A few days ago, I went to observe my father during his Chinese-Ink painting class at Studio Miu. From its initial location at Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Studio Miu has relocated to Centre Point to better serve its students.
You can read about my coverage of his lesson at Jin Yin Mo.
What struck me about my father’s lessons was that he was very approachable and interested in sharing his knowledge to his students. This is an aspect of my father that I had not witnessed but have heard about from his students or peers.
His students at Studio Miu waxed lyrical about how they loved his teaching style and how they enjoyed his lessons thoroughly. One student even stated very firmly that they plan their lives around his Friday lessons – to much fervent consensus.
I have never been taught by my father to paint. He talks to me about painting and all the important concepts behind the paintings, but generally left me to my personal development.
At a very young age, I developed an interest in painting due to my father’s influence. So he sent me to Gradsign Art School instead. I was taught children art by a Ms Tan, followed by Mr Lim Leong Seng and Mr Boo Sze Yang for watercolours.
I stopped attending art classes at Gradsign when I went to secondary school, but continued my interest in painting at the Art Club headed by Mr Ho Cheok Tin. Under Mr Ho’s tutelage, I learnt Chinese-Ink painting. I even managed to get an award from the Singapore Youth Festival for one of my paintings.
Besides covering Chinese-Ink painting, watercolours, gouache, I learnt Chinese calligraphy under Mr Lim Wong Hoe (whom I admired for his precise yet unique style of calligraphy).
Personal development is the core of my interest in art, with my father watching and supporting from a distance. When I made the decision to not pick up painting at a local art college, he was disappointed. While I may not be an artist now, I am supporting him as his manager… my interest and passion in the arts have never been extinguished.
When he shares with me the social going-ons in the art community, discuss various artists’ developments, and even asking me to critique his work, I am still able to rely on my self study of the arts and personal talents to be a competent arts commentator or as a participant in a dialogue.
While I may not have inherited my father’s flair for Chinese-Ink painting, I am honoured to be relied upon to support his work, and be able to advise other younger artists in their professional development.
As a personal belief, something that I hold very dearly to, I am a professional. Choon Jin maybe my father, but work is work. Just as I believe in paying the full value of a painting as per the label price, I do not favour my father’s works when I see something better from another artist.
While some people have laughed at me for being so silly and not asking for favours, I can firmly stand up on my own feet and act as I am, because I have straight convictions about art and knowing when things are professionally aligned. Thus on a professional level, my father is an artist in the wider arts community and he is treated as such.
I am relying on my own skills as a professional – my good eye and sense (for aesthetics, techniques, colours and compositions), my knowledge (of art and its social communities) and my preference for discretion (in the art community) – perhaps these are attributes that set me apart.
Standing here at Studio Miu and observing my father at work, I am appreciative of the way he delivered his lessons in class. Reflecting upon my newly-acquired knowledge of adult learning, he seems to have utilised an instructional approach but couched it in a friendly and open manner.
The students whom I have met, have different learning needs as well. The morning class was more socially interactive (two European students and one Chinese student) while the afternoon class leaned towards a “teacher to student” interaction (one Japanese student). I think my father’s friendly manner makes the students’ learning process much easier and adapt to, as well as receive feedback and critique from him.
Reinforcement and encouragement through his friendly critique seemed to go well with his students, as they earnestly accept his critique and expands the feedback session with more questions. His willingness to share more of his knowledge, and even suggestions for self practise, shows his passion in encouraging his students to push ahead on their own pace and even develop on their own areas of interests.
I hope to be able to participate in more class observations. I may have been away for a long time, I think this is a good time to understand my father and his work much better.