Archive for the ‘the idle doodler’ Category


Spotted this young lady at the neighbourhood lottery shop some days ago.

Clad in a tight t-shirt and a pair of hot pants, she stood out in the crowd of middle-aged “uncles” and “aunties” who were queuing for their turn to place their bets for the Lunar New Year big prize.

February 14th happened to be the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, which marks the end of the festive celebrations. And it coincided with Valentine’s Day.

And for those dreaming of a windfall, the much-awaited Hong Bao Draw results were finally out this night. Someone out there probably had three causes for a celebration.

Could it be this lady?


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Inspired by my band mate, Ivan Chew’s incredible attempt at making one digital sketch a day in 2013, I started my year by making one of my first digital sketches on a phone app.

My original plan was to paint the colour(s) that best summed up my mood each day of the year. Blue = calm and contented. Red = irate and cantankerous. White = pure joy. Black = awful, quite obviously.

Seemed like I had an idea of the colour to assign to each type of mood. And so on a day full of ups and downs, I could mix hues and shades. That would be visually spectacular, I thought, though it would also mean spending my day on an emotional roller coaster.

Three days later, I aborted the plan. This was what I ended up with.


I wasn’t getting lazy. Keeping up with the plan wasn’t the issue.

What I discovered was that at the end of each day, I was focusing on things than turned my day into a colour other than blue and white as I tried to decide on the palette. Which meant that I was trying to recall the negative parts of my day to complete the sketch – the not-so-nice people, things that went awry, moments that made me go argh and so on.

That was an unpleasant way to end the day.

So I pulled the plug on Day Four.

Nay, I’m not an escapist. I don’t believe in escapism. But I’m pretty sure negativity breeds negativity.

Because every thought or feeling we have is like a seed that can either take root in our hearts and minds, or wither away if starved of the elements to keep it alive. Its fate depends very much on what we feed it.

Problem with bad stuff is that they don’t defy Newton’s Law – they pull us down all the time. So I figured, the only way to face any negativity I face each day is to focus on the other parts – the positive events and feelings, even if I only get to experience them for a fleeting moment.

I’d rather feed my mind and soul with the healthiest thoughts and feelings from the most wonderful, uplifting moments – enjoying some aromatic coffee with in the good company of my co-workers, being greeted with a friendly smile from a neighbour, or feeling warm and touched by the gestures of support from my loved ones.

It’s okay that my plan didn’t quite work out. This might very well be the most positive thing to have happened this year.

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This sketch has a story behind it.

We were walking past the neighborhood playground last Saturday evening, when we heard the voices of two little girls ringing out loud.

The younger one, aged about three, was sitting at the top of the slide. Her father was keeping an eye on her close by. The older one, who’s about five years old, was standing at the bottom. Imagine the following exchange going on at the top of their bell-like voices.

Younger girl: What’s your name?
Older girl: Vanessa.
Younger girl: (Turned to her father excitedly.) She’s Anissa!
Father: Anissa?
Younger girl: (Turned to face the older girl.) What’s your name?!
Older girl: Vanessa!!
Younger girl: Papa, she’s Ganesha!!
Father: (Stunned.) Ganesha??
Younger girl: (Turning to the older girl again.) What’s your name?!!!
Older girl: VANESSA!!!

At which point, little Vanessa decided that she had had enough of the “what’s your name” game that was getting nowhere. So she darted round the slide toward the rocking horse at the other side of the playground.

Then to our amusement, she hopped onto the rocking horse and started rocking to and fro so forcefully that her thick, long hair started flying in all directions and sweeping across her tiny face.

Looked like little Vanessa has the makings of an angsty headbanging rocker chick. At the tender age of five.


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Realised I haven’t been documenting my progress in my hobby of sketching since I picked it up again over a year ago.

So on New Year’s Day, I shall revive this idle blog with this work-in-progress item.

Working on a portrait of a long-time friend, at his request. Can’t call this my first ‘commission’ but definitely feel encouraged to know that someone is brave enough to submit his image to an unknown fate under my graphites.

Don’t think I’ll ever be good enough to be an artist but I’m happy to content myself with the occasional dabble and doodle. And hopefully bring some joy to someone, somewhere. 🙂


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And it was done.

After nights of sketching, backed by some last minute research, I have completed the colour pencil portrait of my parents and framed it up in time for their ruby wedding anniversary.

Mum joked that I should have sketched a more current, and wrinkled version of them, in place of the smooth, youthful faces in their original wedding photograph.

Dad, who happens to be a non-practising alumnus of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, was tempted to launch his critique of the sketch the moment I unveiled it in front of them.

He smiled and took a long look at the sketch. Then he said, “You could’ve used a darker hue to shade the face. And my neck is not that long.” Mum pointed out that he was much thinner 40 years ago so his neck did appear longer in the photograph.

“Look, your hair is finally visible too,” Mum added. She noticed that I had replaced the background colour. Dad’s neat crop of Brylcreemed hair, previously swallowed by the darkness in the poorly lit studio, could now be admired in its full glory. At least that was what I was hoping for.

And so, other than the disagreement over the exact length of Dad’s neck, both seemed rather pleased with the final product.

I guess that means I have passed the biggest test of the year.

Let me share the results in the final hours of 2012.

The completed colour pencil sketch, based on my parents’ black and white wedding photograph. My way of adding colours to their 40-year marriage.

A closer look at the final product.

A closer look at the final product.

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Counting down to the delivery date for my sketchy little project.

Amazing how you could start out on something thinking that you’ve got all the time in the world, only to realise in a blink of the eye, that time’s up.

So I decided it was time to hurry down to the public library near my workplace to do some last minute research on orchids. I definitely can’t sketch a decent petal without having a photograph to refer to.

Haven’t visited a library in a long time. Hovered around the children’s section for a few seconds before I realised that books for adults were located on the second floor. Felt like a tourist in Biblioland. Wonder what my band mate, Ivan, would say about that.

I walked up the stairs to the adult section. The first shelves I came across held rows of books on law, crime and military history. Got distracted by a book on maverick military leaders for a couple of minutes before I recalled what I was there for and headed towards the gardening literature.

To my delight, there was a shelf of books on orchid cultivation waiting for me. There was even one on the Asian varieties by a local gynaecologist who had cultivated several award-winning hybrids. Excellent. Now I can cultivate my orchids on my sketch paper.

Frankly, I can’t tell from my parents’ photograph the type of orchid my dad had in the corsage on his suit jacket. Neither can I see what my mum had in her bridal hand bouquet. I’m no orchid expert and can’t tell a specie from its outline. There’s only so much I can gather from a black and white photo that well, definitely predates my existence.

I guess I could try to imagine what colours they would have liked to mark their big day with decades ago. Perhaps a dash of whimsical pink here and some romantic lilac there? Let’s see what clues these books might offer.


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Spent my Sunday afternoon toying with my two old boxes of colour pencils.

The wood has become dry and brittle to the touch. And the pencil leads kept breaking in defiance whenever I tried to sharpen them.

I haven’t taken any proper lesson in colour pencil drawing before, so I am rather clueless about the palette to use for the portrait and how best to apply the strokes. Since the original photo is monochrome to begin with, I guess much will be left to my imagination.

So this was what I ended up with after an afternoon of experimentation. A sketch of my father’s youthful face with colour codes jotted on the sides, so that I would remember the colours to apply when I finally pluck up the courage to transfer them onto the actual portrait.

Striving for the best colour mix to create a healthy tanned look – he used to spend much time outdoors in his youth. But my test colours looked either too light or too sallow.

I’d better do more research on colour sketching methods before I work on the actual portrait.


Colour testing.

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