Tuesday, June 27, 2006

On the Journey...(Part 2)

I love Degas' art works since school time, so my sketches also try to capture the beauty of the forms and the fleeting moment.

Sometimes I appreciate my sketches more than my paintings, because the ideas tend to be more original and are drawn from first-hand impression. In my earlier works from 1989-90, I applied the sketchy or "doodling" style on my painting background. (see artworks below)

A Boring Picture #01, 1990 (courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)
A Boring Picture #07, 1990 (courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)

Above all, I thank God for giving me the gift of drawing - able to use lines to capture a lot of different images that reflect life.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

On the Journey... (Part 1)

I often find it a challenge to sketch on the train, bus and other forms of public transport, afraid that passengers I draw may get annoyed with me, as I may intrude into their privacy...

I usually sketch on a small palm-size sketchbook, so that people will not notice easily. And also, I avoid looking at the person I am drawing directly, because he may sense it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Watercolour - My Teaching Medium

This is a series on my watercolour works:

Study on Capsicums - "In Dialogue"

I can still remember in the year 1984, I got a chance to first learn watercolour painting in my first year Foundation in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Mr Tan, my lecturer, taught me how to mix colours to enrich my paintings, making them more 'colour-rich'. This skill has made my NAFA works look very different from my watercolour days in secondary school - where the colours looked comparatively boring and dull then...
During my early NAFA days, my fellow classmates supported my painting ability in class. They commented on my watercolours like: "Shih Yaw can control water very well", and "Shih Yaw has his own painting style even though he is very young"... They had also encouraged me as my colour-mixing improved along the way. All these comments made me feel very happy.

Study on capsicums - "Out of Dialogue"
In the above painting, the 'one-layer' technique I learnt from Mr Wee
can be seen in the painting of the green pepper.

Sometime later, I chanced upon a School Teachers Training Class conducted in our campus. I witnessed our another lecturer, Mr Wee, demostrate on watercolour painting and I was surprised to see that he only used one layer of paint. What I was impressed to see, however, was that in that one layer, he was able to bring out both the dark and light tones. It was seldom to see him painting on a second layer.
From that day onwards, I marked Mr Wee's teaching class on my timetable. Every week I would stand outside his classroom, looking through the window, trying my best to learn his technique. Back in my own art class, I tried his technique in my work. Slowly, I became aware that I was able to catch some of his techniques and this marked a further improvement in my paintings.

Study on Salmon Head, view 1

After a few months, I finished the first half-year of my Foundation course. From the watercolour medium, my class progressed on to oil-painting. This progressing into another class meant that Mr Tan no longer taught me watercolour-painting; it also meant that I was unable to do watercolour as often as before.
Summing up, Mr Tan- his rich colour-mixing, and Mr Wee - his 'one-layer complete technique' have nevertheless influenced my watercolouring skills alot.
Continuing in NAFA, I spent more time doing oil-painting in my school projects. I also spent a lot of time on portrait-drawing, leaving my watercolour-painting to take a backseat, only doing it now and then for leisure; sometimes did try to push my skills to another level, but at other times, I just enjoyed looking at two or more colours mixed directly on paper.

Study on Salmon Head - view 2

Throughout my 3 years at NAFA, I did a lot of oil-painting for my own development, and it has since been my main medium. However, when it comes to teaching students, I always use watercolour as a medium. I think it is because for oil-painting, materials are expensive and not many students can afford it. In oil-painting, we also need to use turpentine which would smell. Thus, I feel more comfortable to teach them in watercolour, and the students also prefer that. However in teaching, I only teach the most basic skills.

This is my demonstration of a prawn in watercolour.
On the top right you can see the colour-chart of light to dark tones.

Step one, they use the pencil to outline the subject. Where the white hightlight is concerned, no white paint is used; just leave the paper white, painting in only those of colour.

This is my demonstration of a rambutan in watercolour.
On the side you can see the colour- chart of light to dark tones.

Step two, I would ask them to mix the brighter colour which is only a little darker than the paper-white colour. After painting it on, we will mix the third colour which is darker than the second one.

This is my demonstration of a fish in watercolour.
On the top you can see the colour-chart of light to dark tones.

These two steps, from light to dark, are easy to master. Whenever I see them using this technique to get a good painting effect, I feel very happy.

Study on Crab
Note the 'one-layer' technique on the claw.

I think that one great thing in teaching is the satisfaction. When you see them learning the technique, knowing how to handle the technique, and able to master the technique to the standard that you set, the satisfaction is great and you feel really happy. I am happy to see their satisfied expressions too. This reminds me of my Heavenly Father who is pleased to bless me, and when He sees I am happy, it brings Him great joy also.

Study on Salmon Head - view 3

Note: If you do not know how to paint in watercolour, it does not mean that you can't learn oil-painting. Some people have the wrong impression that - before you learn oil-painting, you have to learn watercolour first, or you would face a lot of difficulties in oil painting.
This is actually the wrong impression, because the two techniques are very different. While watercolouring is from light to dark, oil-painting is from dark to light. So in the future, if you hear someone say that you have to master watercolour first before oil painting, you must tell them, "No! You are wrong! But Relax... " :)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Blog-posts on "The Resurrection of Christ" are re-arranged and updated, happy viewing!

I apologize for the long delay in updating my blog, due to some constraints and other commitments... Thank you for your encouragement and support to my blog. Do enjoy viewing and be patient with me... Thank you!

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Making of "The Resurrection of Christ" - Part 1

In the beginning...

Somewhere in mid year 2000, I joined a group of passionate Christian artists to prepare for our very first Christian art exhibition - "Feed the Birds". After months of meetings, delegating responsibilities, praying and of course working hard on our masterpieces, the exhibition finally birthed into being smoothly, by God's grace, at the end of year 2000. During the process, I was blessed with many friendships, including the special one which eventually blossomed into a lifelong relationship with my wife, Shirley. :)

Whilst the "Feed the Birds" exhibition was still on, Shirley invited me, with a few friends, to another exhibition by some overseas artists dealing also on religious themes. Feeling shy and to avoid attention from her friends, I tried to keep my gaze on the artworks on the wall as best as I could.

I soon came across quite a small piece of artwork depicting Jesus Christ, medium unknown, but definitely a detestable piece of work! In it, Jesus was seen sitting on a bed, with nail-pierced hands and legs, and eyes filled with blood-red veins... He seemed to have been portrayed in an overall defeated, depressing pose, as if unable to save himself; let alone saving the world... In the background, there was a small window high up on the wall, and the room was filled with stark emptiness, giving an impression of a prison cell...

Leaving the exhibition hall that day, I thought to myself: should there ever be an opportunity, I hoped to do a painting totally opposite of what I had seen. I wanted to paint an energy-filled, vibrant Jesus Christ, victorious and glorious! This marked the beginning of the journey of my artwork - 'The Resurrection of Christ'...

The Resurrection of Christ, 2001. (courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)

The Making of "The Resurrection of Christ" - Part 2

Amazingly soon enough, a few days later, an artist friend informed me of a Christian Arts event, where they needed an artwork to depict the theme of the event - "The Glory of the Resurrected Christ"! I couldn't believe my ears when I heard this! I smiled to myself, thinking, "This is really a great opportunity to show Christ's resurrected power, isn't it?"

Meanwhile, my brother-in-Christ, William, visited our "Feed the Birds" show, and as I greeted and thanked him for coming, I suddenly realized this brother - being musculine, sporty and full of energy - could well be my model for portraying Christ's vibrant resurrected image! What a timely divine appointment! So indeed, there he was, ending up as my model for the intended painting...

Studies for Christ

I first started making studies of William in various poses and close-ups of the face, torso, hands and legs... These studies were made as detailed and precise as possible for necessary reference, followed by enlarging and merging the drawings of body parts onto the 4ft-by-6ft canvas.

I chose to paint the figure using 'skin' colour straight from the tube to keep the consistency of colour on a big canvas, instead of the usual blending of red, yellow, blue and white (more suitable for smaller canvas size). I also tried to create an overall quiet, peaceful mood in the painting, rather than a 'loud, proclaiming' effect. Although the figures - Jesus Christ and the angels - were in motion, I hoped to portray the steadfast and humble side of Christ whom I know - always helping people and performing miracles in a calm, gentle manner. Indeed, I could experience the presence of God's love and peace when I was working on this painting too! How amazing...

The Making of "The Resurrection of Christ" - Part 3

I was grateful to my second brother and sister-in-law for allowing me to work on the large canvas in their living room,and also to include their children - Daryl and Germaine - as my models for the angels in the painting. (see studies below) In the midst of finalizing the painting composition, I later came across another nephew who happened to stay over at my brother's place for quite a while. I thought it would be good to include him as an angel into the painting too, lest he thought I might be practising favouritism. So I made some studies of him, and intended to place him at the bottom right corner. However, I had to put off this idea in the end, as it did not fit well into the composition which I had visualized earlier. My apologies...

Studies for Angels

Studies for Flowers on Angels

The Making of "The Resurrection of Christ" - Part 4

The painting “The Resurrection of Christ” finally came into being after a month's hard work. About one or two weeks upon completion, Karen Lim (ex-Assistant Curator of SAM who curated our “Feed the Birds” show) called me up and mentioned about a Japanese friend/art collector - Mr Inoyama - interested to view my artworks. I gladly welcomed them to my brother’s place, and to my great surprise, Mr Inoyama actually liked and offered to buy a couple of my artworks, including “The Resurrection of Christ”! I mentioned that this work was intended for an exhibition in conjunction with some Christian Arts event, but he graciously agreed to let me exhibit the work first, then have it sent to his place when the exhibition was over.

However, this painting did not get to be exhibited as intended eventually… The pastor who organized the event felt I had portrayed Jesus Christ too Chinese-looking, and not Jewish-like enough, hence rejected my artwork for show... One could imagine how disappointed I had been then, after all the efforts I put in – painting with all my heart and soul…

Nevertheless, this work was finally sold to appreciative Mr Inoyama, who in turn donated to the Singapore Art Museum as permanent collection after a few years. It had always been my desire to share this artwork with a greater audience, and my dream came true when SAM held an exhibition on Mr Inoyama’s donated collection, featuring “The Resurrection of Christ” in it too. I witnessed how God mightily brought this artwork to light in the whole process, and I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to God for His faithfulness, and to all those who have helped me in one way or another to make this artwork possible!