The New Era of Tommy Chandra in the World of Illustration

A café in the South Tangerang area is now adorned with vector illustrations born from the hands of Tommy Chandra, a designer and illustrator with a background in architecture. Mapping the Self, Tommy Chandra's first solo exhibition marks a new era for the illustrator in the world of art and design.

Armed with an education in architecture, Tommy embarked on his career as an illustrator 15 years ago. His passion for illustration was evident from his early university days when he took on various freelance jobs as an illustrator for infographics and layouts. Following the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake, Tommy Chandra began working professionally as an illustrator. At the time, he was asked by a non-governmental organization to help design a book on earthquake-resistant housing. "I helped with the layout and infographics for the book," Tommy recalls. His skills as an illustrator flourished when he moved to Jakarta and joined a creative agency. According to Tommy, the recruitment process was not challenging, as the agency offered him a job after seeing his portfolio on Deviantart showcasing his architectural designs. "They recruited me to create game assets simulating urban scenarios. Since then, my life has always been connected to illustration, architecture, and infographic creation," says Tommy.

Tommy’s dedication to the world of illustration led him to become Indonesia's first doodle artist for Google Doodle in 2014. He was part of an illustrator agency called Fabula, which presented the works of its artists to Google. Amongst various artists, both from agencies and independents, Tommy was selected as the illustrator for Google Doodle. This opportunity was a valuable experience for him to work for a global company. For Tommy, who had worked on several international projects, there were no significant challenges in the process.Through online correspondence, he followed directions from Google HQ and Google Indonesia, channeling his creativity into designing the best doodle. Tommy felt the positive impact of his involvement in the Google Doodle project. "I got more projects from Google Indonesia. My tech-illustration style caught the attention of many corporations, especially in the tech industry. Eventually, they hired me for their projects," Tommy reveals. Most of the projects Tommy accepted during his career in the art and design world did not involve a pitching process. His digital portfolio successfully attracted interest from various parties for collaboration.


The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 prompted Tommy to delve into the booming world of NFTs. Through the Clubhouse app, he networked with illustrators worldwide and showcased his work through NFTs. Over time, he sought a suitable artistic style, influenced by NFT artists with distinctive features. His background in architecture inspired him to adopt a vector illustration style with a perspective resembling architectural drawings. "The first project using this style was indeed an NFT project. I also created works with Tezos showcased at Artmoments Jakarta 2022," Tommy explains.

In the NFT era, Tommy Chandra also realized that vector artists with a minimalist and architectural style have their own market and are highly appreciated internationally. However, in Indonesia, many still struggle to accept vectors as a form of art. Tommy felt a personal dissatisfaction with some people's views on vector art. "Here, vector [art] is considered downgraded because many people give away their vector works for free or set low rates. I want to challenge that notion, that vector [art] is also a form of art," Tommy emphasizes.

Tommy’s journey in finding his artistic style and the illustrator's transformation into this new era is the main concept behind the exhibition Mapping The Self. In the curatorial text, curator Lonica Dimmi writes that the exhibition serves as a bridge between the past, present, and future—a reflection of Tommy’s transformation from an architectural foundation to the boundless world of digital illustration. Through the 18 exhibited works, Tommy aims to introduce his artistic style and showcase his transformation in navigating the creative industry and the art world. Within a month, Tommy managed to prepare 13 new works, each depicting the journey of his transformation with dynamic pastel colors. "I try to explore various perspectives and colors. I'm not a minimalist architect, relying on black and white. I like playing with colors because colors can tell the story of my journey," says Tommy.


Tommy divides the Mapping the Self exhibition into five parts: the NFT era, introduction, facade, block, and complex. Each section tells the story of Tommy’s journey and transformation as an illustrator. In the NFT section, the exhibited works mark the beginning of Tommy’s artistic style, while the introduction section features pieces inspired by his college days studying technical drawings, isometrics, and structures. He explains that in the complex section, he blends minimalist and brighter colors, symbolizing the continuous cycle of life. In this section, the perspectives explored by Tommy become much more challenging. Navigating through the exhibition space, the audience is invited to follow Tommy’s creative transformation and witness each change in his creative cycle. Rather than making this solo exhibition a marker of his 15-year career, Tommy Chandra wants it to be the start of something new for his career in the world of art and design. "I created this exhibition to mark a new era. It's my first exhibition, [still] far from perfect, and there's still much I want to explore in the future. One month is not enough to process [it all], but if I don't start now, when?" Tommy Chandra concludes.

For Tommy Chandra, art is his life's calling. With this in mind, after 15 years in the creative world, Tommy will continue to evolve and embark on new endeavors. He envisions many plans, such as holding more exhibitions, both in Indonesia and abroad. Tommy also plans to write a book about his 15-year career in the world of vector art. He will further develop the works exhibited in Mapping the Self into other mediums. Tommy Chandra's solo exhibition is ongoing until February 24, 2024, at Smiljan Space, South Tangerang.

About the Author

Alessandra Langit

Alessandra Langit is a writer with seven years of diverse media experience. She loves exploring the quirks of girlhood through her visual art and reposting Kafka’s diary entries at night.