We follow the extremely popular Mosaic Memories with this illustrated comic by Dominique Fam titled “Once Upon A Dragon”. While the subject matter still revolves around the iconic playgrounds of yesteryear, the narrative is one of deep, personal reflection of growing up and moving on in fast-paced Singapore. Isaac Teo takes on interview duties this week and chats up illustrator Dominique Fam on the dragon playground being his personal reserve of memories and inspiration in this month’s commissioned work.
Isaac Teo (IT): Readers (especially the kaypoh Singaporean in all of us) might be dying to know: is the story portrayed in the comic based on your personal memories?
Dominique Fam (DF): Yes.
IT: It’s interesting that you chose the very iconic Dragon playground to anchor this work. Was it something that was always sitting at the back of your mind waiting to be expressed, or was there a “eureka” moment that caused you to take this direction?
DF: When I first came to know about this project, the dragon playground was one of the first things that came to my mind. Even though I also contemplated writing other stories, I kept coming back to this one. Perhaps it’s because I have so many memories associated with it. So I just decided to go with it.
IT: It must have been quite a journey within yourself to consider the memories associated with the Dragon playground across the different seasons of your life. Was it tough to cross the threshold of illustrating some of these memories for public consumption?
For me, the story is a reminder that sometimes, some of the things we are most comfortable with often fades into the background and becomes invisible as we move through life, and I suppose its nice to appreciate the familiar from time to time.
DF: Not really. I think even though these experiences were personal, they aren’t unique to to me. Lots of people went through similar things growing up. And since I was telling a story that spanned about twenty years in twenty pages, I couldn’t go into too much detail and specifics anyway. But I think this helps to keep the experiences generic enough for people to hopefully relate better to them.
IT: I’ve had a chance to check out some of the awesome work that you’ve done as an illustrator. Your professional work conveys a level of detail that imputes a level of life-likeness for most of your illustrations. Was it intentional to illustrate Once Upon A Dragon in a simpler, more “2D” like manner?
DF: Thank you for visiting my online portfolio, I’m glad you like it. Yes, it was intentional to keep the artwork simple for the story. One reason is I wanted readers to be able to identify with the experiences in the story, and if they are able to see themselves in some of the characters, that’s even better. Keeping the characters’ features simple and generic would be more effective then giving them lifelike, distinct features, in which case the reader would tend to see the face of “someone else”.
DF: I also didn’t want the reader to get bogged down by unnecessary detail to the the point they felt like they were looking at a collection of photos. I thought for a comic, it was important to have just enough information in a panel to tell the story and move the reader along. A still picture is different, you can take your time and scrutinize all the detail in it.
IT: Is there anything that you hope readers will take away from reading Once Upon A Dragon?
DF: I hope the story will bring back memories for the readers as well. Hopefully they will remember what it was like, climbing the dragon, playing there and all the things that the place has meant to them as they grew up. For me, the story is a reminder that sometimes, some of the things we are most comfortable with often fades into the background and becomes invisible as we move through life, and I suppose its nice to appreciate the familiar from time to time.
Once Upon A Dragon is now available as a free downloadable e-book on the Singapore Memory portal. Have you seen the rest of our commissioned works? Check them out, be inspired and deposit a memory to our collection. Make history your story today!
Singapore Memory Project