Almost regular musings of a (somewhat confused) graphic designer.

Archive for the tag “ang moh”

Blurred Lines Pt 1

I remember as a child, my first memory of the white man is really that burly guy with the dark suit sweating profusely at the back of my dad’s Nissan U13 Bluebird back in the late 80s whilst laughing at my dad’s Singaporean jokes. Then occasionally my dad would bring home goodies from the “Mat Salleh”…. like key rings from the US, or if I’m lucky, a REAL dollar bill. I was that Singaporean child, with the bangs just grinning and nodding at towering white men in business suits asking me in their accents, “How do you do?” extending their huge sweaty palm out to shake my tiny Asian hand.

Then there were those occasions where I would show up prepared with my drawing pad and crayons in my Cookie Monster backpack. Sprawled on the carpet lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel, or the Marina Mandarin, I would be busy drawing and colouring away, whilst my dad waits for his guest, talking to the fellow Singaporean doorman. A curious head with a huge straw hat on it leers close to my artwork telling me ‘how lovely’ my drawing was. I look up to a warm, freckled European face with a coffee stained grin who wanted to take a picture of it using her Konika camera. Her husband, another burly guy with the same printed shirt – in fact everyone lounging at the hotel lobby had those same type of “touristy” printed shirt with the shades and the straw hats. I had a good bargain with the white lobby tourists whom were chatting away whilst smoking their cigarettes and waiting for their tour coach to pick them up. I’d exchange one of my “nice drawings” for a piece of foreign chocolate candy. When bored, I’d fascinate myself by running my fingers thru those white marble grains atop the dustbins meant for extinguishing cigarettes. The idea of unhygienic absolutely didn’t occur to me.

And then a couple of years went by, and it was finally time for me to go to school. Done were those days of lounging with white tourists and exchanging sweets for crayon Merlions over the weekends. Weekends were then spent learning spelling and going to art classes. Weekends were spent with mum buying new pairs of shoes and socks – yes we were growing up. Weekends were spent making sure the homework was finished. And occasionally dad would bring us out for a drive to the outskirts of forested Singapore. And I never saw those straw hat wearing ‘ang mohs’ again.


Rock, Paper… and Pencil!

On Saturday I joined 11 other fellow creatives on a little ‘sketch-venture’ that one of them organized. Basically we went off the beaten track instead of our usual sketch and sip cafe sessions to the old Bukit Timah Railway Station which was formally owned by Malaysia’s KTM and has now been returned to the State and opened to the public since. I must admit that I was very excited about this site as I’ve always wanted to walk along those abandoned tracks since I was a kid, just wondering where it would lead to. Although my stomach wasn’t feeling that great, I really didn’t want to miss the opportunity to explore the area with other artistic people. And I was really glad that I went. The first thing that hit me was how nostalgic the place seemed. It felt like a part of Malaysia. With the tall banana trees, the coconut palm trees around and all the other Malaysian kampong flora and fauna you could imagine, yes just like in a Malaysian kampong. The area itself was pretty rustic unlike the typical pristine looking man-made urban landscaping that is common in Singapore.

We were pretty lucky as it didn’t rain at all. But the sun didn’t have mercy on us as we decided to find our own spots to sketch the railway station. It took us all about 30-40 minutes to finally finish our piece. By that time, beads of sweat were already forming around my forehead threatening to drip onto my sketchpad. Thankfully for my pack of tissue, that issue was settled.


A landscape view of the railway station

Close to 6pm, we have pretty much finished our first part of the walk. We took a nice group shot near the railway sign and proceeded to the steel railway bridge. We were not the only ones who look to unwind from a place like this; I totally lost count of how many joggers went past us, the ang-moh cyclists with their dogs and some who slowed down, curious to see what we were conjuring up on our sketchpads.

The next part was at the steel bridge, where it was really just a narrow bridge with the tracks… and everyone just found a spot to sketch the bridge. I must say that I was a bit tired due to the heat, and I was nearly having a mental block. For about 10 mins, I couldn’t find any focal point to sketch and finally I just managed to do something.

The control room with a British syled print on the fire extinguisher

Our displayed artwork

Our displayed artwork

Walking along the steel bridge

Walking along the steel bridge

I took some photos earlier on, and used the BW effect just to get the old feel. I would definitely come back here again for inspiration or maybe just to unwind because it’s not like many places in Singapore it’s got that nostalgic feeling left.

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