Every month, we feature a Singapore food blog or instagram: (1) to cultivate goodwill and camaraderie among the online community; (2) to encourage more people to blog and instagram about food; and (3) to empower bloggers and instagrammers through an insight and understanding to their lives.
Alvin Mark Tan is strictly speaking not a food instagrammer although he has an account @alfdoodles; he’s a traditional oil painter. He has a website showcasing his beautiful art.
As I was surfing on ig, I saw sketches of kopitiams by him. After doing some research, I found out that BooksActually has published his sketches on kopitiams called La Kopi.
So I emailed him for an interview and he kindly granted it.
Tell us something about yourself.
In Florence, I was trained under Maestro John Michael Angel to create realistic 3D paintings on flat 2D canvases like that of the old European Masters.
Although the art of oil painting is new to me, creating illusions are not as I used to perform street magic during my younger days in the US.
After visiting your website, I notice that you usually use oils for painting traditional portraits and landscapes. La Kopi is vastly different from your usual themes. How did the sketchbook La Kopi come about?
Yes, I am primarily an oil painter. Sketching in ink and watercolours complement my skills as an oil painter. I also sketch (using inks and watercolours) when I don’t have my easel around or if I am in a tight spot with many people around me. The idea for La Kopi was conceived a year ago when I was preparing to return back to Singapore after living in Florence, Italy for 3.5 years. I had missed celebrating SG50 and felt the need to contribute something. Since my appreciation for coffee began during my sojourn in Italy, I brought back that to Singapore too. After being away for that amount of time made me see everything in a new light – eye candy. Even durians look really awesome… to paint.
In many of your sketches on kopitiams, you drew people’s backs or indistinct faces. Why?
I sketch what I see, so if its someone’s back, that is what will appear on my sketchbook. If it’s their face that I see, I will sketch that. And that for me, is practice. The more you do, they better you’ll get – we call it pencil mileage. The amount of drawing I do directly affects how accurately and how fast I paint too.
Do people come up to you while you were sketching? Do you have any interesting conversations with them?
Yes, there are the curious onlookers and those who don’t want to disturb me. I get all sorts of reactions from those who approach me, from a inspiring “good job” to a random how much do I earn. :) One of the neatest conversations I had was with a guy in his late 70s who shared the social climate with me during the 50s – of how the Hainanese were looked down on as being cooks or worked usually in the service industry, as opposed to for example the Hokkiens who were mostly merchants. As a result, many of the Hainanese people kept their identities from others. For example, Hainanese men wouldn’t tell the ladies they were dating which dialect group they were from.
What is your favorite eatery in Singapore?
Brunners Coffeeshop. 228 East Coast Road.
Thank you for the interview! For other interviews,
Very talented indeed :)