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Sunday, May 2, 2021

Cartoonist finds inspiration on daily 80km bike commute


Every day, 39-year-old Muhammad Arif Asat embarks on an 80km journey from his home to work and vice versa on his trusty motorcycle.

With only the sound of gusting winds accompanying him, Arif turns to his thoughts. From the important to the mundane, Arif plays them through his head.

When Arif isn't absorbed in his thoughts, he comes back to reality and observes the little things he finds while on the road.

These thoughts and observations while on his motorcycle helped inspire Arif to produce his comics on Galeri Sentuhan ArifSan which has gained a following of more than 100,000 people on Facebook.

"There is a lot of time to think. This is the time when inspiration flows to my mind," Arif to Malaysiakini.

Muhammad Arif Asat embarks on an 80km journey from his home to work and vice versa on his trusty motorcycle

His comics often touch on parents and family values which quickly resonate with readers especially in a time when many people couldn't visit their parents in their hometown due to the ban on interstate travel.

Occasionally, he incorporates current events like the abolishment of UPSR and the Indonesian submarine tragedy.

If one scrolls Arif's Facebook page, they will find sketches like a father pushing a bicycle where his son, clad in a school uniform, sits on the back seat.

"Inspirations come everywhere, from when I stop at the traffic light to when I refill the gas at the petrol station.

"There are numerous situations throughout the long journey. Once, I drew a comic about a raincoat and this idea I got when I rode a bike," said the 39-year old man.

Arif rides on his Gentleman 200 GPX motorcycle from Puncak Alam to Shah Alam where he works as an industrial designer at an electronic company.

Muhammad Arif Asat uses only his smartphone to create his comic strips

Using smartphone as a drawing board

Arif began to produce digital artworks in 2012 but it was in June 2018 that he created a dedicated Facebook page to share his artworks in a professional way.

One would think that it was created using a tablet or other professional gadget for artists when in fact, he was only equipped with a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 handphone.

What's more important, according to Arif, is how his comics touch the hearts of hundreds of readers out there.

"Sometimes people are more comfortable in sharing their feelings using cartoons rather than write on what's in their mind on social media," he said.

Arif noticed that as more social media users shared his comic strips, especially on parents at the village waiting for the return of their children amid the strict Covid-19 standard operating procedures.

In fact, he even garnered many new fans during the movement control order who shared his old comic strips.

His fans had thanked him for creating a comic that accurately painted their feelings about their hometown and not being able to visit their parents.

"There were also messages from parents. A lady sent me a message saying that she missed her children and she hoped that her children saw my comic and called her," he said.

As for Arif, he's lucky as his parents also stay in Selangor and that enables him to visit them every week.

My father not as strong as before

"Sometimes, I remember that as a boy, I saw my father as a strong man. He could do many things. But now, he struggles to walk.

"When I draw elderly characters, I feel emotional as they remind me of my parents and my childhood memory," he shared.

Arif, a father of three children aged between a year and 13, can't help but think that someday he will become the characters in his own comic as his children grow up and have their own life.

Although his Facebook page was gaining popularity, Arif said he has yet to monetise the page. However, due to requests from the readers, he had produced merchandise such as T-shirts and calendars using his comic as a design.

As for the Raya celebration, just like in previous years, Arif has completed his comics to be shared with his fans for the occasion. - Mkini

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