One pencil to rule them all


For 32-year-old Peter Zhuo, who goes by the moniker Peter Draw, the pencil is more than a tool to create scribbles, sketches and scrawls - it can change the world. He uses his artistic skills to help children whose lives were upended by natural disasters and recently finished Senior Draws, a programme to teach seniors how to draw. He has also broken four Guinness Book of Records for the biggest caricature of international action star Jackie Chan, biggest art lesson, longest group drawing and longest individual drawing on Children's Day in 2007, 2010 and 2014. Peter shows that the pencil can be mightier than the sword. We spoke to the Singaporean artist to find out more about his love for helping both the young and old.

Before we ask the serious questions…we noticed that Peter Draw sounds a lot like your name, Peter Zhuo. Is this intentional?
I am not so creative! (Laughs). I was known as Peter’s Cartoon first. However, one day, the kids whom I taught drawing to began to joke , “Oh, you’re Peter Draw, Peter Zhuo, Peter Draw…Peter Zhuo”. Draw and Zhuo got blurred as they sound alike! For the last 16 years, I have used this name to help children and give back to society. If you think about it, my Chinese name is Zhuo Ying Wei. Zhuo Ying sounds like drawing!

What inspired you to start Peter Draw?
When I was six, I attended my first art lesson at a childcare centre. Before the class, the teacher asked everyone for a $20 fee. I told the teacher that I didn’t have the money as my father was the sole breadwinner and sold umbrellas for a living.

I was already gripping my pencil, ready to start drawing, but the teacher commented that I couldn’t even hold a pencil properly and asked me to leave the class. I ran home and cried. Since then, I resolved to help others. I want to protect people who cannot protect themselves, especially children, just like the helpless six-year-old me back then.

When I was 16, I started Peter Draw, and now I’ve dedicated half my life to helping others through drawing. In 2011, when a tsunami hit Japan, I travelled to China, Indonesia, Taiwan and Costa Rica to get children whose lives were affected by disasters to draw encouraging pictures for the children in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi. These prefectures were severely affected by the nuclear plant crisis caused by the tsunami.

We noticed that you enjoy helping seniors too. Why?
I have a soft spot for the elderly because of my grandfather. After being chased out of the drawing class, my grandfather comforted me. He told me the story of a boy who was just like me: Loved drawing, had thick eyebrows, held his pencil in a unique way and looked good in a red sweater. The boy was also kicked out of an art lesson because he couldn’t afford the 20 dollars. When I heard that, I went “Ah Gong, how is it possible that his story is so similar to mine?!”

unique grip on pencil

Unique grip: Peter Draw has held his pencil this way since he was three.

 

Because of my grandfather, I have learnt the importance of living without regret. He used to work at a coffeeshop and, when my friend spotted him and asked if he was my grandfather, I said no because I was embarrassed!! I was 15 and immature. My grandfather suffered a stroke and was bedridden for a year because he had worked too hard. He passed away after my ‘O’ Levels.

The night before his death, I was out late with my friends. I fell asleep but soon my sister shook me awake, worriedly telling me that something had happened to him. I missed his last moments on earth, and I have always been regretful. That’s why I always push myself to do better, because of the fear of regret. I’m not brave, neither am I fearless, but regret motivates me. That’s why I work hard to help children and seniors. I never want to go through what I did when I was 16.

drawing passion
 

Colour me red: For Peter, the red sweater not only signifies his passion for helping others; it is a reminder of his late grandfather’s love for him.

Tell us about Senior Draws…
I’ve always been teaching children and I decided to try teaching seniors for once. For this 11-week programme, I taught a group of seniors to draw portraits of others and themselves. Portrait drawing is a challenging skill to master. During the first lesson, the seniors were very shy but, after the second lesson, they warmed up to me and became so lively and chatty! Through this programme, I imparted my drawing skills to the seniors hoping that they can pay it forward and teach other seniors how to draw. 

Any tips for seniors who are interested in drawing?
If you can see it in your head, you can put it down on paper. That’s what I always tell my students. You must learn how to “see” a face. Don’t focus on the muscles, the contours and the shadows. Just learn to see the lines. Once you can see the lines that you need to draw, then it becomes very easy. It’s okay to fail but just remember to love yourself more every day!

sketch
 

Peter’s sketch of Ai, a character he created that represents the cycle of life, with an encouraging message for seniors: “Remember to love yourself more every day!”

To learn more about Peter, visit http://www.peterdraw.com 


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