At the age of 15, Khorn Chhoovern – a grade 10 student in Kralanh high school – already makes enough money from his drawing talents to support his family. Despite his young age and lack of professional experience, Chhoovern has produced around 100 ’doodle’ artwork pieces in just a year, many of them commissioned.
Chhoovern, a self-taught artist in his own right, produces popular pieces using his own unique take on the Kbach Khmer form.
Living in Siem Reap province, Chhoovern has received several art commissions from the capital and other provinces, who pay to see their names sketched in his signature ‘doodle’ style.
“Most of the commissions I receive are to doodle people’s names. They love to see their names drawn on a traditional Kbach Khmer style backdrop,” he says.
Chhoovern has been interested in art and drawing from a young age, but says he never had confidence in his ability as he was afraid he would not be good enough to pursue it as a career. However, that all changed the first time he saw an illustration by Visothkakvei’s – an artist who would later become his role model.
“I fell in love with his drawing as soon as I saw it. The details and aesthetic are magnificent. His work has been a big inspiration to not only keep drawing, but also on what I draw as well,” he says.
Nonetheless, the young artist also says that he is still trying to further develop his own style and identity in his drawings.
“Even though many people compliment my artworks, I still think I need to develop my understanding of art as well as improve on the Khach Khmer form,” he says.
Chhoovern regards drawing as a platform on which to interpret his own emotions. He believes that doodling is similar in many ways to human life, which is filled with complexity, encompassing meaningful but untold stories within it.
“I always find peace of mind every time I doodle and I have fun creating every piece. I usually spend five or six hours doodling, but other days I can spend over 10 hours. Some people say I am a doodle addict!” he says.
“Sometimes art also helps me solve the issues I face. For instance, I have used it to aid my own mental health and to keep me from mental breakdowns,” he adds.
Despite the dedication he has for his art, Chhoovern still helps his parents in their car cleaning business.
“Even though drawing is my passion, I still have to help my parents. As you grow up, your responsibilities increase and so does your workload. I have received a few more commissions lately so I need to make time every day to be able to produce my drawings,” he says.
Chhoovern also sends a message to young people who want to pursue drawing and art.
“My biggest tip is to keep focused on your passion and keep producing art to develop your style. Consider your art a precious gift and treat it accordingly, by putting every effort into making it the best version it can be,” he says.
Looking forward, Chhoovern says he wants to continue his studies alongside his artwork with the hope of pursuing a higher degree in art.
“I want to do a higher degree in art so I can diversify my knowledge in both modern and traditional art. I would be excited to see how these could further influence my own style of Kbach Khmer in the future,” he adds.