The Kuching Autistic Association (KAA) recently held an art exhibition in which autistic students from the centre showcased their talents through the art they created. For Isaac Wee, one of the exhibition’s newest artists, his artistic talents shine through the masterpieces he creates.
Autistic artist draws from imagination
Isaac Wee is a self-taught artist skilled in the techniques of zendala drawings, landscape painting on canvases, and his favourite — drawing anime characters and their costumes.
Isaac, a talented lad, has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. We recently met at the Kuching Autistic Association (KAA) art exhibition. The meeting was brief, but full of contentment.
At the exhibition, the cheerful Isaac was seen creating a freehand zendala using only his imagination and what he wanted to see next.
“I like to draw with my imagination. I (started) draw (this) since the last two years because I feel it is colourful. I feel relaxed (too),” said the 24-year-old.
Martin Wee, his father, revealed that his son was born without the disorder.
“He was over a year old when he developed a high-temperature fever that caused him to have febrile seizures. I remember his eyes rolling back and his body shaking when it happened. It was difficult to watch.”
Isaac, according to the 73-year-old, learned to draw at a young age. His typical routine would begin with him watching an anime he enjoys and then drawing the character he likes.
Despite being autistic, Isaac has a strong sense of independence that drives him to learn everything on his own.
“In addition to drawing on paper, Isaac taught himself how to draw digitally. He is very knowledgeable about technology,” said the retired mechanic.
His usual artwork involving zendala art can be completed in a single day. Meanwhile, landscape canvases can be finished in about a month. He also can work on a more complex art with finer details in a week.
“I like colourful (drawings) and anime (characters). Before I start drawing, I need to think about where to begin and what to do. I need to use imagination to draw. When I look at a photo, I look at everything and come up with my own ideas,” he shared.
Martin, as a father, has no qualms about his son’s interest in art. While waiting for Isaac to finish his showcase at the exhibition, Martin said that he will always support his son in his endeavours.
“Whatever he wants, I will get it for him, even if it is costly. His elder brother, who works in Singapore, also supports Isaac’s passion. He often sends money over for Isaac to use.”
Despite being diagnosed with autism, Isaac is capable of driving a car on the road.
“I’m not scared. I just have to be careful on the road,” he said.
He also works part-time and speaks three languages — English, Bahasa Melayu, and the Chinese dialect Hokkien.
His father, who is always proud of him, said, “I am not getting any younger. I try not to worry too much. I usually just let him try whatever he can so he can be independent.”
Opportunities through the association
Autistic children are unique in the way they scrutinise a situation. They each have talent in their own special ways.
KAA, as a non-governmental organisation (NGO), organises art exhibitions to raise funds for the associations and to showcase the students’ artistic abilities.
Connie Yeo, the association’s chairlady, said that activities like this can benefit the autistic children under the NGO.
“We can tell by the expressions on the children’s faces. Each time their work is sold, they are happy. They will be proud of themselves because they will feel like they belong in the community.”
When compared to previous years, the students’ artwork improved significantly this year.
Yeo said that the children were initially sceptical about using acrylic paint on canvases instead of paper and colour pencils.
“However, we can see their abilities through the various characteristics displayed in their artwork. Our artists are all talented in their own unique way.”
In addition to artwork, the exhibition includes handicrafts such as bead accessories and baskets woven by autistic students.
There is also merchandise with the artists’ artworks on it, such as mugs, umbrellas, tote bags, and so on. To raise funds, the association also hosts food fairs and events on a yearly basis.
“In the future, we will have a new block at our centre in Batu Kawah, Kuching. It will house a cafe where students will be trained, a laundry business, and a bakery where they will learn to bake,” Yeo said.