Artist and social media personality Willabelle Ong on keeping an open mind in life and in art

As one of Singapore’s recognized social media personalities, Willabelle Ong’s Instagram showcases well-shot photos of her in high end fashion labels or at beautiful travel locations. She has been profiled in global publications such as The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar and NYLON to name a few.

When she is not busy creating high quality content, Willabelle channels her creativity to painting. We speak to Willabelle to find out more about this aspect of her life.

You are an entrepreneur, artist and photographer. What got you started on painting and how did you start showcasing your artworks?

I’ve always enjoyed painting and illustrating since I was a child. With the extra time during lockdown, I revisited this passion of mine and started posting my works on social media. Painting is definitely something I want to pursue in the long-term; I feel that art and many aspects of my life, such as fashion and home decor, complement each other well.

You have mentioned in recent interviews that your favourite artists are Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning. How do you think they have influenced your painting style?

Monet, Picasso, and de Kooning are all great masters of colour. I’m mainly drawn in by their use of exuberant colour palettes and dynamic compositions. I love that their paintings convey a certain vibrance and balance, yet possess incredible depth and lustre. I aim to emulate the same in my body of work and recently I find myself working in a more abstract manner.

With my painting style, I prefer to see where the canvas takes me. I like to start with one colour and go from there; working in different colours at different angles. At the same time, I use everything from brushes to palette knives, crayons and cloths, and even my fingers.

Are there any Asian artists that you are also particularly fond of? Could you share a little more about them with our readers?

I’ve taken a liking to contemporary Chinese painter, Wu Guanzhong, because of how he incorporates both Western and Eastern influences in his work. He has an amazing abstraction technique where he reduces nature into simple but powerful abstract forms. On the same note, I love that he combines colour and composition with traditional Chinese ink-wash painting in his landscapes. The result is a modern masterpiece.

Could you share an artwork you have that has been inspired by them?

One of my paintings, Lotus Pond (2019), was very much inspired by their collective body of work. For example, Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and Wu Guanzhong’s Lotus Pond series, as well as Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning’s unrestrained colour palettes and brushwork.

Ultimately, Lotus Pond (2019) offers a message of growth even in adversity. Like the lotus flower, we too have to first deal with the mud – life’s difficulties and sufferings – in order to grow and gain wisdom; to learn compassion and kindness.

We really love your artworks. They are bold, colourful and uninhibited. How do they reflect your personality or way of thinking?

Thank you so much! I love incorporating colour, whether in my personal style or even home decor. My approach to life is to conquer it with a positive attitude, be grateful and embrace change. Similar to my painting style, I like to keep an open mind and will learn to adapt to mistakes or new situations – both in life and art.

Let’s shift gears from art to wellness. How do you approach wellness? Can you share how you start and end your day?

Self-care is important to me and I believe in making time to do the things I love. I start my day with my skincare regimen, taking my time to relax and practice mindfulness. The day flies by until sundown; I’ve probably been working on my laptop, running to shoots or retreating to my painting studio. I do my best to switch off after a certain hour and look forward to spending dinner with loved ones. For the rest of the evening, I focus on doing my favourite things, like reading, taking a bath or simply watching a movie with my husband.

Is there an age-old Asian beauty or wellness tip that you got from your parents or an older person?

My parents have always encouraged me to be kind to my body. This means getting enough sleep, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and wearing sunscreen even when indoors.

Is there a quote or life motto that you live by?

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” – Oscar Wilde

Lastly, what are the future plans for your art?

I’m looking forward to building on my passion and combining art with other parts of my life, such as fashion, beauty and travel in the near future – and of course, exhibiting once I am ready.

Follow Willabelle Ong on Instagram at @willamazing and @willabelleart.

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