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Illustrator Monez: ‘All my imagination comes from fables’

Find out about illustrator and pattern designer Monez, his ‘fablelous’ style and his recent live art session at Apple in Singapore using Affinity Photo for iPad.
Mural for Bali Zoo created by Monez

Inspired by fables and folk-tales, Monez’s portfolio of work is a breath of fresh air and large in breadth. His large-scale murals appear on the walls of restaurants and zoos, while his organic characters feature in children’s books and on clothing apparel. Monez has also exhibited his digital and hand-drawn works widely, from Asia to Africa and the United States. As an avid user of the iPad Pro for his illustration work, we recently sent Monez to the Apple Store in Singapore to lead a live art session using Affinity Photo for iPad. We caught up with Monez to talk about his work and process…

How did you become an illustrator?

I’ve loved to draw ever since I was a kid. I went to a graphic design college in 2000 to become a graphic designer rather than an illustrator. This was because I was not confident in my drawings and felt that at that time that good illustrations were supposed to be a perfect realistic picture. But then I discovered that there are no bad illustrations and that you can draw whatever you want—even if your drawing is different from what most people do.

Also, when I was younger, people in my neighbourhood weren’t familiar with the profession of an illustrator. It was different to being a traditional painter, which was a job some people did. Even when I started out in 2006 there weren’t many people here who were illustrators. The community is still small but we all support each other. Now being an illustrator has become a serious profession.

You recently led a Live Art session at the Apple Store in Singapore, teaching people how to use Affinity Photo for iPad for illustration. How would you describe the experience?

There are no words that can explain how I felt, I can hardly believe that I was even there at an event that I’ve only ever seen on the internet.

I prepared for the session for almost a month. Kate and I communicated via email and discussed what the session should be like. I also trained and began to learn more about public speaking in English as this is not my everyday language! In the end all the preparations paid off and the show was successful. The audience were excited to use Affinity Photo on iPad, and they were amazed to see how easy it is to create something from scratch.

I was so proud to present an app that I adore to a fantastic audience. It was a great moment for me—thank you Affinity.

You have some amazing work in your portfolio, but a project that we particularly love is the one you did for Bali Zoo. Tell us more about it.

I’ve worked on a lot of illustrations for Bali Zoo since 2009, as their concept matches my illustration style; fun and playful. Actually, it’s not very difficult for me to create a design for the Zoo because the object of illustration relates to my neighbourhood. I live in Bali, a tropical island where we can still see beautiful nature, which helps me to create the animal characters. I always choose vibrant colours so they stand out and look fresh.

“I always choose vibrant colours so they stand out and look fresh.”

How do your pieces come together?

My very strong cultural roots always play a part. Bali gives me so much inspiration, and the books that I read throughout my childhood have had an impact on my illustration style too.

Do you always plan your designs before you start drafting them?

Yes, I always plan every design that I make. I start by understanding the theme and purpose of each project and collecting reference and concept sketches. I then put all the images together and finally process into a design that suits the clients purpose. One of the most important things is choosing the app to create my illustrations in because each drawing app is different and unique.

You do a lot of work on the iPad Pro. Do you prefer this to working traditionally?

Yes, almost 95% of my work done on an iPad Pro, I like it because the applications on the iPad Pro are getting better. Before using the iPad, I was a Wacom user, all the way from Wacom Intuos up to Cintiq. Actually, Wacom is pretty good, but its less of a good fit for me and anyone else who works mobile. Also, with Wacom you need lots of cables, a computer, and in my honest opinion the pen isn’t great compared to the Apple Pencil.

I draw much more with the iPad as it’s more practical and is always ready when I need it.

“all my imagination comes from fables”

You describe your style of work as ‘Fablelous’. What does this mean?

My personal artworks are mostly influenced by fables, all my imagination comes from fables and from those fables I create something fabulous—then I call it ‘Fablelous’.

What are your main tools for your illustration work and why?

iPad Pro with a few apps such as Affinity Photo, Procreate and Clip Studio Paint. The digital process provides many conveniences; practical, editable and printable. Applications on the iPad Pro are always evolving, they are getting better for serious work because they’re supported by an iPad Pro processor which is also getting more powerful.

What are your thoughts about Affinity Photo for iPad?

Affinity Photo for iPad provides a new option as a replacement for Photoshop on iPad. I can do a lot of things in Affinity Photo, from photo editing to digital illustration. The latest update made the app much more powerful too.

What artwork do you see yourself creating next?

I really want to draw on a large canvas media. I would love to have a large collection of manual drawings on a canvas and then hold my very own solo exhibition.

Have you travelled much throughout your career? If so, where, and how has this influenced your work?

I haven’t travelled much, just to some countries in Southeast Asia. Although I’ve only travelled a little bit, it has greatly influenced me to explore new ideas and see things from a different perspective. I hope I can travel to more countries in the future and gain more inspiration and share more of my passion.

What would you say has been the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on and why?

It’s hard for me to choose which project I find most interesting as all my projects are special to me in different ways. However, there is one project that I would say is very unique—it’s a children’s book I did with an author from the US. Her book is called ‘How I Send My Hug Around the World’. This was my very first book project and I found it very interesting. It was also a challenge for me as I had to attempt to translate the book into illustrations and match her imagination to mine.

What has been your most successful commission to date?

If it can be called a commission then I think the presentation I did at the Apple Store in Singapore for ‘Today at Apple’ was a big jump for my career. This event was a big deal for me and the illustration community in Bali. It gave confidence to the illustration community on a small island and made us realise that we can all achieve our dreams with strong will and dedication.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Being a professional illustrator forced me to do the most fun thing in life—to imagine! Endless imagining, even down to the strangest of things, and that’s ok. The weirder things are, the more people like it—what’s better than that haha?

“The weirder things are, the more people like it—what’s better than that haha?”

You have your own clothing brand, Monstero. Tell us more about it.

Since childhood we were often taught to fear the darkness, we were taught to call them all sorts of wicked names—monster being one of them. We ended up calling everything that we were ever afraid of ‘monster’, including our ignorance, imperfections and differences. Granted, monsters are our verve, our zest for life. We are redefining monsters as the embodiment of our imagination, dream and chaos of the subconscious mind and made it into art. Monstero is the collective name that we built to create a space for those who dare to face their fear and get rid of their ignorance, banish the darkness and celebrate the diversity.

Artwork created by Monez for his clothing brand, Monstero

“Monstero is the collective name that we built to create a space for those who dare to face their fear and get rid of their ignorance, banish the darkness and celebrate the diversity.”

Finally, what’s your greatest accomplishment to date?

That I get to spend lots of time with my family whilst working on something that I love; drawing.

You can see more of Monez’s fantastic work here. You can also learn how to create a Monez monster in Affinity Photo for iPad in this tutorial on Spotlight.