After eight years of working in the creative industry, copywriter Sam Hepburn has taken a bold step towards making her secret ambition of being a cartoonist a reality.
Armed with some experience in the advertising world, Hepburn, 29, aspired to create a comic strip that would put the funny into the creative world.
“The comic strip is about people who have a day job but harbour a secret passion – a dream job – that they dare not pursue," she says.
"I met a lot of these people in the advertising world. In fact, I am one of them, too. I would like to see more of us doing the things we dream about,” says the Setia Alam-based artist.
Hepburn’s comic strip – Welcome To Agency X – started from a few doodles that she had worked on while she was attached to an advertising agency. Little did she realise her jokes about workplace frustrations and shenanigans would someday result in an actual comic strip!
“I felt there was something more cohesive I could do with the strip and I wanted to turn it into a proper project rather than an ad hoc blog. I decided to turn it into a panel strip with a few main characters and a story,” says Hepburn, who conceptualised the comic strip in 2013.
The full-time cartoonist is overjoyed that her work is taking up a spot six days a week in the hallowed comics pages of Star2.
“I’m in a very happy place knowing that my comic strip is just a few column inches away from Calvin And Hobbes and Zits,” says the friendly Scottish-Chinese young lady excitedly.
Welcome To Agency X traces the quirks of working in the advertising industry. It features characters like jaded designer Percy, cynical writer Sam (Hepburn’s cartoon representation of herself) and wide-eyed intern Russell.
Hepburn has added a sprinkling of her own personality – part dreamer, part optimist, part cynic and part sociopath (don’t worry, that last part is really small) – to each of her characters.
“When I first joined the creative industry as an intern, I used to be like Russell, an eager beaver who was ever willing to learn the tricks of the trade. I can be cynical at times and that’s portrayed through Sam’s character.
Percy has experienced too much of the creative world, almost like the proverbial ‘been there, done that and bought the T-shirt’,” explains Hepburn, who finds inspiration in works by classic cartoonists such as Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac), Bill Watterson (Calvin And Hobbes), Scott Adams (Dilbert) and Stephen Pastis (Pearls Before Swine).
Hepburn ventured into the world of illustration and cartooning in 2010. What attracted her to the art was being able to put a funny spin on things, almost like a sitcom.
“I like figuring out the comedic timing. Sometimes, a joke is better drawn out over a story arc, sometimes it works as a one-panel zinger (punchline). The best bit is that, we cartoonists have to play out the options in our heads and see which one feels right,” says the self-taught artist, who loves to read and enjoys thrift and antique shopping.
Hepburn’s creative talents are not just limited to comic strips. Since leaving the creative industry, she has continued to do copywriting work on a part time basis and dabbles in creative art projects such as cartoon printed mugs, art prints and handicraft.
In 2010, she published a picture book, NO! A Lesson In Love, about positive enforcement in caring for animals. Two years later, she added another feather to her cap by serving as illustrator for Even The Most Positive Person In The World Gets Cancer, an inspirational book by cancer survivor Mezwyn D’Junus.
Now that Hepburn has fulfilled her dreams, she encourages people to start thinking about their aspirations.
“It comes down to where you want to be in 10 years, what you want to leave behind as your ‘legacy’ in this world ... is what you’re doing with your life ‘worth it’ and so on. If your answer tells you you’re on the wrong track, you start planning your ‘Big Escape’ - looking for opportunities and gathering up courage.
“While the quest to follow your dreams can lead you down a narrow path, if you work hard enough, that path breaks into a beautiful clearing.” Hepburn says.
“You’ll be glad you went that way,” she adds.
Today (Sept 9) marks the debut of Welcome To Agency X by Malaysian, Sam Hepburn, in Star2's daily funnies pages. For more information on the cartoonist, visit samhepburn.com