Thursday, March 12, 2015


When I was in college, I took quite a number of art classes for my elective courses (unlike my other college mates who preferred to take more academically-related subjects). I took drawing, lithography, ceramics and even jewelry-making. There was also a time when I wanted to enrol in an oil-painting class but I had to drop that class after seeing the list of what to buy. For my drawing class, my professor had insisted that we use Strathmore drawing paper of certain texture and weight. He also asked us to use only certain types of pencils and charcoal to produce our artwork. So I could not imagine how on earth I could afford to buy the paints, brushes and canvasses if I were to take up oil painting. Unlike other Fine Arts students who proudly walked around campus carrying their professional-looking folios (some were leather, let me tell you), I was quite content clutching my cheap black hardboard folio and art box on my way to class. I would spend a lot of time in the art studio especially for my ceramics and lithography classes since the projects could only be completed there and not at home. By the way, I found out that I was extremely hopeless at 'throwing'. My free-form projects were so much better but they also lacked any consistent concept or idea. I had never had any formal art lesson in school so to be able to do what my heart desired was definitely a dream come true. Since taking the oil painting class was out of the question, I began to look for other alternatives which would enable me to use colours. Water colour was not an option since no water colour courses were offered (and even if they were, I knew that I would be terribly bad at it). My 'big sistah', Dana, had a set of coloured pencils which was quite expensive. The coloured pencils were special since they were water-soluble and could also be used as water colour. I had never seen any coloured pencils which could do that and to me, that was truly amazing. The coloured pencils were Caran D'Ache, a Swiss product. Those Caran D'Ache coloured pencils belong to me now although I rarely use them anymore. The company was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1915 and that means this year is its 100th anniversary. Caran D'Ache has quite a number of products ranging from pastels and coloured pencils to fibre-tipped pens and acrylic paints to high-quality writing equipment and exquisite pens  (all of them expensive, let me tell you). If anyone is interested, feel free to surf their official website. Unfortunately, they do not ship to Malaysia. Caran D'Ache has a few boutiques in Kuala Lumpur and I think the company wants to retain its exclusive market among the more affluent, hence no shipping to Malaysia. For their coloured pencils, there are many different ranges to suit different budgets, techniques and users. There are Supracolor, Swisscolor, Neocolor, Pablo, Prismalo, Luminance, Museum, Fancolor and Tootuff. Now, let me get back to my Caran D'Ache story before I keep on rambling endlessly and unnecessarily. A friend of my younger brother (who is a Swiss) was planning his annual visit to Malaysia and I immediately asked my brother to ask him to buy for me a set of Caran D'Ache coloured pencils. I wanted to try to do something related to arts again and drawing using coloured pencils, in my opinion, would be most convenient and less time-consuming compared to using any other medium. I could have bought other brands such as Faber-Castell and Staedtler (which are available locally in most stores) but I wanted something not owned by a lot of people (my vanity took over for a while, okay?). I told my brother that a basic set (with 12 colours) would do since I did not want to pay through my nose for a luxury product that I might not even use at all. Anyway, the colour pencil set that I received was more than I had expected. It is from the Swisscolor range and there are 30 vibrant colours altogether and of course, they are water-soluble. This range is actually more suitable for students and beginners since it is harder (which makes the pencils less prone to breakage) but who is complaining when it is Caran D'Ache? I still have not taken the plastic wrapper off the tin box since I haven't done any colouring or even drawing for quite a while now. I hope that I can find the time to start doing something on a small scale, at least. And I know I will need lots and lots of practice before I can even produce something that is equivalent to a kindergarten colouring project. To Eddie, thank you so much for the Caran D'Ache set. It will be put into good use but I can't promise how soon that will be.

The Caran D'Ache colour pencil set from my college days.

My new Caran D'Ache colour pencil set.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


It was after Maghrib this evening when I received a phone call from a colleague informing that one of the administrative assistants at my workplace was involved in a car accident on her way back home. She was said to be injured but nobody knew whether it was serious or not. I tried to call her number but there was no answer so I tried her brother-in-law's number. I was numb for a while when he told me that Kak Ina (that was what I called her although she was younger than I) had just passed away. It was only yesterday evening when I last saw her after fetching my Mum from the dialysis centre. Kak Ina was the one who handled my monthly claims for my Mum's dialysis treatment. For the past few days, she had kept on asking me about the receipts that I should give her so she could settle her work. On Thursday, I gave all the receipts to her and on Friday, she called me to the office to tell me that the dialysis centre had left out one receipt. She had insisted that I go and get the receipt from the centre that Friday evening. I stopped by at the office to give her the receipt on Friday evening and she pointed out that there was a mistake in one of the forms from the dialysis centre. She asked me whether I could get another form but since I did not want to delay her work, I simply asked her to correct the form since the error was very minor (it was my identity card number). That was the last time I talked to her. After I received the news from her brother-in-law, I immediately called Kak Minah, my mommy-sitter, to come over to my house since I wanted to go to the hospital. When I reached the hospital, some of my colleagues were already there wait6ing for her to be taken for the post-mortem. Now that she is gone, I began to notice some of the subtle changes in her before her passing. Kak Ina, you will be missed and I cannot thank you enough for all the things that you had done for me. Al-Fatihah and may Allah bless your soul and place you in jannah. آمين