Uninspired inspiration

It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything.  First, my new job has been taking up most of my waking hours.  The tropical heat in June has also been rather unbearable and the air-conditioning at home has died a couple of times.

Then the Macbook Pro which I have been using since 2010 died on me, I saw this coming when it started giving out strange noises.   I took it to a computer repair shop at Liang Court, Singapore and it was brought back to life beautifully just two days ago.   The shop provides excellent service, and the cool guy who runs it has Mac DNA running in his veins.  He tells me that 90% of the shops’ customers are mainly Japanese moms whose kids use MacBooks in their schools (uuuuwwaaah………).

The habit of doodling has crept into my notebook for work.  Ink doodles of phones, planes, people, abstracts, etc now accompany my written notes.   My colleagues in the industry I work with often complain about scope-creep in their jobs (depending on the type of roles).  For me, my doodles on paper have been creeping in unconsciously when my brain is furiously working on something else OR when I get fascinated by the characters around me.  At other times,  it happens when I am on a conference call that’s not very attention-grabbing or sexy – and doodling helps me to keep myself from hanging up.



Another Shophouse

Yes, I am quite pre-occupied with drawing shophouses – the type that’s built decades ago when traders from China and India set up Southeast Asia’s first brick and mortar retail establishments. We don’t have ancient places of worship, old cobbled roads and pavements, ancient giant walls to keep out enemies….we have lots of modern city buildings like Malls and towers in the CBD areas AND we have the ubiquitous and humble shophouses found all over Malaysia and Singapore.

So humble shophouses which have provided for nearly everything such as food & beverage, groceries, toys, clothes, etc in my growing years feature largely in my artwork. 

The above is a watercolour and ink work that was completed yesterday…(just taking a break from playing with acrylics).  This row of shophouses can be found along Kitchener Road, in the vicinity of Little India.  The motifs on the building are decidedly Peranakan or Straits-Chinese (see the wriggly ink on the walls that are supposed to be flowers)  and nothing is opened given that it’s mid-afternoon.

 A couple of bars and restaurants will open for business a few hours later.  A woman walks by, taking shelter from the sun which was hidden by the clouds anyway.  A man awaits his Uber ride. It was a very warm and balmy afternoon, and I’d snapped a photo on my iPhone as I couldn’t possibly do this ‘en plein air’ as many accomplished artists do!  


Boulevart, a most unexpected discovery last weekend during a visit to a friend’s.  A art studio situated in a neighbourhood mall,  it offers a place for all with neither the space in their homes nor capabilities, to paint and learn for $30 an hour.  It’s also a place where one can get to know other like-minded and aspiring artists.

There were no customers at the time of my discovery, I was lucky to see the studio’s manager who is also and artist in action.  His permission given, here are two beautiful pieces on display:


The Humble Coffeeshop

20.2017_Katong Laksa Coffeeshop

All manner of F&B shop outlets have sprung up along East Coast Road, Singapore – Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, French, Western Grills and et cetera.  The most common type of eatery found in the city-island state is the humble coffee-shop or ‘kopi-tiam’ where local food can be found for under $10.  The painting above is of a shop that sells the famous Katong laksa or rice noodles served a in bowl of thick, rich curry gravy topped with a hard-boiled egg, fish-cakes, prawns, sprinkling of basil accompanied by a small dish of chili paste.

Colours of the market

At the Market, Little India

Coming out of the stall that sells sarees in Little India, is a lane at the back which is alive with colours of fresh fruit and vegetables.  An elderly man sits at the corner and supervises an employee with a box of goods, while another one (in a blue-striped shirt) gives instructions.

The woman in a matching yellow dress and sneakers strolls past.  It is the weekend, a family is out shopping in the area while 3 other ladies dressed in sarees are having a conversation about dinner menus.

So continuing my journey with acrylics…

A few days ago I mentioned that I’ve found video online tutorials immensely helpful for learning  – Especially since I first started using acrylics paints for artwork last December.  My preference still lies with ink but I do want to learn how to use this medium properly, The feeling’s a little like learning how to ride the bicycle – it’s immensely exhilarating when the bicycle starts to move and incredibly disheartening when it starts to involuntarily swerve and crash…..

Like any fall, any ‘dud’ painting is either re-painted or kept so that I can learn how to avoid the mistakes or just thrashed.

Here’s what I learned about the medium.

  1. When watered down, acrylic paint works like watercolour and so it was quite easy to get into it the first time and that made me wonder why I just didn’t use watercolours instead.  (I learned later on Youtube, that this is a NO-NO as the stuff that binds the colours break down and the painting gets really flaky and awful)
  2. It is really fast drying – I mean, like the blobs of colours I squeezed out from the tubes hardened in no time when I focused on other things. (So,  I am experimenting with squeezing the primary colours I want first, and splashing my ‘canvas’ with these colours before moving on.  Some people recommend a spray bottle to keep the paints moist)
  3. A roll of toilet paper keeps me sane, I wipe the gunk off my paintbrushes before washing them.  (I’ve 3 bottles of water for washing, but two of them get really muddy….)
  4. An old rag or tea towel works really well too.
  5. Taking pictures of each layer completed helps me to review, correct and complete.  (so on the iphone, I put all these different layers together and get a kick out of the video function on iPhotos).


I almost up on the above painting of a little store located at Tekka Market in Little India, Singapore.  This was where I learned not to mix too much water with the paints and I wanted it to look vibrant.


YouTube Tutorials

My personal opinion is that one of the greatest inventions in this century has to be the Internet which has given rise to unlimited knowledge and learning (good and not so good) through countless platforms such as YouTube, Udemy, Facebook and etc..

Although I’ve always loved Art when I was growing up, and Art Class got me the best grades (which sadly no other subjects did) – I never pursued the subject the moment I got my keys to adulthood.  My dad said that I’d be living in poverty and that the future for artists was bleak (he wasn’t wrong at that point of time, and I didn’t want to become a teacher).

Thankfully, after many years in corporate life – I picked up acrylic painting on a whim and have been experimenting on acrylic paper instead of canvas (mainly out of storage and wastage concerns) and the results have been satisfactory.  Pencil-colours were a preferred medium because of the level of detail and accuracy – however I’d also left that behind for a bit.

Back to my original rhetoric about the Internet being one of modern man’s greatest invention,  YouTube’s like my ‘go-to’ store for “How to” videos.  My friends sign up for Art Classes to learn the techniques and science behind various types of painting.  The lack of time means that short video tutorials such as  “Worst Mistakes Acrylic Painters Make” will have to do for now.