Sunday, May 28, 2006

Clock Tower - Townscape in Watercolour

This is one painting which was painted in less than 2 hours, A3 size. It is a townscape of the Malacca clock tower, near to the Stadhuys Complex in the heart of the historic city. It was drawn out of a postcard. I have always dreaded drawing buildings and painting them. This is no exception. But I am getting the hang of it. It is not tough after all.

Painted May 26, 2006.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Old Boat By Fishing Village

This scene is self-explanatory. Done in watercolours in a very different style. Attention was paid to the linear strokes on the ground, depicting the unlevelled beach.

Painted in April 2006.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Night Scene in Watercolour

Prior to this, I have never attempted to paint nights because I never thought it would be so beautiful and ricj. This is a painting of nightscene at a fishing village on stilts. You find these sort of villages along the coast of Malaysia, particularly over mangrove swamplands. The houses are built on stilts away from the high-tide line. I am indebted to prominent artist Maamor Jantan for his guidance in this painting. Painted in early May 2006.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Fishing trawler in watercolour

This is a painting of a fishing trawler that is used in Kedah, a northern state near to Thailand. The registration number (KNF) denotes the state which issues the fishing licence, which is Kedah.

This is a high deck trawler that is used in deep-sea fishing and as you can see, the trawler is going out to sea while another trawler heads upriver (at right).

Because of the strong waves along the Kedah coast (facing the Andaman seas), trawlers such as this, is kept deep up river and inland to protect them from the elements.

Painted May 20, 2006.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Watercolour Doodle - Malacca's A Famosa

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going by doodling. It was one of those days, no inspiration no matter how hard you sit on that stool So, I decided to take the newspaper, grab a picture of interest, and paint from there. No planning, just painting the colours and shapes. And the result: a doodle!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Enchanting Watercolours - Misty Morning By The Sea

I did not intend this scene to be like this, with an air of mystery hanging in the horizon. I wanted to paint a seaside house of a fisherman. The fisherman has gone to sea, only his dinghy remains behind. The flame of the forest are in full bloom, sparking a fine contrast with the casuarina trees that dot the lane in the horizon. The sea is calm and the air cold.

Sometimes when you start painting, you dont know what to expect. In wet-on-wet techniques, sometimes the result can be mystifying, nay, enchanting. That is what makes watercolour so exciting - so unpredictable and so damn challenging when mistakes are not kindly tolerated.

This is a peaceful scene by the sea, one I would like to build my house at when I retire!

Anyone wanna join me?

Friday, May 05, 2006

No Fish Today

Life deals a tough hand for most fishermen, wherever they are.

The fishing boat is his life and his world. It is the only means he can make a living and feed his family.

In the months when the seas are not that generous, and the weather unkind, he has to remain land bound and pray for a better day.

If his boat is broken, and if it is beyond his skills to have it sea bound again, then life will be very tough. His only choice is to fish from ashore, sometimes ridiculously, by using his fishing rod.

This fisherman is in that dilemma. No fish today. With his fishing rod slung across his shoulders, he makes his way ashore, nary a fish in hand. How is he going to feed his family? Will tomorrow be kinder? These are the questions that race across his mind, as he takes a heavy step towards home.

This is the mood I have set for this painting. I don't know if you like it. If it speaks out to you, let me know. Let your friends know, too. And thanks for viewing.

Painted May 04, 2006.

Watercolouring - Painting What You See

One of the greatest challenge facing a new painter is finding a suitable subject to paint. I have been asked, often, what is the best subject to paint: still life or scenery.

To me, it doesn't really matter. If you like it, anything can be a subject. The important thing is you must have a passion in wangting to paint just about anything and I am sure anything is interesting enough if you set your eyes on it to capture your subject, be it people at the market, a lone fisherman in his moment of soliquy as he wait for the first bite or even a tray of fruits on the altar.

My approach is usually to take observe anything and imagine how I would paint it. If I were to have a pencil (or pen) with me, a piece of paper or my notepad, I will immediately sketch out the forms and the colour values. I think this is how painters, beginners especially, should start.

By improving one's drawing skills, sharpening one's observation powers, can one ever hope to paint well. Painting is but putting what is before you in paper, at least that is what I think is for me. The tough part is drawing. Many paintings have been a casualty of poor drawing techniques.

Take a look at some of the greatest artists and I would like to quote John Singer Sargeant whose watercolour works are exquisitely simple but masterpieces. Sargeant was very detailed in his sketches as you can see in some of his works.

Pictures: Sargeant's Study for Apollo and the Muses (top right) and Game of Chess (top left) available at the Adelson Galleries.

Nearer to home, we have Yong Mun Sen, (1896 - 1962) who has sometimes been referred to as the “father of Malaysian art”, a title I think he truly deserves.

Yong, whose life's works were depicted in his tribute exhibition catalogue by the Penang Art gallery in the late 90s, was also a meticulous painter who has a knack of recording his subjects in detailed drawings.

Be it rubber tappers at work or a tin dredge, Yong has successfully documented various aspects of Malaysian life in his art.

One of his exquisite works, the Dredge, is now in the collection of the Petronas Art Gallery. The piece, entitled Sungai Melaka (1953) (above) , depicts the artist's fascination with life - in this case the daily routine of traders along the Malacca River after the war.

As a beginning painter, I think it is good to start by cultivating this drawing habit. Only when you can draw well, can you paint well.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Is it the craftsman, his tool or his skill?

I have just seen some of the greatest works of John Singer Sargeant (American Painter, 1856-1925). His watercolours were exquisite. I wonder what type of paper and paint he used.

Couple of years ago, when I picked up watercolour again, I came into contact with a group of enthusiastic watercolourists at a forum. The topic was techniques and materials. Subjects came into play centered around paint to use and what paper to buy, etc. Of course, there were questions on brushes, too.

The elderly artist who was the sole panelist surprised everyone when he said you could use practically anything to paint as long as it gives you the pleasure since art, particularly watercolour, is not about using the priciest paper nor paint nor brushes to craft your works.

"It is about your skill and your understanding of the medium, both the colour, paper, brushes, etc," said the artist. "And as you gain understanding of all the materials, you will develop your skill in your craft. And when you do that, you will turn rubbish into gold."

It was an enlightening advice but was met by laughters all round. Some of the sceptical ones even went to the extent to whisper that perhaps the old artist did not want to share his secrets - hence the excuse.

The came the bombshell. The old artist diverted from the talk and took out his painting set - a compartmentalised dinner tray (his palette), some Japanese poster colours, a beat up brush and some newspapers.He poured some water into a small plastic container and proceeded to paint.

Then he returned his brush into his bag, rolled a piece of newspaper, dipped one end into water and plucked it off to make an uneven end.

Then he started dipping that wet end of a newspaper into paint and started painting. It was an impressionic painting of a swamp taken from a photograph. What started as a mess turned into a piece of art, a watercolour piece, to the amazement of the forum attendants. The painting was purchased by one of the attendants who apparently attracted to the piece. He paid USD 300 for it. Did he see something all of us missed?

Everytime I find myself in a bind over what paper or paint to use, I fall back on the thought of the incident. Is it skill or material that contributes to art? You tell me.