77-year-old man's twig portraits take the internet by storm

PHOTO: Twitter/arethalsy, Facebook/alvinshtan

His works of art that are pieced together from twigs and leaves may be fleeting, but the joy that one 77-year-old brings to his neighbours in Pek Kio remains, even after the last fragments are cleared from the pavement.

The retiree, known only as Uncle Thien, unwittingly achieved internet fame last week when netizens began sharing posts of him assembling his unconventional portraits.

Thien, who retired from being a hawker four years ago, told Lianhe Wanbao that his hobby had come about by chance.

"One day I passed by the carpark and saw some branches on the ground. I had the sudden inspiration to see what I could create from arranging them," he said. "In the past, I loved buying magazines and books to study their drawing techniques, so I decided to create some portraits."

His daily displays at the open air carpark near Block 44 Owen Road have won him more than a few fans, as well asĀ some friendly competition.

One netizen shared how Thien challenged her friend to a "draw-off", which ended with him helping her to improve her portrait instead with a couple of masterful tweaks.

While Thien typically illustrates figures from classic Chinese tales, such as Xiao Long Nu (The Return of the Condor Heroes), he regularly gets requests from passersby to draw them, he told the Chinese daily.

The encouragement and compliments from residents in the area haveĀ given him more confidence to continue with his artistic endeavours, he added.

Before leaving his hometown of Fujian for Singapore at the age of 18, ThienĀ had been a member of a Chinese opera troupe.

Besides performing on stage, he also built sets and illustrated ads.

He hadĀ entertained thoughts of going to art school after coming to Singapore, he confessed, although he eventually shelved the thought as he did not have many local contacts at thatĀ time and did not know where or how to sign up.

For now, he's content with flexing his creative muscles with his twig portraits, although he may consider attending art classes at the community centre, he said.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP-elect Alvin Tan, who highlighted Thien's work on Facebook, has said he wouldĀ involve ThienĀ in future community art projects.

Two nights ago, I posted about my encounter with Uncle Thien, our resident who uses twigs to compose pictures. We...

Posted by Alvin Tan é™ˆåœ£č¾‰ on Sunday, July 5, 2020

kimberlylim@asiaone.com