Picture perfect

Mr Wong Kang Chin holding his sketch of our founding father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

WHILE most people use photo-editing mobile phone applications to glam-up their pictures before posting them on social media, Mr Wong Kang Chin uses them for another purpose – improving his sketches.

The 69-year-old retiree, who enjoys sketching portraits of people in his free time, uses these ‘photo apps’ to brighten and crop pictures of his subjects before he puts pencil to paper.

“I do not have the time to do a live sketch. So, I have to rely on a photograph of my subject. Photo editing helps me to enlarge and brighten the photograph, giving me a better view,” said the former engineer who picked up the skill at the Intergenerational Learning Programme (ILP) in June 2016.

During the one-day course, which was conducted by the National Silver Academy at Republic Polytechnic, he learnt how to use VSCO, a photo editing app that is popular with photography enthusiasts and youngsters.

Mr Wong, who was participating in such a course for the first time, said: “I feel young when I learn from students at Republic Polytechnic; they are full of energy and enthusiasm!”

To date, he has done over 60 sketches. Among them are portraits of late political leaders like Mrs Margaret Thatcher and Mr Lee Kuan Yew as well as some of his loved ones.

Mr Wong’s love for sketching goes back to his secondary school days but it only took flight after a car accident in 2012 which left his wife in hospital. “We were in Perth to visit our son when the accident took place and my wife was in hospital for 1 1/2 months. That’s when I started sketching portraits of her to cheer her up,” he shared.

Little did he know that his talent would attract the attention of many. Soon, other patients and nurses began asking for their portraits to be drawn too. “Even the cleaners and the doctors requested for their portraits!” added Mr Wong.

Realising that his talent could make people happy, he kept sketching and gave the finished products to the portrait subjects. He said: “By sketching others, I talk to them and learn more about them. Sometimes we talk about life and values… it’s very encouraging. It brings people joy.”

Sometimes Mr Wong is like a human Photoshop, using his artistic talent to weave emotions into his subjects and fix physical flaws. “One woman looked forlorn, so I gave her a joyful expression in my sketch. She loved it! Now the portrait is framed and hung on the wall in her home,” he added.

Another sketch saw Mr Wong fixing a lady’s chipped front teeth. “There was this woman who had a broken front tooth. In my sketch, I patched-up her teeth!” he said with a laugh.

However, Mr Wong is most proud of his sketch of a man who was bedridden as a result of a motorbike accident: “He had been paralysed for eight years. And so I drew him sitting up. He had tears when he saw the portrait. He told me that he loved it.”

When asked on his views about lifelong learning, Mr Wong said: “Bring yourself out of the constraints of age. Pick up a hobby. Time is in your hands. When you are making good use of your time, life won’t be so boring. And then, you can share what you’ve learnt with others and help them out.”

Article published on: 15/7/2016