My Raison De’tre
It is my belief that we all came to earth endowed with a mission, a cause that we must discover for ourselves, and hopefully, to fulfil.
To be more down to earth, what is the raison d’etre: the reason for the existence of my work?
The reason, or answer, did not come to me like a thunderclap from the skies. My whole life has consisted of a passion to pursue the gift of art planted there in my young life by an artsy gifted Dad.
To explain that better, I need to retrace my steps to my childhood days in then “British Malaya” where I was born, the sixth girl to a horde of 6 girls, to my family whose business had been in tin mining when we were in the business of exporting tin ore to England for 3 of our generations. My Dad was the last generation involved in the back breaking business of tin-mining.
The Protagonist in my young life: Dad had always the dream of becoming an overseas’ Advertising Illustrator, being the gutsy-gifted person that he had been. Owing to the thwarting of his dream, thanks to my Great-Grand Father who managed to persuade my Dad to remain at home to tend to the family mine as one of the Directors (my uncles were all in the family company), he resorted to embed that dream onto me his youngest daughter.
I happened to be naturally gifted and I can now say that my art foundation was firmly grounded on the dreams of my Dad.
I had dreamed of becoming a Veterinarian doctor like James Herriot the farm doctor who wrote his series from “All Creatures ……”. That was thwarted when my school slotted me (and my dream) away, into the Arts stream of education. Only those in the Science stream could study science subjects, Vet Science being one of those.
I had also loved Fashion Illustration but that too was thwarted because there were no schools in Malaysia that offered Fashion Design nor any design courses.
My only resort was to study Architecture, erroneously thinking it was all about drawing! After all, my 8th Uncle Charles had been a notable architect having had emerged from the venerable halls of the UK school, the AA. So, I enrolled into the National University of Singapore NUS, not really far from my home in Malaysia to study a course of Architecture. Year of 1972.
I feel I should mention something that happened at a much younger age: A little yellow pupper came into my life. His name was Bobby. He came from Julie, a faithful watchdog from our tin mine. I was about 6 then. Bobby was the love of my young life and we practically grew up together. It was he who instilled in me my love for dogs that has lasted till now.
A generic portrait of a yellow puppy who reminds me of my Bobby. I had lost all photos of him after my family moved house.
Back to Architecture. I travelled and worked for several years as an architectural designer. It was a dull and drab job to me. I wanted to give it up but there had been no other more attractive options for me.
Change came in 1985 when, after having gotten married that same year to a Hong Konger, we immigrated to the US.
In a new land, filled with new possibilities, I laid aside my Archi profession after a few more years at it working in New York, and then returned to school to study ILLUSTRATION!!! I was shaking with trepidation, ditching a well-paid job, but…..it was now or never!! It had been a real risk – the biggest in my life so far….. I was at age 35 then and soon I got to realize I was the oldest in my class year at Fashion Institute of Technology, NY (F.I.T.)! I ended up top student in my year.
Turn to 2 years later, I was very happy at my first job as a Freelancer, a Garment Artist, sketching for lingerie companies, boutiques, personally working under fashion divas and boutique owners, alongside Madison Ave and Broadway at the “Garment and Diamond” District. I loved my job, and my work was very well received.
Tune into another 2 years we had to return to Hong Kong. There I got to meet a Jane R Singer, an American who singlehandedly ran a fashion resource and trend company, called “INSIDE FASHION”. I stayed there as a Permanent Freelance Fashion Illustrator for the next 20 years.
I ended that period in a tumultuous mood. I needed something more to whet my energy and creativity on. I needed to HAVE a product. An item that I can build my name upon, for me to nurture and grow into a Brand. I then knew I had to move on again. I left Jane in 2014.
I was already at a ripe age of 63!
I spent a few more years making discoveries about myself, my hopes, my dreams, AND the need to beef up my marketing and techy skills. And in the meantime, enjoy myself painting up the dog companions of good friends in Hong Kong.
It was the result of this part time hobby that I got a lightbulb moment: DOG PORTRAITS!
My first Dog Portraits
I got that. It was the best and desirable way for me to go. I decide to serve the American dog mums.
It didn’t take me long to discover that most dog mums are vulnerable with broken hearts….due to the fact that pets have short lives. They hurt yet it didn’t stop them from keeping on adopting, fostering, owning their dogs – I was absolutely touched.
A Sunset photo in South Carolina, taken of my young client, Kayla Adams with her Sheltie, Flash.
Being a faith driven individual, I decided to claim this my reason for what I do: In painting for them, I hoped to draw those devoted dog mums gently back to the loving arms of the Maker who alone can re-mend, redeem and replace their broken hearts with hope, faith, trust, and love.
Rev Billy Graham, when asked, “Do dogs go to Heaven?”, answered, “God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in Heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there.”
This, my Raison d’etre.