Leon Lim is a visual artist focused on creating sculptural and art installations, artworks, experimental art, and nature experiences with the living elements of nature and Earth to introduce gardening skills, human-to-nature connections, and sustainability. He founded the Earth Awaiting Humanity project in New York City to explore creative opportunities for collaborations between the artist, practitioners, communities, living plants, parks, and trees for creating public art installations in unexpected ways.

Lim would like to elevate visual revolution by reforming the traditional ways of seeing and thinking what art would be or should be in a conventional standard. For example, not many people would think or accept that living plants, sunlight, or water can be used as artistic mediums to inspire, to activate, to transform or to serve the human senses or one’s personality.

The portrait photo above is not the Artist Leon Lim but the portrait artwork of Julian Assange that Lim created to convince TIME magazine’s editorial team for TIME magazine’s Person of the Year edition in 2010. The artwork has many stories behind it than just looking at an artist’s Julian artwork published in TIME magazine. The work still makes Lim to feel ‘wowed’ every December since 2010.

Because when Lim was a secondary school student, he first discovered TIME magazines at the library of his former school and was fascinated and inspired by how the perfect photographs, editorial designs, impactful covers, and humor illustrations were made on every page of every magazine every a week. At the time, he only understood the basic stories through photos, designs and colors than reading the words in the magazines. His former schools didn’t teach Deaf pupils how to develop a reading and written language because too many teachers were trained or weren’t fluent in Deaf people’s native language, Malaysian Sign Language.

As a teenager, Lim asked his uncle to pay for an annual subscription to TIME magazine for the past four years. Many people can’t afford to buy TIME magazine from the newsstands because it was very expensive in his formerly underdeveloped country, like a fancy meal at the hotel. Lim loved reading TIME’s Person of the Year edition every December.

Seventeen years later, Lim suddenly got an instinct that Julian Assange should be one of three top places for TIME’s Person of the Year for 2010. Then he created his new portrait artwork with the ‘Goggle-images’ photo of Julian Assange in November 2010. He sent an email with a photo of the new artwork to Richard Stengel, TIME Magazine’s managing editor (2006-2013) for his consideration to publish for TIME’s Person of the Year edition. Almost two weeks later, Lim got contacted by TIME’s senior art director for publishing his Julian Assange artwork for TIME’s Person of the Year 2010 edition. He exchanged emails rapidly with TIME’s art and design team only 3 weeks before the Person of the Year was announced.

What an extraordinary surprise!

That Leon-meets-TIME story was the very long journey that was built from a Deaf kid with a lack of ability to read or write in an underdeveloped country to a rare secondary schooler’s inspiration and subscription of TIME magazine to a college graduate flying alone to the United States with a free one-way ticket and a five-year scholarship for higher education to a very risky move to New York City after graduation to a new New Yorker’s seeking equal opportunities to create artworks for his inspirational magazines whose office headquarters are located in New York City. Finally, Lim’s artwork got published in TIME Magazine and its Person of the Year edition that Lim first saw at the library of his former secondary school.