When I lived in Singapore in 1969-1971, I decided that I wanted to learn to draw. When I first arrived in this new place, I was very despondent. It seemed that everyone had something to keep them busy and occupied, but me. I did not know anyone. I tried to join the other American women playing bridge. I quickly found out that I was totally bored with that! Then, somehow, I saw an ad that classes would be given in Oriental Brush Painting at the Y.W.C.A. I could not wait to sign up. I went to the Chinese Emporium and purchased some ink and an ink pallet, and eagerly went to class. There were women from England, Australia and other countries attending. In a short while, the Australian women asked me if I wanted to join them and take private classes from a Chinese man who taught out of his home. Mr. Tan was very kind and very patient. He would first do a painting, and we were supposed to copy it. We worked on rice paper, and used water colors and ink. I did many of these and had some of them mounted on scrolls. I became friends with some of the women and my husband and I invited them out on our boat, "The East Wind", which we purchased in Singapore.
But, after a time, I decided that I wanted to learn to draw. I had enrolled my son, Jim, in a small private drawing class held after school at the Singapore American School. His teacher, Anna Lou, had Jim doing some very attractive drawings, and I asked her, "Do you think you could teach a grown up to draw?" She said she had classes for adults. So, that was where I really began to study art.
Anna would meet us in different places. Sometimes it would be by the Nicole Highway where there were Junks docked for repair. (Their sails would be down.) Sometimes we met in China Town, and there was one place that was most interesting. It was on the roof which we reached by crawling through a window in a Chinese Restaurant in the Victoria Building. I was wearing mini-skirts at that time, and now I wonder just how did I do that? Sometimes I would go by myself and climb through the tall window and sit on the roof and draw. The workers in the restaurant hung their cleaning rags and stored buckets and mops out there. They did not seem to mind it at all that an American woman was sitting on their roof, drawing.
The view from there was of what was called the "Singapore River". There were bung-boats loaded with goods to be off loaded into the shops backed up the the "river". This was not actually a river, but a narrow inlet off the sea. Large ships could not go there because the area was not large enough, so the bung boats, some with dragons painted on the bow and all with old auto tires attached to the side for bumpers, were crowded around the docks to unload the products.
Other places we met were in Kampongs, which were small Malaysian villages of grass roofed houses. The people were busy, the children were playing, and again, they did not ever wonder why we were drawing them. Many times, I took my board (a drafting board that my husband attached a handle off an attache case to) my child's watercolor box, a small stool to sit on, felt pens, and some paper and explored on my own.
Probably the most scary thing I did was to go into China Town and go up some stairs in an old building where a Mahjong Parlor was. I had my son, Jim with me. He had on his Singapore American School uniform. The woman in the parlor played Mahjong with Jimmy, and shooed away the old gentleman from a window so that I could draw the street scene below.
I still have those drawings. They are some of my dearest memories. My drawing skills have improved since then, but, I am still amazed that I did all that with so little equipment and so little knowledge.
I am going to add the pictures of these drawings to my blog.