Monday, February 16, 2009

Wall-eek

LONG before there was Facebook, I wrote on my parents' wall.

My siblings and I – there were three of us at the time – grew up in Kajang. Both our parents were working so we were left under the care of a maid.

It was the early 1980s. The house was still new. The walls were pristine off-white.

We had pencils lying around the house. Walls, pencils and bored children – it was a recipe for… a mural.

Why is it that children draw on walls instead of on paper? One theory is that it is actually easier for them to draw with their hands out in front of them rather than underneath. It affords better hand-eye coordination.

Children are short people with even shorter arms and legs, but they make up for their shortcomings with an innate ability to tell what is natural and what is not. Proof: when you give them paper to draw on, they do so while lying on their belly. It must be because it feels natural.

We adults, on the other hand, have no qualms about slouching over a desk. Which as well it should be. If all the females in the office did their work while lying on their belly, the males will never want to go home.

So there we were, my siblings and I, drawing on the walls. We could't spell yet so resorted to hieroglyphs to tell stories. Like, we would draw this long, uninterrupted line from one end of the wall to the other and it was supposed to mean something.

Other times, we would measure our heights. We would stand with our back against the wall and mark the top of our head. Over time, we could actually see growth. It was quite cool.

The walls gave me my first break in cartooning. I still remember the first picture that I drew on one of the walls. It was of my younger brother peeing.

And guess what? Even back then, I displayed an inherent understanding of one of the principles in cartooning: exaggeration. To draw things out of proportion. I knew exactly which part of my brother to accentuate in order to get my message across.

The result, I would say, was Dali-esque. My brother was horrified when he saw it. I thought he looked like that screaming guy in those Edvard Munch drawings.

It wasn't just the walls inside the house that became our 'canvas'. We also got working on the walls outside the house (do kids these days still have this much fun?).

I remember we made our own 'paint'. We found a hole in the garden which we filled with water and stirred. After a while, the water turned brown. I called the colour beige.

"It is the same colour as an IBM personal computer," I told my siblings to murmurs of approval, although I didn't even know what a computer was.

As we were painting the wall, my siblings joyfully remarked how beautiful our house would be in the colour of an IBM PC.

But as the eldest brother, it was my duty to burst their bubble. "Twenty years from now, this colour won't be so cool anymore," I said. They seemed quite disturbed by the prophecy. They asked how I knew, to which I mumbled something about being able to think different.

Now I realise you can't always tell when I'm kidding, so I'm gonna be completely clear here: this exercise really did take place, although without the computer industry exchanges with my siblings.

When our parents came back from work, it was their turn to look like the Edvard Munch character. Pulling us by the ear, they got us to clean the mess and promise to never do it again.

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