Saturday, June 19, 2010

Get to know the artists: Don Low

Don Low is the third of our four sketchers for the upcoming Tiong Bahru Sketches: Outside - In Exhibit. A skilled digital artist who started work since 1998, Don has worked for publishers, ad agencies, web companies and educational institutes. He is an illustrator, concept and character designer, and a storyboard artist. In 2006, Don was awarded an Media Development Authority's Media Education Scheme Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in Animation in Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, USA. Prior to that, he studied a certificate course in Sculpture at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 and he also has a Bachelor of Arts in Interactive and Multimedia Design from the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia in 2001. And did we mention that Don is a Materials Engineer? He had that degree in 1996 from the Nanyang Technological University.

Don is currently an administrator of the Urban Sketchers Singapore website.

The works that Don made for this upcoming exhibit are a bit personal. He grew up in this vicinity and has fond memories of people sharing conversations over coffee and tea while showing off their caged song birds in a corner of Tiong Bahru. He still goes to Tiong Bahru to eat his favorite Chwee Kuey, such as the one he drew here:

Don Low.
Chwee Kuey. 2010. pen, ink and watercolor on paper. 14 x 18.5 cm.

Don's other works are snapshots of life as it happens. In his own statement he says "I am a voyeur. Whenever time permits, I would stand and sstay hidden at one street corner to look at things and people around me for as long as I can. The I would sketch what I see in front of me. If I am having a coffee break, I would sketch the coffee shop I patronized. Unlike taking a snapshot with a camera, sketching allows me to get acquainted with my surroundings. It is like a process of getting to know someone I haven't met before; you uncover things as you get to know the person more. Sketching makes me see beyond what I would look at normally, and most of the time, it is also a record of my emotions and even my thoughts. It involves my entire being. A sketchbook is like a journal or a road map of my life's journey. It is not entirely about putting down nicely drawn pictures, but rather, a record of what matters to me everyday."

Here is another sketch of Don:

Don Low. Loo's Hainanese Curry Rice. 2010. ink and wash on paper. 21 x 14.5 cm.

Here's a brief Q&A with Don Low.

You did a lot of work in Animation. How different is it from sketching?

Animation and sketching are quite different from each other anyway. But I enjoyed both anyway. After I finished my thesis film in May 2008 and graduated after, I have not done another since then. However I have never stopped sketching. I kept several sketchbooks at the same time. One for location sketching, another for sketching fun things without following any format or whatsoever, and another for exploration and so forth. The more I sketch, the more I want to keep things organized, even though I am not a very organized person. Once in a while when I browse through my sketchbooks, I actually enjoy looking at things done in a sequential manner or following a series, thus keeping different sketchbooks help.

Sketching is more spontaneous and perhaps somewhat haphazard. I sketch what I see before me, and then jotting down my thoughts. In a way, a sketch in my sketchbook can be a page of memories, experiences and observations. I am trying my best to write something after I sketched, not something clever or something composed, but just some random thoughts or anecdotes of how I felt at that very moment.

You like to include people in your sketches. Can you say it is a bit voyeuristic. Do you like watching people? What do you find interesting enough to sketch?

This is a good question. I am a voyeur, in the good sense of course. I am obsessed with looking at people I have to stop myself at times. Nowadays I would only observe people around me when I sit down to sketch. Other than that, no, simply walking straight and look straight ahead. People that interest me would be those with very special features, shapes and sizes. When I draw them I am not poking fun but giving them the due attention and respect that no one else would offer. They could be so common looking that everyone else would pass them without even knowing that they are there. I want to make them special in my sketchbook.

What do you like most about sketching?

What I love most is the intimate relationship I built between me and the subject that I am sketching at that very instant. Whether it is a 15-min or a 45-min sketch, I am alone with that temple, that building with special memory, that lighting that evoked a sense of poetry, or even with that unique situation that cause hunger. And within that span of time, I am at peace with myself. I may not be even thinking of what I am sketching; I could be unwinding from the week's grime, I could be thinking of my wife and even what I would eat for the next meal. I love to sketch with friends as a group too; it feels like a group of housewives washing their clothes by the river...(laugh).

As an artist, what medium are you most comfortable with?

Pen & Ink. Watercolor.

Do you think there is a difference between you as an artist and as an illustrator?

No. Serving different purposes though. :D

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