Painting myself a lovely world (with a Dottieshop Watercolour Kit)

Although I am fairly handy at crafty things, I don’t actually have much skill in drawing and painting. Especially painting with watercolours. My own experience of watercolour painting as a child has been less than stellar. I always associated it with muddy faint colours and stiff bristled brushes that splayed out into stars. In short, I’m not very good at it and I’ve always felt that it’s a messy activity.

That is, until I started university and came across this daytime television programme called ‘Watercolour Challenge‘.

In ‘Watercolour Challenge‘, three amateur painters were given four hours to render a particular landscape in watercolours. I was always amazed at how neat and tidy the painters looked during the whole affair. None of them wore smocks to protect their clothes or required sheets of newspaper to catch stray drips. At the end, they rendered vividly coloured paintings, some in very intricate detail.

A few years ago, I tried learning watercolours on my own, with very little success. I simply did not have any clue what tools or paints I needed, nor how to go about applying brush to paper.

This is why I count myself very lucky to be one of the testers of the ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit from Dottieshop! Thanks so much for letting me try out the kit, Dot!

The ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit comes with instructions for painting some gorgeous spring flowers (cherry blossoms, roses and anemones), a set of good quality watercolour paints prepared in a palette, special watercolour paper and a water brush. This all fits into a neat little pink folder, which makes the whole set very portable!

What I particularly liked about the kit were the precise and clear instructions on how to use the brush and the watercolours, as well as the step-by-step guides on painting different flower blossoms. I found the thoughtfully written painting guides especially helpful, and within my first attempt I was able to produce a rather decent looking cherry blossom!


My first attempt at watercolours using the ‘Hello Spring’ kit

I was very pleased with how the flowers turned out, after following the Dottieshop instructions! The Barn Owl was pretty impressed too, and that means a lot coming from him – he took Art as an ‘A’ level subject.

Best of all, there was hardly any clean up or mess involved. In fact, I have since realised that the kit is so complete that I don’t need to use anything else other than a clean, dry rag for wiping off my paint brush in between changing colours.

I do have to be rather careful in keeping and transporting the paint palette, however, as the watercolour paints grow brittle as they dry and sometimes little flakes may chip off if the palette gets jostled about, so I try to keep the paint set lying flat when it is not in use.

It wasn’t too difficult to use the brush techniques from the Dottieshop kit and extend that to paint other types of flowers and foliage.


My watercolour studies of flowers and leaves

Since trying out the kit, I have found myself stealing a few minutes here and there during the day to do a little watercolour sketch. It really does refresh a tired mind!

Apart from the Hello Spring Watercolour Kit (which I think is a true bargain at SGD46), Dottieshop also has a Floral Illustration Kit (SGD36) as well as a Brush Calligraphy Beginners Kit (SGD33). These are great starter kits for beginners and would also make lovely gifts! Dot also runs workshops at Artify Studio – which I really hope to be able to attend some day.

P.S. To order one of the Dottieshop kits, just email or leave her a message on Facebook or Instagram

Contemporary Art for Kids – National Gallery Singapore

Last year, when J was attending a holiday creative writing camp at the Arts House, I decided to take Little E to visit the nearby National Gallery Singapore.

The National Gallery Singapore is housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall, and is home to the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, with a special interest in showcasing local and Southeast Asian artists.

Within the National Gallery is the Keppel Centre for Art Education, which is a dedicated art facility designed to inspire children and encourage creativity. Within each room are art pieces which the children can interact with or observe in detail, as well as related activities to fuel their imagination.

In one of the Project Galleries is a massive, highly detailed cityscape created from clay and acrylic, painstakingly built in great detail by teen artist Xandyr Quek when he was 13 years old.


Little E is inspired by City In The Works (2015), Xandyr Quek

Xandyr, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, is fascinated by maps and street directories, and would ask his parents to take him to certain roads and streets so that he could spend time memorising the buildings and other public infrastructure. At home, he built many clay sculptures based on his observations. He conceptualised and created this tiny city modelled on northern Singapore which is now housed in a protective glass case (as he doesn’t like his work being handled or touched).

After spending a few moments looking at the tiny city, Little E then spent a happy half hour drawing and populating her own small city. Whilst she was doing this, I noticed that there were other activity sheets available in the room which would suit a variety of learning levels and interests, so there would be something to inspire every child.


Home-a-Sapiens by Tan Wee Lit

In another project gallery, the ceiling and walls are covered in fantastical future dwelling spaces. A nomadic bus with laundry on bamboo poles floats alongside a series of airy blimps, while the walls have models of underground houses built beneath the roots of trees, even some of the shelves and cupboards were disguised to look like houses.


Designing her underground living space

Little E was inspired by the underground homes and she decided to make her own cone-shaped house to add to the installation. There were also some very nice pre-fabricated craft kits available (for a suggested donation of SGD$4) which would make a great take-home souvenir.

Little E also liked the Who’s In The Woods interactive area, where she could create and customise her own forest creature using digital painting, then see it come alive on the wall and play with other animals in the forest! That was pretty cool!


Little E’s found a new friend in the woods

By far the most exciting area was the Art Playscape, which is a labyrinth and playhouse that is literally covered from floor to ceiling in elaborate, intricate drawings, so that you really feel like you have entered a painting into a magical realm.


The Enchanted Tree House by Sandra Lee

In this room, Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks and his forest friends wander the world in search of adventure, encountering all sorts of familiar creatures from fairy-tales and nursery rhymes. Little E had fun running all over the room trying to find Fynn, and identifying all the storybook characters (and finding familiar mystical creatures like our Merlion hiding in plain sight).

Mummy tip #1: The floor in the Art Playscape has a very smooth finish, so bring along non-slip socks if you have a wobbly toddler or a clumsy child!


Taking a break with Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks

I liked the Keppel Centre for Art Education so much, that we returned during the mid-year holidays this year, as soon as Thumper was able to walk around on his own.


Building together

I was very pleased to see that some of the interactive activities had changed!

There was room filled with different types of building blocks for making giant fortresses and tabletop sculptures. There was also a wall filled with magnetic shapes which Thumper enjoyed messing around with.


Playing with the walls

Within the National Gallery itself were huge wall murals and freestanding art pieces which visitors could pose with and become part of the artwork as well.

We also had the opportunity to go on a free guided tour which took us through the gallery, giving us some insight into the design and architecture of the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings as well as some of its the history and hidden secrets!


On the Building Highlights Tour – held at 11am and 3pm daily

The docent who took us around was very knowledgeable and was able to engage both children and adults during the tour. The docent even thoughtfully changed her route to accommodate our stroller so that we could use lifts instead of stairs and escalators – although we felt really bad slowing the whole group down!

Mummy Tip #2: If you’re planning to take your kids on the guided tour, park your stroller at the visitor’s desk and bring out your baby carrier instead.

National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957

Opening Hours: 
Sun–Thu and Public Holidays: 10am–7pm
Fri–Sat, Eve of Public Holidays: 10am–10pm

Admission is free for Singaporeans and PRs, as well as for students, teachers, children under 6 years old, persons with disabilities and their carers.

For more information about the National Gallery Singapore click here

For more information about the free guided tours click here

For more information about Keppel Centre for Art Education click here

Contemporary Art for Kids – Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea

Over the weekend, the kids and I were invited to attend the opening of the Singapore Art Museum’s annual contemporary art exhibition for children, Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea. This is the sixth edition of the children’s season over at SAM at 8Q, and we always look forward to the many beautiful, thought-provoking and inventive art installations on display each year.

During our exploration of Imaginarium, we were very privileged to have the opportunity to meet with the artists (you can see some of them in the picture below) and find out more about their creative process.


The exhibition is very thoughtfully curated this time to provide a fully immersive experience. As we were moving from one level to the next, it actually felt as if we were deep sea divers swimming from the bottom of the ocean to the surface!

We started out in a room full of kooky and colourful sea creatures knitted out of yarn, floating over a crocheted seascape. This was definitely Thumper’s favourite room as he was free to crawl around and over all the soft sculptures and play with the hanging mobile fish and octopi.

The installation, entitled Dimana Mogus? or Where is Mogus? is created by the Indonesian artist Mulyana. Mogus, according to the description of the artwork, is an imaginary octopus who is exploring the underwater dreamscape with his friends. When I asked Mulyana which of the sea creatures present in the room was actually Mogus, he cheekily replied that ‘Mogus’ is represented by anyone playing inside the room and experiencing the different textures and colours. “Mogus is me, Mogus is you, Mogus is everybody in the room playing together,” Mulyana said quietly, with a soft smile.


Dimana Mogus? by Mulyana, and ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski

J’s favourite piece was definitely ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, who designed and built what she lovingly referred to as an ‘Art Making Machine’ inspired by bioluminescent deep sea creatures. Karina also told me that the phosphorescent flickering reminded her of the LEDs on electronic devices turning on and off in a darkened room which is how she sees ADA, a giant glowing helium balloon studded with charcoal spikes, bobbing about, leaving long black lines on the walls, floor and ceiling in her wake.

The children loved chasing ADA around the room – although it was sometimes hard to tell if ADA was actually the one chasing them – and at the end of it they emerged from ADA’s lair with charcoal smudged hands and faces like little chimneysweeps!


Damien, I’m Famished (After Damien Hirst), Bryde’s Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), and Surrealism Spiced (After Salvador Dali) by Krit Ngamson

The next room we visited had these cheeky kinetic sculptures by Kris Ngamson, a Thai artist who combines elements from iconic surrealist artworks into his work to demonstrate the juxtaposition between the rural and urban societies in Thailand.


Plastic Ocean by Tan Zi Xi

Our favourite installation is definitely the Plastic Ocean by homegrown artist, Tan Zi Xi. This was an amazing maze of tunnels made entirely of over 14000 pieces of non-biodegrable waste products suspended in a room dimly lit from above. Zi Xi explained to me that this was a recreation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an island made entirely out of nearly 300000 tons of plastic debris adrift in the Pacific Ocean, and it only took her a month to amass this quantity of items from her circle of friends and interns. Yikes!

Underneath the sea of plastic garbage are a few wooden blocks for undersea explorers to rest upon and contemplate the impact of all this trash upon marine life.

J and Little E were most impressed by this installation, as well as by the accompanying series of art prints that show our puny efforts to try to clean up the ocean.


An Effort Most Futile by Tan Zi Yi

Afterwards, Little E remarked upon the importance of recycling plastic and reducing waste whilst J was appalled by how much light was blocked by just a few layers of plastic.

Suara Muara (The Sounds of the Estuary) by Papermoon Puppet Theatre from Indonesia was definitely a room that provoked a visceral reaction in me. The installation tells the story of Lasem, a tiny town that used to be an important port, where old secrets hide beneath the everyday surface.

I was both intrigued and repulsed by the completely immersive experience that the room provided, with each sculpture accompanied by gentle tinkling music and the quiet roar of the waves. Watching the cloth sea billowing and listening to the recorded sounds through the headphones made me feel as if there was a whole secret history that I was somehow missing.


Suara Muara (The Sounds of the Estuary) by Papermoon Puppet Theatre

In one piece, an elderly man and a woman sit quietly in their house surrounded by old photographs, whilst behind them, a small man peers out at them from the inside of a porcelain vase. I asked one of the Papermoon artists who the creepy vase man was, and he replied, ‘Oh, that’s their neighbour.’

I had a cold shiver up my spine.

To round off our visit, we spent some time in the Submaroom, which features periscope stations and origami folding consoles as well as some beautiful paper origami sea creatures on display in shadow boxes.Submaroom-origami-Imaginarium

We weren’t able to visit every one of the installations in one morning, but we will definitely be back for another visit. We might try to see if we can take part in the artist-led workshops, storytelling sessions, or perhaps join Imaginarium Curator, Andrea Fam, on a special family night museum tour! See you there!

Mummy Tip: There are no covered walkways from the busstops, MRT stations or carparks surrounding SAM at 8Q, so bring your umbrella with you! We learned this the hard (and soaking wet) way.

Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea is open at SAM at 8Q (8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535) from 14 May 2016 – 28 August 2016. 

Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday 10am – 7pm, Fridays from 10am – 9pm. Admission is free for children under 6 as well as for Singaporean Citizens and PRs.

  • Family Night at the Museum with Andrea Fam: Wed, 1 June, 7-8pm
  • Edible Art Workshop with Janice Wong: Sat, 11 June, 2-4pm
  • Storytelling with Rosemarie Somaiah: Fri and Sat, 17-18 June, 11-11:45am
  • Knots Workshop for Junior Explorers: Sat 23 July 1-3pm
  • Illustration Workshop with Zi Xi: Sat 30 July from 2-3:30pm, Tues 9 August from 10.30am -12pm

Bonding over colouring pencils

School holidays started a few days early for Little E, but poor weather conditions have kept us all indoors during the morning when J is still in school.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t get a chance to really spend a lot of time alone with Little E in the recent months, as I am either tending to Thumper or helping J revise for his end-of-year tests. However, Little E has been a very supportive sister to her two brothers and just does her own thing, playing nicely by herself. Part of this is because of her own independent nature, but I often feel that she has learned to entertain herself out of necessity.

This morning, Thumper was feeling very tired, so I put him down for a nap early, which meant that I had some extra time. Instead of using this time to catch up on household paperwork, I decided to sit with Little E and do some colouring, which is one of her favourite activities.

I went online and printed out some colouring pages for us to colour together. I decided not to use the usual kids colouring pages that I normally find, but one of the ‘colouring for adults’ pages. Johanna Basford, who started off this adult colouring craze with her book, ‘Secret Garden’, has a few sample pages from her book available as a free printable so I printed those off. (If you like, you can scroll to the bottom of the page for the links).

I personally have never really enjoyed colouring, which I always viewed as a tedious school activity meant to train children to focus and to develop fine motor skills. However, sitting down and colouring with Little E for an hour was a very different experience altogether.

First of all, there is that sense of achievement as you fill a small area with a colour of your choosing. Additionally, as you focus on the simplicity of the action, which is to create something of beauty, it is incredibly relaxing.

One of my friends once told me that having a kid meant that she had an excuse to buy colouring books for herself. At the time, I remember laughing at her quirkiness, but as Little E and I worked on a colouring page together, I began to see how therapeutic it might be. I can now understand why there are colouring books for adults now!


Secondly, it was nice to be able to collaborate on a small art project with Little E and it was interesting to see how organic the collaboration became, especially when I didn’t try to dictate her actions or give her any advice or feedback other than ‘That’s really good! I like that!’.

We started out by colouring in separate corners of the page, but after a while, I began to notice how Little E liked to mix colours within a space, and she noticed how I liked to colour in small areas in one colour before changing colour pencils. We then started to copy each other’s style, but adding our own touch to it by varying the colour choices – Little E tended towards high-contrast colour-combinations, whilst I chose complementary colours. By the end of the hour, we were each colouring over the whole page filling in tiny portions that the other might have missed.

Lastly, Little E didn’t stop singing, humming or chatting to me for the entire hour so I learned a lot about the things that she was learning in school, and about her friends in class. She told stories about the owl that we were colouring, and made up a little song about it, and was generally very entertaining. It was so much fun, I am looking forward to our next colouring session together!

In preparation for that, I’ve found a ton of great colouring resources online, which are free to print with permission from the artist! You can even print them out to make your own mini colouring activity book – so great for long plane journeys, waiting rooms and wedding dinners!

Free Printable Colouring Pages (featuring a large number of owl colouring pages of course) just click on the links to download and print:

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5

Enchanted Forest/Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford: Page 1-3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6

Animal Kingdom by Millie Marotta: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8

Steampunk Designs by Marty Noble: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Words to Live By by Dawn Nicole Designs: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Bookmarks

Easy Peasy and Fun by Andrea Vucajnk: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5-6 Page 7 Page 8-9

Made by Joel: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7

Rachel Beyer: Page 1-3 Page 4

By the way, many of the independent artists who host free printable colouring pages on their websites are very dependant on views and clickthroughs in order to keep those pages free-to-download on their sites. If you have used and enjoyed any colouring pages from the links above, please do take some time to explore each independent artist’s main page by clicking on their names (underlined in bold).

I promise that you won’t be disappointed – I’ve taken great pains in to find artists who do beautiful work and who share many other family-friendly creative projects on their websites. Not only will you also find more free colouring pages on each site that I have not included in the links above, you’ll also be supporting a starving artist, whilst keeping the colouring pages free-to-download for everybody. That’s three good things for the low, low price of one click!

An SG50 Playlist

In preparation for the upcoming SG50 celebrations, here’s a little playlist of my favourite bits of music on youtube which I feel are most representative of what Singapore means to me.

In this playlist there’s a little complaining song (about a home that you love), a tamil song played on a traditional chinese instrument by a malay boy, a malay song played by a chinese orchestra, a song showing how far our public healthcare system has come, a song about home by people living in various care homes, and a song about a legacy.


P.S. Let me know in the comments which was your favourite song in the playlist, or if you have a favourite National Day song!

June Holiday Excursions: Masak-Masak 2015 Children’s Season at the National Museum of Singapore

Visiting the National Museum is always a real treat for our family, and I am continually impressed with the ever-increasing focus of our local museums on coming up with ways to reach out to kids. Every time we visit the museum, there is always something new and interesting going on!

Masak Masak 2015 at the national Museum of Singapore

Masak Masak 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore

Last week, we were invited to attend a special preview of Masak Masak 2015, part of the annual Children’s Season at the National Museum of Singapore, featuring 10 new installations from local and international artists. We spent the better part of the day exploring the various interactive exhibits, following the ‘Baby Block’s Day Out’ storybook guide that is specially designed to engage the children and get them to record their thoughts and observations about each exhibit.

We were also very privileged to be able to meet two of the artists, Mademoiselle Maurice (from France) and Crystal Wagner (from the USA) whose works are part of the Masak Masak 2015 showcase.

I was particularly fascinated by Mademoiselle Maurice’s explanation of the inspiration behind her work, “Spectrum of Paper” (2015) which is currently hanging from the ceiling of the museum’s front atrium. This colourful origami suspension is inspired by the Japanese legend that promises to grant the wish of anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes, and the various colours and paper creatures represent the multicultural nature of Singaporeans all blending together to form a harmonious rainbow.

Spectrum of Paper by Mademoiselle Maurice

J and Little E peruse their activity book whilst Mademoiselle Maurice talks about “Spectrum of Paper (2015)”

Mademoiselle Maurice also collaborated with our local TV star, Jeanette Aw, to produce another “Spectrum of Paper” origami wall installation based on Jeanette Aw’s book, “Sol’s World: Somebody to Love” (available for purchase (S$19) at the Museum shop). This installation is interactive in nature and visitors are encouraged to add their own origami creation to the wall.

Following 'Sol's Journey'

Following ‘Sol’s Journey’

Jeanette Aw also created two large wall murals, both of which are meant for children to scribble or etch on! Naturally, J and Little E took to this invitation with great gusto, scribbling and colouring to their hearts delight. You can see J in the picture above drawing butterflies to add to “Life’s Best Journey is with The One You Love” (Jeannette Aw, 2015), and below, Little E is colouring in some flowers on “Simple Pleasures in Life” (Jeanette Aw, 2015).

J and Little E were also completely mesmerised by the field of “Dancing Solar Flowers” (2004 – 2015), created by Alexandre Dang from France, and they enjoyed playing hide-and-seek in the huge crepe paper playscape, “Wanderlust” (2015) by Crystal Wagner from the USA, popping in and out of the various tunnels and holes like little meerkats.

Our favourite installations at Masak Masak 2015

Our favourite installations at Masak Masak 2015

My favourite exhibit by far has to be “Luma-City” (2015) by local industrial designers, Lim Kim and Alfred Lim. This is a playspace set up in a darkened room which has a special phosphorus coated flooring. Kids push giant toy vehicles around the floor which leave luminescent trails behind them, glowing vividly in their wake for a few moments before fading away. What I found particularly exciting was that each trail had a particular shape that is related to the type of vehicle being pushed around – for example, the train left behind train tracks, whilst the boat left behind waves of water. Very cool!

There are also special workshops and performances going on every weekend throughout the month of June (dates and details at the end of this post 1). We were very fortunate to be able to bag a space in an art therapy workshop run by The Red Pencil, a charity that uses art therapy to help children and families stricken by long term illness, disability or trauma.

Joint Picture Joins Hearts

Joint Picture Joins Hearts: An Art Therapy Workshop by The Red Pencil

During the workshop, we were encouraged to talk to each other about our playtime experiences and paint a picture together as a family whilst using positive feedback to show how we value and respect each other as individuals.

Afterwards, the kids and I headed outside to play on the inflatable bouncy playgrounds on the front lawn of the museum, but these were unfortunately closed for the afternoon (the playgrounds are only open from 10am-12pm and 4-6pm on weekends), so we contented ourselves with gelato from Momolato (10-6pm every weekend until 28th June) in a special blue vanilla flavour topped with honeyed popcorn! Delicious!

Sitting on MÙTÓU (Little Ong, fFurious) with the inflatable playground based on the iconic Dragon Playground of Toa Payoh in the background

Enjoying gelato whilst sitting on MÙTÓU (by Little Ong, fFurious) with the inflatable playground based on the iconic Dragon Playground of Toa Payoh in the background

By the way, I’ve put together a little video guide on how to maximise your visit to the museum featuring some of our favourite exhibits and activities! Enjoy!

Masak Masak 2015 runs from 30 May 2015 to 10 August 2015 from 10am – 6pm at the National Museum of Singapore. Admission is free!

1. Wayang Kulit Puppetry Performance by Jeremy Hiah: 13 & 14 June, 20 & 21 June, 8 & 9 August at 2:30pm (Admission is free)

Shadow Puppetry Workshop: 13, 20, 27th June from 1030 – 1200h (Tickets are $20 for one parent-child pair and are available from SISTIC)

Dear Mummy: Little gifts from little hands

J and Little E are generally quite affectionate children and they aren’t afraid to be demonstrative. I am frequently showered with hugs and kisses, and one of the joys of my day is being greeted at the school gate by bright eyes and smiling faces.

It always amazes me how much the children think about me when we are apart. I always imagine that kids are so busy at school with their friends that they don’t have a spare moment to think about their parents. However, I could not be further from the truth…and here is the evidence:

Dear Mummy, These are for you

Dear Mummy, these are for you. Love J and Little E

All the above are little gifts from J and Little E, and all done when they have been out and about without me.

First is a little drawing on the back of an envelope done by Little E whilst she was out with the Aged Ps, accompanied by a bracelet of blue jewel beads that she made in school. The drawing is a portrait of my pregnant self, of course, complete with tiny baby in the womb!

Next is a bunch of tulips which J brought home for me after a recent visit to Tulipmania at Gardens by the Bay. Apparently, the gardeners were giving away stalks of tulips to whomever wanted them and J insisted on taking a few home for me, because the tulips are pretty and “Mummy likes pretty things”.

Last is a Mother’s Day card prepared by Little E in school. This turned out to be (bizarrely) a collaborative art piece between J and Little E, because Little E claims to have consulted J about the colour scheme of the flowers. She says that the purple flower is from herself, and the yellow flower is from J.

Thank you, children, for thinking of me. I love you too.


ingspirations-blogComing up next on the “Dear Mummy” Blog Train is Ing, who shares her parenting journey as a mom of 3 on her blog, Ingspirations. Find out what her kids wrote to her on Mother’s Day.

This post is part of the ‘Dear Mummy’ blog train hosted by Mamawearpapashirt

Click on the badge below to go to read what other kiddos have to say to their beloved mummies!