Monday, December 08, 2008

Laman Seni - The Million Ringgit Question That Should Be Answered Now

Health info counters are best reserved for other events - like Art of Living, for instance. Not Laman Seni. - File Picture

I was with several people in the art business recently and we talked about how art could be promoted. Apart from the sporadic art events such as the recently concluded art expos held at two locations - one in a shopping complex and another at the Matrade building - and another event held at a gallery in Central Market, we agreed that more could be done to prmote art.

But what?

Kuala Lumpur as an art haven should have more regular events. I don't mean exhibitions but activities people - artistic people - can take part in.

Three years ago, the Laman Seni (arts market) was started by the National Art Gallery. It was meant to allow artists and the arts commune to gather every first Saturday of the month in Kuala Lumpur to partake in art related activities.

Of course, within that event, since it was a first attempt and no one has an inkling how it should be made out to be, there were all sorts of 'artistic ventures' although artists and their art work were given main priority.

There were bazaars, food stalls and even a small flea market at one end. Music was loud and the customary 'senamrobik' was held amidst silat demos, dance shows, etc - so much so that many people, artists included, concluded that it was a melting pot of art - affectionately termed 'rojak' if you like. Some of them are even offended.

Be that as it did, the artistic potpourri did pull in the crowd and through its existence for about two years, National Art Gallery, I am confident to say, received more visitors on those days that it ever did for an entire year if there were good visitor record keeping.

And just when everyone was looking forward to the Laman Seni, the idea was scrapped. Why, no one knows. Money could be a reason. Or it could be a combination of reasons.

It could be that some artists were complaining that they could not sell their work and the complaints had reached important ears.

Or it could be that the financiers were making a loss and could not account for the budget's returns.
It could even be that all the two-year effort was just to test the art market and see if an event like that had the potential of growth, into something bigger for the art scene.
Who knows?

But from my point of view, Kuala Lumpur needs a regular event like the Laman Seni. You need to have people come to the National Art Gallery and the only way you can do it is to generate some interesting activity which centers around art. Even if it is a rojak of a artistic event.
Of course, it could be organised with some sensibility of an art event - created within an atmosphere that would be conducive for artists to work and sell their work - even if for a day - and for the art buyer to be in the right frame of mind to purchase art.
You can have a carnival but keep the boundaries well marked: art for artists and art enthusiasts and carnival for the Jom-Heboh crowd. If the organisers do not have the experience, then outsource it to the more experienced.
Ventures like this are tricky and experience can make all the difference. Both for the future of arts in Malaysia and the artists' lives.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Second Putrajaya Watercolour Competition

Rohaizad Shaari - "Merentas Gemilang" - 56 x 76cm, 2007

THE second Putrajaya watercolour competition results are out. Work by those who took part, winners and selected exhibitors, as well as members of the organiser, Malaysian Watercolour Organisation, under the able leadership of Dr Wong Seng-tong, will be on exhibit at the Annexe Gallery of Central Market in Kuala Lumpur from Saturday.

Pheh It Hao - "The City, Putrajaya - Peacefully Hidden" - 56 x 76cm, 2007

In case you do not know where the location is, it is on the top floor of the building at the back of Central Market. The launching is on Saturday and workers are working at feverish pace to complete the lighting and position the displays. You may pop by the gallery if you are in the vicinity and treat yourself to Malaysia's best in watercolour art.

In case you are not in town now, you might like to know that the show will only end on Dec 14, so there's plenty of time.

Opening hours are from 10am to 6pm.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Urban Interpretations

There is a watercolour exhibition going on in town offering vivid images of urban scapes put together by two artists - Pheh It Hao and Tang Yeok Khang.

Organized by Pelita Hati House of Art, it is being held at 22 Jalan Abdullah, Off Jalan Bangsar till Nov 22. Viewing hours are from Mon-Sat (10.00am-6.00pm). Entrance is free and for details, call: 03-22848380.

I have not been to the show so this is the best I can come up with as the organiser only sent me an invite after the exhibition opened. However, he did invite me to visit the gallery thereafter. Didnt have the time to drop by yet, tho.

Just a note here: If you are organising a show, in watercolour expecially, let me know early please so that I can write more about it.

Anyway, here's an image of the above exhibition to give you a feel of what to expect.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Three Cows On A Hill

Did this doodle a week ago. Didn't have time to upload it then, so here it is. A very simple piece done imaginatively. And fast.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Journey

This piece of painting was completed last night. Not a very big one, just 10in by 7in. It is done on 140lb Langton watercolour paper made by Daler Rowney.

The scenery shows a snowing mountain with storm approaching (or abating, depends on how you look at it) and four climbers making their way up (or down?) the cold terrain. The slant in the atmospheric skies mark strong winds familiar to climbers and the muted sunlight from right casts shadows on the white landscape. A cottage can be seen at left.

This painting is intended for a friend and former whom I am going to see this afternoon. I had intended to paint her a painting when she quit but never got to it because the idea was not there, then. Last night, it suddenly dawned upon me that it has been such a long while since we parted company in life's journey and while browsing through a book, I stumbled a similar scenery and hence this 'imaginative' piece.

We all go through life's journey somewhat similar to that of mountain climbers. Just when you think you have conquered one mountain, there is another to challenge you. Every day is a changing landscape and every step forward may not guarantee us the golden chalice we are looking for. But we have to plod on, step after step, painful or not, towards our goals in life, and hopefuly, we learn something about our journey in that station of life before another one begins.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Looking for Outdoor Sketchers? Painters?

Wouldn't this be fun?

My last posting triggered various responses - mostly via emails to me. Thank you, the only commenter to use the post comment Amin Saim who, in his own right, is an accomplished sketcher. If you wish, you may visit his site here: MySketch and enjoy his unique pieces.

Among the responses I received via email are those enquiring about my location and where do I normally paint or sketch outdoors. Well, I am city-bound for geographical rhyme and reason. There are plenty of places which are my favourite ranging from busy street scenes to placid lakes and verdant gardens. Sketching and painting outings are limited by time and distance, with the coastal areas being my favourite. So, I hope this answers the questions two ladies from Johor baru have forwarded three days in between each other.

To writer Raj from Cheras, yes, I do go around my painting outings in the city. Normally these are what I do alone because no one would be crazy enough to go armed with a sketch pad and box of colours, sit under shade and start painting. I have not met any one crazy enough to join me, too, which is why the soliquy.

In any case, I am hoping to form a small group of amateur artists of similar interests in watercolour. If you are reading this and are interested, let me know. You may write to me or post your comments.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Outdoor Sketches

I was told that if you want to improve your art, you have to learn to sketch and draw and do these outdoor. This advice came many years ago when I was learning under Master Tang Tuck Kan. I have still not forgotten it and have, as much as I can, try to sketch.

I am not saying that this is the right way, but if you want to improve your understanding of your subject, the atmosphere it is in, and especially mastering the values that will make your art more alive, you need to do outdoor sketches. Lots of it.

Of course, some beginning artists may disagree and I am not saying that this is the only way. For me, it is the best way. This is because sometimes you may not have the time to do a full painting and sketching do help a lot in keeping you in touch with your drawing and painting skills. Sketching allow you to exercise and hone your drawing skills. With good drawing skills, you paint better too.

What do you use to sketch?

Well, you can use pens or graphite pencils, or even watercolours. I prefer graphite pencils because they are easier to handle. I use watersoluble ones such as Derwent's which work well even without using water. If I need a wash, I just brush on with clear water. It's that simple. This brand also does not smudge easily.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Art Galleries Need To Do More Than Just Hosting Shows

I have been to many art shows by local artists. Some of these I have been invited by the galleries, in others the artists invite me.
Many times, too, I have invitation sent to me with a whole chunk of photographs or CDs of works by the exhibiting artists by enthusiastic gallery managers and owners. I remember more than one occasion of having gotten tonnes of publicity materials good enough for catalogues aimed at art buyers but none the least useful for an art writer.

I often wonder what makes up for the shoddy publcity work from art galleries that want to promote their artists. It often comes as an insult to see a bagful of publicity material and an accompanying piece of cover letter that implies "Please Write". About what?

I normally refrain from writing about things I don't know or cannot appreciate because of my lack of knowledge. I suspect many ethical art writer (and critic) do the same too.

Report about an exhibition anybody can. But doing so without being mindfullyy understanding the subject or the artist is something even angels dare not tread on.

Yet, I see and sense this expectation from gallery owners - or the artist, and their equally guilty publicity managers - every time I receive an invite to an art show.

To relate an experience, just three weeks ago I received an invite (to view and hopefully write) about some Chinese artists whose works are being showcased at a local gallery. While some of the pieces did interest me, the cover letter sent shivers down my spine - that eager expectation of me writing about it shone shamelessly through. Finally, I decided not attend the opening and politely RSVPed the sender. I would rather not see the works and work up expectations from the organiser that I may write on my site.

How is it that gallery owners think all they needed to do for artists are just sending publicity materials to art writers? I most certainly will not excourage this carpet-bombing publicity stunt. Send enough press releases and pictures to the press and journalists, chances are that you will get your exhibition written about.

Sure, why not. Any coverage is good but will it promote the artist or his art? Without offering more than juvenile reporting, how do you hope to build an informed group of collectors of art?

Nothing is more exasperating to see ill-informed gallery managers who do not take the trouble to explain about the artist or the work on show. Poorly informed curators have no place being involved in art and so do PR officers of organisations holding art exhibitions. Nothing is more exasperating to the art collector than to have viewed and been prompted to buy a piece of work only to find that the only reference to it is in between the chiny covers of a very expensive catalogue. I most certainly would not want to waste my money if I knew nothing of what I am purchasing.

If you are wondering why local art do not sell well, then I think you would have made up some impressions this far. And what do you have when you marry ill-informed artshow organisers and artists who do not bother to be there when their prospective buyers call at the gallery?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Artist is Holding Competition

LEADING ART magazine The Artist is holding an all media online competition with a section for watercolourists.

The prizes are pretty good with the grand prize being $500 and 7 first place awards of $100 each. If you are interested, contest details are available here.

Grand Prize Award: $500
7 First Place Awards: $100 each

The Grand Prize winner and all 7 First Place Winners will receive complimentary subscriptions to The Artist's Magazine and $100 worth of North Light Books.
Honorable Mentions receive complimentary subscriptions to The Artist's Magazine and $50 worth of North Light Books.

Winners will be featured on The Artist's Magazine website along with a list of Honorable Mentions. All Winners and Honorable Mentions will receive a certificate suitable for framing.

Deadline: November 3, 2008

Editor's Note: This is one chance Malaysian artists can take advantage of in promoting their works. The prizes may not be much in terms of financial returns but the exposure is definitely something to ponder. Think about it, ya!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dream come true for Rafie Rahman

Dream come true - Rafie with his yet-to-be-completed Trafalgar Square piece in acrylic.

Two years ago, Rafie Rahman confided in me that he wanted to one day visit England, the birth place of British watercolour. However, he almost got to realise his dream two years ago, when his painting was selected to be taken to the London during the Malaysia Week. However, he did not get to go there.

In July this year, his prayers were answered. He was among five Malaysian artists, watercolourists to be specific, to be invited to show their works at the Potters' Field in London between July and August. It was a trip Rafie had been waiting for and got to go.

When I met him recently, I could see the distinct change in his style. Dabbling still in the aqua medium - not watercolour but acrylic - he has produced several pieces of work of landscape when he was in UK.

As you can see in the picture here, he is happily showing his Trafalgar Square piece which he has yet to complete. The colours are stunning and although hardly considered a completed first stage, the shapes are beginning to show.

This is why I think artists should go abroad and expose themselves to a foreign land. All artists need that exposure to do well, or improve on their current techniques. Without that kind of exposure, and chance to visit foreign art galleries, artists will only be confined to the local influences where art experience is concerned.

Want this piece? Get in touch with Rafie for the pricing.

Friday, August 01, 2008

MRCB Art Awards Competition - If You Wish To Take Part

Malaysian artists take note. Here's your chance to show your skills and perhaps bag some cash and recognition. A total of RM100,000 are up for grabs and there are several categories offered by this conglomerate, including for schools and the handicapped. You may paint in the various medium, including watercolours.

The theme:
(Our Environment, Our Future)

Entries can be submitted from Sept 15 and competition closes Oct 15. To find out more, check out its website here

Editor's Note 1:
Unfortunately, there is no English translation for the competition listed on the website. You will have to get someone to translate the competition rules which are written in Malay for you if you decide to take part).

Editor's Note 2:
Watercolourists who want to take part will have to work on a much bigger paper than they used to - a minimum of 4ft by 4ft (48in square) or about 121cm x 121cm. As far as this amateur artist knows, there is no such paper being sold unless you buy by the roll. Sad to note here is that if you do not use that size, you will be disqualified as stated in the rules that I am producing here:

Bahantara : Cat minyak/Akrilik/Cat air/Campuran atas kanvas atau kertas
Ukuran/Saiz : Minimum (4 kaki X 4 kaki)Hadiah : Hadiah tempat pertama - RM10,000.00 & Sijil
Hadiah tempat kedua - RM8,000.00 & Sijil
Hadiah tempat ketiga - RM6,000.00 & Sijil
5 hadiah saguhati - RM1,000.00 & Sijil
*10 karya lain yang terpilih akan menerima hadiah penghargaan bernilai RM500.00 & Sijil.


Borang Penyertaan: Semua penyertaan mestilah disertakan dengan Borang Penyertaan dan Borang Pelepasan Hakmilik yang telah lengkap diisi. Pelajar-pelajar sekolah menengah tidak boleh menyertai Kategori Terbuka. Penyertaan yang tidak memenuhi syarat & peraturan pertandingan akan terbatal secara automatik. Salinan fotokopi borang penyertaan diterima.

It would look like from the last rule, if you want to take part, you will need at least a 4ft by 4ft paper or be automatically disqualified. And to do that, you would have to patch up two pieces of traditional 72cm x 56 cm standard sized paper. How would one paint in traditional watercolour, on such a paper, would be interesting. Perhaps the organisers can explain to artists here.

Editor's Note 3:
For those who expect to win but did not, also understand that your works may be auctioned and sold for charity without the organisers being obliged to inform you or give you any of the proceeds. This is as stated here in the regulations, in Malay:

Penjualan Hasil Karya: Pihak penganjur juga berhak untuk mempamerkan, melelong ataupun menjual hasil karya yang menang serta yang terpilih untuk tujuan kebajikan tanpa memberikan sebarang notis atau tuntutan bayaran kepada peserta.

And you also cannot ask for any royalty or payment, as stated here:

Hakmilik Karya: Dengan menyertai pertandingan ini, setiap peserta bersetuju untuk memberi hakmilik karya kepada pihak penganjur, tidak boleh menuntut atau mengenakan sebarang bayaran royalti terhadap sebarang penerbitan dan pihak penganjur berhak menggunakan hasil karya tersebut dalam apa jua cara sekalipun termasuk dalam mana-mana media di seluruh dunia.

Apart from the limitations above, for the Open Category, you are allowed up to send three pieces for judging, which increases your chances of winning - if you are good enough.

Oh, for school children taking part, you cannot participate in the Open caregory.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

2nd Putrajaya National Watercolour Exhibition - Finally!

Remember the 2nd Putrajaya National Watercolour Exhibition 2007? It was to be originally held sometime in May but has now been confirmed for Nov 26 to Dec 14, from 11am to 6pm daily at the Annexe Gallery at the Central Market Kuala Lumpur. This note came from the organisers to this writer.

Wonder when and if the 3rd (2008) event will be held.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Drawing Lessons

Most beginners who want to paint tell me that they find difficulty in drawing. Some don't know where to start, others don't know where and when they should stop.

Although there are great books on drawing, as many as you can find on painting, the marvel of the internet age also affords us artists new areas of exploration.

One such site that I find most interesting is located here on learning how to draw.

Although the articles are a bit heavy on theory, read them with an open mind and you will be amazed on the many things about drawing that you may not have realised.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On the way to Kuala Kubu - Ulu Yam Dam

This is a scenery of the Ulu Yam Dam, located in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. I cam across this while on the way to the Kuala Kubu Baru town. This piece is a study of the clouds and the misty hills beyond just after a storm.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anti-Drugs Poster Painting Competition 2008

A piece in the spirit of watercolour by Liew Yoke Hui of SMK Jinjang. This piece won first place in the Lower Secondary School category.

There is a lot of talent among children as evident from the recent nationwide Anti-Drugs Campaign Poster Painting Competition held in Kuala Lumpur recently.

I had the opportunity to attend the state finals and was given the chance to speak to a number of judges and art teachers there. The medium of painting comprised soft pastels/crayons and watercolour/poster colour(gouache).

More than a dozen students were selected from 12 district champions qualified for the finals from which the champion will represent Kuala Lumpur at the National Finals in Kota Baru later this year.

The judges must have had a tough time deciding who should rightly win based on the high quality of the paintings. I know I was at a loss for words looking at the variety of subjects and colours each had chosen to paint their message on such a grim subject as drugs. The art teachers have taught their students well, indeed.

Although there were great similarities between the subjects, there are also some gems among the lot. Many should have won but were not picked by the judges for reasons best known to them. But there was certainly no lack of originality and unique concepts in this finals.

One thing I saw at this competition, which I think is very unhealthy, is how some parents become too involved in wanting their children to win - to the extent of bad mouthing their children's rivals' work that were selected. Even the judges were not spared.

My advice to these parents is not to take part in such competition if it drives so much stress into themselves and their children. The prize money is not much - only a few hundred ringgit - and certainly not worth the gripe nor the bragging rights should your child win.

The desperation to see a winning work in the hands of their children is not doing anything to encourage the latter's love for art. In all likelihood, your children is going to despise art for the misery their work brings upon them in terms of scolding from you parents!

Anyway, here's a video of the final winners. These are good in my opinion - what more could you ask for from teens from 13 to 17?

Mysterious Watercolour

Once in a while, a gem emerges unexpectedly. This piece of painting was sent to me eight hours ago from a Mr Clive McDonald.
Clive said: "As far as I know it was commissioned by a distant relative of mine in the late 19th or early 20th century, while working in Malaya (then called) and has been passed down the family ever since."

From my limited experience, and knowledge, and insufficiently inadequate, I am afraid, I think this is a picture of a highlands Chinese farm. It could be anywhere from Cameron Highlands to unknown places of lesser altitude. (Or it could be in Japan - the architecture looks like those of old Japan, I feel)

Amazingly, this is a pretty accurate rendition of a farm house. The plants you see are probably some kind of vine - maybe longbeans? - and those with yellow flowers, I am guessing, are what Chinese mustards, called choysam in cantonese or sawi in Malay. At maturity, the flowers are lemon yellow in colour although here they appear to be quite a lot planted on such a small bed. I don't know what the blue flowered plants are though.
Look underneath the eaves of the house - the tiny bunch of poles are bamboo used for making trellises for for climbing plants. I am more certain that this is a local scenery. There is a signature which appears to be a Chinese name, with a seal.
I am not sure what the seal's inscriptions are because the image is too small to decipher - and because it is written in old Chinese script, it is even harder to understand. The signature also does'nt ring familiar.
I cannot say who is the painter and if anyone out there knows or have a collection of paintings of similar signature and style, please share your views with Mr Clive McDonalds. This picture could be worth a fortune, who knows?

The signature

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Where Can I Get Information On KL Festival On The Net?

You may call this bitching... but where the heck can I get information on one of the biggest arts festival in Kuala Lumpur, supposedly to be held this month in the capital and sanctioned by the Government?

Google it and you will get to a daily's news piece on June 29. But the domain name that points to the organiser's website ends up in a nought.

Considering the hoo-haa created about the City Hall wanting to wifi entire Kuala Lumpur, one wonders how an event as big as this could go missing on the web!

At the very least, last year, there was a domain to which you could find out more.

Wonder the logo is still the same like last year's (below)?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Londoners to get a taste of Malaysian Watercolours At Malaysia Week

Next month, between 30 July and 3 August 2008, Londoners watercolour lovers will get a chance to see Malaysian watercolourists in action. Five Malaysian watercolourists - five Malays and a Chinese - will be representing the nation's aquamedia fraternity in London during the Malaysia Week, an annual cultural and arts extravaganza.

There will be two venues, but the Malaysian watercolourists will be based at Potters Fields Park, Tooley Street, Southwark, London SE1. Between 10.00am and 6.00pm London time, daily, they will be showing off their works and perhaps, if time permits, even paint or two.

If you love watercolour art, this is your chance to grab hold of some very good and rare work of Malaysian artists.

This writer is not at liberty to release any names as all have been kept under wraps by the organisers lest it triggers unwarranted debates and ill-feelings among those not selected for the overseas event.

Suffice to say, these are seasoned artists and their works have appeared in this site.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Liew Choong Ching Introduces New Concept

Love: 40" x 60"

Artist Liew Choong Ching, who has just tied the knot, has informed switched to concept art. Leading this is his Button series, in various sizes and done in oil.

If you recall, Liew debuted with his very interesting Balinese series and later his frangipanni and mangosteen, before moving to Penang and established himself there with his abstract portraitures, which exhibited to much success last year.

Happiness, 56" by 56"

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Malaysian Art Through The Ages

Iconic work in acrylic - 49 Squares by Tang Tuck Kan

THE National Art Gallery is holding a SusurMasa exhibition featuring art through the ages in Malaysia. This is one of the rare opportunities to look at the history of art as well as get to know the artists and artisans who were pioneers in their own field.

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, check them out. Admission is free and the National Art Gallery has this time done a good job to showcase the works. Even unframed oils have been displayed behind a protective perspex board, thus barring itchy fingers from scratching the surface of these age-old work and defacing them.

I am expecially impressed by the collection of watercolour greats such as AB Ibrahim, Abdullah Ariff, AJ Rahman, and of course, the Father of Malaysian watercolour, Yong Mun Sen. Rare among the lot are those by Chang Fee Ming, Long Tien Shih, Chung Cheng Sun and Tew Nai Tong. You also get to see oils and acrylics, both impressionistic art as well as abstracts.

A rare piece by Long Tien Shih in oil

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Watercolours Class Art - Update So Far: We have 6, Can we get another 4?

If you recall, I posted an earlier piece on watercolour class art to be organised by a watercolour artist in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Like all painting classes, this one will be held outdoor at a venue of the artist's choosing. This will allow for creative expression according to each student's expression and impression.

At the moment, there are already six readers of this blog who have expressed an interest to learn from the artist. I am waiting for four more to hand over the artist's contact numbers to you people to contact.

Note that I am not the person holding the course. I am merely helping the artist to gather this small group. Do not send me any payment. Once the number reaches 10, I will have over your contacts to the artist and you will have to register with him.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Can You Live On Art Alone?

Came across this news some time back. It was to highlight the success of a local Malaysian Chinese artist - a digital artist or photographer if you like, but nevertheless the artist.

Read on:

Malaysian’s work of art fetches RM117,000 at Christie’s

KUALA LUMPUR: A digital art piece called Huminodun by Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann was sold for more than RM100,000 at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong on Saturday.

The work is one of Yee’s “Kinabalu series” which explores the eroded spiritual power of a Kadazandusun woman and her shifting relationship to her land.

Huminodun is based on the Kadazandusun creation story where a woman created the earth and padi and thus created her community.

Yee said she was shocked to hear about her piece being sold for US$38,000 (RM117,000).

This is the picture that made heads turn.

Stories like this are few and far in between.

How many ever made it to international acclaim? Is Malaysia suffering from such a artistic drought that every once in five or ten years someone makes it big out there?

Do we have good Malaysian artists for that matter?

The often exchanged advice to beginning artists is this: If you want to make it, go overseas. That used to be true. Not anymore, I think. Air travel and information exchange have never been easier and I think there is a fair share of foreign conglomerates that are based in Malaysia who have been contributors to art in their homeland. I have however yet to know of any that contributes to local art scene. Why this is so is pretty obvious.

If you have been following the art scene, you would not be amazed. Or surprised. If you have been talking to artists, especially the talented and struggling ones, you will know that a handful few would compete fiercely for the little that goes around. And what have the people appointed to take charge of the arts scene in Malaysia?

I have been proposing for a proper art marts in Kuala Lumpur since the demise of the Laman Seni. Is it any wonder? Here, we have a good concept that is drawing crowd way back in 2006-07.

Despite the lack of promotions, the art mart was only beginning to draw crowd. And wham, one day, it ended out of the blue - it was shifted to Putrajaya.

The intention was good - but ill planned. Not many art enthusiasts can make the 40km journey south of the capital. Not many tourists know where it was although many would have read up about the location of Kuala Lumpur's galleries, and the National Art Gallery, and could easily take a bus, cab or even walk there. And what happened was the demise - already predicted by the artists who were invited to showcase their art at the Zouk. Unfortunately, none wanted to offend the authorities and kept quiet.

Today, the motley crew of artists who used to take part in the once-a-month event are spread all over the Klang Valley. Some struggling to make ends meet, others having switched to art-related events which they could use their skill.

Looking back, one wonders if an artist can truly call himself a fulltime artist and live on his/her artistic creations alone. With rising prices, the future doesn't look too good. And I sympathise with them...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Are you Aware of This Artists Day?

I was going through the website of the National Museum and found this entry:

29 May 2008
Location : Merdeka Hall, Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Synopsis : The Launching of National Artist Day 2008
Time : 9.30 am - 12.30 pm
Merdeka Hall, Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur
The Launching of Artist Day is to appreciate the contribution and roles of local artises in shaping Malaysia as kind-hearted, highly sprited and valued arts and culture as part of their life through arts programmes.
Artist Day will officially be launched by Y.A.B Dato' Seri abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi and will be participated by artistes, local performers that have been contributing in the local entertainment industry.
Everyone is invited.
Malaysia National Film Development Cor[oration (FINAS)

This post was taken in its entirety - including the spelling mistakes.

I have asked several artists and they said they knew nothing of this sort. I pondered and found out what happened. The artists here meant artist-es. The people who perform on stages, singers and dances and choreographers.

Not THE ARTIST you and I know. I now know why artists I asked knew nothing of the event. Whether the event was held or not, I am also unsure as I did not remember seeing it in the papers, heard it on the radio or see it on television.

Which brings me to another question:

Do you think we can actually have an ARTISTS DAY dedicated to the true artists in Malaysia, celebrated or struggling, to recognise their contribution? I am talking about the real artists not artistes. Perhaps, even an ARTS DAY.

Artists in Malaysia have been divided both by status and accomplishments. For a nation marching towards developed status, it will be a pity if we continue to neglect the sculptors and documentators of our journey.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In May's Leisure Painter

As usual, we in Malaysia get it late. The May edition arrive at the bookstores on May 24. But better late than never!

Okay, let's look at what this month's feature carry. As you can see from the above, there are plenty as usual to learn from across a wide variety of media. Watercolour still rules here.

If you have been following the last issue's back to basic, you should buy this month's edition because Brian Ryder continues with Part 2: Add Colour To Ink Drawings. Here Ryder shows how to use both water-soluble ink as well as non-water-soluble ones.

I especially liked the free strokes in this, as you can see from the last picture on a harbour - Binham, North Norfolk in pen and wash. If you want to know how to achieve looseness and spontaneity in pen and wash, check Ryder out.

Other interesting issues this month is the Lesson in the Landscape by Kari McGowan. Follow step-by-step how McGowan recreate a painting of Dartmoor, fast and loose in watercolour.

There is also a section on painting the face and one on how to draw tulips.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Old Tree By The Lake

This was done of a particular spot at the National Zoo. I saw this old tree by the main lake in the heart of the zoo. There were herons, couple of flamingoes and painted storks around but I have chosen to exclude them to focus on the tree.
The style in this piece was adapted from John Lovett's techniques which I find incredibly fun and easy. I think watercolour should not be laborious simply because if it were, then it would have lost its mysticism. Best way is to let the colours do their work.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Watercolour Class Art Anyone?

Update (15/05)
Are there any more takers? So far we have only three enthusiasts. Are there any more coming? We need at least 7 more to make it worthy for the artist to teach. The class will be held in the city centre, accessible by major public transport. If you wish to join this Class Art for adults, write to me. Thanks.

Good News.

Over the past three months, this site has been receiving numerous enquiries to hold watercolour classes for beginners, particularly adults who would like to take up watercolour as a hobby.

Because of the interest shown by the enquirers, I have spoken to some artists to see if this was possible, to hold an art class on a weekend so that working adults can find time to join. The class would be informal, of course. Not many were keen unless some form of compensation for their time is offered. Otherwise, they, being professionals, would be better off painting.

As such, it is proposed students pay a nominal fee of say RM80 a month for a three-month course. The class is held on Saturdays from say 10am to 2pm and students are taught the basics and the classes conducted outdoors at a venue of the artist's choosing, painting live subjects. This will be a good way to learn watercolour art as it should be.

Well, after much persuasion, one artist, a prominent watercolourist, has agreed to teach watercolour painting. The tentative target month is July and only if there are enough participants.

If you want to pick up watercolour, let me know. Post your comment below. I will see the response before approaching the artist again. Tell me your thoughts and suggestions as to the fee, time or venue in the comment below. You may also write to me via email at

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Marvellous Instructional Piece In Splashing Paint

I have not seen a longer running instructional DVD than I had with John Lovett's Splashing Paint. And having gone through over 120 minutes of 'personal instruction' by Australia's leading artist, in 16 thoughtfully prepared, very detailed lessons, I am quite convinced that every beginner can benefit from it. established painters may also find some gems within.


Because Lovett takes you right from the basics to the many advanced techniques that he uses in his very striking watercolour pieces, loose and simple. For AUD77, I think it is quite a steal, and the good thing about this DVD (as with other DVD learning tools) is that you can go back to it at any time you wish, as many times you want, and get as many refresher courses as you like.

Simple Palm Tree - John Lovett

In the introductory chapters, Lovett covers the basics, talkling about materials and techniques, swiftly. Then he shows how watercolour can be painted simply and loosely - trademarks of his art works.

I love the jazzy background music that accompanies each instruction as i do the little notes that are presented as the artist show you the behind-the-scene work on each piece, takling subjects from simple skies to more complicated street scene and outdoor panorama.

Atmosperic Skies - John Lovett

Whether it is using a one-inch brush or types of paint colour, each session is presented clearly in ways you can quite easily understand - and put to practice. And you learn by simply following his work and, hopefully, come up with something you can be proud to hang on your wall.

I have always wondered how Lovett created the misty air around his pieces, the atmospheric effects that exudes mystery. I found it in this DVD - his secret: gesso and gouache and rubbed in with a hake brush! This was revealed in the chapter Taking Risks, in which Lovett transformed a finished painting into an even better one with loose introduction of gesso and gouache, and detailing the subject to bring it out to the viewer's attention.

Can anything can get more complicated than this? John Lovett's harbour scene.

Another section I find extremely useful is the one on how to simplify the subject. If taking on a full-coloured scenery is daunting, Lovett shows how, by grouping objects of similar values and colours, can help you approach complicated subjects more confidently.

The artist spent quite some time on water and reflections although there is already a specific chapter on reflections alone. If you are sharp, you will be able to see his secrets unveiled as he dabs the paints and splashes them to give impressions of reflections of subjects such as boats on water.

The DVD ends with Lovett teaching you how to set up your studio, from arranging the working table and tapping hte best of natural light to setting framing tables and using artificial light. All these are sensible applications which could easily be overlooked but because they are presented as one of the many tips in Splashing Paint, you would be reminded to give them some thought when you are rearranging your work space for optimum productivity and pleasant painting session.

Splashing Paint can be obtained at

Monday, May 05, 2008

Leisure Painter April - Drawing Children's Faces

One of the most interesting articles in April's edition (yes, we in Malaysia are a deprived lot, receiving the month's edition at month's end mostly!) is that by Juliette Dodd on painting children's faces - one of the most difficult subjects to draw.

In this issue, Dodd shows the way of how to proportion the face in seven steps. Not only are you taught to draw front profiles, but side as well, and these are requirements if you ever hope to draw portraits well and not doing Mickey Mice or Potato Heads!

Another interesting feature I find in this issue is David Bellamy's tips on making your watercolours sparkle. If you are wondering how Bellamy makes his subjects stand out via hilights, this issue will show you how. And oh, there is also an exciting version on keeping sketchbooks - everything all of us aspire to do but never quite get down to it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Can't Malaysian Paper Manufacturers Produce Good Watercolour Paper?

Most of the watercolour papers we see today are that from the West. Not that they are no good but the exchange rates are certainly not in our favour.

According to my sources, the price of paper across the board will be up by at least 30 per cent next year. Some of the good brands are already up by at least 20 per cent if you were to frequent art shops.

Paper is something you cannot stock and if we know little of how to store it, then it will be investment down the drain as the paper yellows and loses its fine quality.

There are several Malaysian companies which produce good drawing blocks. Over the past three years, many ventured into acid free paper which is quite suitable for watercolour work. The grammage, too, is good at 300gsm.

Right now, the only market leader is Chee Wah Corporation which goes by the brand name CAMPAP. Others produce mediocre blocks for use in schools, which is quite a lucrative market. Chee Wah also produce good watercolour, oil and acrylic paper and boards. However, what little stock the have are usually sold out and it is quite tough to source for them, even in Kuala Lumpur.

For the sake of watercolour art and future of watercolourists, I hope there is a manufacturer who will be willing to produce good paper. Afterall, the material is right here under our noses in the orient.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Whatever happened to the Putrajaya Watercolour Exhibition?

Someone who read about the Putrajaya Watercolour exihibition held between 5 Aug - 10 Nov 2007 last year which I highlighted in an earlier post wrote to ask me when the results will be released.

I am wondering about it as well since several artists have been informed that they have won and their work would be exhibited.
That notification, made by mail, came sometime in February, I was told. However, to date, I have not heard any more about it publicly.
If you are one of the participants or winners, and would like to know more, perhaps you can visit their website here.
Of if you have the time, call Baharuddin Aziz (Timbalan Pengarah, Jabatan Landskap, Perbadanan Putrajaya,Kompleks Perbadanan Putrajaya,24, Persiaran Perdana 62675 Putrajaya) at 03 - 8887 7138

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Art Bazaar At KL Railway Station

Its days are numbered, but someone has found a creative way to "rebrand" the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station - probably as an art bazaar.

I know, you may not have heard about it before unless you stop over at the Railway Station. And these days, you don't need to as it is no longer useful as a transport hub because the next stop - KL Sentral - is much, much more useful and convenient.

Anyway, I found out that there is an art bazaar at station. Whoever put it there, I must say it is a good idea and the limited few stalls that I saw showed some potential as a mini art mart - nothing more, and even that, if you noticed them.

Perhaps, this is what the owners of KL Railway Station building can think about - turning the station into a viable economic venture than let it go to waste and grow cobwebs on the ceilings. With the Central Market a cough away, this could be yet another heritage reclamation project. And why not!

Anyway, from the art work on display, I gathered that there are only a handful of artists exhibiting. And selling. There are some watercolour and some oil. Some abstract, some sketches. The latter I liked a lot - splendid architectural pieces done in ink and pencil, depicting the nation's landmarks.

Seeing this place reminds me of the Laman Seni which is now but a memory. It was set up to give artists a place to converge once a month and sell their work amidst a carnival-lie atmosphere. Just when it was about to reap its first taste of success, some big brother decided that it would be better off in Putrajaya, and so it was dismantled and artists who sold here was invited to move to Putrajaya.

The idea fell splendidly on its face and without Laman Seni, few people find reason to visit the National Art Gallery in Jalan Temerloh. Otherwise, the first Sunday of every month is looked upon by people living around the Lake Titiwangsa area, which is just a stone's throw away from the gallery.

Footnote: Hopefully the new Tourism Minister Shafie Apdal will read this blog and perhaps bring back the Laman Seni? You can't draw crowd to the gallery with art alone. Activities like Laman Seni is important and popular. Just look at Amcorp Mall's flea mart. There is a lesson to be learned there. Bring back the Laman Seni at Balai Seni Lukis Negara and I bet your last packet of nasi lemak the crowd will be back and the National Art Gallery not so eeriely deserted on weekends.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Monsoon Gust - By Abdullah Ariff - To Be auctioned

I have been informed that an original watercolour by Abdullah Ariff titled "Monsoon Gust" will be sold at auction on Tuesday (May 27th) by the Rowley's auctioneers in Newmarket, Suffolk, England.

According to Silas Currie (Auctioneer and Head Of Valuations
Rowley's - Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers), the work was signed and dated 1955 and measures 37 by 54cm. I was also informed that the reserved price would be around 3,000 British Pounds.

If there are any Malaysians out there - as the National Art Gallery has not made any enquiry about it since I listed information and whereabouts of this national treasure on this site and even after having written to one of the officials of they were interested - here is your chance to bring the work home.

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Derwent's Wash Pencils

I found these at the local art store - Derwent watercolour pencils for washes. I had earlier last year found its watersoluble graphite pencils but found them to be too dark and smudgy.

These however are more forgiving and produce pretty good and even washes. I only found Medium and Light grades, but I suspect there are other grades. Too bad the art store did not have a catalogue - old stock I think.

As you can see, I did a sketch on an old tyre on the deck of a wooden boat, alternating between light and medium grades in areas of contrast. For deeper values, I go over the first lines of medium grades to produce really dark areas (value 8?).

Oh, they cost about RM2.50 Malaysian each.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tsunami Painting Revisited

I drew this scene sometime back. Wasn't quite satisfied with it. It was a picture of Sri Lanka after the tsunami. The fishing boat is left high on a sandy hillock some distance from the sea. At its left is a mess of a smashed-up fishing boat. In this piece, I introduced a human form, a fisherman walking in the foreground possibly checking the damages.

Leisure Painter March

As usual, in Malaysia, you get UK magazines of the month in the middle of the month, sometimes even at month's end.

This month's Leisure Painter is must read for drawing enthusiasts for Ray Campbell Smith teaches Part 3 of his Drawing Matters section. I especially like the section on how to correct compositional errors (see picture below). I think if you start right in composing a picture, then the rest will sort of fall into place.

Other interesting sections include loosening your watercolour landscapes and for beginners, easy colour mixing tips.

By the way, this month's issue also carries a Painting Courses catalogue and if you are interested in planning a painting holiday, check it out.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

MWO's Annual Show

The Malaysian Watercolour Organisation's annual show is a much awaited affair among watercolour lovers and this year is no exception.

Being held at the NN Gallery till April 15, this year's exhibition should not be missed if you are seriously considering collecting some very good pieces from the nation's top watercolourists.

For those unaccustomed, the Malaysian Watercolour Organisation is one of the most active organisations dealing in watercolour in Malaysia. Among its stable of painters include Chow Chin Chuan, Calvin Chua, Yong Look Lam, Sani Md Dom, Rafiee Abdul Rahman, and Mansor Ghazalli, among others. Under the able leadership of Tan Sri Samsuddin Osman (the patron) and Dr Wong Seng Tong (president), the members have come up with some striking works this time.

Over 80 pieces works of art on a wide range of subjects, mostly striking landscapes such as fishing villages and kampung scenery, plus some townscapes have been put up by over 40 members and this year's works are extremely good. I will not spoil the fun telling you more here but will give you an peep into some in the photos below.

Khoo Cheang Jin's Village Scene

Wong Seng Tong's Climbing Fishing Boat

Choh Kok Kheong's Approach

Note: NN Gallery is located at 53A & 56 Jalan Sulaiman 1, Taman Ampang Hilir. It is open from 9am-6pm (Mon-Sat) and closed on Sun and Public Holiday. For details, call Syed Nabil: (03) 4270 6588

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Searching for Mekong's Source - Cheng Fee Ming's Latest Show

ABOVE: Some of the sketches Chang did
Renowned watercolourist Chang Fee Ming is having an exhibition of his latest works which resulted from a four year-effort documenting the highlands of Tibet along the route of the great Mekong. This exhibition is the sequel to the Mekong 1 show held at Petronas Gallery four years ago.

Currently held at the Valentine Willie Fine Art gallery in Bangsar, the exhibition titled Mekong: Exploring the Source, took the Terengganu-born Chang, 49, to the Tibet-Yunan border.

Sixteen major works, (14 full-size (56 x 76cm) and two diptychs, as well as numerous sketches that he did during the journey.

The show ends in April.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Galeri Shah Alam Open Exhibition 2008

The gallery is organising an open show with a free theme with RM1,000 prizes for the top five paintings. Closing date is April 24, 2008. For details, call at

Persiaran Tasik,
40000 Shah Alam,

or phone:

Tel: 03-55105344/ 55106045
Fax: 03-55102081

Friday, March 07, 2008

Lovett has produced new DVD

Aussie artist John Lovett has just produced his latest DVD on his painting techniques entitled Splashing Paint . In this two-hour (wow!), Lovett shows how he works on 16 different projects, ranging from painting trees to creating atmospheric effects just like a professional artist.

According to the materials available, the DVD will help you avoid mixing muddy colors, make smooth, even washes, drawing clean, confident lines with a brush, and even choosing colour temperatures.

Just click on the links above to find out more about the DVD and pricing.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More Abdullah Ariff's Works Coming Home?

I have just been contacted by another owner of Abdullah Ariff's works entitled Storm. Received the email below from a reader named Jim in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, he must have misspelt his email because the reply bounced as the mail daemon informed me.

I have got a picture by this artist called the storm signed and dated 1956
Please, where would be the best place to sell this. Can you help please. Thanks

Are there more Abdullah Ariff out there and is our National Art Gallery interested in acquiring them? These are national treasures and I am amazed no one from the gallery has contacted me so that I could forward the owner' addresses. Are we waiting for these works to be lost forever?
Picture right: Thumbnails of some of Ariff's works.