TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
Meet Nat and Jackie, the power duo behind 8EyedSpud. At first glance, it’s easy to mistake them as sisters with a penchant for dressing alike. As they sit across from us in unintentionally matching blue chambray shirts and black jeans, Jackie explains, “I swear we didn’t mean to wear the same thing. I called her yesterday and she said she was gonna wear a grey shirt!” while pointing an accusatory finger at Nat. They erupt in laughter.
Established illustrators in their own right — Jackie is the one behind The Fingersmith Letterpress, while Nat runs Festive Folks — their five-month-old brainchild, 8EyedSpud, has already been graced with commissions from the likes of Grab, Love Bonito, Channel NewsAsia and Singapore Tourism Board. It’s clear something magical happens when these two come together. It’s also clear they can read each other’s minds — often, Nat starts a thought and Jackie helps finish it.
There’s something to be envied of their relationship: everything is a source of humour with these two and they ping pong jokes with a highly infectious energy. The room constantly fills with chortles of laughter. In this buzzing interview, the 8EyedSpud duo takes us on a unique ride, showing us the beautiful connection between two kindred spirits and illustrating the power of coming together to lift each other up.
First things first, what inspired your partnership and why did you guys decide to name it ‘8EyedSpud’?
Nat (N): We actually met each other two years ago?
Jackie (J): Yeah, we were friends.
N: So we just were hanging out as friends and would work separately on our own stuff but in the same spaces. We got along, but we’d never collaborated until August last year, when we decided to go on this three-week-long trip to America. One day, we both had super bad food poisoning and couldn’t go out so we were stuck in the Airbnb, and Jackie suggested we come up with a name so that we could work on stuff together, ‘cause we had been drawing stuff on the trip.
J: I think it was just like bud, spud.
N: And then we were like “oh 8eyedspud”, because we always say to each other “hey buddy” and stuff. We never expected it to be like a thing though. We thought it was just going to be —
J: For fun.
N: Cause it was so much fun working with someone else after having worked alone. And then I guess when we started doing it, people were like “hey, they can draw big stuff”.
What is your favourite thing about working together?
J: None. Nothing. (laughs) I think we always have fun working on projects. We’ll just be laughing and stuff but work actually gets done. Sometimes one of us will be like “oh, I’ll take a 10-minute break” and the other person will be trying to impress the break-taker by finishing something before they’re done with the break.
N: For me I think it’s just having someone who you don’t have to explain a lot to and they just get it. Sometimes we’ll just say one thing and then the other person latches on to a part of it and then it goes out of control. Which I guess is the fun part.
Least favourite thing about working together?
J: Not enough time in the day. Just kidding!
N: Dressing alike when we’re supposed to dress differently!
How is being part of 8EyedSpud different from working on your own?
J: We dread working alone now. The thing about working alone is you really cannot bounce ideas. I mean, my colleague is my mum, seriously. And my dog.
N: I think there’s also a lot of questioning when you’re working by yourself. Sometimes, you’re not willing to push because you’re scared. But when there’s someone there who’s like “do it!” it makes you go “okay, let’s do it!” and you end up doing it. So I think it’s that process of getting rid of boundaries that would normally hold you back.
J: And when you’re working alone there are a lot of things that you don’t like to do but you’ll have to force yourself to do.
N: But when you’re working with someone else, you know you both don’t want to do it but because you’re doing it together, it’s not so bad.
J: We literally hold hands!
N: No, not literally!
Does 8EyedSpud have a guiding philosophy when creating your artwork?
N: I think integrity comes first beyond everything else. If you agree to do a project, no matter how crappy it is, you do it so that you’re proud of it. I think if you were by yourself, you’d be tempted to take shortcuts, but I think we both hold each other to a standard.
J: Even if we have to reprint a whole sheet, we’ll just do it.
N: We did a mural once and as we were looking at it being installed, we suddenly noticed a red spot on some guy’s knee that looked like a bruise. It was a very small guy but it was right at eye level. The people we were working with said no one would see it, but we know it’s there and our whole life we would know that it’s there and —
J: We wouldn’t be able to sleep.
N: We couldn’t un-see it, so we just reprinted the whole thing because of that one dot. It might not have mattered to someone else but it did to us.
How do you guys go about developing a piece of work?
J: I think our ideas come from anywhere. Like we could be lining up for sweet potatoes and —
N: Yes, true thing! And we’ll go “let’s think about our project”.
J: So someone will say something and that seed will start growing and just kind of explode.
N: What’s cool is that after we come up with an idea through chatting it out, instead of going on the computer, we always start with a paper sketch where both of us will be there with one pencil each and we’re on the —
Together: Same piece of paper!
J: We’ll share!
N: We’ll start drawing at the same time and sometimes we’ll change positions cause [Jackie] ends up drawing too much on one side. And then once that is agreed on, we separate tasks and say “you work on this guy, I’m gonna work on this guy” and we’ll keep trading so every piece always has both of us from the beginning.
J: So it’s not like we work like from one end to the middle, we’ll usually go splitsies.
N: We call it inspiration ping pong cause it’s like “you take it! No, you take it!” We’re not two people trying to get more work done. It needs both of us equally.
What is it like to be part of the local illustration community?
N: I don’t really know a lot of illustrators but rather, a lot of creatives, and I think having that community is very important. Just knowing people who are doing things on their own also — they don’t even have to be an artist or anything, they’re just doing their own thing — is always helpful. When I first moved back, I knew no one and that was super sian (jaded), you know?
J: And we don’t really fight for a project. The thing about illustration is that other artists can do things that I can’t do and their style is different. So it’s really about what the client is looking for — you don’t get a job just because you charge the cheapest price.
N: I think what’s nice about it too is that because it’s so small, once you know someone, it’s easy to know someone else. Looking back, it’s only been five months but we’ve done all this cool work together, and that’s how it’s always worked for us in this community too. But I think it would be nice if one day everyone could be doing their own thing but in the same space. For me, you learn so much just from watching someone do something or seeing their work because the only way you see it now is if they share it work on Instagram.
Both of you post frequently about your travels on Instagram. How does travelling inform your artistic process?
J: I think it’s about getting out of your comfort zone. In Singapore, you’re just used to being in this bubble, seeing the same things and having certain tasks to do, like going out for meetings. Whereas when you’re overseas, you go walk around the streets more and notice things like Mexican influences in colours and styles.
N: Jackie draws a lot more when she’s on vacation. I don’t actually draw that much when I travel, but I think she observes a lot of things and always tries to capture a boring moment in a funny way. It’s about working your creative muscle to make it funny. On our trip, we had two hours to kill at an anthropological museum in Mexico and there was nothing else nearby. We both happened to have our notebooks on us and we decided to just draw everything that we saw in there.
J: We’d prompt each other with things like “what do you think the sculpture is saying?”
N: There were some with really strange expressions, so we’d joke that it was saying “oh, I ate too much” and we just spent two hours drawing things and laughing at each other’s drawings. It was things like that that made it really fun to go on a trip —
J: Not expecting anything.
N: Yeah, and creating stuff along the way and taking the time to do that. Sometimes we’ll have nothing to do so we just both sit there and draw. (To Jackie) I can’t believe I saw your face for three weeks! Like every minute. That’s seriously crazy. And we didn’t even want to kill each other. I think.