Looking back, its quite serendipitous how I got started on this project. A couple months ago, while I was still floating around on campus, I happened to run into Joey in the Arts canteen, and she asked me something which really had me quite bewildered.
“Can you help us draw a batch gift for the University Scholars’ Programme (USP)?”
“YES, OF COURSE!” (I practically screamed.)
And so, for the following few days, I was elated beyond measure. Someone from my university was recognising my artwork as worthy to gift to an entire faculty! This was quite a few months ago, before I produced some of my better works (or at least works that I’m prouder of) so really, I was on cloud nine, and I must add, utterly in joyful disbelief!
Then it hit me… I have no clue what to do. How do I begin drawing an artwork to be gifted to a faculty so diverse, with its students so incredibly talented? What could possibly capture that?
Let me take a quick breather here and explain briefly – the USP is an interdisciplinary undergraduate academic programme which admits around 180 students annually, from seven faculties in NUS. It’s a faculty on its own, and students (myself included) can take 12 or so modules spanning a range of subject areas – philosophy, business analytics and biology, just to name a few. There are even modules as out there as ‘Space, Time and Matter’, which delves into the work of Einstein, introducing students to assumptions and ideas that underlie our current conception of space and time. (And which I seriously regret not taking).
So perhaps this might make a little clearer my dilemma – for a faculty so diverse, I had no idea what to do!
Initially, I thought a great idea would be to do a series of drawings capturing USP life. Perhaps illustrations of students in class, of discussions during breakfast (USP is a partly residential programme, so first and second year students do stay in a college), and of student organised activities.
Something kind of like this.
I spent close to six hours on this first drawing actually, but it just wasn’t working out. Straight line drawings aren’t really my forte, and while I liked the idea, I eventually accepted the fact that I couldn’t produce a good piece in this way.
Back to the drawing board.
A second idea I had was inspired by Canadian artist and youtuber Audra Auclair, an artist I recently chanced upon on Instagram who I respect and adore like crazy much!
Titled Sea of Consciousness, I wanted to, through this work, portray how USP broadened my mind and extended my horizons, exposing me to new fields of study way beyond the purview of Geography, my major at school. It’s not super clear in this concept sketch, but each of these little jellies was to have an individual driver, representing how diverse thoughts and ideas sometimes seem to have a mind of their own, taking control of themselves and going in all sorts of directions.
But after getting some feedback from friends, I realised it was really abstract, and a little strange to illustrate a fairytale, fantasy sort of womanly creature as a batch gift. Definitely this will be a project I’ll explore in future, but not now.
Again, back to the drawing board.
I thought long and hard about it. What can I do that can both play to my strengths in terms of my personal style and capture precisely what I want to portray?
Then this image popped up in my mind.
Perhaps because I’ve been drawing a lot of birds and fish recently, and because I did think to merge the two in the past in a sort of surrealistic manner, I thought why not have the two animals be in conversation with each other?
To me, it was perfect.
Of course, having a brilliant idea doesn’t immediately translate into it being an awesome looking finished artwork. I lose count how many hours this piece took me, but I had to do many prep sketches and revisions to get it just how I wanted it.
But I was so, so happy with how it turned out.
Titled The Next Move, this ink and pencil drawing communicates the unique spaces USP creates for interdisciplinary interaction and debate. In what other arena can birds and fish meet to exchange ideas, experiences, and even form special bonds? As I leave this special space and make my own next move, I remember with fondness the experiences I had with inspiring professors, challenging modules and friends from all disciplines. I may never again enter into such a one-of-a-kind space, but the lessons I’ve taken will stay with me forever.
Thanks, Joey, for asking me so many months ago to work on this project. It was intensely stressful (it is the largest drawing I’ve done in a long while) but was also very fulfilling.
I’m really excited to present it to USP during our Commencement Dinner on the 19th!
Fingers crossed they like it 🙂