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3D Artist Possesses A Strong Heart to Succeed Against All Odds
Updated 2020-10-02

Brian Lai Zheng Chien’s story is testament that the spirit of never giving up is bound to yield desired returns. The 27-year-old Penangite’s journey to success wasn’t an easy one, it was filled with hardships that he had to endure and overcome. His persistence in keeping true to his passion has finally paid off. Read on to learn more about the inspiring story of how he pursued his dream.

For as long as he can remember, he has always wanted to be an artist. He started using Microsoft Paint at the age of five with much interest to know how pixels can form a picture. At the age of 11, he was already familiar with Photoshop because his father ran a photo printing shop. As a child, he was very engrossed by movies such as Ninja Turtles, Terminator and Robocop. The Sandman character in Spider-Man 3 stunned him completely, so his father handed him a 3Ds Max software CD and informed him that this was how they did it. He installed the program and has been immersed in 3D graphics ever since.

He got to know about The One Academy through a workshop brochure given by his friend, who told him it was the best art college in the country. Before that, he has never looked into art colleges because he had always assumed that he was to inherit his father’s business. He paid a visit to The One Academy Penang and knew definitely that he needed to study there, where he would find his passion and construct the foundation for his career.

Obstacles started coming when he decided to study at TOA Penang. Financial difficulty is an ever-present problem faced by his family and they couldn’t afford to pay for his school fees. Fortunately, his cousin stepped in and offered to lend them the money. However, his SPM results did not meet the entry requirement to enrol in the college. So he took tuition classes for his weakest subjects and resat for SPM again before finally fulfilling the requirement. This spoke volumes of his determination.

It didn’t end there. When everything seemed to be going smoothly and he was about to start his studies at the college, his father suffered a heart attack and was admitted to the hospital. It was another roadblock; he had to put his plan on hold and take care of his family business without knowing if he will ever be able to continue his studies. He was in turmoil every day and night, it felt like his dream of becoming a 3D artist was slipping away from his grasp.

His mother sympathised with him and urged him to go ahead with his studies while she took over caring for his father and the family business. Each day of learning at TOA Penang was pressuring for him, not because of the homework or assignments, but because he was worried for his parents. However, it is because of these pressures and responsibilities that actually drove him to study and work harder that everyone else.

“Every pain I felt at night was the force for the next day. Every phone call from my mother was a reminder that they are getting older. Every debt reminder letter to my father was the fire that burnt me. How did I overcome all these? By having a strong heart – a heart that can take as many failures as it can, and still keep on beating,” recalled Brian of his hardships.

After a year of studying at TOA Penang, he discovered a whole new technique of pencil drawing – Invert Art, as he calls it. The idea is to draw in inverted colour much like a film negative and flip the colour to see the real genius behind it. A quick search on Google for the term ‘invert art’ or his name will produce many results. As the inventor of this unique art that blew the Internet away and garnered a hundred thousand ‘likes’ on Facebook in late 2013, he has been interviewed by many news portals of different countries and recognised worldwide.

It is his outstanding performance and talent that landed him a career at his alma mater. He is now a lecturer teaching Digital Animation at TOA Penang in charge of graphics development, sharing his 3D techniques and knowledge with other aspiring students, as well as his inspiring stories and learning philosophy. In his three years of teaching, he has led students to win awards in the Asiagraph and Kancil Awards. He was also awarded the Conscientious Spirit Award by Tatsun Hoi, the founder and principal of The One Academy, for his contributions and achievements.

He advises aspiring artists to do what they’re good at and expand on that, instead of choosing to do something the industry market is asking for. “You see; we can’t ask Steve Jobs to be good at performing or ask Michael Jackson to build a computer. By doing what you already love, it will never go wrong. Be good at what you do, forget about chasing recognition or riches, then only will those come knocking on your door.”

He is constantly developing the workflow and tools for a 3D artist with his team at TOA Penang. Improvement is the main reason why he is obsessed with that he does. Looking back at his work of 10 years ago and seeing how much he has progressed both excites and warms his heart. He added that there is a great demand for graphic artists in Malaysia to provide services for the global film and games industries.

Lastly, he borrows this quote from the movie Forrest Gump (1994) as his life motto, to portray how we should live simply to discover inner happiness. “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.”

Brian Lai is a Digital Animation lecturer at TOA Penang

Brian’s interest in computer graphics started when he was a child.

He is best known as the creator of ‘Invert Art’.

A 3D realistic portrait of actor J.K. Simmons.

Some of the works done by Brian Lai.

Some of the works done by Brian Lai.

Some of the works done by Brian Lai.

Some of the works done by Brian Lai.

Some of the works done by Brian Lai.

Some of the works done by Brian Lai.

[The One Academy of Communication Design was established in 1991 with the aim of promoting the region as the world’s center of creative reference. Strategically located in the thriving creative hub of Bandar Sunway, Selangor, with a branch in Georgetown, Penang, The One Academy is today a top notch leading international institute in art, design and creative multimedia, renowned with graduates who steer successful careers in creative capitals worldwide. The courses offered are Digital Media Design, Digital Animation with Game Development, Film Visual Effects, Illustration, Movie & Game Art, Advertising & Graphic Design, Interior Design, Paris Fashion Design & Pattern Making and Fine Arts.]