Toa Payoh Vets
Making veterinary surgery alive
to a veterinary student studying in Australia
using real case studies and pictures
Do You Have A Muse
For A "Tai Tai" Artist?
Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
04 December, 2010
Be Kind To Pets
Over 30 years of
practice, some clients do become good
friends of the veterinarian. The "tai
tai" artist is one of them. "Tai tai"
is a Cantonese term for a woman of
leisure and wealth; one who does need
to work for a living.
Her children had grown up and are in
their 30s and when I first saw them,
they were teenagers studying in
Secondary Schools. The mum has a
natural talent. Her classmates would
retain her drawings. She would present
her favoured surgeon a present of her
painting. She did present me a chalk
drawing of a monitor lizard puffed up
to fight off an attacking dog for me
after I gave her a picture of the
In her house, I always get attracted
to a very large painting of a wealthy
young girl with bright eyes and
adorned with a webbed necklace in a
solemn light brown dress and darker
brown background. This painting is
hung on the wall of the living room.
She had commissioned an experienced
old Chinese painter to paint her
daughter. To me, this painting
appeared to be painted quite fast as
her necklace of several connecting
precious stones were all painted
blurred. Maybe that was purposely so
as not to distract the viewer from
looking at her bright and distant
somewhat sad eyes. I appreciate more
realistic portraits of ladies with
sharper focused jewellry or dogs as
shown in some European paintings.
Mum said to me as I appreciated this
painting on the rare occasions I
visited her: "The painter drew her
hands too long." I did not realise
that the hands were unusually long but
after her criticism, I improved my
observations and knowledge of art
Every time I visited, I would ask:
"Have you sold any of your paintings?"
She would paint many but would not
complete many of the oil or acrylic
paintings. She does not need to sell
paintings for a living and would paint
any theme whenever she wants to. That
is why I call her a "tai tai" artist.
I approve of her Madonna and Child
painting prominently displayed on one
side of the living room and asked
whether she was selling it.
"My pastor wants me to sell my
painting of Madonna and Child," the
artist said. "I paid $400 for the
frame as it is a good type."
I teased her: "The frame costs more
than the painting."
"No, no," she replied in her gentle
voice. "I can get $4,000 to $5,000 for
this painting if I sell it at the
Church through the pastor. Religious
paintings of this type are in great
"Really?" I was surprised that a
copied painting of the Virgin and
this amount and be able to attract
buyers. I am not into religious
paintings. I appreciate market place
paintings of less developed countries
like Myanmar. I have one displayed at
Toa Payoh Vets. It was a present from
an old friend who bought it from the
market in Yangon. It costs around
S$100. I don't know whether the artist
is well known or not. It seems to
represent tribal women from the
villages selling their farm produce at
the market in the town.
paintings are of no value," I said.
"You don't sell them." If an artist
does not sell his or her paintings,
how does one valuate the worth of
"The pastor said my painting of the
Madonna and child can sell for $4,000
to the member of the congregation",
she replied. "Of course, the church
would expect me to donate some part of
the sales proceeds. Such religious
paintings sell very well, do you
"If there is such a great demand as
you said, why don't entrepreneurs in
China and Vietnam have Madonna and
Child copied and sell them to churches
in Singapore?" I asked.
"Those are scanned copies and will not
sell," she said. "They are flat
computer scanned images. Paintings
done by hand look different."
"There are talented painters in China
and Vietnam who can really copy using
computer software and then use the
real paint to complete the paintings
of Madonna and Child," I said.
"Surely, they will sell very well in
Singapore and make profits for the
She did not think so. Professional
painters work every day but she might
paint once in a blue moon.
"Why are your finger nails greyish?" I
asked as I sipped the coffee and
biscuits she prepared for me. I hope
she was not in poor health as she
looked pale. "Oh, these are due to the
paint," she said.
Somebody phoned me to get back to the
Surgery. I said goodbye. I always
encourage her not to copy portraits
from the other painters or
photographers and use her imagination.
Before I left, we checked her website
where painters meet and gave points to
one another and commented and
criticised each other's paintings.
"I have got 50 points," she showed me
her painting image of 4 Indian village
women with pots on their head.
"Click to enlarge the thumbnail
image," I said.
"I have removed the enlarged image
after I got the assessment and
points," she said. "This is to prevent
others from copying my painting."
I could not see much. It was
surprising to me that she was worried
that others might copy her painting
and sell them. Imitation is the
sincerest form of flattery.
Paintings are meant to be enjoyed by
others and selling them is one way of
growing an artist's reputation.
"Famous painters in the past have
patrons to support them and commission
paintings," I said, after spending
some time reading some arts magazines.
"Maybe their assistants paint for them
as it takes a long time to paint oil
and acrylic paintings."
go into the sale of painting
business," the artist advised me. I
don't know why she thought I was going
to be an arts gallery owner to support
and sponsor Myanmar artists'
paintings. This business is for the
Since this "tai tai "artist does not produce
many original oil and/or acrylic portraiture and
landscape paintings, her artistic
talents are "wasted". But then, she is a
"tai tai" and so
she does not need to be productive and
efficient. She can afford the luxury of painting
whenever she is in the mood. What she
needs is a muse. And muses seem to
have flown the coop.
KIND TO OLDER DOGS & CATS --- GET TUMOURS REMOVED
EARLY --- WHEN THEY ARE SMALLER. More case
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Be Kind To Pets
All rights reserved. Revised: December 04, 2010
Toa Payoh Vets