Lake Windermere, Lake District.
Background story: Was polishing up this drawing on iPad at  Cumberland Pencil Museum (“The World’s Largest Pencil!”) in Keswick, Lake District. Old British couple in seventies hover nearby, we chat, they proceed to enthuse about the marvels of modern technology. “Ah, we can’t be too fussed about learning new things,” whines the elderly husband. “My hips hurt too much and I rather just read newspapers.” I proceed to demonstrate Paper app’s functions. “Ooh, looks just like real pen and paper!” coos the wife. “Ah, that looks cool. Fine, I might want to get an iPad after all!” Husband deadpans. E-mailed them this painting as a keepsake. Personally dislike the patchy colours on this painting, but it was Paper before it’s iOS 7 upgrade, so all is good since I can practice and only get better.
 I know, I’m nerdy like that! It’s set up by Derwent Pencils, which every self-respecting art student knows is THE brand for professional quality colour pencils. Couldn’t resist taking the 2 hour bus journey to visit such a strange and out-of-way small town - which ended up with me huddling with a roomful of kids under ten, watching a documentary profiling the importance of stationery during WW2 (who would’ve thought?) - while sweltering in black leather amidst the capricious British summer.
A sketch of "The Ugly Duchess", hung in National Gallery, London.
Using the Paper app has its flaws: amidst excited browsing, people often accidentally erase and scribble upon my drawings - including this one. Hence the unfortunate indent on her elaborate headpiece.
But that’s fine. I like imperfections. They appealed me to the original ‘Ugly Duchess’ in the first place, than say the smooth Venusian silhouettes of Van Dyck or Hans Holbein. They’re remarkably skilled painters, but too self-consciously perfect for my liking. Much prefer the loose, painterly expressiveness of Velázquez and Titian - who paint with their hearts, and not just their eyes.
Enough apologetic writing. To me beauty is pleasant, but prosaic. Ugliness is far more interesting. The late Diana Vreeland (former editor of American Vogue) comes to mind. She embodies what the French calls ‘jolie laide’, an oxymoron of ‘ugly beautiful’. Give me a soulful woman with an oversized nose and scathing opinions any time, over rambling mannequins that talk so much yet say so little.
In Mandarin, the pronunciation for the word ‘fate’ (缘) - is exactly the same for the word ‘circle’ (圆): yuán.
A card for my best friend: birthday greetings from some of her favourite people.
Made With Paper
Exuberant Scottish man in kilt, spotted amongst self-conscious fashion glitterati at Art Stage! 2013 (Marina Bay Sands, Singapore). Refreshing and tres adorable!
Saw a strange woman sitting insouciantly at the tube station, waiting for the train to come as she filed her two inch long fingernails with leonine pride, while basking in the quizzical attention from passers-by. She had half a dozen curlers twisted inside her auburn hair; both arms decked with shiny bangles up to her elbows; wore sunglasses inside an underground tunnel, and had a vermillion red lip. She seemed almost like a caricature of performed femininity, with the problem of blurring what Erving Goffman might describe as front and backstage social boundaries.
As I attempted to capture this ridiculously interesting woman on Paper, I heard giggles behind my back. Embarassed that I got caught, I blushed, turned around, and met the gaze of a handsome Milanese mother-daughter couple. They waved and gave me a thumbs-up.
For me part of the joy of art-making is in making social connections, and thus breaking the proverbial fourth wall between the creator and the audience. The stereotype of the tortured, solitary artist might be romantic - but one which I find gauche, if not pretentious. Art is a lot of fun when shared with people, used as conversation starters, and used as a platform for constructive critique. It is so highly social by nature - especially when people relate to the products of one’s secondary being.
But I’m probably just bullshitting, because we also make art out of boredom and vanity, and prettiness can be good reason enough. Just like how the lady was happily filing her crimson nails in the dim underground tube station.
Made With Paper