Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy New Year!

Who would have thought that an artist would park himself between the bread shelves and the vegetable stalls on the packed kaki-lima of the shop houses in my village? But that was where I saw this man sketching a picture of a lion. He talked as his Chinese brush flew over the orange-coloured art paper, leaving lines and dots and blobs of black ink.
Mr. Philip Kok showing his magic.

How fascinating, I thought. I put down my just-bought chicken and mushrooms and other whatnot for tonight’s dinner and decided to stay and watch Mr. Philip Kok, a graduate of Nanyang University, put the final touch to his lion.

“That is really beautiful,” I told him as he gave away the lion drawing to a vegetable vendor who had been watching him. Good move on my part for I caught his attention.

He adds his seal to show the sketch is his work.

“Ah,” he said, “I’ll show you how to teach your children how to draw a dragon.” He started with the two dots for the eyes and built little details around them before drawing a long curvy line, the shape of an inverted 'S', to show the dragon’s body. A long line drawn along the worm-like dragon body with a ‘dry’ brush, gave it a plumper look. All the lines and dots were done very fast and in no time the artist was done. The final touch was a seal “to show this drawing was done by me”.

“The ink for the seal never dries up,” Mr. Kok said as dabbed his seal on the dark pinkish reddish ink which has the consistency of Kiwi shoe polish. “It is made by mixing red powder with white wine.” He placed his seal at the bottom of his drawing and… presented it to me!

Wow! What an incredible gesture! “Because you are interested,” he said. And I thought I was being nosey and inquisitive!

A beautiful dragon for me!

My luck didn’t end there. Mr. Kok went on to draw another piece—and he gave that to me as well—to show all the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, from the mouse to the pig. As his brush danced on the brilliant orange paper, he talked about the traits of the animals. People tend to have the characteristics of the animal in whose year they were born, he said. (I didn’t tell  him in which animal year I was born for fear of misleading him. I'm nothing like my animal year, okay?)

“The mouse is the cleverest animal,” he said, “and very cunning. A person born in the mouse year makes a good lawyer. The happiest people are those born in the year of the pig. They don’t worry too much. They’ll always have something to eat.”

The crowd at the night market in my village.

Mr. Kok gave me the second piece when all the animals have appeared on the paper. We said goodbye, I gathered my bags and walked home happy in the knowledge that there’s a ‘pig’ in my house; a pig who might just share his food with me in case the New Year  ‘harvest’ proves to be less bountiful.

Happy New Year to all my readers! May the Dragon bring you health, wealth, wisdom, peace and happiness!

KK is all dressed up to meet the Dragon!

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