Friday, 22 August 2014

Goldfish in a teacup: Self-taught 3D resin artist Suzi Chua shares her craft

Layers of resin and paint are needed to create a 3D effect.

Layers of resin and paint are needed to create a 3D effect.

Did you know that you can put fishes in teacups, saucers and bowls and go on long vacations? You don’t have to change water or feed your koi, goldfish or turtles. That’s because these pets are works of art. 

The fishes are made from resin and painted with acrylics; the crystal clear water is cured resin. Visitors who set eyes on Suzi Chua’s resin artworks can’t help asking: “Are the fishes real? Is the water real?” 

“I love painting different species of goldfish. I learn more about them as I go along,” said Chua, rattling off fancy names like black moor, ranchu and oranda. She is also fascinated by dolphins, sea turtles and shrimps. 

Each resin artwork takes a week to complete because resin needs to be cured overnight before it can be painted over. “A good three-dimensional resin artwork requires several layers of resin and painting,” said the 55-year-old pet artist. “It’s like making kuih lapis.”

Chua loves painting different species of goldfish.
Chua loves painting different species of goldfish.

Chua first explored resin art after her son, Aaron Low, sent a link featuring beautiful works of resin art. Her friends also shared links featuring Japanese artist Riusuke Fukahori’s resin works on YouTube. Perhaps the biggest nudge to try out this new medium came from Aaron who coaxed: “Mum, why don’t you give it a try?”

At first, Chua was reluctant as it seemed like a lot of work. But the stunning three-dimensional paintings played on her mind. During her free time, Chua surfed the Internet to research for more information. Her artist friend Lisa Carter from the US shared with her a YouTube video of Emil Hauge demonstrating his resin art technique.

Chua tried her hand at it and was utterly pleased. The more she worked on resin, the more she enjoyed it. In no time, she was hooked.

As a benefactor of other artists’ unselfishness, Chua is not one to keep any trade secrets close to her chest. She is more than happy to share with others what she has learnt about resin art. In art, resin refers to nearly any component of a liquid that will set into a hard lacquer or enamel-like finish.

Last November, Chua chanced upon a craft outlet in Petaling Jaya which sells Pebeo crystal resin from France. She bought a packet of liquid resin to experiment. “It was so cool,” said Chua. After umpteen trials, she was pleased with the results of this crystal clear resin. “The resin needs to be mixed with hardener. It takes six to 10 hours to cure or harden the resin,” Chua explained.

After mixing, the resin cannot be kept for too long as it would solidify. To avoid wastage, Chua works on four to five pieces at a time. Resin residue is also put to good use instead of being discarded. Chua uses it to create a water splash. To achieve this effect, she has to mould the resin when it is still pliable.

Amazing art: Suzi Chua with a pair of koi in a teacup.
Ceramic cups, saucers, bowls and trays make handy containers for her fishes.

As resin resembles water when cured, Chua regards fishes and other marine life as ideal subjects for her craft. Some of her artwork includes koi, guppies and Siamese fighting fish. 

Chua has sold countless pieces of her artwork at exhibitions and events. Her most expensive resin artwork depicts nine koi swimming in a tray. “Lots of time, effort and detail are required to make a good resin artwork,” she said.

Another elaborate piece has 88 fishes swimming in a small bucket. The number 88 is symbolic of double prosperity. Chua presented the artwork as a birthday gift to her sister-in-law.

“Most of the time, I work on commission,” said Chua. “Otherwise, I’m free to create whatever I like. Not all my works are sold. Some are gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas or as token of appreciation.”

This sea turtle makes a lovely gift.
This sea turtle makes a lovely gift.

Sometimes Chua does random acts of kindness when the opportunity arises. “What better way to touch someone’s heart than with a labour of love?” said Chua, who also donates her artwork for a good cause.

Chua has an eye for art, even as a young child. “The colours of the universe fascinate me. I love Nature – from flowers to birds, animals and landscapes,” said Chua.

Chua worked for a few years during the early years of her marriage before she quit her job to concentrate on raising a family. With more time on her hands, the young mother found that she could nurture her love for art. Chua started painting the rocks in her garden. The rocks make an excellent canvas for Chua’s pretty flowers. Then she moved on to painting frogs, toads, butterflies, and in no time at all, more creatures had made their way into Chua’s home.

She was inspired to paint her furbaby, Snowboy, which was a gift from her sons. It was her first pet painting. “I then brought Snowboy to a puppy training school and eventually painted more furbabies. That was how I started off as a pet artist,” said Chua.

Turtle-ly cute and delightful.
Turtle-ly cute and delighrful.

To date, Chua has published two e-books on stone painting. Artistry Set On Stones is a step-by-step guide on stone painting which takes the reader from the beginner stage to the more advanced level. Two years later, Chua wrote Let’s Get Catty, on how to paint various cat breeds on stones.

“I love being an artist and creating beautiful paintings everyday. I paint on rocks, stones, resin, canvas, wood, ceramics, fabric. I even paint murals if commissioned,” said Chua, who did a mural on sea turtles at the Turtle Sanctuary in Kemaman, Terengganu.

Painting is one activity that Chua would recommend for seniors as it can give them hours of fun and fulfilment in the cosy confines of their very own home.

> Chua can be contacted at facebook.com/UniversalStonesArt and her website suzichua.com

Tags / Keywords: Suzi Chua , resin art , pet artist


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