Sketch yourself: a journey into identity
While crossing the Indian ocean, passing through Northern Ireland to finally land in London, a pen in her hand, drawing across her multiple experiences and feelings. The drawing is coming to life. You could interpret it as a piece of an European or East Asian influence. It is hard to decide. What if it is both? Fair skin, hazel eyes and a smirky smile Siân McKeever can lead to confusion with her looks but not with her skills.
She is a 20 years old illustrator mainly based in London, who was born in Northern Ireland but grew up in Hong Kong. Identity is a fragile thing, yet very hard to find. Our identity shapes us in every possible way, whether we like it or not. It is a big part of us and how we look at things or make decisions. Being brought in two different cultures does not make the task any easier. However, Sian is embracing her diversity and her cultures. “I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t have my two cultures. I think language was one of the biggest things that helped me along the way to finding myself though”, she says. “To this day I thank my parents for putting me in a Chinese local school, just so I could learn the language properly”. Sometimes when you move in a new country, you can forget where you come from and alter your identity. For Sian, her identity has a strong meaning in who she is, and what drives her in her decision.
Sian explains that the large majority of her drawings comes from her own experiences. Therefore her identity is playing a very important role in which she creats. This is something that you can feel when you are looking at her illustrations. They always come in a different style, shape or colours. But you can sense her personal involvement and somehow feel the story behind it, or at least imagine it. “I don’t enjoy making work that doesn’t have some sort of a personal connection to me, so it is inevitable that my cultural identity comes through in my illustrations.”
Very often having two cultures can mean feeling closer to one of them, Sian had the chance to “to be able to immerse in both cultures and identities.” She explains that “I have some very close friends from Hong Kong and the U.K. and I always feel accepted when I’m with them”. However, with her unique look, she has also had experiences where she has had people discriminates her because she is neither one or the other and they struggle to identify with her as a result.
Sian explores through her art, diverse subjects such as mental health, the environment and body image, by often sharing her personal experiences.
To her “the most difficult yet simultaneously wonderful part of growing up with two languages and cultures is feeling like you don’t have one place to call home. I am spoilt for choice”, she says and it makes all the difference in the world.