They may be common objects but to Lim Teo Cher, they mean a whole lot more.
We see them in our gardens and in our potted plants, as well as along walkways. We don’t think much about these pebbles. For 73-year-old Lim Teo Cher, he looks at these sometimes oddly shaped hard pieces in a very different light and even goes to plant nurseries in search of these.
But, he is only on the lookout for specific ones, giving the small ones a hard pass. It needs to be somewhat flat so to accommodate his artwork and some Chinese writing on the side, including his name. It also needs to be in the right colour – could be the usual white stone ones or the rarer greyish stone ones. After which, he is ready to turn them into pieces of art.
The process however isn’t so straightforward. He first needs to polish the stone. If there are still tiny lines on the stone, he uses sandpaper to get rid of them. He smiled and said that one can even use a nail file to get rid of them. Then he goes on to filling up any tiny holes with transparent crystal and it is back to polishing. Then comes the fun bit, putting an image onto the pebble. “You must have a design in mind first and think about how to go about it,” Teo Cher said. Like most of us needing to draw some sort of an outline, not him. It is all coming from his mind and he has to decide in a precise manner where the flower or bird has to go. He uses acrylic paint to get the images to pop and has to apply several coats of paint so the colours stand out.
Since he started doing this some 10 years ago, he has done more than 15 pebbles of art. But how did it all began? He shared that at a dinner and dance event, he was given a pebble as an event souvenir and was asked to write down his name with a pink marker. He then thought how could he create that pebble to something even more! He already had skills on his belt from being a qualified manicurist doing nail art, how hard could it be doing it on a pebble instead of a nail?
He shared that his first pebble he drew a peony and it wasn’t much to talk about. But how times have changed today and his skills improved since that time. He has taken no courses or seen videos online, and mainly relies on practising, practising and practising. “Every year, I am improving my skills and doing things a lot more finer. I try to think at how I can continue to develop myself.”
Today, his pieces of pebble art have been exhibited twice at the Chung Cheng High School’s Memories by the Lake Exhibition. The exhibition is open to graduates who have pieces of art they would like to showcase. As a 1970 graduate of the school, he was happy to be a part of the exhibition, which is open till June 17 and has a variety of artworks on display including calligraphy pieces.
At the exhibit, he is showcasing three of his pebbles – one with plum blossoms and birds, and the other two, with hibiscus on a white stone and the same flower on a greyish one. Talking proudly about the latter piece of his work, “If you use brown colour paint, you end up similar to the pebble colour so I needed to use another method where I used brown and green to make the branches more attractive and visible.” He is happy if someone wants to buy his pieces which he said he would release at a cost of S$818 each.
The father of five shared that he spends at least a week completing each of his pebble art work, which is also waterproof as he coats each piece when he is done with the painting. He hopes to continue adding to his pebble collection and maybe share his skills with others. “I feel happy and really enjoy doing it,” he said. Another upside to doing his pebble art is it has made him more patient. Something we all need.