Brush with destiny

Brush with destiny

Former SCMP star Tina Lam is now a successful artist. Treasuring her teachers and family is the secret to her glittering career


Tina Lam studied in Hong Kong and London; she urges other budding artists to travel.
Tina Lam studied in Hong Kong and London; she urges other budding artists to travel.
Photo: Jonathan Wong/SCMP
Tina Lam Tin-na was the SCMP's Best Student Visual Artist in 2004. Back then, she was a Form Six student at Jockey Club Ti-I College in Sha Tin.

With a mother who plays the violin and an elder sister studying art, Lam developed a creative streak at a young age.

After winning the SCMP award, she obtained a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and a masters degree at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, in London.

Now in her late 20s, Lam enjoys her life as a freelance artist, taking on projects for hotels and private companies.

What did the SCMP award mean to you?

I was very surprised when they told me I had won the award. Straightaway I told my family, my teacher and principal at school. They had supported me a lot and were all thrilled for me. It was a great recognition of my effort and talent. It also boosted my confidence, and encouraged me to study fine arts at university and make it my career.

What made you fall in love with visual arts?

It's something that gives me focus and calm. When I am drawing, I enter into a world of deep thoughts.

I also love art because it has no limits. Anyone is free to find meaning in a piece of art.

I don't mind if someone doesn't see my work in the way that I do. It's good that they use their creativity to understand what they see. It's like having a chat: you want to share ideas, not make people agree with you.

Is artistic talent nature or nurture?

I think you are born with part of your artistic talent, but I believe what makes an artist successful is the effort they put in. When I was a student, I liked to read about how other artists created their work. I would go to the library and take home piles of books. I also went to see other people's work. There are a lot of things you can learn from researching other artists. You can't just rely on your own raw talent.

Who would you like to thank for helping your career?

I want to thank my family for their great support. My mum made me a big canvas bag to carry my paintings to my interview with the SCMP judges.

I also want to thank my visual arts teacher Tse Siu-wah. She's taught me not just techniques but many life lessons. Miss Tse has become my friend and we still talk a lot.

What qualities does a Best Visual Artist winner need?

When I see your work, I want to see "you" - your unique style and the originality of your ideas. Show me your spirit and soul in your piece and I'll be impressed.

What advice would you give to artistic students?

Treasure the time to learn while you're still in school. Learn to let go when you fail.

You need to be prepared to face many challenges, because the art world is full of competition. The problems that you face in real life will be much harsher than those you are facing in school now.

The pressure also mounts when you need to make a living out of art. Go out to see the world and don't limit yourself to Hong Kong.

You might also like:

- Singer/actor Alex Fong won the SCMP Student Sportsperson of the Year away in 1998. He says his sports success has made him unafraid of failure.

- Alvin Wong, a former SCMP Student Musician of the Year, tells Mabel Sieh how he expresses himself best through music

- A 17-year-old sees her progress as a budding artist as a chance to understand herself better


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