Marked by rounded features, gentle color tones and overall chonkiness, Olive Yong’s Bichi Mao comics has garnered more than 200 thousand followers on Instagram. Her Pusheen-esque characters are definitely a package of delight that warms the hearts of readers around the world. The slice-of-life webcomic revolves around family, animal welfare and the hilarious antics of both cats and humans alike.
A Self-Taught Artist
Since young, drawing has always been one of Olive’s passions. Pencil and paper were her go-to’s and she worked primarily on realistic portraits. While she harbored the dream of developing her passion into a career, her education was not officially grounded in digital arts. Becoming a webcomic artist, she reflects, never crossed her mind. She majored in Music in Education.
It was 3 years ago when she was introduced to digital drawing and delved into the Procreate App. Like many budding artists, she started sharing her work on social media platforms and was overwhelmed to amass a large following within a year.
“I was very surprised that people enjoy and love what I’m doing,” Olive says. “Their support means the world to me and drives me to continue creating.” Fans often send messages and emails to share how her art and comics have impacted their life.
Chonky cats of all breeds and fur colors are seen in the Bichi Mao comics. The earliest pieces even feature rather naughty cats with self-entitled attitudes – as evident from the wordplay on the comic’s name.
A cat lover, Olive’s reason for their prominent presence is simple: “I LOVE CATS. They are cute and each cat has their different personalities, just like a human.”
On social media handles, Olive refers to herself and her feline characters as Mao (猫), the Chinese word for cats. The majority of Bichi Mao characters today are endearing kitties with good-natured chubbiness.
Besides cats, her inspirations include fellow Malaysian comic artist, Fishball, who is well-known for her My Giant Nerd Boyfriend series. Olive is also strongly moved by the masterful storytelling in Pixar and Disney films, which she describes “has never failed” to make her cry.
In her own way, she is passionate about recreating witty, heartwarming tales to touch lives. While the comics focus on the humor in everyday life, some scenes do reflect the less joyful aspects of reality. In these moments, the narration further tugs at one’s heartstrings as the event is presented from the perspective of the childlike Maos. Still, the story also explains that one can always give kindness and solace to another. Readers, then, can pay the love forward in real life.
“I enjoy sharing my views on certain topics to bring awareness to the public, in hopes of helping to make the world a little kinder,” she says.
Bichi Mao’s Roots in Malaysia
Olive shares how Malaysian fans are often surprised to see her at local comic events. They did not realize Olive was from Malaysia as well! Indeed, the majority of Bichi Mao’s followers come from countries on the other side of the world, such as the United States.
In Malaysia, the local academia-focused system means that resources and publishing opportunities for art creators are scarce. There is also the general stigma that artistic careers are merely alternative routes for those less academically adept. Due to these limitations, Olive acknowledges the difficulty of not knowing whom to turn to, or even where to start, when wanting to step into the industry.
Thankfully, the internet empowers comic artists like Olive with the ability to showcase their work directly to a global audience. Finding success on the platform, she still hopes to gain greater local recognition down the road and be an official part of the country’s comic industry, like Fishball, in the future.
More Books and Comics
Earlier in February, Olive published her first book, Kawaii Kitties: Learn How to Draw 75 Cats in All Their Glory. It is a step-by-step guide for beginners interested in kawaii drawing and of course, cats.
Now a full-time freelance illustrator, she is currently working on her second book, Color My Mood, a children’s coloring book featuring up to 60 illustrations. She also plans to venture beyond Bichi Mao with new comics and characters.
“While there are a lot of uncertainties that come along with a freelance career, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Olive says. “I’m really excited and proud to continue my journey as an illustrator and webcomic artist.”
As for her stories, she remains committed to spreading love, positivity and smiles to the world.
Connect with Bichi Mao
- Bichi Mao Instagram, Facebook and YouTube
- Buy Kawaii Kitties: Learn How to Draw 75 Cats in All Their Glory (Malaysia link here.)
- Support Bichi Mao on Patreon
- Read Bichi Mao on Webtoon
- Tip Mao on Ko-Fi