Jakarta is a complicated city, and there are many who find life in the capital exhausting and tiresome. For Sheila Rooswitha Putri, however, her hometown Jakarta has become her main source of inspiration.
Born and bred in “the Big Durian”, Sheila has been passionate about comics ever since she was a young girl, fascinated by the adventures of Tintin and the mischievous personality of Donald Duck.
“I started my career as a storyboard artist in the movie industry, where I worked for seven years,” she said. “It was my training ground and paved the way for me to pursue my childhood passion.”
In 2008, Sheila published her debut comic title “The Story of Lala”, a collection of stories about everyday life, including stray dogs and family trips. On her blog and social media channels, she shares charming and enchanting tales based on her own experience of living in and loving Jakarta.
Sheila was also involved in creating comics for Jakarta’s long-awaited MRT, with the aim to familiarise city dwellers with the new subway system.
“I am really honoured to be involved in this prestigious project,” Sheila said. “The team consists of my partner Leo Tigor for the story concept, Rendra Ridwan as the colourist, and Yulian Ardi as graphic designer. MRT wanted us to create something similar to an SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) book but with appealing visuals, because drawing is the most efficient way to convey a message.”
Both Sheila and Leo Tigor, she added, had already quite some experience in commission work for various companies and brands, and therefore it felt natural to work on the MRT project. However, it was not without challenges.
“The MRT was not finished yet when we began creating our comics, and so we had to come up with some design details from scratch, like the MRT stations and gates that did not exist yet at the time,” Sheila explained. “But the MRT team was very helpful and provided us with all the references we needed. In total, it took us a year to finish three books.”
The MRT, which was officially opened in late March, has been well received by the public – shortly after it began to operate, social media was awash with Jakartans proudly using the subway for the first time, posting videos and selfies.
“I am so happy to see the enthusiasm of the public,” Sheila said. “The MRT is a breakthrough for Jakarta. Some people think that it’s impossible to be mobile in Jakarta, but if we commute using public transportation, especially the MRT, the traffic jams will hopefully be a thing of the past.”
Sheila realises that it takes time to change the mentality and habit of people who have long resorted to using cars and motorcycles to brave Jakarta’s mad traffic, but she’s optimistic that it will happen soon – and her familiarisation comics may just be a step into the right direction.
When asked what she will work on next, Sheila said that she is contemplating creating a book with more mature content.
“Most of my books are child-friendly,” she explained. “But my next goal is to create stories about other issues I am really interested in, for example environmental or socio-culture issues. It will take some effort to do the research – but I believe the process is what makes it enjoyable.”
Follow Sheila @sheilasplayground on Instagram to see her latest works and projects.