You may know Chen Xi as a Mediacorp actor, or—we'll address the obvious—as the son of local actors Xiang Yun and Edmund Chen.
Besides being an artiste, however, Chen is also an artist, as his 35,000 Instagram followers may know.
This guy can clearly draw:
Sold 10 paintings to local gallery
His Instagram followers aren't the only ones who admire his flair, because a local gallery recently bought 10 of Chen's fine art paintings for about S$1,000 - S$2,000 each.
We can't reproduce them here, of course, but they are currently on display at Serenity Gallery in Bras Basah Complex.
Chen sells his prints under The Xi Atelier (a.k.a. The Eleventh Atelier, because he likes his puns), where prices of his general, non-commissioned pieces go from S$28 - S$78.
"That's more of fine arts, but I also wanted to do something cute, something to reach other people," Chen tells Mothership.
Here's where Nekolour comes in.
Nekolour offers customised pet stickers for its patrons, but it's currently limited to cats and dog designs at the moment, as the team continues to ramp up its manpower.
Despite it being his second side hustle in addition to his main job in the entertainment industry, Chen is patently invested in it.
And we don't mean it in a financial sense, too.
On the day of our meeting, Chen says that he had spent a few hours cutting this stack of stickers by hand:
Both of us wondered if he could have better spent the time, but came to no good conclusion.
Chen's zeal comes through most obviously in his speech, where he rattles on (a commendable trait in any interviewee, this writer can attest) in response to my questions.
Comforting a friend
Like many start-ups in its infancy, the origins of Nekolour can be traced back to the Covid-19 period.
Chen found out that his friend was in mourning after her pet dogs passed away.
"And then she was like, you know, it's just sad. But she's sad for months. Then you know, it's like a spiral that you cannot get out of."
To help her through the tough period, Chen gifted her an illustration of her pets in the form of a Japanese lucky charm.
"I wanted it to [represent] goodwill, good intentions for the person to heal and to recover, and always remind themselves that they are still being loved," he continues.
Prices start at S$68 for two customised illustrations, while the biggest -- and most expensive -- package, which includes a set of pins and blockchain authentication (i.e. an NFT), costs S$168.
But Chen assures me that it's not about the money for him.
"[...] This service is really for people who, sometimes [need] healing," Chen says. "If not, I'll just go into fine arts already what," he laughs.
When asked how business has been since its inception a couple of years ago, the actor replies that it's "still okay," although Covid-19 has made it hard to reach out to the community.
Chen, who personally draws every single piece of art, juggles his showbiz job alongside managing Nekolour's orders.
The actor also has quite lofty ambitions for Nekolour, such as hoping to one day work with pet-related industries to raise funds for charity.
"So I'm looking in a way that it can be like, the Hello Kitty, but from Singapore."
You can check out the business here, and in the meantime, catch Chen on the radio at 987FM, where he hosts every Sunday from 10am to 2pm.
Top image by Mandy How