Dyslexic artist scribbles portraits

Artist Vince Low with his drawings of Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin at the gallery. -- PHOTO: ARTMANAGEMENT. COM
Artist Vince Low with his drawings of Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin at the gallery. -- PHOTO: ARTMANAGEMENT. COM

Malaysian artist Vince Low, who is holding his first solo exhibition in Singapore, creates portraits entirely through scribbles.

Simply Scribbly, which is on at TCC - The Connoisseur Concerto in Circular Road, features 24 of his works.

"People usually scribble when they are bored or brainstorming," says the 37-year-old bachelor. He decided to incorporate them into his drawings to show that even seemingly useless doodles can be turned into something great.

His portraits feature celebrities such as pop star Madonna, Bahamian-born boxer Kimbo Slice as well as scientist Albert Einstein, whom some people believe was dyslexic.

Low, who is himself dyslexic, draws well-known people to express the thoughts and feelings he is not able to in words.

He has been working for Grey Advertising Group in Kuala Lumpur as head of illustration since 2009. Last year, he started experimenting with his scribble technique while working on his company's pitch for a campaign for the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia.

The first portrait he drew was of boxer Slice. Low says: "Initially, I saw the scribble as a messy and angry stroke. When I saw a picture of Kimbo, with his silent, angry look and messy beard, I felt that he matched the feeling I wanted."

As he prepared the art pieces last year, he found out about his dyslexia. He saw a doctor and was diagnosed with it in February this year.

He said that while he had consistently failed in school, he never knew that it was due to this condition.

He says: "I wondered to myself, do such people exist? My creative director showed me a video about dyslexia and I realised that I, too, am dyslexic. When I work on the computer, words jump out of the screen and blink at me from time to time, something that dyslexic people experience."

He then did a series called Dyslexia Couldn't Stop Me, featuring Einstein, Pablo Picasso and John Lennon. These portraits, formed entirely of scribbled lines, are accompanied by scrawled words. Lennon's portrait, for example, has the words "Dyslexia couldn't hide Lennon's talent".

The portraits gained popularity on his online portfolio - Britain's The Daily Mail featured them in an article in July last year - and he has been scribbling since.

Last year, Mr Claude Verly, the founder of art-management.com, which promotes and manages artists, found Low's works online. Art-management.com works with TCC to create art exhibitions and invited him to Singapore to hold his first show.

"I loved his work from the first image I saw, I think it was the Madonna," says Mr Verly, 48, who came across it while looking for latest trends in art. "I love his powerful scribble style; he is able to show the unique personality of his subjects."

Since Low's show opened, five pieces have been sold. Prices range from $280 for A4 limited-edition prints to $4,800 for A1 originals.

Low, who has a degree in illustration from The One Academy in Malaysia, says his skills in sketching and water colour painting helped him create his scribble art. He uses a 0.4, 0.6 or 1.0 art line pen for his pieces, and liquid paper to create highlights. Each piece takes him about 10 to 15 hours to finish.

He feels that his freely penned strokes give a natural look and different finish to his drawings.

His passion for drawing started in childhood, and he has his father, a 69-year-old retired car salesman, to thank for his achievements. He now lives with his parents and younger brother, now 34.

"My father is not an artist, but he helped me become a good one," he says. "He sent me to children's art class and bought art materials to encourage me to draw the Transformers, instead of buying the figurines for me."