Dressed in an austere black suit, which he says makes him feel "like a lawyer", 54-year-old celebrity Edmund Chen admits that he is quite conservative when it comes to personal style.
"People assume that I am trendy because I am an actor, but I am actually really old-fashioned. Most of my clothes are grey, blue or white because I just do not have the appetite for loud colours," he says.
Fair enough, except that this outlook seems somewhat at odds with his energetic, humorous personality.
Having achieved stardom in Singapore, Chen ventured overseas, becoming one of the few Singapore actors to star in Hollywood productions such as Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Li.
In recent years, this multi-hyphenate has added "artist" to his list of accolades, which already includes host and film producer. His most notable feat was the self-initiated EC Challenge in 2013, in which he successfully broke the Guinness World Record for the longest drawing completed by an individual.
Not only was his 601.255m illustration of river scenes stunning, it also had much personal significance.
"When I was young, my friend had a fish tank which I was fascinated with. My family could not afford one so I sketched the fish tank bit by bit until I got the whole image," he recalls.
"One day, the fish died and that was when I realised you could preserve something forever as long as you were creative enough," says Chen, who is married to MediaCorp actress Xiang Yun, 53. Their son Yi Xi is 24, and daughter Yi Xin is 15.
Chen has also illustrated a series of stamps for Singapore Post and has just collaborated with Samsonite for the "Cherish" luggage collection. A hundred pieces of the luggage, which feature drawings of koi and are priced from $850 each, will be available from June at selected Samsonite boutiques.
Chen says that having his drawings on the pieces of luggage allows him to share his underlying message of transience with more people.
"Drawing is therapeutic. It allows me to settle down and focus on the scene in front of me. Even if what I am looking at seems boring, scrutinising it allows me to uncover the stories hidden within it."
His affection for illustration is obvious, but Chen will continue to act. "Acting is my passion - I do not want to kill that by doing too much of it. That is why I am very selective about my acting jobs and why I invest my creativity in various areas."
8 THINGS IN HIS BAG
Memories are very important so when I am on the road, I am either taking pictures or sketching.
This is from my wife, Xiang Yun. I use it to sign important documents.
3. RESISTANCE BAND
When I was younger, I used to do weights for aesthetic reasons. However, now I just believe in conditioning myself so I use this resistance band when I am exercising.
4. PENCIL CASE
This used to belong to my kids. I rarely buy things for myself. I use my family members' old items so that when I am travelling, I have something to remind myself of them.
6689 is the date of my wedding.
6. COLOUR PENCILS
I used my daughter's colour pencils to design the series of stamps for Singapore Post.
7. IMPORTANT NOTEBOOK
I am very old-school so I still use a notebook to organise my schedule.
These used to belong to my wife.
This article was first published on Mar 20, 2015.
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