My love for art started when I was a child. Mama would not allow me to waste precious time playing with toys. Once a week, I would arrive at my art teacher’s house in the enclaves of Ampang. Dabbling with a myriad of water colours, I would try painting all kinds of objects, from apples to landscapes.
One day, I saw a Japanese lady painting pink cherry blossoms. A dot and a few strokes here and there, and suddenly, an exquisite flower appeared on the canvas. I wanted to try this strange way of painting too, with brushes made of a horse’s tail and ink that had an awful smell.
I started Chinese-brush painting, and I found myself enjoying the strokes used to draw bamboo, birds, orchids and all things from my Chinese cultural heritage. Anthony Sum Yap Hing, who taught me this art of painting, was a great artist and mentor. He was a child prodigy at the age of 14, the owner and promoter of Sum Art Gallery who nurtured the careers of many young artists since 1972. In 1988 he was the only Asian artist to exhibit alongside famed Australian masters like Clifton Pugh, Arthur Boyd and Russell Drysdale. Anthony was a patient teacher and he showed me that with a bit of practice, I could even attempt to illustrate a galloping horse.
This was how I started my journey in art. I learnt to paint with discipline and determination from Sum. At 17, he dared me to organise my own solo exhibition. In six months, an exhibition of 42 pieces of artwork became a reality.
Though I pursued a degree in economics and accounting, the creative part inside me has never died. This passion for art has always been present. It is a gift that God has given me that I must grow, nurture and share. However, work and family has occupied most of time. Nine years ago, I visited the art classes at Apollo Art Studio in Bangsar with my children. The moment I laid my hands on a brush on the canvas, I knew something had been rekindled in me. Since then, I have not looked back.
The last four years of exploring the art of depicting flowers with paint has been deeply inspiring. Putting on canvas the precious treasures around me, capturing the glance of the sun and transforming them into a myriad of colours on the palette has been exciting and fun. Looking out from my balcony, there are many sources of inspiration: the green grass, the sound of water flowing, blossoming orchids, and the year-round heliconia and ginger flowers from my garden.
Wherever I travel to, I will be on the look-out for these pretty blooms that God has creatively made. Be it in a park at the Old City at Chengdu Gardens in Sichuan, a quaint flower shop in Shanghai, or walking along the sidewalks in Sydney suburbs, my eyes will always be drawn to these delicate petals.
One day, as I was painting the purple peony I saw at a park in Hangzhou back in 2012, God spoke to me in a still small voice: Look at this peony, how complex its layers of petals upon petals. How much detail I put into the design of this peony. And yet, every peony is different. Not one is the same as the other.
I began to examine the flower right to its core and the revelation that came to me was: This one, single flower has such a complex structure. Every petal is carefully arranged around the stamens—which proved uncountable—and the colour gradients were like that of a dyed piece of the softest silk. Each petal had the trimmings that looked like it came from a Spanish dancer’s skirt, and the grain of each flower was in superb order. The sunlight cast on the open petals gleamed in the morning, casting shadows upon the petals beneath it.
The peony lacked for nothing, contented with its shape and form. It cared not if its colour was darker than her peers, or does not boast if it owned more petals than the other.
It was here that I thought: If God can put in so much thought into one single flower—which blooms and blossoms in a day or two, and within a week or at most two, withers away—how much more does He care about me and about every single person on Earth? How much He indeed loves us and cares for us, that He would keep count of the number of hairs that stay on our head every day.
This revelation has kept me wanting to paint more and more flowers. It has made me want to reach out, touch, smell and feel that small African Violet or that tiny Kyoto Rose and magnify its beauty upon a blank canvas. In each painting, I love to use a palette of colours and brush strokes to bring life into a flower. It is as if there are capillaries and veins created in every stroke, and together, carries oxygen and life into the each piece of artwork.
My one mission and hope on Earth is to be able to touch lives with these drawings. To bring colour, joy and hope into many living rooms. After five - six years of painting flowers from God’s garden, I think I am just beginning to touch the surface. There is so much more to explore and learn about. My hope is that I can use this gift from God to bring help to the unloved, destitute and the poor. To make a difference in someone else’s life, and to make someone smile even in the darkness of this world.