The Amelioration

a·me·lio·ra·tion [əˌmiːljəˈreɪʃən]

n

  1. an improvement, betterment
  2. the act or an instance of improvement or the state of being ameliorated
  3. 1650s, from French amélioration, from Old French ameillorer (12c.),
    from a “to” + meillior (Modern French meìlleur) “to better,”
    from Late Latin meliorare “improve,”
    from Latin melior “better,” perhaps originally “stronger,”
    and related to Greek mala “very, very much.”
I set out to open doors this year. To live life.

 

Did I know exactly what I was doing? Of course not. I just followed my guts. Perhaps I should change that sentence. Do I know exactly what I am doing? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’m just following my guts. I don’t know what I’m doing, but then again, I know what I’m doing. Perhaps a little futile to explain, but it has to do with the essence of my being. The things I see, the air I breathe, the thoughts that hit me, the peace I seek, the words of grace my veins speak.

 

Somewhere along the line, seeking amelioration.

 

I’m human, a creation of the Creator, I’m perfectly formed with all my imperfections. Imperfections that only make me who I am, yet set me on a mission for amelioration. That beautiful challenge, we’re blessed with abilities to accept.

 

I don’t mean to write like this, in this tone, right now.. but often when I write, words appear on paper leading me to a place I didn’t quite set out for in my mind. The general direction of wind, yes, but the wind itself has strange behaviour that you can only anticipate yet not fully predict, and therein lies its beauty. Similarly with life in itself. We can only ‘plan’, set forth our feet, but life often surprises us.

 

I think of my artwork as poetry in visual form, similarly, I think of my poems as drawings, only in words. The ‘poem’ behind this artwork, essentially, is as the title suggests. Amelioration. In the spirit of the words I’ve just shared above. In my previous entry, I set out starting to really draw again in hopes of improving my skills, technical art skills as well as conveying-my-meaning-skills. It lead me to ponder upon my drawing conscience, which then helped as a piece of the larger puzzle for my self-improvement.

 

And I felt the need to draw this piece. This piece is really close to my heart. It’s not meant to be solely a pretty picture for drawing purposes.

 

I drew a child, because, we are all children. Not knowing what we’re doing, yet knowing what we are doing. Yes, we grow up, we grow older, a little bit wiser, but a child is constantly learning, constantly growing, and perhaps has purer wisdom. Exploring new territories in life, I feel like a child, and that is ok. That wide-eyed innocence and burning hunger to learn, striving to walk despite constantly falling, looking at a tree and seeing a whole different world… That is not something one should let go. When we grow, we grow up, we don’t regenerate and throw away who we were. Who we were is a part of who we are. A ring in the tree trunk. If you throw part of you away, how will you grow? The rings make each other stronger, and compensate for each other’s weakness.

my brother Khair and sister Maryam, with baby me in the middle. Bonnets et al.

Every child is born an artist, the problem is to remain one once they grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

 

That wing-like seed thing is a maple seed. I wanted to draw a seed, to signify sowing growth, but I didn’t want to draw a run-of-the-mill seed. I immediately thought of maple seeds, because they are beautiful things. They have wings, and flutter gracefully to the ground, like a pirouetting ballerina. Not only are they beautiful and signify flight and growth at the same time, but I have fond memories of them. We had a maple tree in our backyard, where I used to climb after school and fall asleep nestled in its gently swaying branches.

this maple tree is where I used to climb up its skinny branches after school, and just close my eyes to drift away with the wind. I wasn't tiny anymore, yet it still allowed me to lie on its caressing branches. The wing-shaped maple seeds would flutter down like little ballerinas in flight. When autumn came, the leaves would be deep red, but the hidden joy of this tree was during spring. Around its trunk, we could see green peeking out mischievously. And soon enough, it bloomed the vibrant red and yellows of my favourite flowers: daffodils and tulips!

Of course, the other small things have their own little meanings as well. Water… well, water needs no explaining. Just think of rain, and the river… two things I love, and ‘flow’ being a motto in my life. There are things signifying building blocks/pixels, strife, and of course, I love flying pencils and what they symbolise for me.

What sets her apart from my other drawings are her hands. Although I took a reference of a girl blowing a kiss, I drew it to be her hands held out for du’a (prayer). Any du’a, all du’as, a beautiful direct line to call. To ameliorate.

A few days ago, Weekender’s Club had our Cook & Feed program in Raudhatus Sakinah, and the experience left me with a deep impression. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling. I felt humbled. And terharu. And deeply touched. Siapalah aku ni, nak bimbing mereka, padahal aku pun bergelumang dosa. It left me longing to strive for amelioration even more intensely.  I felt no different from them, no, instead I felt deep respect for them. Really, we were no different, I am no better at all, I never even felt that way; I felt closer to them rather than to someone who has been saintly all their life. I was just lucky. They are normal girls who perhaps just made a bad decision in their previous life. I repeat, I was just lucky. They are hundreds of times better than me, for their amelioration is far bigger. They may have gone away for a bit, but they came back closer and stronger than ever. I respect them for that, and for that, they inspire me.

at Raudhatus Sakinah. Pictures credit to Aneesah

Hisham summed it up perfectly;

Imam Bunga Syurga by Hisham Mahir

 

Aku mengimami bunga syurga,

mekar di bawah rahmat Yang Esa,

Aku membongkok di hadapan mereka,

yang tunduk patuh pada Pemiliknya,

 

Aku mengimami bauan syurga,

sujud akhirnya lama, tanda ia cinta,

Aku mengimami hiasan syurga,

indah kesalan tak terungkap kiasnya.

 

Tuhan,

benarlah yang ke syurga bukan suci orangnya,

tetapi mereka yang menyucikan hati dan jiwa dari noda,

 

Tuhan,

aku sujud memohon jadikan taubatku seperti mereka,

 

kerana aku mengimami bunga syurga,

tetapi aku sendiri mungkin bahan bakar neraka.

 

so here’s to amelioration.

MISSION KARIPOP and my 4 months learning 3D animation like the noob that I am

So for the past 4 months, I’ve been attending a job camp at CG Skill, learning 3D animation. Being from an architecture background, many people ask me why I decided to join up. For people who know me, I think it would only seem natural for me to want to learn animation. As for those who don’t really know me, I’m fueled by my interest in story telling, in art, and in learning new things I’ve never known before. Prior to this I’ve never done animation, unless you can count the stickman flip-book style doodle animations I used to make on the corners of my textbooks (much to the annoyance of teachers and my brother who got my hand-me-down books) and the silly After Effects animation I did in Titik 7 months ago. That video shows how much of a n00b I am. I am grateful that Xamri agreed to collaborate and teach me some After Effects basics. He also was the one who told me about this 3D animation class, though he himself couldn’t join yet.

The software used is Autodesk Maya, which I’ve never used before. I am only familiar with 3D softwares such as SketchUp and Artlantis for rendering, I messed around in 3Ds Max after high school, but that was only messing around and making silly animations with it. Like any other person would mess around with a software they are unfamiliar with. Oh, now that I remember, I did attempt 3D character animation before! Only I don’t think I got much right. The only thing I remember from then was that I made a head explode and I attempted to make a ‘robot’ walk (the rectangular body parts weren’t attached to each other, so that’s that… fail) and a TV attack the person watching it. Fun times, trying to figure it out. That was the only time I messed with 3Ds Max, because I was ‘working’ but I didn’t have much work to do and I shared a cramped office with the graphics/animator/rendering guy who told me to mess around with these softwares. My uncle who was my, uh, boss, told me to learn AutoCAD by bringing me a thick book. I think I made a face to myself and only attempted a square and moved on because it looked difficult and boring. Haha!

Ok, back to my 3D animation. I’m starting to bore you. So as you may or may not know, my characters are Makcik Karipap and an actual Karipap. Here’s a look at the initial character design sketches:

Initial sketches

front and side view of Makcik Karipap

front and side view of the karipap, haha!

The concept came about because that day, our instructor told us he wanted to see our ideas for the story and character by 5pm that day. I didn’t know what to do, and the first thought that came to my mind was this. Maybe because I was hungry, and I had currypuffs for breakfast that morning. Also maybe because I used to doodle currypuffs like the one above while bored in lectures (oops). Currypuffs, they’re cute, come on!

So some time later (modeling didn’t take so long, but rigging, oh my goodness, it took so much longer! You know, being noobs et al), I had this! (Rigging, for those unfamiliar, is setting up the joints, controls, weights and stuff so that we can animate the character)

Pau Kapow, which I didn't end up using

My desktop wallpaper at the CG Skill lab 😛 (as you can see, her personality is a bit 'perasan bagus')

I have the textured version of the Makcik, complete with a kain batik, but didn’t animate this one because I did the texture mapping after I did the rigging, and this required me to delete the rigging, and I had no time to rig again. Our tutor taught us texture mapping after we’d done the rigging, so, heh.

When we did lip-synching, I had the oppurtunity to test out my blendshapes and rigs on the karipap. It was fun. Hearing these voices come out of my cute silly little karipap was hilarious, I couldn’t help laughing to myself while animating. Here is the lipsynch assignment:

Stephen Chow and Dr Fadzilah Khamsah’s voice out of a talking karipap. I know, right? Ridiculous.

the CG Skill family! (during live acting class)

And last but not least, the last month of our training was to complete a group project animation. This is what we were all waiting for (yeke?). We faced quite a number of difficulties, as these things usually are. Technical difficulties and difficulties you might find when working in a group. We managed to pull through, and I am quite proud of our final project. It features my characters as well as Musz my group member’s alien character. I would like to thank Dexter and Musz for being awesome group members & friends, and sir Yavi for being an awesome tutor. We definitely learnt more than animation in those 4 months. Alhamdulillah, mission accomplished. (chewah)

Here it is, MISSION KARIPOP! An Alien longs for delicious currypuffs made by none other than Makcik Karipap, but things don’t go quite as planned….enjoy!

As for my individual project, I want to re-render it, so stay tuned… It features even more of Makcik Karipap and KariPuff, with the actual storyboard I initially wrote for them! (it’s much shorter though…)

So, is anyone interested in joining the next batch (March)? If you are, contact me! It’s free!

My 2011

 

When I was a teenager, I used to write on new year’s eve, recounting the year’s events. To whom? To no one in particular, mostly myself. Well, I wrote in a journal. So that’s a given. I was never tempted to join in New Year’s celebrations, all the fireworks and soirees, even when my high school friends did go to KLCC to join the countdown and watch the fireworks. I used to climb up the edges of our balcony and watch the fireworks from afar, over my neighbourhood’s rooftops. Then I’d join my journal, alone, writing a summary of the year’s events, and the progress (or non-progress) I’ve made as a person.

I don’t know if I’ve done that for 2010. In 2009, I tried to make a 365 personal project of making a simple artwork each day out of found scrap material. It went well, but only until April. The goal was at least till my birthday in May. But I didn’t make it. I loved the process though, because sometimes I’d have absolutely no idea what to draw/make, and some other times I just went with it. Those little scrap arts were little vignettes into my frame of mind on each particular day in that particular year. Like a time capsule. Unlike facebook status updates or tweets, because they were abstract physical objects. A leaf picked up from the side of the road on the way back from class, a bus ticket from the day’s events, a library fine, scrap material from the studio… It was more about the process than the actual end product itself.

The next year, I wondered if I could do it again. I didn’t. I didn’t even seriously attempt it. The following year was also the same. And this year I’m asking myself the same question. Will I manage to get through all 365 (366) days? If 2009 it was about being an architecture student and turning 20, what will 2012 be about?

To me, 2011 was a lot of things.

Personally.

And to me, 2011 was a lot of things. To the world. The events the world faced this year were huge, and left an impact on me emotionally. However even though I do think about them a lot to myself, I can’t even begin to discuss it all here in this meager blog post. Those deserve a post of its own, a book of its own. About an idea that struck like a match lit to kerosene. Spreading across the globe. I found it tragically beautiful, and inspiring.

In 2009 I wrote a tiny poem, which I called ‘Stars’.

“so many stars at night

but I can only count

one at a time

 

so many wars to fight

but I can only fight

mine.”

– Feb 2 2009

My final long semester for my first degree was early in the year. In fact, I welcomed 2011 at my desk in the studio, in front of the PC. I doodled on a piece of scrap board I found lying around the studio, and used gold foil from a piece of chocolate that was a wedding favour from earlier on in the day.

I nearly flunked a subject that semester, but thankfully, me and a few friends were given a chance to redeem ourselves.

That semester blurred into the next, the final short semester, as the preparation for our trip to Dhaka soon became the trip itself. The last subject ever for us. The last group project ever. The culmination of ideas and anticipation since our first year. Our experience in Dhaka itself was exhilarating, eye-opening, soul-opening, beautiful. I never managed to write about it because I never manage to write about these things. It seems unfair to the experience. Truth is, I often find it hard to find the words to describe these experiences and emotions. Which is why I often resort to short nibblets.

 

 

Heritage Studies is always the fondest memory an architecture student in my university will have in his or her first degree. The last time to work with all of your batch mates, the time spent with them, it is all so precious. You really get to know them, it is such a fitting bittersweet end.

Graduation was surreal, I hardly remember it because it was such a blur. We spend hours being bored in our seats, a few minutes being nervous before we go on stage, and on the stage itself, taking the scroll, it happens for all but a few seconds.

Following the graduation-induced high that lasted a couple of weeks, was the confusion. The anxiety. I felt like a teenager again. I hated that, and it confused me. Why would I feel like a teenager again? Haven’t I just graduated? I should be an adult, a self-assured confident adult that my teen self had hoped I would be. But I knew, I felt like a teenager again, just as I did when I just finished high-school, because I was back to that position. That position of thinking, “Now what?”

Of course, I wasn’t entirely clueless of what I wanted to do. It was the questions that got to me. Once or twice was fine, but it seemed everyone around me was asking the same questions.

“What next?”

“Sambung kat mana?”

“Tak amik part 2 ke?”

“Kerja apa? Kat mana?”

“When are you getting married?”

It was too much pressure. I guess I was guilty sometimes too, I asked those questions to people as well. I looked forward to joining the 3D animation course, because at least, for 3 months, I could put off making a decision. The questions still came, but at least I could say what I was doing at the moment.  Even before I joined the course, when I was working part time, they would ask why I wasn’t continuing my studies yet. It’s a fact of life though, these type of questions will never stop.

Usually it begins after you complete high school. “Where are you enrolling?” And then throughout your life, there would be, “What are you pursuing?” “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancee?” “When are you getting married?” “Where are you going to settle down?” “When are you having kids?” “When will you have another kid?” “Where are you sending your kids to school?” “When is your son/daughter getting married?” “When will you have grand kids?” “When are you going to die?”

The last part, of course, was just me feeling frustrated and adding it in there. I felt like screaming, “Lay off the questions! Do I need to make a decision NOW? Can’t I just live?”

I was scared, and frustrated at myself. I felt that as an adult, I should have had it all figured out by now. But I know the truth. I am still new to the whole being an adult thing, but adults are just as clueless. They still don’t know what they are doing half of the time, but they try to figure it out. I ranted about this to a fellow friend of my batch, and was glad to know I wasn’t alone in this. I guess we all have our own post-graduation crisis. Or quarter life crisis, as I liked to put it.

I guess to me, 2011 was about growing up, basically. Isn’t that every year? Maybe what I meant there was it’s a milestone year, where I’m parting with things I’m familiar with, and upon closing that student life & young adult door, I am faced with many doors to open. Which door do I open?

But then again, who is to say I can only open one door? Maybe I just want to knock the whole wall over.

2012, here I come.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم