Let’s introduce Lee Xin Li, the local artist that created the label illustration for our seasonal beer called Mei Wen Ti – 没问题! Our Marvelously Malty Maibock can be purchased online at our site, Smokey’s BBQ, Beer Force, taste gourmet market, and all Swiss Butchery outlets.
SGBC: First off, thank you for all your help in creating some great looking artwork for our label. When we first saw your work, we knew it would be a good fit for our aesthetic because you are able to fit a lot of detail into a small space. Every time we look at it, there is always something new to see that we didn’t notice before. We aren’t your first client requesting work for packaging, and we won’t be the last, but what drew you to the project when we first presented it to you?
XL: I feel working with a local F&B brand especially for a brewery to be an interesting opportunity. The products that I have tasted such as the Maibock was enjoyable. Finally, I think the correspondence with Michael Montisano had been a positive one, the enthusiasm, the ability to have honest conversations on the work and efforts to make it a collaborative project and offering a reasonable budget within the brand’s means are something I appreciate more in a client over time.
SGBC: You have a very distinct style where you mix up very detailed architectural elements with a more simplified take on drawing humans and animals, like it comes out of a comic strip. Where does your inspiration come from and how does it influence what you put on paper?
XL: I grew up on a mix of comics such as the Adventures of Tin Tin by Herge who would present colourful worlds with his ligne Claire style, then there is Doraemon by Fujiko F Fujio with a good mix of clean Japanese manga and detailed representation of architecture or landscapes sometimes. These are some of the stylistic influences I have from young. It might also be a carry-over from the presentation and drawing methods from my architecture school background where one must work with different layers of elements from representation of people or how to set a scene to complement architecture and spaces.
SGBC: In the artwork, there are a lot of little things going on that actually have a big meaning behind them, like the buildings in the background on both the left and right side being the actual buildings you see at the corner of Joo Chiat Road and Koon Seng Road, representing our roots in Joo Chiat. What are some other things that people might not notice right away?
XL: Some of the kopitiam aesthetics was referenced from establishments around the area such as Tin Yeang Coffeeshop and George Katong Laksa. The name of the beer is also represented in different Chinese dialects such as Hokkien and Cantonese, these nuances are something one could observe in the hawker scene. There is also a reference to “The History of Healing” mural by Tell Your Children in the neighbourhood.
SGBC: On your Instagram, we love that you go to hawkers and capture everyday life in Singapore in your sketches, which is exactly what we were looking for in our label. It’s almost as if you’re taking that little slice in time and preserving it, like a time capsule. Now that you’ve tried our Maibock, which hawker dish would you pair it with and why? Do you have a favorite stall that serves it?
XL: Chuan Kee Satay at Old Airport Road
Skewered meats always goes well with beer. The Maibock was quite light and easy to drink, it should good well with the delicious satay by Chuan Kee, their satay portions are consistent, the meat is tender and juicy and has that mix of caramelized bits and smoky charred bits. Each serving also comes with a nice nutty satay sauce with pineapple.
Alternatively, I think I will enjoy the beer with some tasty sambal BBQ stingray too.
SGBC: Last question. We can see in your art that you have a very strong connection to Singapore. It’s history, culture, and food all play a big part in your illustrations. Where is the one spot where you feel the most connected to Singapore?
XL: Singapore is place where transformations takes place rapidly and I don’t think I have a single spot where it has every element to offer…However, I find estates like Tanglin Halt and Macpherson to have a mix of present-day and the yesteryear where time slows down a bit and you could taste and see the Singapore of the past and present : Tanglin Halt’s easy access to the Rail Corridor and Wessex Estate even provides a touch of nature that is rapidly fading in Singapore. These estates are not exclusive, there are pockets of it around Singapore which I have rediscovered with all the morning cycling. These places connects me with the Singapore I remember, love and have a slower pace to take it in.
I would also throw in Changi Airport. Before Covid-19 it is the place you see people from all walks of life: people who want to have better life to people who are living the life. The place has all the markings of that : huge shopping malls, over the top architecture yet one could also find cosy greenery, a humble canteen as well as works of art and representation of heritage. It is such a transient and diverse place, it is the gateway to the world and also the gateway to Singapore and I find Singaporeans always straddle between the two, trying to be part of the world yet also figuring out what it means to be Singaporean.