happy to be back contributing towards the community!

What does your typical day look like as a full-time artist?

Sharina: All my projects are so different so day-to-day varies as well! But there’s a lot of experimenting and testing out colours and styles for commissioned paintings, researching and proposal making for consultation projects, preparing materials and curriculums for art workshops. Really a bit of everything! I love listening to talks and music when I work as well! Keeping informed and inspired is daily routine for me!

What made you get into art?

Sharina: Self-expression was always a huge part of my character growing up. I really enjoyed manifesting my emotions, ideas and personality through whatever means. There was a lot of dressing up, performing, drawing and story-telling in my house-hold. I was extremely vibrant and loud as a child and art was an extension of that creativity!

You've lived in many other countries before, what made you come back to Malaysia and pursue art here?

Sharina: I wanted to finally ground myself after being away for so long. But I realized that the creative industry here had a lot of opportunities for growth and involvement as well. It was during a gap year that I opened up my studio here and started pursuing art full time. I worked on so many projects, did exhibitions, collaborated with other artists. That whole experience was encouraging, exciting and financially viable for me. I was excited and passionate to return back after my studies to contribute back to a community that I believed needed some TLC

In your opinion, is the art scene in Malaysia growing at a rate that is sustainable?

Based on my experience, yes! Being a full-time creative of course comes with it’s own set of challenges, but I’ve been riding the wave and enjoying it. I’ve seen a huge impact because of Covid however, so that’s one thing that’s concerning for many artists!

I’ve seen a lot of friends struggling financially because so many projects, exhibitions and opportunities were all at a halt. Now galleries are slowly opening up again and projects are moving forward but those 6 months were a huge hit for some people. Getting proper support as an artist is already so volatile so you can imagine what were the effects of quarantine.

How can Malaysians support Malaysian artists better? Especially during a time like this.

Sharina: We can start by giving credit to artists. Tag them, share or retweet their work. We can also support them by commissioning illustrators and painters. I love supporting my artist friends this way! Personalized gifts are so thoughtful and appreciated.

On a bigger scale with brands and corporations, is to respect artists’ rates. It’s 2020 and we’re living through a pandemic, exposure isn’t going to cut it!

In Malaysia, many parents never emphasize on the importance of art involvement/education growing up. What would you recommend to a person who wants to dive into art at a later stage in life?

Sharina: I think it’s never too late to try something! There’s so many routes you can take but the most important thing I would advise is to be proactive. You can attend classes, courses or even find a mentor! But in addition to that you should conduct your own research by reading, attending talks, conversing with artists. Listening, experiencing and reflecting, all integral parts of the creative process.

I think artist are often glamourized or romanticized so you should have the right intention when you venture into this field!

Many Malaysians resonate with the stigma that art never pays the bills and can only be a hobby. What would you say to these people?

Sharina: I personally make a comfortable income doing something I absolutely love and that fulfils me, so I think I’m extremely lucky. I started 5 years ago and am still a full-time artist. I hope to be an example for the youth, to show that you can pursue a career in the arts.

I think there needs to be paradigm shift within society to view art as important and crucial part of our culture.

In Europe and other parts of the world, art is a prominent contribution towards the economy and I hope one day Malaysians could raise art to that stature.

Where do we follow you, how do we get a hold on to your work? Can we buy them? If yes, where?

You can find me on Twitter at @sharinashahrin and Instagram at @sharinashahrin_! I’m open for commissions, collaborations and anything exciting! ☺️✨ 


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