Monthly Archives: May 2014

Recent ceramic works …

Just got back these pieces last night, after putting on the glaze last week … the bigger ones are going back into the fire for second coat, while night light (white one), and the smaller pieces are done (and on some random shelf in the house).


11 pieces of ceramic works, … with one belonging to Vincent (the instructor)


Small pieces made during a lesson on how to make the base (foot ring)


Night light + scent burner (made using the home-made pottery wheel version 1)




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A matter of curvature …

How much a slight change of curvature ) makes for the rocks (especially those on the left side) can be seen in these three waterfall scenes:






In the first one (mine), the rocks on the left are drawn with insufficient curvature (“too straight”) and the effect of the falling (rushing) water is somewhat lost. Compare with the “original” work in the middle, and the one by Mr Ang (the class instructor), who did a “quick” demo, but due to the need to apply different washes (ink, colour, and water) and waiting for the appropriate drying time after washing, still took 1 hour plus to complete it.

(for a precise measure of “curvature” , see , but only if you are “math” inclined! or just curious … it is not necessary to know this in order to paint a nice waterfall …)

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Water scenes …

In the lesson 2 weeks ago, Mr Ang took us through a detailed session on how to draw water  (waves, both big and small, and ripples near rocks). One of the masters on this is Lu Yan Shao, who is known for his landscape works. Here are the scenes that I attempted, by looking at a “coffee table book” of works by Lu Yan Shao (published by Chien’s uncle!, who has a collection of these works) and one by Qi Baishi that I found on the internet.

(see this site for more works by many other artists: )





Jeff Ho (my “accidental” Mt Bromo traveller), who saw my post on FB on “how to draw water” commented that when he wants to draw water, he just takes a bucket and goes to the well … HAHAHA, good one, Jeff! if only one can still find wells to draw water from in Singapore! (he is currently adventuring in Cambodia, last known whereabouts being in Battambang, where I guess wells can still be found …


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Yes, Prime Minister …

Yes, Prime Minister … went to watch this British “classic” at Jubilee Hall yesterday with Chien, and guess who else was in the audience?

President Tony Tan and wife!! Perhaps should rename it to YES, Mr President …



For fans of the series, tonight is the last night playing in Singapore (extra show added on), and they move on to KL to perform for three more nights.

Interesting memorabilia on sale too (like STAR WARs posters (even one autographed by Darth Vadar) and assorted sports greats (Muhammed Ali, Ian Botham, England soccer team in the 60s, …)


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Grapes, Mynahs, and Eagle (more grass added)…

Grapes, and mynah on plum blossom, were the subject matter of the first two lessons of the new instalment of Chinese ink painting classes.



The class is full now with 19 students, although there hasn’t been a session where everyone was present so far (a good thing for otherwise, it gets a bit hard for everyone sitting or standing around the teacher to get a clear view of his demo piece). Also, class seems to be starting earlier: people are coming early in order to get their works “corrected” by Mr Ang before he starts the class, and the wait time can be quite long nowadays to get it done, to the extent that many people don’t even start painting in class nowadays (the corrections continue after the demo, sometimes for the entire duration of class).

Anyway, I managed to get my “Xu Bei Hong Eagle and Hare” corrected  – grass added and eagle’s tail was “flared”:

My copy of Xu Bei Hong's Eagle, after Mr Ang's correction

My copy of Xu Bei Hong’s Eagle, after Mr Ang’s correction


The version I brought to class ...

The version I brought to class …


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Recent landscape paintings …

Have been doing quite a few landscapes lately, in the last two weeks or so (still my favourite theme, followed by eagles and lotus, at this stage of my ink painting development)…some of the new students are feeling rather overwhelmed by it though and would have preferred “simpler” subject matter.


from the class two weeks ago, first session of landscape for newcomers to the class (a bit overwhelming for them though)

from the class two weeks ago, first session of landscape for newcomers to the class (a bit overwhelming for them though) (done late April 2014)

from an image a classmate shared ...

from an image a classmate shared … (done late April, before Mt Bromo trip)



this is also based on an image shared by a classmate (done 6 May 2014)

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Balas, the man with the red pail …

An encounter with Balas, the man with the red pail … 

This morning, I went to Upper Pierce Reservoir to practise my dizi (my fourth lesson later today at 11 am; had not practised the whole week 😦 as was away in Mt Bromo 🙂  ).

I went down to the white building (the one further away) near the water edge (see below), thinking that this was where I would cause the least disturbance to the serenity of the place, since what I produced from my dizi was still very far from pleasing. After practising my scales and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for a little while, I laid out my mat and started to read the newspapers about 3 metres away from the white building, under the shade of the pine trees.

The two white buildings near the water edge of Lower Pierce reservoir, as seen from Upper Pierce

The two white buildings near the water edge of Lower Pierce reservoir, as seen from Upper Pierce

The two white buildings at the water edge, with very nice pine trees nearby

The two white buildings at the water edge, with very nice pine trees nearby










Not long after, this very polite Indian man came along, said “good morning” to me, and unlocked the door to the white building. The next thing I knew, brownish coloured water was coming out from the doorway. My curiosity, from a long time back, as to what the building contained and its function was about to be answered!


A stick to hold the door open, the red handle is part of a broom, and the blue plastic wrapper (for chips) at the bottom left corner is litter.


My curiosity about the building soon to be resolved …












Ankle deep water being cleared using pail and broom ...

Ankle deep water being cleared using pail and broom …













After doing his job, he came over to where I was (had gone back to read my papers). I asked him about his work and family, which he shared openly. The sixth child of a large family and 29 this year, he has six sisters and and an older brother (first 4 siblings were the girls, followed by his elder brother, then him, and the last two were girls). The youngest girl is a year 12 high school student whom the family has pinned their hopes on of acquiring a college education. His parents are 55 and 54, and they live in Madurai, 400 km away from Chennai, (in the state on Tamil Nadu as I found out from wikipaedia).

He has been working in Singapore for 4 years, and his current employer is Ban Seng Engineering, a company that provides services to PUB (the company website says “we are specialist contractor for steel fabrication & maintenance and preservation of reservoir”). Working hours are from 8 to 5, seven days a week, and for which he gets paid $20 per day (hmm, that is $600 per month!).  The company provides lodging in Woodlands and transport to his place of work, which happens to be at Upper Pierce this morning. Every day, he gets up at 5 am, and sets off from the dorm at 6 am. Food expenses are from his pay and it works out to $150 per month; mobile phone charges costs him $20 and he manages to save $20 (a month ). He sends back most ( $400 ) of his salary to his family and some of it goes to the education of his youngest sister. He said in a regretful manner that he did not have any education, for otherwise, he could have taken better paid jobs like being a driver, or supervisor.

His work at Upper Pierce involves the clearing of the water in the white building once a week; seems like these used to be “pump rooms”, and the water still gets in slowly (guessing here about the slow rise of water in the room; not surprisingly, I guess, since Upper Pierce water pressure is at a height of 50 m (at least) from down here). His other work involves litter picking; and also telling people to obey the regulations (e.g. no fishing, no smoking) which some people give him a hard time (as he is a foreign worker). I was glad to hear that in such situations, all he has to do is call his superiors, who will arrive within minutes and support him by issuing those flouting the rules with $300 summons!.

He also spoke with me about the Little India riots, lamenting how a few black sheep had caused damage (both materially and psychologically) to the relationship between Singaporeans and his countrymen. He is happy to work here, to earn money for his family back home. In Madurai, they have a farm which provide for their sustenance, but no money (to earn), as he puts it.

He asked me what do I do … this is a somewhat hard question for me to answer, honestly (haha, I do lots of stuff, nothing really dominates!) and the answer I gave him was that I was a teacher. Somehow, I suppose people expect an answer to be related to the means of “bringing food to the table”, and it would have been difficult for me to explain otherwise (like, I am embarking on this “fifty before 50” thing). At this, he became quite excited, because teachers are rather revered in his society (number 3, behind God, and Parents) and he spoke of how pupils would obey the teacher’s every instruction (like stand up, keep quiet).

We had to go our separate ways (I still have the dizi lesson to attend at 11 am, and he had other work to do in the reservoir), we shook hands and he introduced himself as “Balas”. I think we shall be meeting again, and on my way out to the Upper Reservoir carpark, I saw him on his bike, and this wonderful rainbow.

Balas, on his bicycle ...

Balas, on his bicycle …

Rainbow in broad daylight!

Rainbow in broad daylight!

Balas, the man with the red pail ...

Balas, the man with the red pail …



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