Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tribal flavour

African-inspired wrap dresses from So simple yet chic.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Before there was Monet's 'Haystacks' series, James McNeill Whistler painted many versions of night scenes which he dubbed 'Nocturnes'. The hazy quality captures the uncertainty of night vision and creates the impression of a dream-like inner world, which is characteristic of Symbolism. Of course, the loose, unpolished brushwork has a direct relation to Impressionist technique. I really love how Whistler portrays the velvety night sky, tinged with a multitude of shades and hues. It takes on a life of its own, drawing the viewer into its depths. Visually seductive is the word to describe it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Money Money Money

Excuse the cheesy title, but that is indeed what's on my mind. It drives me insane to be constantly so calculative with money. Everytime I pick something off the shelf at the grocery store I'm calculating how many meals I can get out of it and comparing the price to other items. I always try to buy whatever's discounted for that week. I don't even get lunch from the school cafeteria because it's pricey. Instead, I cook and pack my own lunch. And still I feel like I'm spending alot.

It's the little snacks and drinks in school that add up, plus the meals I have outside during the weekend. Why is food here so ridiculously expensive? Not to mention the art supplies I have to stock up on regularly. Now I make sure that I eat every grain of rice, finish every last sip of my drink, and have the waiter pack any leftovers I have when I eat out.

I've resolved to take biscuits to school for snacks. I'm even wondering if I should bring my own drinks. Not sure what to contain them in though. My water bottle?

Sigh. I need to learn to be more savvy with my finances. When adult life rolls around there'll be even more things to manage like investment portfolios and insurance.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lost In Translation- 'More than This'

There's nothing more than the meeting of two hearts.

Saw this photo today in a post titled 'The Design Student' on The Sartorialist and laughed because I recognized the toolbox- I have a similar one. Plus the roomy bag and cup of coffee. Doesn't that just scream 'design student'? We lug a load of art supplies to school everyday and survive on coffee to keep awake during marathon studio classes and while doing assignments.

So I just returned from my longest day of the week- a 6-hour life drawing session followed by English Literature class. Though such days are draining, they're also very fulfilling. Both are my favourite classes, and I always feel that I've achieved a lot in one day. We had a female model today called Yuko. I really do get a sense that both my gestures and long drawings are improving. For English class, we discussed two short stories- 'How I contemplated the world...' by Joyce Carol Oates and 'The Garden of Forking Paths' by Jorge Luis Borges, the latter of which I found pretty fascinating.

'The Garden of Forking Paths' derives its name from the fable of a Chinese man named Tsui Penn, governer of Yunnan, who withdrew from public duty to write a novel and construct a maze. After his death, his descendants found only a heap of seemingly contradictory drafts, and no physical maze. It took a Sinologist, Stephen Albert, many generations later to discover that the novel was in fact the maze. Unlike conventional stories in which the narrator chooses one option out of those presented and eliminates the others, Tsui Penn's novel diverges into all possible outcomes the way a maze 'forks', only that the forking exists in time, not in space. To sum it up, Tsui Penn's novel presents parallel futures that exist simultaneously.

I broke out my snuggly thick knitted cardigan today, also bought over the weekend. To enliven the grey colour, I pinned a faux jewel brooch to the 'lapel' (the collar area) and the effect worked well I think.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Power of a Good Coat

So we had a few days of freakishly windy weather here in LA last week, and not being able to stand the cold, I ran to the mall and bought a dark blue coat and a wrap cardigan with a chunky knit. Yesterday in the elevator after class, I put on the coat in anticipation of the chilly evening. Here's the reaction it elicited from one of my male classmates:

A: "Oh my god, where did you get that coat?"
Me: (slightly stunned) "Um, Forever 21? I just bought it over the weekend 'cos I was cold."
A: "I've been looking for a coat like that forever. How much was it?"
Me: "Like, 30 (USD)."
A: "Dude, I'm so getting that coat."

I guess I could see why he wants my coat. It's a classic cut, mid-thigh length, that you can button up and belt in colder weather or leave it open. It's snuggly, slightly oversized, basically everything I want in a coat. Plus, it's dark blue, one of my favourite colours.

I'm not selling that coat to him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I was having brunch at a crepes cafe run by Japanese women when I heard the theme song for one of my favourite Japanese drama serials, Love Shuffle. It felt so familiar and strange at the same time. I feel detached from the person I was before I came to L.A. I've changed more in the past two months or so than I did in the past year. Before this, I never even looked at my bills. When anything went wrong, I'd automatically run to my parents or my brothers for help. The experience of living alone in a foreign country has forced me to grow up and learn to deal with matters myself. It was something that I recognized as lacking in myself and it really spurred my decision to leave my comfort zone and go to a new place.

This seems frightening and daunting, but it can also be very liberating. Eating in a cafe with friends, walking in a shopping mall thousands of miles away from home, exploring the streets- these activities give me a great sense of freedom. Sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to live permanently in the States. I do miss Singapore a lot and I consider myself a Singaporean girl at heart. But there are times that make me think, This isn't so bad. Maybe I can live here after all. I wonder how I'm being remembered by those back home. I wonder if I'll return and find that things have changed and people have moved on.

On another note, I visited a new mall in Culver City and went crazy in the huge (2-storey) Forever 21 store. The offerings are SO much better than those in Singapore. I also found an Indian restaurant and got my Indian food fix. Yay!

Friday, October 2, 2009

I woke up last Saturday morning with a MAJOR craving for roti prata. For those who don't know what it is, it's a fried Indian flat bread that you usually dip into curry. But where was I going to get prata? The closest thing I could find in my vicinity was Thai food so I dragged my friend there for dinner.

The place made me feel like I'd been transported back to the Orient. I love the dark wood, hard-backed furniture, high ceilings, and plants. I'm more used to such details than carpeting and sofas (as comfy as the sofa in my apartment is).

On the recommendation of my friend, I tried Thai iced tea for the first time and it was delicious. I almost didn't want to drink it because of how pretty it looked when it arrived. Look at the layers of colour! The rich sienna is so enticing.

Then the food came and I was so excited to dig in that I totally forgot to take photos of it. I shared green curry and rice, spring rolls with sweet chilli sauce, tom yam soup and coconut ice-cream with my friend. Here are two shots of our nearly-finished food:

Happy, satisfied me!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Figure drawings

Samples from my most recent life drawing session. Basically there are three types of drawings- gestures, medium and long drawings. Gestures or gestural drawings are quick 1-2 min. sketches to get the gist of the pose (eg. the first photo). Long drawings are where you can go into detail and define the human form more clearly. We haven't really progressed to that stage yet.
Drawing the human figure is an ancient practice and actually a science- we deal with anatomy, measurement and proportion. Precision is key. If a foot is not placed at the right angle, it throws the entire drawing off. At the same time, it's definitely an art as one can show the spirit of the pose and even the model through expressive lines. One can experiment with different materials like charcoal pencil, graphite pencil and china marker and achieve a variety of styles. New models sometimes call for a new way of seeing and drawing. So far we've had a yoga practitioner, bodybuilder and baseball player. Somewhere down the line we'll have a ballerina I think.

My apartment

View from the entrance.

Kitchen area.

Dining table.

Living room.

My room (my bed's the one on the left).

Our walk-in closet. My area's the one on the left- you'll notice it's very minimal compared to my roommate's. I have four pairs of shoes in total- the two I wear most often are in the entrance area.
The view from our room's window. In the distance is the airport. I can see the lights flashing from planes at night.
View from our window, continued. Facing us is a boutique hotel (the black building).

The balcony that connects to our living room.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I've been reading Mitch Albom's books lately as it turns out that one of my flatmates is a fan. For One More Day was my favourite out of the lot, as it really resonates with how I'm feeling now. Being away from home means that I've learnt to appreciate my family and friends much more. I miss little things like my sis grooming my eyebrows and my mum's cooking, which is funny because my mum hasn't cooked for years.

Life drawing yesterday was really enjoyable. For some reason I felt much more relaxed than in regular class. The instructor was playing some music on a stereo and suddenly Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game' came on. The sound of it in that silent, spacious room was magical.

I'll be posting some shots of my apartment soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time passes so quickly- it's exactly a month since I arrived in Los Angeles and nearly a third into the semester. Wow.

Just returned from a marathon life drawing session, english lit. class and dinner at Taco Bell. I had chicken quesadilla- first time eating meat in... 2 or 3 weeks? I find meat too troublesome to prepare so I usually stick to eggs.

During lunch break I went shopping for fruits at the Farmers' Market opposite my school. The strawberries I bought are so sweet and juicy. Delicious. Strawberries were a luxury to me back in Singapore so I'm delighted that I can now have them whenever I want.

I think I'm going for an extra life drawing class tomorrow. Feel like I need more practice. I must conquer life drawing. It's definitely the toughest art class I've ever had.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Essentials of L.A. Fashion

1) Sandals (who wants to wear covered shoes in the heat of summer? I've seen all kinds of styles from woven thong sandals to strappy lace-ups)

2) Denim shorts (this seems to be a staple around here; usually paired with button-down shirts or tank tops)

3) Sunglasses! (essential for shielding the glare)

4) A cardigan, lightweight sweater or some sort of cover-up (it gets chilly when it's windy, or when night approaches)

You know how in Singapore people will stare if someone has the audacity to don a hat or a pair of sunglasses in public? Well here no one will bat an eye. In fact, you're an anomaly if you don't own a pair.
I grabbed a bite from Taco Bell near my apartment the other day and suddenly recalled that Taco Bell once could be found in Singapore. The memory is so distant that I'd almost forgotten it. Strange how our mind connects things. In my case, how I find links to home in my environment even when they are seemingly non-existent. My apartment is near the airport, so when lying in bed at night I spot the occasional flash of lights from aeroplanes. When that happens I instinctively think of myself returning on a plane. It's not that I'm really homesick, or that I really want to leave this place. It's just a mental connection I make with everything back home, a connection that transcends miles.

Despite the mostly mundane quality of daily life, sometimes it still feels surreal to be here. I guess after planning something for so long and that thing actually happens, you find it hard to believe. I never really gave much thought to the consequences of my actions, or at least I thought I understood what those consequences were. I just focussed on getting here. But now, with people's exclamations of astonishment at how far I came (all the way from Singapore!) and the fact that I'm the youngest child, have never lived by myself and don't know anyone in the immediate vicinity, I started thinking. They say I'm brave or, as my aunt put it, I'm not 'simple' (translated from Chinese). Sometimes it takes sweat and tears to step out of your comfort zone, but I can say that it's well worth it. Even if I were to fail in my studies (I certainly hope I don't), at least I can say that I tried, instead of spending the rest of my life wondering about what could have been. And already, I've learnt so much about the world and myself just by coming here. I now know what's important to me, which some people take a lifetime to discover.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

School's been going well and I'm enjoying my lessons more and more, as well as the company of the people. I've been graded on a few assignments and received mostly Bs and an A, which is pretty good. I like picking out my outfits every day. This may sound trivial, but it's a freedom that's heaven to someone who's been wearing uniforms all her life.

How else have I been spending my time? Well, checking out the new collections for spring, because New York Fashion Week is going on now. If anything catches my eye, it'll appear on this blog soon :) By the way, my school library has a great collection of magazines covering art, design, architecture, fashion, popular culture etc. I was just checking out the September issue of Vogue.

On the advice of my brother, who spent a year in the US on an exchange programme, I bought Ben & Jerry's ice-cream, a bag of tortilla chips and salsa from the supermarket. Ice-cream is way cheaper here- the Ben & Jerry's were 2 for 6 USD which is about 4.50 Singapore dollars each tub! WOW. I dipped the tortilla chips into the salsa for a quick snack and they were so yummy. Seriously, you find it hard to stop.

Ok, this is turning into a post about food. By request, here's some pics of the food I've eaten lately:
A scrumptious Chinese-style dinner. Credit for cooking it must go to my marvellous flatmate. Love the dark noodles! Chinese and Singaporean food has become a luxury to me now and I find myself craving all kinds of dishes I never particularly liked before.
Cereal with a sprinkling of blueberries. They eat a lot of cereal here. I try to make mine healthier by avoiding the sugary flavours and adding fresh fruits.
Sandwich with dark lettuce and ham, a slice of watermelon and milk tea for breakfast. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I wake up early to prepare something nice.
Veggies drizzled with Thousand Island dressing, and bread with olive oil for lunch.

Inari sushi and stir-fried kangkong for dinner! The sushi is not of my own making, though I wish it were.

I frequently get hungry because classes are physically and mentally draining, so it's a challenge to find snacks that are quick and easy. Hence things like granola bars and fruits.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sightseeing in Downtown L.A.

On Saturday I went on a cultural tour of some well-known spots in the Downtown area. First up: the historic Bradbury building. The intricately constructed, somewhat gothic interior space is astonishing, and its antiquated appearance belies the fact that the upper floors actually have office tenants.
Arched doorways, stairs with ornate black railings (they look like iron to me), equally ornate mouldings, and ancient elevator with black gates (third picture) which doesn't seem to be working anymore...
Then it's the Walt Disney Concert Hall with its shiny, undulating curved facade, designed by famed architect Frank Gehry:
Very clean and modern, in total contrast to the Bradbury building. In Downtown one finds a juxtaposition of the old and the new; tradition with modernity.
We also visited the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. I don't know much about the Catholic tradition, but I'm told that it's a new-age cathedral. The interior feels like a crypt, and there are all kinds of religious touches- wall scone-like lamps, oil paintings, murals, stained-glass arches etc. I was slightly overwhelmed by the atmosphere.

We also went to the African-American National Museum (no pictures of that though). I like how the figure is stylized in African art and their ritualistic masks.
Last stop: Olvera Street, with its Hispanic flavour. I tried a tamale (like a corn pastry) for the first time, and really liked it. I'm really getting into Mexican food- tacos, tortillas, rice and beans etc.
The street is lined with stalls selling Mexican wares like ruched tops with colourful embroidery, straw hats and sweets.
My buys! A studded black pleather cuff, and two beautiful silver bracelets and a ring which I plan on wearing together. I think the silver jewellery would go great with my long-sleeved gray top with the sleeves rolled up.

It felt good to get away from school for a bit and explore the place, which I frankly haven't done much of. Looking forward to doing more shopping when I find the time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sorry for the lack of posting. I've been having some mood swings (a.k.a. homesickness). It's a lot better now though. Life is tough but there are times when I really love what I'm doing. I truly want to stay.

The second week of school is almost over, so I thought I'd talk a bit about my life. I usually wake up around 6.30 in the morning to prepare for my lessons, which start at 8am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I pack my lunch and art materials (which are a LOT). My hands are almost always full and for the first few days I suffered from body aches because I wasn't used to the weight.

I take my own lunch because the food over here is expensive compared to Singapore, and because I'm spending a lot on supplies and school fees already. Lunch is usually leftovers from the previous night's dinner, or a quick sandwich. In the morning we have to wait a while for the elevator in school, because there are many people getting to class at that time. For studio classes I arrive 10-15 min. early to set up my working area.

I have 7 classes in total- 4 studio (art) classes and 3 liberal studies classes. And I consistently have homework for all of them. The studio classes are Drawing and Composition (perspective), Form and Space (constructing basic forms), Life Drawing (analysing the inner structure of the body), and Principles of Design (basic design theory and expressing simple concepts). The bracketed words are what I'm doing for each class now- we'll progress to doing other things like constructing more complex sculptural forms in Form & Space, doing more expressive figure drawings in Life Drawing and using design software in Principles of Design.

My favourite studio classes are Life Drawing and Design. For Life Drawing we literally draw 'life' from a nude model. Last week we had a female model; this week a male one. We study anatomy and the mechanics of the body in order to illustrate the figure accurately- it's all very scientific right now. For example I can name all the major bones of the skeleton already, and some time later we have to draw the skeleton from memory in a test (?!). Life Drawing is immensely frustrating but potentially very rewarding. Design class is fun- we get to play around with how to express certain concepts and use varying shapes and lines to come up with original and interesting designs.

My liberal studies (academic) classes are Visual Culture/ Art History, English Lit. and Cultural Studies. All of them are pretty interesting. We do weekly readings and blog responses, and later on we'll have to submit papers. But the papers are not in 'paper' form- it's in electronic format (sort of like a website) which is more fun as we can play around with visuals like font and graphics to best express our ideas. I think it's more useful for our role as artists and designers as well.

Wednesday is my longest day as I'm in school from 8am-6.30pm. But on the morning of that day there's a Farmers' Market opposite the school. During lunch break I'd walk over there to check out the food. There's a combination of fresh produce and prepared snack food like tamales and lemonade. It's a great way to get away from lessons for a bit.

I'm usually exhausted by the time I get home. I do some homework, shower and have dinnner, clean up and read a little of my notes before I sleep. There isn't much to do at night without a car as it's dangerous to go out. I go to bed at 10.30-11 to get a good night's sleep. I'm an anomaly though as my friends often stay up til 1 or so.

Ok so I've described a good deal of my life already. I'll try to blog a few times a week. In the following posts I'll be showing a bit of my apartment and the food I eat.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Designs for my Principles of Design class. The bottom two are supposed to display a conventional figure/ground relationship while the top ones are figure/ground ambiguous. This is just a sampling of the load of homework I have.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The beach in Santa Monica

At sunset. I love the silhouette of the mountains in the background.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The Muji store in Hong Kong international airport
I love browsing Japanese stores like Muji and Uniqlo which offer a wide range of 'basics' or utilitarian products. In Muji one can find stationary, clothes and food items all within a single space. In a way it's comforting to see everything nicely compartmentalized.
Perhaps the question is, why should one venture beyond regular supermarket or drugstore products and pay for 'branded' basics (I'm talking about Muji here)? As cited earlier, the neat arrangement and clear, even aesthetically pleasing display of goods creates a unique shopping experience. Also, the simple, fuss-free yet stylish packaging offers a refreshing alternative to overt brand advertisement and the proliferant use of logos.
In fact, 'Muji' literally means 'no brand'. Nothing is overly processed- notebooks are covered in raw brown paper, clothes are lightweight and made of breathable cotton etc. It's the promise of a clean (some might say no-frills), contemporary lifestyle that draws consumers to Muji. Simplicity in itself can be a form of elegance and luxury worth paying for.