All posts by Tan Xiang Rei


MY LINE IS EMO: Experimenting Different Techniques With Ink and Acrylic

In this post, I’m going to focus on the different texture and mark making I achieved with acrylic paint and Chinese ink.


As this is my first time trying linocut, I wanted to play with all the different textures that linocut could possibly offer me. The first thing that I did was to carve the linocut. As it was my first time, there is a lot of uneven thickness of the lines.

Print from my Linocut

While I like the varying width of lines that the print produces, I face two issues that I didn’t like the linocut print.

Firstly, the printed image lines are too clean. This gave it a very mechanical look as if it was mass produced. I feel that emotions are raw and fluid, which cannot be produced through a linocut print.

Secondly, I don’t like how the linocut is too pre-planned. everything on the linocut print can be planed, corrected. There is no room for mistakes. I feel that the print than becomes artificial.

I also used the lino cut pad to create textures, by imprinting objects and drawing on the paper.

In the first two prints, I added too much ink to the pad hence it turned out too dark, with little contrast between the impression and the background. In these two artworks, I used a combination of a tree branch (the thicker and hazier lines) and my fingernails ( the thinner and more consistent lines)  to create the impressions.

So in the following prints, I used lesser ink, which gave me better results. in all three, I used both the blunt end and the sharp edge of the carving knife for the impressions. While I like the control this technique gives me over my work, similarly, I feel that the lines are too clean and artificial to express the fluidity and the complexity of the emotions.


Chinese ink is more fluid as compared to both the printing ink and acrylic paint. This allows for more fluidity and a greater variance of texture.

The first technique I wanted to try was dripping, wet on wet and dry on wet.  For dripping, I elevated my paper on a book stand before applying the ink at the top allowing it to flow down. To make the work more interesting, I added dry brush strokes over the drips.

For the wet on wet technique, I added water to a specific spot on the paper before adding ink directly applying the ink to the paper, allowing the ink to diffuse out. Similarly, I added dry brush strokes over to create a more interesting look. In addition, I also tried adding white ink over to create layering and depth.However, I didn’t like the shininess of the dried white ink. (and also because it was too expensive and precious)

The second technique I wanted to experiment with is salting. I added a copious amount of water to the paper before adding the ink. Afterwards, I added salt to the ink and left it overnight. The salt would absorb the water present in the ink and leave behind a crystallization effect.

I really like the effects of this technique and would be definitely trying it out on a larger scale the next time.

The third technique that I will be experimenting with is bubbling.  For this, I added soap, water, and ink to a bowl. Using a straw, I blew into the bowl to create bubbles, before pressing my paper on top of the bubbles.

I love the airiness and the effect of this technique so I definitely will be trying this out on a larger scale 🙂

A variation I did to this technique was instead of blowing into the bowl I blew onto the paper directly, this created a bubble like impression on the paper.

The fourth technique that I experimented with was a happy mistake. wanted to wash away a mistake I made by placing the paper under a running tap. This created a beauty effect as the ink captures the movement of the running water. This results in a very zen effect.


Unlike Chinese ink, acrylic paint is stiffer and is better able to hold its shape after it dries. However, after drying it has a shiny and plastic finish which I don’t like. This can be demonstrated through the technique of spattering paint onto the paper.

as seen in the first 2 done by acrylic paint, the spatters do not spread on the paper and retain its shape. This allows for more movement and energy to be seen from the paint.

The second technique that I experimented with is creating texture with the palette knife. The paint dried up forming reliefs, giving the marks an extra dimension and layer. I tried both dabbing and scraping.

I like how the texture of the paint is able to add another dimension to the flat marks. I also love how that by alternating the angle and the stress applied on the palette knife, gave me different textures and marks.

The third technique that I experimented with was dabbing balls made up of tissue paper, newspaper, clingwrap, and aluminum.

Of all the aluminum and the cling wrap gave the most textured effect while the tissue paper has the softest edge and the most blending. I really like the texture that the aluminum and clingwrap offered, and would definitely be trying this out on a greater scale.

The fourth technique that I experimented with was piping. I placed a mixture of white and black acrylic paint into a plastic bag and snip the end of before piping it onto the paper, like how you would with cake frosting. The acrylic is less dense as compared to oil paint, hence the paint droop downwards as it driers, making it flatter than I hope it would be.

The fifth technique that I tried was the decalcomania. I applied both black and white paint onto a paper and folded it into half allowing the paint to mix. it resulted in a beautifully symmetrical artwork.

The last one that I did was a total happy mistake. I had a lot of ink and acrylic paint remaining. So I mixed the white acrylic with water and the black acrylic with ink so as to make it more fluid, before pouring both paints at the same time from a height. I think that the ink and the acrylic didn’t mix well, resulting in the fragmenting of the ink particles, which I love.



I wanted to explore the use of motif to suggest emotions and textures.

The first three motifs that I created, were too rigid, for my liking. I prefer the fourth and the fifth one better as it is more unique and fluid. While I don’t like how uniform and clean this looks, by combining multiple motifs together can create an interesting and complex composition.

I will be mainly using this technique to produce my final works~

Project 2: Creating an Advertorial for Arizona Green Tea


The object that I have received from the draw was Arizona Green Tea. The first thing that caught my eye was how they incorporated the Japanese motif into the design of the bottle; the sakura blossom on the front of the bottle. Therefore the first images I associated the tea with was the Geisha and the Maiko ( Shrine Maidens ). Traditionally, Geishas would entertain their guest with the arts including the Tea Ceremony.

Maiko during the tea ceremony

This imagery connotes the authenticity of the Japanese green tea.

in addition, i thought that green tea has a very light and refreshing taste as it doesn’t have a strong taste. So I wanted to bring the idea of a  refreshing drink. Lipton fruit teas advertisement commonly use the imagery of a fruits, mints and summery activities to bring across the idea.

Incorporating the imagery of summer activities
Incorporating the imagery of a Lime

I also research on how Japanese advertise for green tea. Most of them focus on the vibrant green colour of the powder.

Japanese advertisement for green tea

In addition, some also incorporated the minimalistic Japanese illustration into the advertisement as shown below.

Tea time japanese traditional ceremony advertisement poster vector illustration


I was very certain that I wanted to use the imagery of a Geisha in my advertisement. While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across this artwork by Damon Belanger.

sidewalk shadow painted by Damon Belanger

I like how the shadow connotes the idea of the true origin or form of the green tea is from the Geisha’s tea ceremony. My original plan was to feature the Arizona green tea in the middle with a silhouette of a geisha preparing the tea as the background. However, this is too ambitious of me as I was unable to manipulate the perspective of the shadow to fit the bottle. Therefore, I scraped this idea away.

The Second Idea I had was to have a foreigner and a Geisha participating in a tea ceremony. But instead of serving the foreigner from the traditional equipment used to make the tea, I wanted to serve the foreigner tea directly from the Arizona green tea bottle. This further solidifies the authenticity of the green tea. As I had a hard time finding an image of a Geisha suitable for the advertorial, I decided to illustrate the characters so as to not compromise on my design.

However, I felt that there was too much visual information in this advertisement. The illustration is very cluttered and there is a lack of emphasis on the Arizona green tea bottle. Hence, I decided to remove the foreigner so as to bring a greater emphasis on the product.

So I decided to simplify the advertisement, only including the Geisha and the product. The geisha’s intricate and bright kimono catch our attention first. Her gaze and her outreach arm lead our eyes towards the green tea bottle. This imagery connotes the idea that the taste of the Arizona green tea is so authentic that it taste exactly like the ones prepared in the Japanese tea ceremony.


I should have paid more attention to my choice of colour as some of the detailing such as the shadow of the neck have gotten lost. In addition, I should have used a more Japanese stylised illustrative approach (as in the Japanese woodblock print style) in this work to further bring out the Japaneseness of this advert.

Strange Paradoxical World: Alice in Wonderland Tea Party

When I got this brief, I still cannot let go of the concept of Alice in Wonderland. My favorite portion of the movie was the tea party when Alice and the White Rabbit joined the March Hare and the Mad Hatter for tea. The paradox of this situation is that it’s always tea time for the Hatter and the March Hare.  this incident arises from when the Hatter tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at a celebration of hers, she sentenced him to death for “murdering the time.” The Hatter escaped decapitation, but, angry about the Hatter’s attempted “murder”, Time halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever.  Hence my paradoxical strange world revolves around the theme of a tea party at odd timings.

my inspiration 

I decided to explore with the various type of shots to aid in my composition.

This is a close-up shot of Alice amidst the tea party. while I like the interesting and unusual perspective this composition brings about, I would be restricted in my image selection as there aren’t many images available online that features an aerial view.

Screen Shot from “Alice in Wonderland” by Tim Burton

This is a medium shot of a tea party. I like how the character’s emotion and the background are captured with equal detail. I also love how the scene portrays the paradoxical time of the tea party through the evening sky.

However, I decided to use a long shot as my composition in the end. I as the paradox isn’t on the character, but the background. This allows me to insert more details of the paradoxical setting into my composition.


My Composition

Since it’s my Wonderland, I wanted to create a landscape that I would escape to as a kid. As there is a requirement to incorporate Singaporean elements inside my composition, I immediately thought of using childhood snacks and game that I often play. There has been many renditions of a landscape being made up of sweets and food. such include: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hansel and Gretel.

Hansel and Gretel candy house
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Chocolate room

Using this imagery in mind I begin creating my world. I used many iconic snacks and sweets from the 90s. of such includes the: White Rabbit Candy, gold chocolate coin, animal biscuit, ice gem and the tri-coloured biscuit wafer. I also included some iconic games such as the styrofoam airplane and the five stones in the back ground. To make the scene more paradoxical, I decided to incorporate my Mad Hatter character from the previous assignment, by making him serve me tea through his head. I also manipulated with the scale to make my setting more paradoxical. The various food dwarf over me, thus questing the subconsciousness of the viewer. In addition, I swapped out the usual tables and chairs for a teapot. Thus further adding to the strangeness of this world. So as to establish an odd timing I decided to use a bright pink sky as the background. The strange and bizarre color of the sky questions a sense of reality and timing in the composition. The moon in the top right hand Conner further emphasizes the apparent lack of time in this composition.

Rhetoric of the Images by Roland Barthes

What are some of the key questions Barthes aims to investigate in the article?

In this paper, Barthes aims to investigate the context of an image: how the image gets its meaning when does the interpretation stop, if there is anything beyond the meaning. He investigates this through categorizing the meaning of an image into three categories, the linguistic message, a coded iconic message and a non-coded iconic message. The linguistic message comes from the captions, labels, accompanying press articles, film dialogue, and comic strip balloons. This message can either be connoted or denoted. The coded iconic message comes from the pure image. To infer this message one needs to have a background cultural knowledge of the image. The third message, the uncoded iconic message is constituted by the object and its scene, the relationship between the code signified and the analogical representation.

All images are polysemous where the viewer is able to choose some and ignore the others. There are two functions of a linguistic message: anchorage and relay. An Anchorage text is a text, prone to multiple meaning. They direct the reader through the signified of image, causing him to read some and miss the others. This is one of the most frequent functions of a linguistic text and is commonly found in press photographs. where as relay texts and the image compliments each other, allowing the fragments of messages to be read at a higher level of unity. relay text can be often found in films.

Barthes also brought across the point that the coded nature of a drawing can be read at three levels. Firstly a set of rules that governs the transposition of an image (perspective). Secondly, the artist needs to divide the significant from the insignificant where he reproduce parts in details while omitting the rest. Thirdly, the drawing requires an apprenticeship.  In other words, the denotation of a drawing is less pure as compared to a picture. as the camera cannot alter the object while the artist is able to in a drawing.

Do you agree or disagree with his argument and point of view?

I do agree with Roland Barthes point of view. An image has both the connoted and denoted signs. these signs complement each other to allow the viewer to read and understand the image better. However, I disagree with his point on the denotation of a drawing is less pure as compared to photograph. Despite having the freedom to alter the objects to fit in with the ideal standard in paintings, photography also has the ability to alter the object: Photoshop. Photographers are able to digitally manipulate to create an image that is equally unrealistic and heavily edited.

The Rhine II (1999) Andreas Gursky

For example, Andreas Gursky digitally manipulated this image of a river into perfectly horizontal parallel planes of the land and the water body. Hence, I strongly disagree with Barthes point where denoted paintings are less pure as compared to photography.

Provide a brief analysis (200 words) on an advertisement of your choice by using the terms/ concepts proposed by Barthes and discuss the role of text and its relationship with the image in the advertisement. Please include an image the advertisement in your post.

This is an advertisement for Tabasco Hot sauce. The literature message reads: “Beware the heat, little bottle, big flavor accompanies the text. The purpose of a fire extinguisher is to put out a fire. Taking away the literature message, A small bottle of Tabasco bottle can be seen placed against a red background with a fire extinguisher noose, the pure image. The imagery further solidifies the text saying “beware the heat”. This implies that the hot sauce is so spicy that literally a fire extinguisher is needed to put out the flames. The bigger text acts as an Anchorage text, guiding us in reading this message as the spiciness of the hot sauce ( focus is on the fire) instead of the hot sauce being cooling ( fire extinguisher extinguishing the fire). The smaller text: “little bottle, big flavor” acts as a relay text further reinforce the idea of the spiciness of this hot sauce.

Strange Encounters: Alice in Wonderland

So, when I first got the project brief, my first thought went to “Alice in Wonderland” by C.S. Lewis. Alice in Wonderland has been appropriated many times by the mass media of such includes:

Alice in the wonderland animation by Walt Disney
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

For this project, I will be exploring 4 of my favourite Characters, The Chesire Cat, The Queen, The White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter.

  The Cheshire Cat 


Both Disney and Burton portrayed the Cheshire cat similarly. Both were a cryptic and mysterious cat, who pointed Alice in the right direction when in need. Both Stylised the character with a cheeky wide smile which disappears from time to time.

Cheshire cat from Disney Animated version
Cheshire Cat from Tim Burton film

While in Disney and Burton film the cats are portrayed with cuteness, in the video game, the Cheshire cat is portrayed with a more sinister vibe. It has protruding bones, angular body structure, with multiple tribal signs over his body.

Cheshire Cat from Alice Madness Returns


My Character:

To make my character unique, I decided to take the most distinctive traits of each character and appropriate it into the everyday Singaporeans. For the Cheshire cat, I decided to focus on his cheeky personality. The Chesire cat reminds me of that one particular prankster we all had in class. I decided to use a black cat as my base. I chose the colour black specifically because they are commonly associated as a familiar of a witch. Hence bring on the connotation of it being magical and unordinary. I also decided to give it a fox head to depict his sly and cheeky nature. As the Cheshire cat always gives advice out in a cryptic riddle, the advice can go both ways either good or bad depending on the reader interpretation. Hence I decided to give him a snake for his tail to symbolise that the Chesire cat may not always be good and may backstab you sometimes. As a homage to the Cheshire cat’s ability to turn invisible, I erased half of my character’s body.

my take on the Cheshire Cat

However, the character did not fit in with my other three characters so I decided to scrape him away.

The Queen of Hearts


Both Disney and Burton Strongly used the motif of a heart in their films. The Queen of Hearts is often seen as a hard headed woman, dictating her soldiers and issuing out ridiculous orders. In Burton’s rendition, the motive of the heart can be seen clearly in the form of her hair and the red lip stick. I love the way Burton manipulated the proportions of this character. The Queen of Hearts is given a rather large head and a tiny body. This further emphasises the irrational quality of the Queen of Hearts.

Queen of Hearts in Disney animation
Queen of Hearts in Tim Burtons film


My Character 

Similarly, I envision The Queen’s personality fitting a dictator, a judge, a prosecutor the best. Her stubborn persona reminded me of a prosecutor who is bounded by countless laws. I decided to use a white cat as a base, as they have a very pristine and regal look. especially the picture that I have chosen, the cat glances away from the viewers as if their presence isn’t worth her attention. So as to emphasize her royalty, I decided to place her on a plush velvet cushion. however, I couldn’t find one online that is in the right perspective hence I decided to use a fondant cake decoration instead. Secondly, as the Queen favourite line is: ” Off with her head!” I decided to “behead” the cat. In addition, this solidifies my point of the bureaucracy being headless as money, bribery is able to influence a case in someone’s favour.  I also gave the cat a judges wig to symbolise her position as a prosecutor.

My take on the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland



Other Considerations

I wanted to replace the head of the cat with famous dictators such as Hitler, Chairman Mao and Kim Jong Un, however, I couldn’t find pictures of these leaders in a correct angle and I was afraid it was “politically incorrect”.

My Attempt to synthesize famous dictators into the face of a cat


The Mad Hatter

My inspirations

“As Mad as a hatter!” was a phrase popularised by the infamous mad hatter. Both Disney and Burton portrayed the character as an eccentric man, with terrible temper and mood swings. The mad hatter absolutely loves his tea and has a great taste in hats. in the Disney animation, the quirky characters of the Hatter were brought out by his actions and his fluffy hair style. whereas in Burtons film they used makeup to emphasize his eccentric behaviour. counter that is done in pink, unnaturally bright and fluffy hair and eyebrows are just a few.

Disney take on the Mad Hatter
Burton’s take on Mad Hatter

My Character 

instead of focusing on the personality of the Hatter, I decided to focus on what the Hatter likes: Fashion, hats and tea. Hence the idea of tea party became my main motive of this piece. Then I thought, who in Singapore has the time to enjoy all these frivolous activities? Rich Tai Tai. Hence the base personality of this character is rich ladies. I choose to use an image of a bunny as the base character as a homage to the Hatter’s dear and equally mad friend: the March Hare. Using the motif of a tea party, I replaced the head of the rabbit with a fine china teapot and gave her a skirt of a cupcake liner. I then, added more jewellery to the character to further emphasize her standing as a rich lady ( pearl necklace, red LV bag and the ebony earrings)

My Take on the Mad Hatter from Alice in the Wonderland


The White Rabbit

My inspiration

The White Rabbit, the main culprit that brought Alice down the rabbit hole. In the Disney film, the White Rabbit is portrayed as a two face character, that alternates back and forth a pompous behaviour toward his underlings and a sickening grovelling behaviour towards his superiors. However, in Burton’s film, the white rabbit is portrayed as a skittish character, who works undercover against the Queen of Hearts to assist Alice in his adventures. Both films used a common motive of a clock. The White Rabbit is often seen fervently checking his pocket watch and lamenting about the lack of time. A popular quote by the White rabbit is: ” I am late, I am Late! for a very important date, no time to say hello, no time to say goodbye. I am late, I am late!”

Disney rendition of the White Rabbit
Burton’s rendition of the White Rabbit

My Character

I felt that the personality of a disgruntled office worker is exactly the same as the White Rabbit. Both are equally pressed for time, rushing datelines and adding extra hours. I also like how both the White Rabbit two face personality fits in perfectly with a disgruntled worker: boot licking and complimenting their supervisors and abusing the poor intern. I decided to use a mouse with both hands up to show how skittish and easily swayed this character is. I gave him a pocket watch as his face to show how to obsess he is with time. I gave the mouse a tie and a black brief case to solidify his role as an office worker.

My take on the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland









My Line Is Emo: Artist references

Fiona Rae, Black and white series

Fiona Rae incorporates marking in her body of work, using both accidental and intentional strokes. Fiona Rae works by hanging her work on the wall and begins splattering, smearing, dripping, painting, throwing paint, on her canvas. To Fiona Rae, Anything and anything can be used as her tools for mark making. she once exhibited her used palate as a work. The whips and strokes of black and on the gray gave it a very fluid, dream like, feeling. I love the way she incorporated both the dry brush strokes and the wet, blending in this work. it makes the strong bold lines pop out, giving it depth. This piece will be my main inspiration for the emotions of at peace/ calm. I will be trying to accomplish this effect through using  Delcomania as a base and adding more details such as brush strokes.

Shin Kwang Ho, Untitled, charcoal on canvas

Shin Kwang Ho is a contemporary Korean artist that mainly work with impasto and oil paint. I love his treatment of the charcoal. The strong bold stroke of the charcoal is strongly contrasted by the light wash of the charcoal. The intensity of the darkness in the middle followed by a haunting sweep of the charcoal gives it a ghostly and a feeling of anguish and sadness.  I will be using this imagery as the inspiration for the emotion of sadness. To me, sadness is an empty feeling, as if there is a void, an absence.

Affandi, Self Portrait, 1975, oil on canvas

Affandi is an Indonesian contemporary painter.  Affandi painted by directly squeezing the paint out of its tube, this results in the object appearing more alive. He also painted used his own hands, instead of a paint brush leaving behind the raw and flurried emotions in his paintings.



My Strange Encounter: Inspirations

Jacques Villeglé, Boulevard Haussmann, March 15, 1988, Paintings, Decollage mounted on canvas

This art work is done by Jacques Villeglé, a French artist, best known for his torn collaged works. Jacques would paste multiple layers of posters and advertisments he has collected from the streets onto his canvas, before tearing away the layers to reveal a decollage artwork. In this artwork the torn posters reveals a man face in the middle. The deep set gaze of the man captures the viewer’s attention in a glance. Furthermore, the textured surface of the collage almost allows us to sense the artist feeling and thoughts as he completes this work. Jacques destabilizes our perception through the quick and abrupt changes in the imagery. This bombard of imagery and information, leaves the viewer questioning the source and the intention of the poster.

Gregory Euclide 3-Dimensional Collage

This artwork is by Gregory Euclide, an American contemporary artist, who draws inspiration from the rich and diverse wildlife around him. Euclide contrast the organic form of nature with the harsh and geomatic shapes of the   triangular structures. Euclide distorts our perception of depth as he intwines the two-dimensional paintings with his three-dimensional relief paintings.  His adept use of chiaroscuro further solidify the illusion of realism in the paintings as seen in the trees.