Haw: If you don't know who Paul Gilbert is, you might know the rock bands Mr. Big or Racer-X. He's the lead guitarist for both bands. Awesome guitar skill!

Graphic Artist, 4AG guitarist

Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. That’s a calling. It calls you, you don’t choose it. That’s how it was for Lim Sheng Haw.

Lim Sheng Haw. Photo by Joanna Funk

“I used to record all the Saturday morning cartoons, then pause the video and try to sketch them,” said Haw.

“Drawing has been in me since I was really small. My dad’s an artist as well so I guess unconsciously I must have picked it up, then as I was growing up my dad would show me how to draw and stuff.

“It took me until secondary school to decide that I wanted to be an artist. I loved drawing and knew I would make my living as someone who draws, but I didn’t know what field I would be in. Although I knew it wouldn’t be something like Architecture, because that needs a bit of Math, and I suck at Math.”

It all started to come together for Haw in secondary school.

“I wasn’t a real fan of comics but I liked the art. Marvel and DC comics, and a bit of those Hong Kong fighting comics. I started drawing comics of my own, with my friends. We exchanged ideas. I check out your comic, you check out mine. We made up our own story lines as well, but I was really bad at it. We came out with our own characters, they had certain powers, stuff like that.”

Then the first caricatures started.

caricature of Foo Fighters by Lim Sheng Haw, graphic artist and guitarist in Sabahan Chinese metal band 4AG
Foo Fighters. By Lim Sheng Haw

“In class, of course I was supposed to study, but sometimes I just started drawing instead. Then out of the blue one of my friends said, ‘Sketch me’. Once I started sketching, it didn’t look proportionately correct, but it definitely looked like him. I ended up drawing all my friends. I would think, ‘Is he a rigid or a fun person?’ Then put the personality into the caricature.I guess it started from there. They kind of liked it, so I started developing that. I was around 16-17 then.”

The time to think about college came, and Haw wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally.

“I just knew I liked Art. So I took up Art. My parents were 100 percent supportive, and just told me to ‘find a school’. So I went to this roadshow in town, and they were all these schools from West Malaysia. In the end I chose Lim Kok Wing, it’s an Art institute.

Haw: "Speed Metal Veteran, James Hetfield. Yuueeaaaah!"
Haw: Metal Man. Speed Metal Veteran, James Hetfield. Yuueeaaaah!

“I started college in 1998. First year is foundation courses, second year is your major. I chose Graphic Design. In my third year I did 2D animation, followed by 3D in Canada after working for a while.

“In secondary school, there were not a lot of artists, but when you go to a specialized college, you meet all these kinds of people. It can be overwhelming. I was always thinking: ‘I thought I was the only one!’

“College was fun, except for the boring stuff like history. Not general history, but Art history. You had to know about Picasso, Dali, Cubism, different periods. That’s one thing that really puts me off! My dad told me about the very famous painters like Van Gogh, Michaelangelo, but the rest – like Maigret, I didn’t know about before.

“I worked part-time in KL, but I hated it. I’m a laid back person, and I don’t like hustle and bustle. I don’t mind being in the city to check out the new gadgets, because of my work. I must update myself all the time, and I like that. But I still prefer being laid back, and it’s one of the reasons I came back.

“I came back to Sabah and worked for Sabah Tourism as an in-house graphic designer and photographer for about four years [which is where I met my wife Melissa]. After that I went to Canada to complete my 3D training, then worked as a 3D artist for a game company in KL. I liked it there! I learned a lot of skills from my colleagues, because a game company comprises of programmers, painters, 3D modellers, studio animators; it was a very productive place. These people were creative and very laid back. Like you can wear anything you like, as long as you get your job done.

Screenshot of CGI work by Lim Sheng Haw

“After that, I came back and started my own freelance business, which I have been doing for a year and a half. It’s ok, the main bulk of my business is graphic design. In practise that means brochures, leaflets, some magazine work.

“At home, I use a Wacom tablet, a mouse pen, and I paint on a screen. In this day and age, people rely on computers. The same goes for painters. There’s more pros than cons. You can change whatever you like, delete whenever you like.

“But one thing you don’t get is texture: the feel of painting, when traditionally you have a brush and paint physically on a canvas. I rarely do old-fashioned painting, because it takes up a lot of time, and you have to have a place on standby to put your canvas there, and stop whenever you like, and continue whenever you like. With today’s workload, it’s not good. Using a computer is quicker and you don’t have to clean equipment all the time. But of course you don’t get that ‘hands-on’ feeling where you get yourself dirty, which is fun sometimes.

“If you compare Sabah to KL, it’s very different. They have a lot of competition over there, a lot of artists, and a lot of business. You get paid better because the voulme of business is high, and it’s the capital, everything happens there.

“People here are very stingy with advertising. They don’t find it worth their money to put ONE  picture and ONE word on a frigging big billboard! They want to see a lot of things, so your art becomes like a rojak! It looks very messy and doesn’t look good anymore. If you come up with something simple for a powerful impact, they expect it to be cheaper, because they say you didn’t do any thinking behind this idea! They think, the more stuff is in it, the most it should cost. So the idea of ‘Less Is More’ isn’t really here yet.

“In KK, 3D graphics or CGI is in good demand in Architecture. That work is very dry: you do walk-throughs, visualisations of how a building will be. But I don’t mind doing it because that’s where the money is.

“Of all the art forms, I like painting a lot. Painting, caricature, and of course, playing music.

Metal band 4AG - For Aggressive Gentlemen. By Lim Sheng Haw

“But in terms of CGI for entertainment, Sabah is quite a long way off. I really hope Sabah can be one of the places where you can have good production, particularly in art, one day.

“I think I am one of a handful of CGI artists over here. Most artists go to KL or overseas because there is not the demand here.

Joanna Funk by Lim Sheng Haw

“Canada, KL or Sabah? For me, I’m still giving myself and Sabah time. I want to make a real go of it, here.”

Let’s hope our growing Sabah creates the demand to sustain our very talented locals, like Lim Sheng Haw. Check out his website. His blog is in my weblinks below.


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