When you’re on a plane, you’re not likely to pay attention to the air sickness bags that you get in the back pocket of each seat. It’s even less likely that you would think of these air sickness bags as a canvas for a beautiful art piece.
Aida sees things differently. A graphic designer from Singapore, she sees every plane journey as a doodle session — she pulls out her art supplies and the air sickness bag in the seat in front of her, and starts creating monsters within the timeframe of that plane journey.
What comes out of it is sort of magical.
From her travels, she has grown a personal collection which she calls the Barf Bag Monsters, where each monster is catalogued with flight details, dates, and even a description of their individual personalities.
We speak to Aida about her inspirations behind her Barf Bag Monsters.
1. What inspired you to start drawing on air sickness bags (barf bags)?
I used to absolutely love plane rides. I thought they were the ultimate escape from reality, because how often do you get that many hours off all responsibilities in life to do absolutely anything you want!
Since I was a kid, I liked to fill the hours with idle drawing, doodling or making silly things, just because I had the freedom to. Making a barf bag puppet (or what I call monster) is one such outcome of frivolous experimentation with the limited material (and legroom) I had to make do with on a plane.
It also helps me focus and forget any anxiety I might have about taking the plane. Sweaty palms from the tedium of the task beats sweaty palms from being nervous!
I decided to make it a series or a habit every time I take the plane because I thought it’d be fun to have my thoughts, feelings, and the bits of culture I’ve picked up from the trip, personified in a cartoon character. Like a diary, but with eyes and a huge gaping mouth. The drawings usually look unpolished and raw because I do them spontaneously to capture my thoughts in those hours I have to let my mind wander and reflect about the travel experience.
Besides being a visual record of my adventures, I think that making a barf bag monster once in a few months is a great way to also document my growth as an artist over the years because they mark how I’ve changed in terms of illustration style or the things/aesthetics I am influenced or inspired by at that point in time.
2. Do you ever get airsick, and if so, have you used any of the bags you’ve drawn on before?
No I don’t, thankfully! In fact, I have a hard time believing that anyone actually barfs in the barf bags these days…so I might be a little unapologetic about diminishing the barf bag supplies!!!
3. Which airline’s bags do you prefer to draw on?
I AM NOT PRIVILEGED ENOUGH TO HAVE AN INFORMED ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION!
Sadly, I don’t travel that much. So I’ve only drawn on the same few (budget, woops!) airline bags, they’re mostly similar so I don’t have a preference. It would be such a dream, though, to be able to sit on different airlines across the world and collect barf bags in different colours and sizes someday!
(P.S. I am secretly eyeing the Hello Kitty planes by Eva Air, someone please take me on it!)
4. Which one is your favourite barf bag monster?
Usually it’s the most recent one because the memories associated with those trips would be fresh in my head.
5. What happens to the barfbag monsters afterwards?
I am a hoarder so I try to keep a physical, if not digital copy of all them. Like I mentioned in my first answer, it’ll be nice to collect them all and see how much I’ve grown in 10 years — or before they disintegrate, whichever comes first.
People are starting to tell me that I should exhibit them or something but I see this as a personal project more than anything. You know how people love to keep snapshots of their travels and take them out to reminisce once in a while? I guess this is my own personal flappy-mouthed version of that.
All images are credited to Barf Bag Monsters and Aida’s personal portfolio, YellowMushMellow.