Tag Archives: artwork

Sale at Olive Young

Olive Young is a popular beauty and health store based in South Korea that I had never heard of until I started living here.

There are at least five decent-sized Olive Young stores ( in addition to countless cosmetics shops) within walking distance from my apartment in Gangnam and at any time I visit one of them to buy a tube of suncream or some moisturizer I need to jostle for space because they are always crowded.

Also, the diverse range of cosmetics and skincare products displayed on the shelves can be mindboggling but not for the Korean customer who I see flitting from shelf to shelf confidently scooping up rejuvenating snail masks, eye creams loaded with collagen extracts and acne patches. I envy how well informed Koreans are about skincare products!

In recent years, K-beauty products, especially skincare has risen in popularity. Articles and blog posts waxing lyrical about the ’10-step Korean skincare routine’ or the ’13 best Korean Face masks’ keep popping up on my newsfeed. When my overseas friends visit Seoul, trips to Olive Young stores are imperative. I wanted to know why. If something exciting is brewing in my own backyard shouldn’t I be curious?


People loading up on beauty products during a sale at a Olive Young outlet in Gangnam

So I dug a little deep and found that the global cosmetic industry makes a ton of money. In the next 3 to 4 years, it is expected to grow to 379 billion dollars! If you break down this number into product categories (cosmetics, perfumes & colognes, skincare, hair care, , and others), you find that it is skincare that’s driving most of the growth. By 2024, the global skincare products market size alone is expected to reach 196 billion dollars!

What makes skincare so popular? Industry analysts point towards increased awareness in wellness which in today’s day and age translates to clean eating, fitness and the natural, no make-up look. The wellness trend is driving consumers to take better care of their skin. And this ‘skin first, make-up second’ philosophy that has been gaining momentum across the world is believed to have originated in South Korea where skincare is part of the culture.

Not just that, the sizeable skincare and cosmetic industry of South Korea is highly competitive. In order to stand out brands constantly invest in research and development to create new, better quality, and competitively priced products which earn them an edge in the global market.

In a CNBC interview, I heard Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam – a site that curates and sells Korean beauty products – explain how K-beauty created a skincare wave. “They opened the door to innovations, allowed indie brands to come to the forefront of a lot of these skin care trends, they also widened the appetite for new products and categories and they’ve been a big part of the education around skincare.

She also believes that “influencers and social media were key for K-beauty to takeoff”. The skincare boom owes a lot to social media. Skincare gurus and make up artists have huge fan followings on Youtube and Instagram where they share their daily skincare routines and explain why they prefer certain products and how those products impact their skin. As a result, consumers are discovering new products and learning about ingredients that go into these products.

Today South Korea is not just an exporter of beauty products but also a huge manufacturing base for American and European brands. As the country continues to grow as the latest beauty innovation and creation hub, I certainly have a better understanding of why my neighbourhood Olive Young stores are always buzzing with activity. I visited one recently during a big promotion and managed to buy four items I didn’t need! The sketch is from that time.











Not a rookie anymore

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.

The Entrance to the exhibition

The Entrance to the ‘We Draw Singapore Together’ exhibition

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 :

A random house at Everton Road

A random house at Everton Road drawn with a dip pen with flex nib, Brown Calligraphy ink and a lot of patience

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.

Buddhist Library at Geylang Serai and more

A saffron clad monk with an American accent emerged from the Buddhist Library on Lorong 27A to look at our sketches and chat with us

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.

Colourful shophouses on Spottiswoode Road

Can you believe that this red house on Spottiswoode Road has a frontage of only 4.2 meters, while it is 36 meters deep and has 7 rooms?

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!

House No.56 on Spottiswoode Park Road

House No.56 on Spottiswoode Park Road

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’.

L'Entrecote at Duxton Hill

L’Entrecote – a steak and fries bistro at 36 Duxton Hill

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?

My three musketeers! (Excuse the poor lighting)

My three musketeers!

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 –

This is the invitation card with details of the venue and opening hours in case someone feels like buying local art

Go feast your eyes!