That's the title of the sketch above.

After visiting the mural with my artwork at CHIJMES, I had some time to spend before going to work. So I decided to sketch another piece on the premises.

I chose a spot, set down my portable stool, and started sketching.

Just minutes after penciling, and seconds into inking. I heard someone shouted towards my direction.

Two security guards approached me and asked me where I'm from. "Singapore," I replied.

"Do you know that you can't draw here? This is a private property. You know.. Everything in Singapore needs black and white. Can you show me your identification?"

No big deal. I took out my wallet and as they say my company's work pass and knew I'm from a media company.

"Since you're a journalist. You should know you can't just draw anywhere. Didn't they teach you that?" they said.

What do you know about what they did or did not teach me? I kept that to myself.

The security guards knew what they were doing, and I'm sure they had clear instructions to stop people from engaging in this type of activities on the compound, e.g. sketching, making videos and taking photos, basically anything that makes use of their resources (the presence of the building there). Note that CHIJMES is a huge compound that comprises retail shops and restaurants, and the people who have business here are customers who buy stuff or eat.

Personally, I can't be bothered to explain to them or talk any further. Time is precious. Any time I had, I want to spend it sketching and not waste it on unproductive talks.

So I showed him my ID.

"If you want to draw, you can ask my supervisor for permission," they said pointing to a room at the corner of the compound. "Or you can draw outside the compound."

"I can't be bothered, I'll just leave," I said.

"When we come back, I don't want to see you here."

You won't.

"By the way, there's a mural in front of Tatsu restaurant. That's created by my friend and I. You should see it," I said before I left.

So now, I have a story to tell everyone whenever CHIJMES comes up in a conversation, the story of how "CHIJMES Sucks" is created. Whether CHIJMES really sucks is a totally different matter. I was just inspired by at spontaneous moment for what I think is a memorable title for the sketch.

Anyway, I finished inking and adding colours at Rocky Masters, a cafe opposite Bras Basah Complex that serves wonderful iced Mocha.

I've nothing against the security guards. They are just doing their jobs, following instructions. What I have a problem with is the logic of having to ask for permission to do something as mundane as sketching within your huge premises as if I'm disturbing anyone there or robbing intellectual property.

In Singapore, our exams do not test for common sense. When in doubt, follow the rules, follow the hierarchy, ask for permission, check back, follow orders, do not use your initiative, do not listen to reason, do not care whether you look stupid or not.

If you're ever puzzled by Singaporean behavior, just read the paragraph above again.

Update #1 one day later

So my friend who has a bit of extra time emailed the management looking for a response. This was their reply:

Thanks for your email and interest to sketch CHIJMES. You don't need special permission if sketching is your hobby and the sketches aren't used for commercial purposes. Wishing you a delightful sketching time.

As I suspected, it has got to do with money.

So if you're still confused by Singaporean behaviour, often the reason comes down to something about money.

Update #2

Here's another reply:

I’m sorry to hear about the incident. Indeed Isaac and Yi Chie were the creators of the beautiful mural, and Zaihan has been a great coordinator for this project. We welcome Urban Sketchers to draw on-site, I hope this is clear!

Looks like my friend likes the black and white, to and fro with the management. I admire his will to follow up.

Overall, there's nothing right or wrong with the whole incident. Personally, I try not to judge, I merely report. When in doubt, save your time, there are better things to do.

Update #3

I went back to sketch again, this time with the email replies above.


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