Peter Feely chats to London-based artist Robert Sae-Heng about his sketches and latest commission in Dubai.
A man of the world, with Mexican and Thai roots along with a British address, Sae-Heng’s sketches have a playful warmth and his illustrations have been used on everything from wrapping paper and greetings cards to paintings and wall murals.
With his creations already on display in the city in Safa Park, he is returning to Dubai to complete a commission for Mexican restaurant Toqado. Here, he discusses his distinctive pictures and the influence his multicultural background has on his work.
When did you first realise that you had a talent for illustration?
I’ve always known I had a creative talent since I was born audible impaired. As a deaf child, creativity was a way for me to communicate and express myself. This has obviously had a profound effect on the path that I have chosen in life.
Do you carry a sketch book around with you?
I always take a sketchbook wherever I go – it’s a friend I can return to every time. A pad is also the birthplace of all my works.
You’ve been commissioned by a number of brands including Honda and Bloomsbury. How do you pick who to work with and are there any projects you won’t do?
It’s been great to be able to have worked for a variety of brands. I am extremely open minded about who I work for because I’m always up for a new challenge, as long as I can deliver within the time frame given.
I also work with a variety of different mediums, which I find constantly opens up new doors for me to explore.
You have quite a cosmopolitan background, with Thai and Mexican heritage and you live in London. How do you think this affects your creations?
My work is highly influenced by my cultural backgrounds. Having been brought up in Mexico, Thailand and now living in London, moving around a lot has given me a vast amount of inspiration and encourages the playfulness in my work. I truly believe travelling broadens the mind.
Your work is on display at Dubai’s Safa Park – what’s the story behind this project?
Brownbook commissioned me to create a jovial, yet engaging map of Dubai’s Safa Park that is now on display there. They gave me free will to add in anything I felt would fit with what the park had to offer.
So I added in a few unicorns to give it that magical experience.
Talking of the playful quality in your work – is this a reflection of your personality and would you describe yourself as imaginative?
I agree that my art certainly has a playful quality to it. I would say that my work is a direct reflection of my personality.
What have you got planned for Toqado Mexican Kitchen?
I’m coming to Dubai very soon to paint a Mexican-themed mural inside Taqado’s new DIFC restaurant. Taqado are great clients to work with – they have given me loads of creative freedom as well as some fresh ideas to work with. However, due to certain cultural and religious differences I haven’t been able to include some of Mexico’s most iconic imaginary.
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by people, by their energy, their worlds. Different cultures provide us with ways of seeing the world and this has had a profound effect on my work. Most of my ideas come from everyday life.
Exhibition: The artist’s illustrations can be seen in Safa Park, Jumeirah and Toqado Mexican Kitchen DIFC, Marble Walk, Gate Building 5, DIFC (04 351 520)
Artist: Robert Sae-Heng