Tag Archives: louvered windows

Almost gutted

I was heading home after a long day when this charming old lady on Blair Road with teal coloured facade embellished with classical motifs and louvered windows fringed by waxy Frangipani leaves jumped out at me.

Giving credibility to my artist friends’ claims about my inclination towards a certain kind of sketch subject , that range from lighthearted banter – ‘show her shophouses and she’s all perked up’, ‘Shophouses..well, that’s her middle name‘ to exaggerated assertions like – ‘suppose she was bound, gagged and comatose, I bet she could still land a decent shophouse in her sketchbook‘ , I lingered and toyed with the idea of, well, sketching this shophouse.

A Blair Road terrace house with Frangipani in its courtyard

This Blair Road terrace house sketch came back from the dead

By the time I put pen to paper, sunlight was licking the last bar of the grilled gate. Construction workers from the renovation site next door had stopped hammering, hung their helmets and boots and were heading back in a group that moved like one composite unit of droopy shoulders and dragging feet. Except a house cat chasing a squirrel, I was alone on the street and the meditative silence brought out some satisfactory linework.

I went home and painted it.

And then I loathed it, with all my heart. Harder I looked, more limp and lifeless the painting became. Feeding it to the paper shredder seemed like the right thing to do, but I put it away and tried to pretend it never happened. But mistakes happen, more often than you like, in different shapes and forms and turns out you can’t quit the game and press ‘restart’ every time you make a boo boo. You need to step on them to climb to the next level. So I dug this one out after months in exile and retouched it today and guess what – I can finally live with it and move on!



Looking up at windows


I have always been fascinated by windows, although I wonder why? If I’m carrying my art paraphernalia, more often than not, I’ll seize the opportunity of sketching them. And thankfully, there are plenty of alluring windows across the world to keep me busy, from contemporary sleek designs that are minimalist and functional to traditional, ornate and decorative ones with superfuous embellishments.

For example the woven bamboo windows in Japan, Gothic windows, stained glass windows, casements, tilt and turn windows in the West, classical chinese windows, louvered windows in  tropical countries or Arab world’s projecting oriel windows enclosed and carved with exotic wood latticework. Some are functional while others are pieces of fine craftsmanship.

But then, could it just be the physical attributes – shape, colour, form, design that render windows as interesting subjects and make them sketchworthy? I reckon, my fascination is beyond the superficial. There must be something deeper.

Besides their make which is anything but monotonous, windows assume a character often borrowed from the environment they are in and evoke an immediate sense of place. Like these louvered windows of Straits Chinese shophouses in Singapore’s Chinatown (in the picture above) which by themselves are interesting no doubt but when laced with a string of red lanterns around their neck, during the ongoing mid-autumn festival, they look bright eyed, coiffed and spruced up. They seem to be rejoicing, perhaps singing a happy song!

Bordeaux Window

In addition to the ethos they live in, windows also assume a character that is refracted by the souls that live behind them, open and close them or peer through them, which could be anything from cheerful to doleful, nifty to sloppy, careful to negligent and is left to the imagination of the onlooker like me to interpret in a hundred ways.

Like this window in Bordeaux, south of France (in the sketch above), that caught my eye not just because of the ornate Gothic architecture encasing it and the filigreed balcony though both make it an attractive subject but because of the colourful pinwheel spinner that separates it from others in the same building. The pinwheel lends it the character of being cheerful, lighthearted, playful, romantic perhaps; and it hints at a story that is open for speculation. Did a little girl tie it there when she was playing in the balcony? or was it relegated as a window decoration by the old man whose grandchildren forgot to pack it in when they left? Maybe the newly weds who just moved in, bought it at the village fair and put it there? I would never know but I adore the touch of mystery that tickles the mind.

windows 3

I’ve seen windows with clothesline slapped across their chests with pinafores, socks, drawers and vests fluttering in the sun, while many have potted plants and flowers set outside them, or a handcrafted easter egg, a gnome, pair of toads, an wooden owl or a fiery crystal dragon resting on their sil – all lending character, telling stories, making them fascinating to absolute strangers. Some windows have gnarled black cables criscrossing their face while some share a patch of rampant vegetation growing from the corner of a drainpipe running alongside. Sometimes on a chilly winter evening the sight of a half drawn lace curtain inside a glazed casement window, hinting at warm bodies moving unsteadily lets you believe in possibilities as many as your mind can conjure.

Perhaps that is why I am fascinated by windows because not only are they attractive in their own right, they don’t impose on your imagination as rigid unflinching objects, rather feed off it as volatile subjects arousing a multitude of sentiments in each one of us who looks at them with a different eye and that is enough for a creative person to pick up a pen and sketch them pronto.

windows 4