City Harvest Church member Clement Ng recently illustrated a children’s book for a national primary school project. It was an opportunity that assured him of God’s provision. He shares with City News his passion and his journey with God.
For young readers, the illustrations in a storybook are what draws them into the world of the story and makes it come alive.
Clement Ng, 34, worked with Singapore Centre for Chinese Language (SCCL) to illustrate a book, 新啦地铁 (roughly, Singla Train), which is a winning entry for the “Creativity, No Boundaries!” National Children’s Story Writing Competition. The book is part of a series of Chinese readers for primary school students, titled 记“疫”宝盒 (roughly, Treasure Box of Pandemic Memories).
“Once they decided on the winners of the competition, they engaged the illustrators. That’s when they contacted me,” Clement explains. “I really thank God for it, because this came at the right time. It was like God telling me that He has greater things for me in the future and that I don’t have to limit Him.”
Clement had applied for a similar project at SCCL two years ago when he went through a job crisis: his job as a graphic designer for Kidzania was made obsolete when the company announced that the Singapore branch would cease operations. As he did not hear back from SCCL, he accepted a job as a graphic designer.
Shortly after, SCCL called him, but he had to turn their offer down. “I was kind of sad because that was a project I wanted to do,” Clement recalls. “But I knew I would not have the bandwidth to take it on because I was starting my full-time job and was already busy with a campaign.”
Earlier this year, Clement received a promotion and a change of portfolio. “I’m now doing digital communications—it’s something I’ve never done before,” he says. Having been a graphic designer for the past decade, Clement felt that this was the right move. “Not that I’ve done extremely well, but I’ve been in this trade for a significant period, and I think it’s time to move to something else.”
Clement was appreciative of his bosses’ faith in him, but he felt some apprehension about moving out of his comfort zone. “I have had to learn everything from scratch and also, it’s entirely not related to graphic work,” he explains. In his heart, he wondered if he would be moving away from the creative work that he loves.
That was when Clement received an email from SCCL, inviting him to illustrate a book. “It’s like God telling me, ‘You don’t have to give it up entirely. If I can give you something like this, I can give you other things in the future. You don’t have to limit yourself to your vocation, you can still do what you like.’ I thank God that when I took a step of faith to accept the new portfolio, He came and gave me His assurance.”
THE EXPERIENCE OF ILLUSTRATING A BOOK
The whole project—from receiving the script to finalising the artwork—took Clement a little more than two months to complete. While he had been commissioned as an illustrator before, this is the first time he is fully responsible for all the illustrations of a book.
“It was exciting, but I felt pressure too,” he says, adding how the staffers at SCCL would respectfully call him “老师”, even though he does not feel that he has a lot of experience. “I was like, please don’t call me that,” he says laughing.
新啦地铁is about the journey of a train conductor who travels from station to station, picking up different animals. Interesting things happen at every station.
Clement tells City News that producing the book took team effort. While he had the freedom to draw the characters the way he wanted, there were times when the writer would comment on how she had envisioned certain characters to be. “So, we had a lot of these discussions to make things work,” he says.
When it came to balancing his own creativity and working with others on the team, Clement drew on his experience as a graphic designer. “Graphic design and illustration are really different. Graphic design is not really artistic in nature, we have to work with clients—or our colleagues—to come up with graphics to present to the public. But when it comes to creating illustrations, there are times when it’s just for myself, I’m not answerable to anybody. Maybe just my daughter commenting that she wants ‘more pink’ in the clothes in an illustration I’ve made of her,” he laughs.
His experience with graphic design helped him understand that when clients engage him to do a commissioned piece of illustration, it’s a collaboration. “I realised that creativity is not just from one person alone. There are perspectives we may not see, especially those of the writer and also the client.”
However, at the end of the day, it boils down to the compatibility of the artist and the client—the style of the artist has to match the client’s expectations. He is grateful that his collaboration with SCCL was a good match. “They like my style. While they had certain comments on what they envisioned certain characters to be, they mostly allowed me to explore and draw what I wanted,” he says.
That gave him the liberty to include a lot of illustrations that he had previously worked on. “There are two human characters in the story—one is the train conductor which is the main character, and the other is the keeper of a lion. I decided to draw my daughter as the train conductor and my son as the keeper,” he says with a smile. He adds that animals, nature, and his family—his wife, his 5-year-old daughter, Aldora, and his 2-year-old son, Callum—are his inspiration.
In fact, drawing animals on a journey is nothing new to Clement. “I have an Instagram account @gingerandberry, where I write the story of a hedgehog and a cat. They go on adventures daily and the most recent series is about a long train ride they take.”
When Clement received the script for this project, he was pleasantly surprised. His advice is, “Keep doing what you like and exercise your creativity, when opportunities like this come to you, you’ll be able to use them as reference.”
This rang true for him in many aspects of his career. Clement started out as a graphic designer in CHC while he was finishing university. During his time there, he had the opportunity to create a mascot for Harvest Kidz, the children’s church. He was also involved in designing stage sets for the church’s drama productions and that came in handy when he was in Kidzania.
“One Halloween, we did a fun project where we set up a kid-friendly spooky town. My colleague and I co-wrote a story and created characters, designed stage sets and costumes for the mascots,” he elaborated. “My experience in church came in useful—I was exposed to these for the drama production and became an asset to the team at Kidzania.”
SERVING IN THE PROPHETIC ART MINISTRY
Besides serving as a cell group leader in Ee Zhenying’s pastoral zone, Clement also serves as an artist in the Prophetic Art Ministry. While it seems natural that an illustrator would join an art-related ministry, it took Clement some time to take that step of faith.
While he loves the word of God, Clement confessed that it takes him longer to come to terms with the things of the spirit, like a prophetic ministry. “I’ll usually have to hear what the Word says and listen to what my pastors have to say about it, before going into it,” he explains.
But God set things up so that Clement would experience Him in a different way during the time when he was overwhelmed with the prospect of being jobless after receiving the news that Kidzania was closing down. Clement was worshiping in church when he suddenly opened his eyes and saw the volunteers in the Prophetic Art Ministry painting on stage. “I asked God how this helps others spiritually, because if I can serve God through painting—which I enjoy—and it encourages others, then I want to be a part of it too.”
Clement describes himself as an introvert who is not much of a talker. He felt that prophetic art might then be a good way for him to encourage others. “I feel like maybe I can bless others even if I don’t have a lot of words to say, I can make pictures that can encourage people or help them to understand the Word of God. Some people relate better to images—after all, pictures speak a thousand words.”
With that revelation, he took a step of faith and approached Pastor Veronica Tang who was in charge of the Prophetic Art Ministry. Serving in his new ministry has been a blessing. “I learned that it is really not about our talent, because it is an intercessory ministry after all. We really need to have a good prayer life, and we need to be close to God,” Clement reveals.
“Being able to draw very well doesn’t mean anything. You can spend painting this amazing, realistic picture of Jesus but if that picture doesn’t have a word for anybody, it’s just a picture. So that part of me is what God wants me to work on, I believe,” he adds. “It’s really about prayer, it’s about my relationship with God. Serving drew me closer to Him.”
While Clement only started serving in the Prophetic Art Ministry in 2020, God was already working in his heart in 2016.
“That was another turning point in my life. At that time, I was also feeling a bit of a ‘ministry drought’ but I thank God that He always draws me back to Him,” he recalls. Clement felt led to go on a mission trip and signed up with CHC’s mission ministry Missio Dei Harvest for a trip to Mount Bromo in Indonesia.
On the mission trip, Clement got to interact and pray with other volunteers in MDH. “They are all amazing people who are so sensitive to the Spirit,” he says. Soaking in that environment and experiencing all the encouragement they gave, Clement began to have a new encounter with God.
“When I was praying for people, I realised that there was this recurring pattern—I would see pictures for the person I was praying for,” he recalls. “I also saw a bunch of postcards that I needed to give people.”
After he returned to Singapore, the pattern continued. When he prayed for others, he saw images meant for them. He turned those images into postcards, added a Bible verse and gave it to his cell group members and friends. “It was really to encourage them, especially when they were looking for a job or facing problems in their life. To build their faith, to show the grace that God has over them,” he shares.
When Clement eventually joined the Prophetic Art Ministry, “it felt natural that I’m able to translate what I had been doing to canvas. Now when I pray or worship God during service, I would receive a Word. It starts with a simple word but as I meditate upon it, God begins to show me more, and usually, that evolves into a painting,” Clement describes.
The Bible says he who waters will himself be watered. God did not forget about Clement and gave him a vision to encourage him too.
“During Prayer Space online one time, the pastors asked us to join in the meeting to paint. At that point in time, I was going through a tough time personally. In that meeting, I had a vision of waves, strong waves. I didn’t think so much about it and just painted (what I saw),” Clement shares.
“The word that came later was that the devil came to kill, steal and destroy, but God will give us life more abundantly. Whatever the devil takes away, God will multiply it back to us,” he recalls. At that point, Clement felt like many things were being taken away from him and that vision assured him of God’s provision. “The waves wash away the sand and whatever is on the shore. But when it returns, it can come like a tsunami.” He felt God assuring him that the blessings would return to him like a tsunami.
It did not take long for God to fulfil His Word. Clement received the job offer not long after, and a couple of years later, the opportunity to illustrate the book.
Looking back at the past 10 years, Clement can now see how God has been behind every turn. “When I think about it, I know God has been faithful. Sometimes things may not happen the way we expect it to happen, but when I look back, I realise that He has been setting me up for what I have today.”
This revelation keeps him anchored in his trust in God. “To be honest, I’m not sure where I’m heading, particularly with my new role at work. I have no idea how this is going to pan out, I just feel God saying if you have faith, you can take that step and open that door.”