Elaine Ling (Llama Laine)

Graphic Designer
Singapore & Malaysia

Full disclaimer: I met Elaine at work – we worked side by side in a tiny room where she did her work as a graphic designer and I wrote copy for a food company. It wasn’t until a specific Chinese New Year campaign when I got to truly witness the depths of her talent, because for most days, she was just stuck behind a desk following someone else’s vision.
The first time I peeked into Elaine’s sketchbook felt like I was looking into a part of her mind. Her thick sketchbook is frayed at the edges from constant use. Not one to waste anything, Elaine uses it to jot down ideas for new artworks, practise her pieces and chronicle drafts of art over the years. Flipping through it is a glimpse into how far Elaine’s style has developed over the years – from rough sketches with colourful markers to intricate portraits made in black ink.

Since a very young age, Elaine was immersed into all things creative. At nine years old, she was sent to a Chinese calligraphy teacher every afternoon where she would learn and practice the craft over and over again. She remembers her teacher fondly as one who would constantly ask her, “have you been practising?”

One of Elaine’s most vivid art-related memories was her first attempt at using watercolours. She tried to paint hibiscus flowers, but “it turned out so ugly. I was so embarrassed.” The experience made such a lasting impression that she made sure that she mastered watercolours. And this translated into every other artistic medium she put her mind to: calligraphy, graphic design, ink... the list goes on.

Q: Would you consider yourself a perfectionist?

“I used to be, but as time went on, I realised I have to let go. My personal rule is that once I sign my name on my art, I have to stop adding small changes.”

Q: And how did the name, Llama Laine come about? 

It started from a comment from her older sister. “My elder sister once commented that I looked like a llama with my short hair and long neck. I kind of adopted it since university, when I had to come up with a brand name.”

What really inspires me about Elaine is her fierce confidence in her own abilities. As an artist, it is easy to yield to current trends, yet Elaine is willing to holdfast to her own beliefs and trust in her own voice, despite it all.

For example, she created the ‘East meets West’ series as a weekly challenge to herself to stretch her creativity outside of work. In the series, Elaine fuses both English and Chinese translations of the same word to create a clever piece of art, which sometimes leaves viewers guessing.  

Llama Laine 

Visited January 2019, published March 2019.