Last year, around this time I took a leap of faith, went to Ikea, got myself cheap black frames into which I put my paintings and sent them out to be showcased at an art exhibition. Even before sending them out, I had marked places on the walls of my apartment where I planned to mount them if they made their way back home. A part of me agonised over our parting and the other part wanted to know if someone out there would actually pay money for something I had created.
Besides the exhilaration of selling paintings for the first time in my life, last year’s experience helped me gain insights into how paintings should be priced and more importantly presented. So, this time round, I got my artworks professionally framed and sent them out to the world with slightly less drama proving that I’m not a rookie anymore. The hard part wasn’t letting go, but to choose three out of the five I had sketched and painted for the occasion. These were the contenders :
Contender 1 is this random terrace house on Everton Road that stood out for me because it was the only one in the row with such an incredible number of decorative plants on its porch emerging from all kinds of pots. I was also drawn to the building’s teal coloured window frames and when I saw the owner eventually drive off in a teal coloured Volkswagen Beetle wearing a teal coloured dress with matching shoes, I was glad my palette didn’t have enough teal to deal with this kind of fetish.
Contender 2 was drawn with a fine nib pen which I realised can be a boon and a bane. Ever since I started using the Pilot Kaküno, I get caught up in details and take hours to finish the linework, which is what happened here in the above painting. Although the process is therapeutic and the painting gets beautifully embellished, sometimes slow and careful drawing, I feel steals some of the energy and spontaneity of the piece. I sketched this from right to left and as you can see I gradually broke free and finished the sketch with broader, indicative strokes to strike a balance. Not spelling out everything and leaving my sketches somewhat unfinished is important to me because that way the viewer gets to participate in the process by mentally joining the dots.
Contender 3‘s cute little red shophouse at number 66 is the reason I plonked my stool opposite it and even though a series of cars and trucks took turns to block my view and tons of tourists stopped by, breathed over my neck while pointing fingers at my sketchbook, I managed to finish it. The owner of the red house, Mr. Seah, came over to chat and answered my barrage of questions without breaking a sweat.
He said my subject is a 1886 built house, that was owned by a Chinese family and handed down to family members over the years till in 1924 a nun from Malacca or perhaps Penang bought it for 4800 dollars. After she passed away in 1995, the house went to the trustees and finally Mr. Seah, a property agent and restoration contractor bought it. I say who needs to book a flight ticket when venturing out with a sketchbook lets you rediscover places like these locally!
Contender 4 is another beauty on Spottiswoode Park Road but a beauty with a sinister history. Apparently as per a lot of sources, a murder took place inside those walls. If it was up to Agatha Christie, I’m sure ‘Murder at House no. 56’ would be available in paperback and in the televised version we’d see monsieur Poirot pacing outside the wrought iron gates, tilting his egg shaped head to the side, twitching his waxed moustache and saying to Hastings, ‘Mon ami, let us eliminate the suspects one by one’.
Wonky lines and all, I like how my contender 5 turned out. Duxton Hill is pretty as a picture, so settling on one subject is difficult until I found this lady in red and sketched her pronto. Two grey haired gentlemen hurried out of an office probably for a meeting and stopped briefly to check what I was doing on the floor of their corridor and on their way back asked if I take commissions. Then came a realtor cum historian who shoved his business card into my ink stained hands and asked to get in touch for future prospects. Nothing came out of both, but I still love how regular people going about their business get excited by art and are forced to stop by, linger and sometimes have heartfelt conversations with this absolute stranger!
So, if you’re wondering which three I chose for the exhibition, well, I took an opinion poll – asked friends, relatives, acquaintances for their choices and then of course went with the ones I always had in mind. Isn’t that what everybody does?
Anyway, by now if you’re feeling the unrelenting desire to drop everything and rush to the exhibition to check out my artwork, well then, who am I to stop you. Here’s the invite –