GIVE A PIECE OF BLANK PAPER TO A KID, give them some paints, they will automatically create great work—great colour, forms, lines, space—without knowing much about art. That’s the kind of artist I want to be.

I STUDIED with Liu Kang at a very young age, 11 or 12, drawing and things. But it was Chen Wen Hsi who really inspired me. I looked at him, he would constantly stay in the studio, paint, not much socialising. I don’t think he had any bad habits. That inspired me.

INSPIRATION is more important than learning.

ART IS ACHIEVED through your own experiments, your own practice, your own hard work. It’s not something somebody can teach you. It cannot be taught. It can only be inspired.

THE MAIN THING IS you have to make a painting breathe. You have to give it life. That life makes a great painting. No matter what kind of painting it is, traditional or contemporary, all the great artists of the past bring life to their work. If it’s dead, kaput. So, I’m constantly fighting to achieve that.

I’LL FOCUS ON THE DETAILS, study a little patch, alter it. But then, you have to constantly step back and look at the bigger picture.

KNOWING when a work of art is finished is like when you accomplish a sexual encounter with a woman— when it’s done, you know it’s done.

A LOT OF EUROPEAN ARTISTS lead an exotic lifestyle, a more exciting life than most people. This kind of experience in life, I think, generates a great deal of energy that then goes into your writing, or your painting, or your music.

EXPERIENCE is the fuel for us, as artists.

EACH MAN IS DIFFERENT, each person is different, what you learn is what you are. It’s not “you are what you eat”—what you learn is what you are. So, all the things that I’ve learnt, experienced, encountered over the years, they have come to make me who I am. That’s what I’m translating into my work.

I LOVE THE FEMALE FORM. All the great artists will tell you the same thing. The lines, the textures, the curves are almost like a landscape. You’ve got hills, valleys, streams...

IT’S IMPORTANT to have good friends. Correct friends. If you have the wrong type of friends, you become the wrong kind of person.

AN ART CAREER IS A MARATHON. You’ve got to keep running, keep fighting. I had to make a living, so I did all kinds of jobs. Through this, you learn. Life is formed by your experiences.

I THINK HUMAN BEINGS are still uncivilised in many senses. Just like in the primitive days, we’re still fighting over a piece of meat—but today, a piece of meat means money and power.

YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST? I say, don’t get married. If you do get married, don’t have children. If Van Gogh had a wife and children, there would have been no Van Gogh.

YOU KNOW artists never have a happy life. Well, a few do, but maybe less than one per cent.

A COUNTRY WITHOUT GREAT ART, we cannot consider a great country. Simple. No matter what kind of weapons you have, it doesn’t count. Art is the thing. Think back to all the great countries in history: Egypt, China, Rome—why we consider them as great is because of their great culture.

SOME TIME AGO, they said, “Painting is dead.” That’s propaganda. You can all lay out all kinds of reasons to support any idea.

IF YOU HAVE A GOOD EYE, if you’ve been educated. If you’ve visited a lot of good artists’ exhibitions and museums, right away you know if something is great art or not great art. You know at first sight. It’s like we know if someone is good or bad, by judging through just appearance. They say don’t judge a book by its cover—that’s not true, the cover is important. You right away know good from bad.

THOSE WHO PAINT will know Jackson Pollock is wonderful, they’ll know Willem De Kooning is great. Those who don’t paint, but who have a good eye and good education will also know that these are great artists. All the truly great artists today, on the surface of this earth, they’re genuine. I’ve seen a lot of artists come and go. But the great artists stay.

SOMETIMES there’s a very thin line between commercial art and fine art—a very thin line.

PRETTY, DECORATIVE FLOWER PAINTINGS can be pleasing. But ugliness can be fine art. The German Expressionists, for example. So ugly, so naive, so childlike and yet, so very powerful.

OUR LIFE, we are only a fish splash. We are nothing, you know?

Photography: Jaya Khidir

I USED TO BE quite on when I started shooting. But now, I’m getting more and more relaxed. Photography is not a rat race.

I’VE BEEN SHOOTING for 13 years. I just do my thing. If I get likes on my IG, great. If not, that’s ok, too.

ORGANICALLY, my work made me who I am today. There was no agenda or game plan. I just kept shooting until things happened to me.

MY DAY JOB is in advertising but I don’t grind at work. I just make sure I have enough.

THERE ARE TIMES when I feel like I’m not doing much in the rat race but you know what? It is great for my mental health.

AM I SHOOTING to leave a legacy? I hope that whatever I’ve done amounts to something bigger.

THERE ARE MANY GOOD PHOTOGRAPHERS out there and 13 years later, I still get exhibited. That’s something that still surprises me.

MAYBE I’M IGNORANT but I don’t know anything about camera specs. I’m more visual than technical. There are times, however, that I force myself to understand the camera settings. I had to shoot people on the escalators but I can’t capture a good clear image on auto mode. I had to learn how to shoot manually.

REGARDLESS of what industry you are in, there will always be haters.

ONE TIME, I was talking to Kevin [WY Lee] and I told him how envious I was that other photographers get to shoot awesome pictures overseas. He asked what was wrong with shooting in Singapore; if you cannot shoot in your own playground, what makes you so sure that you can shoot in another person’s playground? That stuck with me. For the first six years, I just shot in Singapore.

ABOUT 90 PER CENT OF THE TIME, I’d shoot without asking the subjects for their permission. Because what I want, is the spontaneity of the moment. If I did ask them, something in the moment would be lost.

I’VE MADE SHORT FILMS but I’m more of a still person. You need a crew for filmmaking and the amount of time and involvement needed is too much for me to handle.

“PHOTOGRAPHY IS SELF-MASTURBATION.” That statement is true because in any craft, there’s some sort of conceit involved. I posted that on my IG story and it caused a lot of people to unfollow me. I still stand by the statement though.

BACK BEFORE INSTAGRAM had the archive feature, I used to Marie Kondo my IG feed. Every year, I’d delete them all. There was no reason to keep the images. It was just a matter of housekeeping.

A FEW PEOPLE have asked me to remove photos of them on my IG. In 2010, when I was shooting at the Tanjong Pagar railway station, I shared a shot of a couple kissing. One of them messaged me and asked me to remove it, so I did.

NO ONE WILL EVER SEE this photo but one time, in an alleyway in Little India, I saw a naked man when the door opened. He was sitting there, fully exposed and smoking. It took me aback. My camera was already in my hands so I secretly took a shot.

I USE AI to create fake images that I couldn’t capture in real life. Like the images of Bugis Street in the old days. I don’t have a time machine so this is the next best thing.

NOTHING BEATS BEING THERE: AI can only replicate, it can never duplicate. AI is going to be part of our lives. So, we just have to work with it. It’ll never replace the real moments but it’ll help in other ways.

OFF THE TOP of my head, I’m afraid that I may not have tomorrow to take another photo.

EVERY DAY, I’ll make the best of it. It doesn’t necessarily have to even be about photography. I can just enjoy my time by drinking a beer; that is good enough for me.

IT’S ALL GUT FEEL. It’s hard to explain what I’m going for when I shoot.

DON’T DEBATE with people because you can’t reason with them no matter how good your argument is. I just won’t bother.

THE NEW GENERATION of photographers is doing an amazing job. I don’t get why the old guard is so angry with them.

WHATEVER YOU DO IN LIFE, it’s important to let go. Once you do that, you will feel more at peace.

WHEN I STARTED PHOTOGRAPHY, I felt the pressure but that feeling didn’t last that long. I used to chase after the image. I’d hunt for that moment and when I don’t get it, I get fed up. Eventually, I learnt to just let the image come to me.

WHEN YOU SEE ME on the street, just say hi. I may look fierce but I won’t bite.

NOTHING WRONG with mimicking someone’s style. You have to start somewhere so you’ll often shoot like the photographer you admire. After a while, you’ll find your voice.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE are people trying to get that overnight fame. It’s obvious, you can tell. I don’t bash them, I’ll just let them be because how long can they last? It’s tiring.

Photography: Jaya Khidir

Wisdom and advice from and about dear ole dad that has appeared in the pages of Esquire over the decades. Come, sit by the knee and discover what people have learned about fatherhood.

Fatherhood? I love it. It introduced an element of fear into my life. When you’re a bachelor, you don’t give a shit. You can do anything. But when you become a father, you get scared about everything. —Alex Trebek, April 2003

After all these years, our father has never understood that we, his children, tend to gravitate toward the very people he’s spent his life warning us about. —David Sedaris, June 1998

I would envision different scenarios in which I would become violent reacting to people’s reactions to my children—especially to my severely handicapped child. Eventually, he taught me that was not necessary. Just by himself. By being a gift to us. He showed us how to have faith and belief and inner strength and to never give up. —Neil Young, January 2006

My mother used to say to me when I was a kid: “I’d throw myself in front of a truck for you.” Over and over again. I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. “What do you mean, you want to throw . . . you’ll die.” I say that to my kids now. —Gene Simmons, July 2002

Children learn from what you are rather than what you tell them. What you try to jam into their heads isn’t going to be worth beans if the way you’re living your life doesn’t look like that. —Alan Arkin, January 2007

My daddy said, “When the sun comes up, boy, you get up. When the sun go down, dammit, you go down.” —Al Green, November 2001

My dad didn't pass down any soufflé recipes. For him, it was all about the sandwich, and he taught me to pay attention to every part. That meant meats and cheeses sliced to order from the deli and using bakery bread, light but sturdy, so it won’t get soggy when it comes in contact with the filling. You want to slice the bread yourself so that you can balance the ratio of the filling to your bread—let’s say 30 percent filling to 35 percent bread on either side. The last consideration is the most important: You must offset the richness of the meat with some acidity, whether pickles [or] slaw. Because whether it’s made by the dad or the son, a good sandwich is about relationships. —Michael Symon, June/July 2012

Children teach you that you can still be humbled by life, that you learn something new all the time. That’s the secret to life, really . . . I’m still working because I learn something new all the time. It’s the secret to relationships—never think you’ve got it all. —Clint Eastwood, January 2009

Regardless of whether I might prefer another woman to my wife, I recoil from the possibility of harming my children, putting a blight on their budding young lives, robbing them of what I promised by inference in bringing them into the world. When I think of that, when I look upon my fine intelligent son, my adorable lovely small daughter, the mere thought of a broken home fills me with horror. The emotion of joy which my children arouse in me is mighty as the overture to Tannhäuser, a crescendo of glorious music beside which the pleasures of infidelity are no more than the quaverings of a tubercular saxophone, trivial and without power. —Anonymous, June 1939

He used to say that I must wish I had a father who didn’t drink so much, and I’d always say no, that I knew a lot of fathers, and some of them didn’t drink as much as he did, but that despite this he was far and away the best father I’d seen. —Ben Cheever, November 1988

It is our nightmare, of wanting desperately to protect our children, not least of all from ourselves. The American father lives inside the discrepancy between what he hopes for his children and what he does to them. —John Leonard, December 1975

My father would say, “Do the best you can. And then the hell with it.” He always looked at the effort grade rather than the final grade. —Ted Kennedy, January 2003

What do I do well as a father? I’m there all the time. I give unconditional love. And I have a lot of skills in terms of getting them to express themselves. I’m good with handy hints—if they can tell me what their problem is—’cause I’ve had a lot of problems in life myself. I make an effort to expose them to things. I want them to have a deep, inner feeling that it’s all right to be happy, that you don’t have to be constantly manufacturing problems that you don’t really have. —Jack Nicholson, January 2004

I saw my father three times in the next ten years. And what times those were . . . Running to meet him in the hotel hallway, doors flashing past, into his arms and he smelled of cigarette smoke. Later during numerous of my identity crises I would blow smoke through my clothing to recapture those moments. —William S. Burroughs Jr., September 1971

My father was a lesson. He had his own bakery, and it was closed one day a week, but he would go anyway. He did it because he really loved his bakery. It wasn’t a job. —Christopher Walken, June 2009

Tonight, Cecelia and will sleep together in the narrow hospital bed, the baby on my chest: seven pounds, seven ounces, the weight of my entire world. —Daniel Voll, June 1999

One rule of parenting? Forgive everything. —Michael Caine, December 2014

From: Esquire Us