A Conversation with Sharafina Teh 

When did you first develop an interest in drawing? 

I have been drawing since I was a kindergartner, here in Malaysia, and doodled a lot in the kids storybooks that my parents gave me, much to their dismay. I sort of went back and forth and drew once in a while, occasionally showing off my little comics to my friends. I got more serious about drawing when I was 14 in secondary school and remember drawing a lot in those tall notebooks that were supposed to be used for schoolwork. Despite all that, I still managed to score straight A’s in the final examination of my final year in high school. Though not without some scolding from my mother and a lot of studying in my bedroom. 

Many children start off making drawings in elementary school, but few persist.  What made it different for you? 

I guess something clicked in my brain to think that the act of gliding around pencil lead on paper and producing an image, ugly or not, was actually enjoyable to me. I think watching a lot of cartoons and kids shows, even until high school, got me more and more interested in drawing. I wanted to create my own fantasy of the characters that I saw. And I guess I figured that drawing was one way to make that fantasy a reality.

How did all that lead to an interest in animation? 

My early influence has always been animation. Though I’m not a hardcore enthusiast of any specific animated shows, the ones that really stuck with me through the teenage years, as I was trying to flourish my skills, were two: a cartoon called “X-Men Evolution” and a legendary animated show called “Avatar the Last Airbender.” More animation, games and even just movies influenced what I drew, but those two shows were big factors in my passion.

How did you turn those influences into producing your own creations? 

I grew more interested in animation when I saw a video of someone doing animation using one of those little “sticky” notepads where you peel off a piece and stick it somewhere.  Because of how easy they flip, you can use them to animate by drawing the first frame on the last page and the next frame on a page earlier and so on. So I tried drawing my own animation on one. It was a stick figure girl doing some gymnastic moves: a backflip and a cartwheel. 

How did these early influences move from play to more purposeful pursuits? 

It was just by happenstance that I came across a booth in one of those education fairs at my sister’s university, a well-established institution with a lot of programs.  I discovered that they offered a course in animation so I just decided to take it up immediately, applied, and thankfully was accepted. It was a choice between that and possibly following in my sister’s footsteps into finance, which would have been a grave mistake for me.  I had many random interests, but drawing was my one true passion. If animation could make me keep doing what I love, then why not take it up?

Where did that life choice take you? 

While learning animation, I also gained knowledge in other areas like audio and video production, along with design and writing for film. Those subjects really made me more interested in creating my own stories and possibly having my own production business. At the same time, I developed an interest in voice acting, thanks to a lecturer of mine, who also worked as a voiceover artist and is a great one at that.  Today, I do voiceovers for my own assignments as well as for friends, who have been very encouraging. I have done minor professional jobs, but nothing too great yet. I’m just grateful for the opportunities that I was blessed with. Maybe in the future, if I’m lucky, I can get to work with the likes of great professional voice-over talents like Troy Baker or Jennifer Hale. But for now, it’s only in my dreams.

Any other creative interests? 

One of my goals is to write a book for my late father, who passed away eight years ago.  But I have yet to find inspiration for subject matter, as well as the time to write, because so many things are demanding my time right now. I have been thinking of writing a fictional story based on my life with my family and my father, or even a memoir/biography. I’ve always liked writing and it is something I want to do when I can find the time and the right subject matter. 

My mother commends how I write, including how well I write in English, but I guess she has to because she’s my mother. But to be fair, I remember when my father was still alive, he really encouraged me to write something he could get it published.  He was an English teacher and lecturer and published books, mostly children’s educational books. I really want to make that a reality, but in my own time. 

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