The Art of Doing Art

Goldengate Bridge (cwleng, Nov 2009)

Art, as a form of personal expression, has always been close to my heart. As a child, I was constantly sketching with pencil and paper. My parents were not expressively artistic, but they do appreciate art in general, and had put all their three children into an art program conducted by a group of young artists from Perak, for which I am eternally grateful.
Every Sunday, my parents would take the three of us, together with our neighbour’s three kids, in our 1968 Volkwagon Beetle, to do art at a wooden house somewhere in Ipoh, where many other children go to learn how to draw and colour.
It was not expensive, as I recall that it cost something like RM24 per child per month to learn there. And the teachers were all real artists! I remember the exhibitions of their works where we could see the various styles of watercolor paintings being displayed. I also remember the outdoor excursions to places of interest like the Ipoh railway station where we put the unique architectural structure onto art block paper and the DR Park (Taman Dr Seenivasagam) where we tried to capture the serenity and beauty of the trees and lakes. There were also art competitions where my brother and I won prizes. Doing art was a very engaging experience then. Learning from watching how the different artist teachers painted, each with his or her unique style, was an unforgettable experience. That was how I had acquired my watercoloring technique which prompted me to win a special school prize for art in Form 5 and obtaining a distinction for art for my SPM way back in 1982!
Yet all that did not push me into making art as my career. It had always been something that I did for self-satisfaction as I had derived a great deal of joy and satisfaction from just doing it. But art took a back seat when my music teaching career took off, and was gradually locked deep into my secret closet for many years, to be forgotten and replaced by a million and one other activities that involved bringing up three little kids in a totally different environment that I had grown up in. Happy to say, my daughters too, displayed very artistic tendencies from young and are now learning under an accomplished artist introduced by a friend. It was from watching them do art with the artist that stirred up in me, a great deal of renewed longing to hold a brush and to apply colors onto paper again. So, one recent morning, I just got the materials together, and started to sketch and color for the first time in so many years. The feeling was both frightful and thrilling! I could not believe my eyes that I could still do it after all these years. Neither could my children believe their eyes that their mom could do that! “Mom, you’re an artist!” they exclaimed. It was a liberating moment for me – I felt liberated from self-doubts and fear of failure – something that we adults learn to develop over the years of trying to live up to the expectations of others. So much so, that we forget to live up to our own expectations for ourselves.
From now on, we shall just do art for art’s sake. Not for exam, not for winning competitions, not for other people, but only for the satisfaction and fulfillment of doing art. Now it has become a central part of our homeschooling and my children and I hope to build our portfolio of art pieces together. Who knows one day we may be able to hold an art exhibition just for the fun of it? We know art works when neighborhood children come and do art at our house. One child revealed that her mom would not buy art materials or let them do art at home, for fear of the children making a mess of the house. But what the mother fails to see, is how much joy and satisfaction her children derive from doing art. They should be looked upon as little artists in their own right. And moms and dads should take it up too, if only to fulfill a long lost yearning to do art!
(if you like to do art for art with us, email
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