Arlene Sy
Art + Illustration


My journey as an artist chronicled in life events, thoughts, and musings.

All the small things

Last Wednesday, I tried to find out if I could hack a private, one-on-one tutorial. A friend asked if I could take in his 14-year-old daughter during a group session, but uncomfortable about accepting a very young participant in a class setting, I asked if they'd be open to a one-on-one session instead. They said yes!

I was delighted to know Maika had been drawing and painting on her own. But I had no idea how talented she was! I was so amazed when she showed me her diary--a cute notebook with a glittery-pink Eiffel tower on the cover, pages of super neat cursive handwriting, and watercolored illustrations on every page. She also showed me her sketchbook, which had about three pages of pencil drawings (detailed and shaded, no less). She and her best friend draw and paint in their spare time. So cool!

We went through the same set of exercises I normally give older students. Daisies are her favorite flower, so for the last exercise, I gave her a few photos to choose from. We worked on a white daisy in the middle of a field. I'm so proud of what she did! She even asked if she could put birds in the sky. This girl wasn't afraid of making mistakes and was even confident enough to make the artwork her own.


As I did with my last class, I guided her in completing the picture by doing a step-by-step demo at her side. I did my best to keep mine as simple as possible (below). Maika insisted that I keep what I made, but I was really set on giving it to her.


She loves drawing and painting birds in flight, trees, and girls with pretty dresses and tiaras/flower crowns on their heads (these li'l hipsters!). At the end of the session, she was feeling inspired enough to make a watercolored version of one of the pencil portraits in her sketchbook. She wanted to try painting directly on paper (without pencils) for this one. It was lovely!


I know this girl's going to be a great artist (and illustrator) one day. I really hope she decides to keep doing what she loves. I should tell her parents to encourage her to go to art school.

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Since starting my journey as a full-time artist, I've weaved my way through my own experiments. I still wonder what getting an art degree might have done for me. But while that's starting to look a little too late now, I've become content to just keep on learning and trying new things.

With all the little detours I've taken, I can definitely say that nothing really beats just doing something, trying to make it work the first time around, and then slowly refining and working out the kinks as I go along.

Years ago, I thought I didn't have the knack or patience to be a teacher. Growing up, my mom was probably the best role model I could have when it came to teaching young kids. She started out with a part-time teaching job the same time I started kindergarten (don't ask me how they allowed her to become my own teacher in Kinder!), and then ventured into home-based tutorial years later. Anyway, I always felt like I didn't have the confidence nor patience to impart knowledge to another person. Being an introvert, I always felt that teaching was reserved for the active, naturally outspoken, "hyper" types.

But things do change. Fast forward many more years later, I find myself not only holding my own workshops, but doing a private tutorial for the first time! It feels odd knowing I kind of followed in my mom's footsteps--but not as much as it makes me feel old. Haha. Seriously though, I am beginning to understand the joy of teaching.

* * *

I asked Maika if she had Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. She does, but hardly posts anything, because social networks bore her ("Is it because so many old people are on FB?" "Nope."). So interesting. I feel pretty much the same way. (If you notice, I'm not particularly active on FB.) I also found it so nice that both of us love using 8tracks. Woohoo! Being able to connect with someone nearly half my age feels amazing.