Discovering my gifts in the Arts

Discovering my gifts in the Arts

We speak to Methodists from the Arts sector on how they were led to their careers and discovered their God-given gifts.

Josef Lee, 43 | Owner of a design and animation studio, published illustrator and author

My father passed away when I was very young and my mum had to bring me and my two brothers up single-handedly, working two jobs. We were aged 12, 11 and 8 at the time. Today, all three of us are in the media and arts industry and doing well in our respective areas. This wouldn’t have been possible without God’s grace. My artistic skills and any talents that I have are all gifts from God, but practice and striving for excellence is necessary too. Even after being in creative field for so long, I’m still learning. Right now, I’m pursuing a Masters in Design part-time.

My choice to enter this field is not because academic pathways were closed to me. I did pretty well in school actually. For my O-Levels, I got 10 points for L1R5 and that made me eligible for most schools. In fact, I had already decided on this path as early as Secondary 2. My elder brother (just one year older than me) was probably an influence as well as his grades were good too but he decided to pursue a diploma in the media and arts field. My mother had no objections at all—she was open-minded and never questioned our choices. Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Design was the most well-known in this area during my time, so that’s where I went.

To young persons who are thinking of their career choices, find your passion and continue to work hard on becoming better at whatever you are doing. You can all find success in whichever field we are in, so long as you are passionate and really good at your craft.

Teresa Chiok, 32 | Ballet teacher

I didn’t do well in school. While I was an average student, I had always been interested in the Arts, whether it was fine art, music or dance. Since I was young, I put in a lot of time and effort into my interests. I guess it’s not surprising that I did better in the humanities subjects in school and also in music and dance. But this was not the reason why I pursued dance as a career.

It never occurred to me that I could venture into dance education. I embarked on a career in photography first. I started to think about ballet as my career only after realising I didn’t enjoy taking photographs of people I didn’t know. The turning point came after I became an assistant teacher for my mentor. I realised I really enjoyed teaching ballet and seeing improvements in my students, no matter how big or small the improvements were.

God has blessed me by giving me the opportunity to meet the right people at the right time. Dance education would never have been an option for me if I had not met my mentor. By God’s grace, things just fell into place after I started my journey as a ballet teacher.

Being in the Arts sector is amazing and so fulfilling, but It’s not easy, especially in current times. However, I’m glad the Arts is gaining more awareness amongst the younger generation. Parents these days are also more open-minded in allowing their children to pursue the Arts as a career.

Everyone has their own path to take, at their own pace. Having a career is not about racing against others. It’s more about choosing something that you can envision yourself doing for a long time.

Wesley Loh, 51 | Photographer

My first years of work were in the information technology (IT) field. After three years of going through systems analysis, database and web design, I was bored. During those years I was freelancing in photography, so I thought I’d try doing it full-time as a professional photographer. I fell in love with the business of photography, and decided to continue with it.

In my youth, I was not sure if God was interested in my photography hobby. I didn’t think of photography as a pursuit in spiritual matters and it had no bearing on my studies. It never occurred to me to ask God to bless my photography. However, when I was about 30 years old, I had a spiritual experience that directly impacted my photography. At that time, I had plateaued in my journey as a photographer, and as much as I tried to study and research, I knew I was missing something.

At a Methodist camp in Malacca, I remember quite vividly the speaker asking if there was anyone who needed prayer, and I went up to the altar.

“God says you are impatient,” the speaker told me. “But he says he will give it to you now.”

I didn’t know what “it” was supposed to be, but I received it in faith. If it’s something from God, it must be good right? I was surprised, happy and slightly ashamed for being impatient with God. After the service ended, I walked back to my hotel room. I looked down the corridor and as I did so my mind began to abstract the corridor into graphic structural lines.

I was stunned.

I had never seen things that way before. I realised God was super interested in my photography. This gift of abstraction is foundational in my photography. Without it, I wouldn’t be here today doing the work I do.

As of today, I’ve been doing photography for 33 years. It’s been such a wonderful journey and I’m content and happy.

Valerie Tang-Yong, 37 | Makeup artist

My academic path was smooth. I went to a SAP school and Junior College, trained to be an accountant, and obtained a degree with distinction. I worked in one of the largest business consultancies for many years. That’s like the ‘ideal’ Singapore education pathway.

However, I didn’t find job satisfaction. When my then-boyfriend decided to embark on theological studies, I decided to take up a makeup course. At that time, I was running an online clothing store as a side hustle, so it made sense to learn makeup so that I could save money on hiring a makeup artist for photoshoots.

I had no intention to work full-time as a makeup artist, but once I became a qualified makeup artist, God provided work right from the start. I was so overwhelmed doing both jobs I had to choose one to focus on. I had no idea I would enjoy doing makeup and hairstyling so much. I believe God led me to pick up this particular set of skills! I enjoy interacting with my clients very much and finding out about their lives.

When my husband and I got married, we quit our jobs. Timothy left his job as an auditor in PricewaterhouseCoopers to work in a church and I became a full-time makeup artist. His parents were a bit shocked but mine were quite chill as they are very entrepreneurial by nature.

To any young person thinking about your career path, just go with God’s flow. Don’t be hung up about the job you have in mind, because God might lead you elsewhere!

(Images @The Beautiful Moment Photography)

By Lianne Ong, Editor of Methodist Message / Photos courtesy of Josef Lee, Teresa Chiok, Wesley Loh and Valerie Tang-Yong