Narayanan Shyam
Senior Associate Director
Centre for Instructional Technology
Painting to connect with self

A cocoon to escape from the world – that is how Narayanan Shyam feels when he loses himself in his watercolour painting. He finds comfort in the introspective process which helps him connect with his inner self.

The portfolio of work arising from this “constructive escapism” shows his talent. An intricate depiction of a multihued peacock especially reflects the painter’s patience and attention to detail. “It’s a natural tendency to go into details when you draw,” Shyam noted. He practises to “simplify” his pictures as “a master would opt for simplicity, with just enough details to make the painting come alive”, he explained. He parallels this with Chinese paintings which favour minimal strokes but they reveal a lot more.

Shyam enjoys watercolour as the technique of pigment mixing can produce unpredictable results, which makes the process challenging but also exciting. For him, the limitations and strengths of the medium open up opportunities to learn such as when to stop and when to go with the flow.

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A collage of Shyam’s impressive watercolour pieces

Shyam’s journey in art began when he became fascinated by comics as a young boy. He started doodling, then progressed to illustrations and paintings. With his father’s support, he took part in art competitions and won multiple awards throughout his school days.

Even though he took up design formally in university, Shyam married his artistic interest with computer graphics and multimedia. He built up a career in training by developing interactive materials that engage users.

The enthusiastic artist paints during his travels and whenever he needs to destress. He especially loves to capture the nexus between old and new, where the ancient juxtaposes with modernity. Street scenes and people are among his favourite subjects.

Shyam has held an exhibition at the NUS Central Library and received positive response. He has gifted some of his pieces to friends and charitable organisations such as the Singapore Cancer Society and Singapore Indian Development Association to support their causes.

For aspiring artists, Shyam advised, “Start doodling. That’s the easiest way to test if you have the flair.” Even without an inherent talent, “it’s possible to draw reasonably well with practice”. He also felt that presentation of good ideas can also cover shortcomings, citing his personal experience, “Powerful ideas can compensate for the flaws.”