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Artist Behind The Art: Sketching Singapore's Streets, One Shopfront At A Time

When it comes to urban landmarks, Singapore's shopfronts and shophouses are arguably as iconic as the Merlion and Marina Bay Sands. And now, sketch artist Alice Lim, also known as Eurekawanders, has challenged herself to sketch all 6500 of them. 

"We can learn a lot about the locations where shopfronts are located," Alice says. "For example, like who are the people who visit them, what they are interested in, what do they use or eat." 

For the past two years, she has been posting sketches of shopfronts around the world on her Instagram. In January 2021, she invited the community to participate in a weekly Singapore Shopfront Challenge, where she posts pictures of a shop in Singapore on Friday and draws it live on Sunday. Participants are welcome to use the photo as a reference to draw them in their own style, and after tagging her and using the hashtag #sgshopfrontchallenge, she posts the drawings on her Instagram Stories. 

We talked to Alice about her inspirations, her journey as an artist, and about some of the coolest shopfronts she's come across while doing the challenge.

Why draw shopfronts and what motivated/inspired you to do so?

I especially love Singapore shophouses and their shopfronts. I had wanted to do more than just take photos so I joined urban sketchers to learn how to sketch them.

There are constant changes in the landscape of Singapore and I see drawing shopfronts as a way to preserve our memories of places we loved.

What inspired you to turn the series into the weekly Singapore Shopfront Challenge?

There is this very inspiring Instagram account that shares photo of Tokyo shopfronts regularly. Many of the shopfronts were loved and painted by artists from all over the world. I thought why not start our very own Singapore shopfront challenge and show the world a Singapore shopfront a week at a time.

Can you share with us some memorable moments from doing this challenge over the past year?

A follower once sent me a voice recording and drawings from her kid saying that he checks out my shopfront drawings and want to draw shopfronts like me in future. So sweet right!

Which shopfront was the most challenging to sketch/paint, and how long did it take to complete?

There isn’t one that is particularly challenging to draw but most of the three-storey ones with intricate carvings take longer due to the details.

Do you have any favourite shopfronts, and if so, what makes them special/interesting to you?

[See below] I love them cos they tell a story and have decorated their exterior so well that I just wanna pop in to take a look even though I do not need to get anything from there. 

When did you start drawing? Can you remember the first thing you ever drew?

I've loved art since young. I used to play with colouring books. My first memory was a sailboat that I vandalised on the classroom desk in kindergarten and my mum sent me to a crayon class after that. 

On the weekends, you’re an urban sketch artist. What do you do the weekdays?

I work full time in a government agency.

How long do you intend the Singapore Shopfront Challenge to go on for?

Until I run out of shopfronts to draw. According to URA there are close to 6500 shophouses so it should take a while.

What’s next for you and what’s your dream project to work on?

I will carry on with the shopfront challenge. In future I hope to include shopfronts from other countries as well.

My dream project is to compile my shopfront challenge works alongside artworks from other artists into a picture book and maybe do an exhibition in one of the shophouses that we selected for the shop challenge.

Can you show us a shopfront sketch that you're particularly proud of? 
[See below]

And finally, what do you enjoy most about being an illustrator in Singapore?

I can’t say I know the illustration industry well enough to comment on this but I know of several local media accounts (like Wonderwall) who have been very supportive of local artists and have provided the very needed exposure to the new or unknown artists in this competitive landscape.

See more of Alice's work here

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