Be it in a meeting, a lecture, or at a café, give anyone a pen or a pencil and the instinct is to doodle. While it may not be considered high art, this shows how intrinsic artistic expression is to human nature.

Over the centuries, technological progress has given man new mediums to work in, from the advent of paper to the development of smart phones (for example, David Hockney’s paintings using the iPhone have been displayed at the Royal Academy in London and the Pierre Berge-Yves St. Laurent Foundation in Paris). However, the earliest examples of human symbolism is said to date as far back as 70,000 to 100,000 years ago, where engraved beads and egg shells were used in Africa, predating even the earliest examples of European cave paintings.

In essence, the creative instinct is in all of us; art, simply put, is an expression of what it means to be human. It’s one person trying to express one aspect of their humanity to another. Arts educator Karen Mitchell recognises this in her approach to teaching art. Mitchell tries to make as direct a connection as possible in exposing her students to outlets of creative expression, saying that “we may dwell into more personal account and experiences. Teenagers tend to have many issues, and a lot revolves around themselves. That is always a starting point when I speak to my students about their work. From there, we will steer into a more general idea and perspective to look at the issue, and to find a focus that the student may be interested to work on after.”

Two Singaporean arts initiatives worth mentioning are: Arts Outreach and Social Creatives. Arts Outreach, through projects such as their ‘Teachers’ Training Programme’ or their ‘Art in Transit’ Tours, try to instill in their target audience a greater appreciation of art and how art can act as a mirror to the society that we live in, moving beyond the museum and into the classroom, and even in public spaces like our MRT stations. Similarly, Social Creatives has been active in bringing art to life by having communities and artists work together on projects such as their recent mural for the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. Their work can also be seen along Orchard Road, the heart of Singapore’s famous shopping district, where the National Youth Council building was used as a large canvas for visual expressions of youthful exuberance.

5, Credit - Singapore

Neil Tyler Chan - Noise SG 2012

There really isn’t any limit to what we can learn about art, or the new insights we can gain about ourselves through art, whether or not we have had any prior formal training. Apart from teaching art, Karen Mitchell also works as an arts practitioner, and was recently challenged to experiment with the light for the “Luminance! Festival 2012”. “I used to think
it’s always easier and wiser to work with materials and mediums I am familiar with; stick to it and nothing will go wrong. And I was so wrong!”, remarks Mitchell. “I wanted to use paper as the main medium (besides light) as I am most comfortable working with it. I am thankful that the organiser had changed
the site of my installation from indoors to outdoors, and that forced me to re-think my medium.” The results are simple, honest, and evocative, visually inviting yet easily accessible.

Luminance - Everyday Aspirations by Karen Mitchell

Luminance - Everyday Aspirations by Karen Mitchell
Luminance – Everyday Aspirations by Karen Mitchell

With the myriad of opportunities for artistic expression and appreciation, what are you waiting for? It’s safe to say that we’ve moved far beyond painting on cave walls.

Indulge in a bit of creativity by joining an art-jamming session, or taking a dance class. Visit the museum of your choice or attend a community arts performance.

If nothing else, there’s always the smart phone or your nearest napkin to doodle on.

For more information on Art Outreach and their programmes, visit

For more information on Social Creatives, check out their website at

You may view photos of the recent Luminance! Festival 2012 at

You too can give to the arts

Visit to donate to your preferred arts and cultural charity and enrich the lives of others. And don’t forget to join other like-minded arts lovers at

Photo credit: Courtesy the artists, Karen Mitchell, and The National Arts Council (NAC)