Journey To Old and New Singapore
Journey To Old and New Singapore
WRITER: Elwin Chan PHOTOS BY: Alvin Toh
Journey To Old and New Singapore 20. October 2019, by Elwin Chan, Photos by Alvin Toh
Through the sketches of local illustrator Francis Theo, we take a look at the city from an insider’s perspective. We then revisit Orchard Road at a different time through old photographs.

Drawing is one of the earliest forms of human expression. Cave paintings date back to some 40,000 years ago in Eurasia. They were of animals and figures and spoke of ceremonies and rituals. As children, we learn how to draw even before we learn to write.

Drawings are also a journey through time and place. As Singaporean illustrator and urban sketcher, Francis Theo explains,

“Drawings help us express what we see. When we draw, we capture a point in time. These records become memories.”

Francis is part of an all-volunteer nonprofit group called Urban Sketchers, a global community of artists who practice on-location drawing. The group’s mission is to raise the artistic, storytelling, and educational value of the art form. The drawings tell the story of our shared surroundings, the places we live in, and where we travel.

As an urban sketcher, Francis combines his passion for architecture and art, putting pen and brush to paper and creating beautiful sketches filled with colour, character, and charm.

Entrance of Istana.
Devonshire Road.
Peranakan houses with ornate facades, intricate motifs and ceramic tiles on Emerald Hill.

One of his favourite places to sketch in Singapore is Emerald Hill along Orchard Road.“The enclave is such a contrast to the modernity of Orchard Road. It is quiet and tranquil and architecturally unique, which makes for a great sketch. Emerald Hill is simply another world,” Francis elaborates.

What does it take to be an urban sketcher? Francis says that all it needs is hard work and interest. “As Picasso said, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how we remain an artist once we grow up.’ Everyone can draw. The important thing is to not get discouraged and just keep drawing. Practise, practise, practise.”

As for the tools, all one needs are a sketchbook, an eraser, and some pens and pencils.“When you start to draw, it is a therapeutic process of de-stressing. You clear your mind and simply focus on drawing. You transform into a different person,” Francis says.