Recently recognised as one of the Junior Chamber of Singapore’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons of 2018, the 34-year-old artist became the award’s first and only repeat recipient since its introduction in 1984. It was exactly ten years ago that Peter Draw was given the initial recognition for his role in empowering and protecting children who cannot protect themselves, notably by organising art movements for disaster-stricken kids, helping them to cope. To top it off, Peter has recently produced a short animation film on the theme of love to share it with the world. We speak to Peter what drives his motivation for his passion to spread love and laughter all over the world.
1) Why is your surname Draw?
Children pronounce my name ‘Peter Zhuo’ as ‘Peter Draw’. I accepted this name as a gift from children, and it’s been 18 years since.
2) Why are you so passionate in drawing and the arts? What was the motivation and inspiration behind it? Why do you like the colour red so much?
Because it makes me happy. I love red because my late-grandfather said I look good in red.
3) Share with us the inspiration behind What Makes Me Happy book?
It’s been 10 years since the book was published in 2008 and 10 years on, in 2018*, the message behind the book continues to make sense to people today.
The beauty of this book is that it is the children around us, all across Southeast Asia, reminding the rest of us this message that we already know but for some reason, have forgotten about it—that it’s truly the simple things in life that really make us happy.
*This interview was conducted late 2018.
4) What was the inspiration behind the short animation film called “Love Can Happen Anywhere”? From conception to completion, how long did you take to create the film? What are some of the challenges you faced in the process of making this film?
At 16, I learnt a hard lesson that our loved ones cannot wait forever for us to be ready. I lost my grandfather shortly after receiving my O levels results. He taught me many life lessons and the last was an indirect one—that “sometimes we don’t realise the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory”. Many of my life experiences and my encounters with children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children in situations beyond their own decisions, from places of disasters to living in poverty where people treat the daily routine with loved ones more important than anything else, inspired the emotions behind this film. Together with my partner, Axton Salim, we believed that this film will be a timely reminder to people we care about that there is always love and hope around us. Love can, indeed, happen anywhere.
From pre to post production, it took about six months. To be ready to publish this film live, it took me 18 years.
The production of the set was a huge challenge, the sculpting of the characters Ai, Grandfather, Aiko and Girl into the form you see in the film was another daunting challenge. The intense discussion with the director and having to adjust the script and story direction evolved as we took time to understand each other better over time. The partnership took off on the right note as we spent time in Costa Rica to help children there. The blue colour used in the film was a reference to our experiences in Costa Rica. Bringing together a strong team committed to this project simultaneously was another challenge we faced.
5) Why did you specifically choose to produce a stop-motion animated film?
Animated films serve a purpose in society. They appeal to people of all ages, from children to the aged. Stop motion as a medium serves a beautiful message to people who watch the film. Created nicely in stop motion, it reflects life and how in facing problems that hinder us, we should choose to keep moving on in small steps. Every small move propels change.
In this film alike, we stop and move for 36 frames per second. As an artist, I considered all possible forms and ways and decided Stop Motion will be the best form for this film, for this story.
6) What are your hobbies?
I like to take long walks in the different places I visit, ideally with a warm cup of coffee in hand.
7) Growing up, did you have a role model you looked up to?
Yes, my grandfather.
I believe that for most people, our narrative, our thoughts and our decisions are shaped by our environment and our life experiences.
We start with the cards we were dealt with, and our history shapes our choices. My grandfather lived a life with almost nothing, yet he made me feel like I had everything. On one of my childhood birthdays, my grandfather made me a packet of instant noodles with egg, topped with tomato sauce. One thing I learnt early in life was that we might feel that what we are given in life is not much, but it could be everything my grandfather had at that time.
I thus have an immense appreciation for everything, no matter how big or small it is.
8) What is one quote you live by?
Be the reason someone believes in love.
9) Where do you see yourself five to ten years down the road? What future works can we expect from you?
I don’t see myself most of the time, but if the question was to be phrased “Where do I see Ai five to ten years down the road?” My answer would be A is for Ai – where the first alphabet “A” that children learn is more than just for Apple, that it is for Ai (Love). A world where every child grow up knowing that there is always hope around us, because there is always love around us.
I have released an animated short film last December and I hope this film will be the reason people believe that love can happen anywhere. You can catch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz01UMnx6yk&t=10s
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10) What is one thing you will tell your past self and your future self?
Past Self: Impossible is just an opinion.
Future Self: Never forget why I started.
11) What advice do you have for young people who are still looking for their meaning, purpose and calling in life?
Sometimes “later” becomes “never”.
More about Peter Draw