Elliot Chia dreamed of becoming an artist ever since he was a little boy. When he was in primary school and his family couldn’t afford the latest toys and video games, he turned to drawing them instead. This nurtured a desire within him to create his own characters and fictional worlds for others to enjoy. Today, the BFA in Digital Art and Animation graduate is a freelance artist and has worked for companies such as Tiny Island Productions and Mashcrate, where he was involved in 3D modelling, sculpting, texturing, and rendering for various projects. Though he is currently living out his dream, the journey to get there has not always been smooth sailing, due largely to the fact that Elliot has autism.
After his ‘O’ levels, Elliot enrolled in Singapore Polytechnic to further his studies in art. He pursued a Diploma in Digital Animation, then successfully applied to DigiPen (Singapore) after that. “As someone with autism, I was initially worried about coping with the workload and demands of university,” he says. The Institute also has a strong emphasis on group projects and multidisciplinary collaboration, which presented both a good opportunity and a challenge for Elliot. “Because of my condition, I felt disadvantaged when it came to befriending others,” he shares. “It was also stressful worrying about whether my words or behavior would be misconstrued, and this got worse when deadlines were approaching.”
Determined to succeed, Elliot reached out to his lecturers and the school’s counsellors. He is grateful for their guidance and patience as they helped him work through any problems he faced. Elliot also credits his supportive friends from his secondary school days for encouraging him when the going got tough.
Looking back on his time as a Dragon, Elliot is proud that he made it through. The rigor of the program trained him to be a more detail-oriented and versatile artist, and Elliot is proud to see the improvements in his work when he compares his recent art to his earlier pieces. He is also thankful that his time at DigiPen (Singapore) has equipped him for the working world. “I learned how to work better with others, conduct myself well in professional settings, and set up a good portfolio,” he says.
When asked about his advice for aspiring artists, Elliot says it’s important to constantly seek ways to hone your craft, something that requires time, sacrifice, and hard work. That said, the creation process should still be enjoyable. As for others with autism, Elliott hopes his example can be an encouragement that they, too, can achieve great things with guidance and determination.