While I was preparing my personal statement in the process of applying for schools, I was required to write about my goal after graduation such as working in a certain company I’d always dreamed of. I happened to hear an acquaintance mention her wish of entering the new-brand design company DEM Inc here. For me, writing didn’t pose any problem, but this part did baffle me. My biggest dream is very humble. It is just about writing and illustrating stories for people I love. However, this answer would only be criticized as ambitionless and impractical. I found it a pity that I couldn’t write such a goal which I could actually carry out in my everyday life.
Thus, I decided to put into practice the seemingly easy but difficult plan. On my last Christmas with my current students, everyone would get a card featuring my latest invention—Aztec Queen Baby along with an inspirational quote on the back. I drew two sets of cards, 66 in total with no exactly identical pictures because I wanted to leave pieces of me for them as a form of memories.
I love my own class so much that I came up with the decision to give away my past exhibited paintings. On Christmas Eve, we held an auction without monetary trades. Everyone keen on a certain work had to say why she had to get it and give me her drawing before graduation. The rest would be decided by the lot they drew. The whole class went almost wild nearing the end, with some people on the verge of breaking down. I felt kind of bad for not having enough works for everybody. I had meant nothing but to say goodbye to my past, but I was surprised to learn that those moments were so treated with care by the girls. I was the person that gained the most through the experience.
I don’t know how my future will turn out, but every day in my life, I see more and more reasons for drawing, and they are my glittering Christmas gifts.
Usually we rely on a person’s changes of appearance or language to discern his or her differences. However, changes over a short period of time are too subtle to detect. At this time, lines can serve a similar function.
I haven’t babysat for a long while, and since Von doesn’t feel like going out with his parents, we stay at home to doodle. Not having drawn with him for several months, I am kind of shocked to find that he holds a pen much better than before. Also, he has acquired a stronger sense of space. After taking the art lesson for more than three months, his progress is demonstrated in the ways he mixes colors. Overall, he appears to be more confident. I look at his colorful parts, saying with envy, “This is well done. I want to do the same.” He replies, “You do a great job too. Leave me the pencils you just used. I would like to take a try.” Then he asks a series of questions about the results of mixing different sets of colors, from which we derive a lot of fun in making crazy guesses and acting really silly.
Lately I’ve been interested in mechanical exercise, either in typography or visual patterns. I can’t help scribbling in my sketchbook when I see something I find worth imitating. Through the everyday practice, I thus realize that my lines today differ from those of yesterday, not to mention the change in a few months. When others are aware of it, I will be a world far from where I am. Now Von’s growth pushes me to move forward as well.
Though we are constantly gaining something, we are losing something else in the meanwhile. Knowing that Von takes a particular fancy to London and double-deckers, I invite him to come visit me when I make it there. He would have said, “I’ll ask Mommy to take me,” a few months ago. Now he weighs the reality before answering, “I can’t speak English.” I am rather amused, wondering how come it didn’t occur to him that I can. Fortunately, after we finish the picture, I ask him if he’d like to take it home. He says with his typical thoughtfulness, “I want you to keep it because when you miss me, you can look at it.” Every day in life evaporates at the speed of light, but I want to remember Von’s words and lines at this moment, forever.
This semester I’ve finally made it back to Jim’s art class. I have never been an analytical person, so it is rather mind-boggling when Jim mentions the correlations between light and dark facets. I can only use my own formula of color blocks to create similar effects. After having taken the watercolor class for a few months, I think I’m gradually getting the hang of it.
Now I expect myself to acquire more skills, but on the other hand, my ultimate goal is to use one single medium to create pictures of quality. For me, a good work is not one made with various media. Instead, I prefer simple strokes that successfully convey power and feeling.
Jim added some sophisticated touches to my Giverny Garden after I was done. The gray office suddenly lights up because of its existence. Even when I walk into the cluttered space from the cold exterior on a freezing winter day with icy rain, I can smell the fragrance of nature in my mind’s eye. When I take my temporary leave from work, I am sure I’ll miss the trivial but soothing image.
It has been almost a week since my interview, and I have lived like a zombie for almost a week, trying to recover from the mental and physical fatigue. I detected many small signs during the past few days. I think I can finally pull myself together before a new week comes my way.
So far, the outcome must sound very gruesome. In fact, it’s not in all senses. The interviewer said in terms of techniques, my drawings are too too too simple. (But since when has my name become my Achille’s heels?) I need to receive solid training in printing, typography and so on. Instead of letting me go into the MA program, she prescribed the Foundation degree for me, which is more like a vocational qualification in the U.K. Seriously speaking, I didn’t know that MA students are required to write a thesis as a requisite for the degree until one week before the interview, and obviously, that is not what I am after. The Foundation degree offers courses which I, as an amateur, should take. There are also opportunities to work with the industry. This should be a tailored decision for me were it not for my fragile self-esteem.
Two days ago in watercolor class, I sat there like a vegetable. My classmate happened to take out my painting from earlier weeks for Jim to revise. Classmate A exclaimed, “Your lines are so much more confident than your physical appearance.” I wanted to retort, “Indeed, I can be such a wimp sometimes.” Then classmate B went on to say, “You have a very distinctive personal style.” Watercolor painting is my weakest, and still, I was amazed that some sort of personal style could be distinguished. Their remarks formed a complete contrast with the interviewer’s sharp comment, “Your lines are still struggling.” It dawned on me that many things in the world are just relative. For viewers with less experience, my lines are bold. However, for the professionals who work in the industry, my lines are not clearly formed yet.
Despite my lack of will to try other schools, I did give it a thought. In the end, I chose to accept the offer. Not because I have no faith in myself but because I think it’s time for me to learn everything I don’t know with humility. Speaking of my past student life, I used to be supported by a very strong sense of superiority. Now I don’t have that anymore, and I don’t need it. All I am looking for is a door through which I can take a look at the field. As for the remaining weeks before 2010 ends, I want to make some difference in my and others’ lives with my drawings.
I’ve had the longing to change because at this age, I know my life will be more or less the same, even in the coming 20 years. I should feel greatly pleased that I have something that is struggling instead of having taken shape in every aspect. If God doesn’t have other challenges for me temporarily, then, London, I shall see you in ten months’ time.
PS: I want to thank all of you for your faith in me and your encouragement!
I planned to start my application to graduate school from December, but I accidentally discovered an accidental opportunity for an interview, which will take place in less than a week. That means I’ll have to come up with all the documents required in a few days. Besides, the interviewer seems to place MUCH emphasis on the applicants’ professional art background, so the counselor hopes that I can brush up on what I read before to gain an edge for myself with knowledge and eloquence. Thus, I have checked out almost all the books related to illustration from the library. These days I’ve rocked myself to sleep surrounded by books, but the content is so interesting that I feel extremely blissful. Though not many people care about what I am doing, I am happy all the same in my serene corner.
Sharen said that I shouldn’t pave such a difficult road for myself, but I am surer of nothing else in my life. Especially when I learn that the British master Quentin Blake also majored in English in university, and that he didn’t take up illustration until he stopped being a student, I am even more certain of my own choice. Well, now I know I am not the loner.
Whenever I call up Von, Kai is eager to make his presence felt. Despite his limited vocabulary and reigning silence, he holds tightly onto the phone. Then Mom and Dad will have to distract his attention, thus taking him away from the war zone. Sometimes when I am about to bid farewell, Kai makes his comeback. The two brothers play and talk alternatively, which makes me wonder if the phone call will ever end.
To bring everlasting peace for the two boys, I drew a telephone jungle in which there are telephones everywhere. This should please Von a lot since one of his major anticipations in the daily life is talking to aunts on the phone.
I went to the U.K. study fair with the intention of collecting more information about schools I would like to apply for. In the beginning I was kind of daunted by the young bobbing heads of college kids. Despite my purposeful sporty looks, I was so aware of the age gap between me and them.
Most school representatives made similar remarks about my qualifications: You need a strong portfolio since you were not an art major. Most students in our programs still have art backgrounds. I hope my case will certainly be an exception. I went with notes about every school. I had no problem pinpointing the features of each school’s courses and the styles of more famous professors. Fortunately, I viewed their words more as a friendly suggestion which would give me an edge when preparing the application forms. There is still something useful about being older.
On my way home I couldn’t help wondering where people of my age are. I asked myself why I still need to take an adventure. When I walked into a children’s clothing store, the clerk asked me how many children I had. I said I didn’t have any. The answer was so obvious. If we all have to age in the end, I want to record life in my own manner. There will of course be moments of fear and panic along the way, but I don’t want to obsess about the would-have-beens later on.
This week the sun has shone especially hard, but my youthful little fish are trapped in piles of books and the sad gloomy classroom. It is an indescribable drag to face the temptation of the crystal-clear flowing water without having the courage to take a plunge for a wild swim.
I say, go for a sunbath. After all, while the dull moments in life span decades, seizing the ephemeral pleasure like cheerful sunshine is definitely a must when it comes to avoiding depression.
攝於京都三千院‧2008夏 / photos taken at Sanzen-in Temple in Kyoto, summer 2008
I went to see Cathérine Deneuve’s film I Want to See produced in 2008 with Huei. On her visit to Beirut for a gala event, she asked her hosts to organize a trip to South Lebanon for her. The director put her together in the same car with one of Lebanon’s famous actors Rabih Mroueh, who served as her driver and tour guide. The documentary presents the ruins in Beirut and Rabih’s native village. The two even accidentally drive into a dangerous zone scattered with landmines on their ride in the south. These scenes truthfully reflect the situations in Lebanon without any pre-arrangement.
At the end of the film, Rabih and Cathérine pass by the seaside, where all the rubble and debris, traces of the wars, are broken into small pieces first and then dumped. Rabih says that he can’t help imagining a gigantic city lying underneath the sea surface. I think the terror of this city lies in that mankind puts away their ambition and desire somewhere out of sight. They might be invisible, but that doesn’t mean they do not exist.
In each of us might lie a monstrously huge city, and it takes courage to look it in the eye.
She ran into him in drizzling rain. He was neatly clad, sitting alone in front of a convenience store. He repeated his age, which was 91. His son drove a Mercedes-Benz. He was about to be sent to a nursing home, but he didn’t believe his life there would be any better. He felt hopeless and helpless about his not being able to walk. His thoughts traveled between the past and the present, between what he had said and what he wanted to say. He had cravings for something sweet. She bought a bowl of sweet soup for him. He would like to take it home and savor every bite of good will from a stranger with a certain kind of ritual.
Von has started to take art lessons in Soho Art. He is taught to create with different media every week. I often ask him about the classes, but this is the first time I get to see his artwork in person. I am even more surprised to learn that he means more than lending it to me for a glimpse. It is meant as a gift for me, a simple yet precious one from a sincere four-year-old boy.
Yesterday when I watched the introduction of the London University of Arts, I was impressed by a sir saying that he created out of cravings cravings and cravings at the end of the video clip. I thus can’t get the words out of my mind. This probably has something to do with my recent fit of cravings, some of which can be immediately satisfied while the others are nothing more than wishful thinking. I decide to turn all my cravings into an image and a little game. I hope I can start all over again after saying them out loud.
I am kind of laidback on a Saturday morning. Instead of prohibiting the two brothers from doing this and that, I take up the camera to record their exploration of the living room objects. I thus become an objective photographer rather than a nanny. From my new perspective, I find them to be rather creative. When the living room becomes a total mess, we’ll compete to see who can win the title of the best cleaner.
This song, recommended by my pal Caterina, is perfect for rainy days. When the rain traps me in the apartment, at least there is still a Chagall-style image to swim in. Along with the relaxing guitar melody, time spent confined to the house can be pleasant in its own way.
My brother Jei is finally getting married. Though we are a reserved family, we still can’t help showing our overflowing joy. Jun and I have even started to imagine being godfather and godmother to Jei’s future kids.
Mom asked my future sister-in-law on the phone: Are you sure of the decision? Having thoroughly known this person’s strengths and weaknesses, are you willing to go down the road of life with him? She stole the priest’s lines, but they were far weightier coming from my mom. The questions symbolize our heartfelt sincerity and love for her.
I took a trip to the hair salon this week, but it was much more than that. It felt like I was transported to the UK at darkening dusk. The salon, located on the second floor in an old apartment in the lane, is decorated in the style of a boutique hotel. My new designer is a beautiful-looking young man. Since I am practically blind after taking off my glasses, all I remember is his long and slender fingers softly wielding silver scissors and the brownish-yellow bangs that flow when he lowers his head. Cars on the roads outside race by unceasingly, their headlights forming never-ending ribbons of colorful splotches. However, the soul of this experience actually lies in the auditory luxury—the perfect stereo playing out James Blunt’s emotion-stirring voice in the tiny yet enchanting space. It’s the ruggedness in his singing that gives a fantastic touch of British feel, especially the song 1973. The melody and lyrics not only take me to Britain but also remind me of past wild days.
I sent four pomelos as the cultural ambassador of Taiwanese autumn to the other end of the world. When I didn’t hear from them long after their departure, I wrote the following story while waiting. Better yet, I made my favorite moon one of the protagonists too.
I need to fantasize about different images every day. However, the pictures are nowhere to be found when I concentrate on work. One day when I was about to sink into the swamp of boredom, Pam secretly left a pack of Walkers’ Italian lemon and white chocolate biscuits on my desk. After I savored the lovely dessert, a new and funny image descended, which pleased me more than anything else. Thanks to Pam for being my Cookie Knight!
Last weekend I had a lovely discovery when I went to the library: I found many library-goers clad in home wear and slippers. I can’t help interpreting this phenomenon from a very optimistic angle. Reading must be viewed as part of the daily life, and when we read, we should be feel comfy in what we wear. After all, not most of us will agree that reading while dressed in gowns or suits is enjoyable.
I can’t help thinking that inhabitants of Shanghai love to go out in pajamas. Do they also go to libraries in sleepwear?