I started the Commute Sketchers Facebook group a while back to gather and discuss about commute sketchers. Recently, I approached local transit companies, SMRT and SBS to see if they would be interested to showcase our work. Both companies expressed interest and SBS transit was most proactive. This is a trial run and we managed to get our sketches into Bedok, Bishan, Boon Lay and Clementi Bus interchange. SBS is currently pending approval from LTA to exhibit our work in the MRT stations of their downtown line.
The media took this news well and we were featured on all the major newspapers in Singapore.
Here are some challenges that I faced when it comes to getting the commute sketches onto the transit system:
Art is undeniably territorial. In Singapore, the Artwork in MRT stations are commissioned and selected by a committee that determines who deserved to be in the stations. The MRT stations are also governed by LTA (Land Transport Authority). In short. LTA elect a committee who will select the artists and commission them to make Art for the station.
2) Red Tapes:
Apart from territory, there are always bureaucracies. Some of the train companies’ staff I communicated with expressed concern about privacy and influences. They worried that by showing our sketches. It would mean that they are promoting a less ‘safe’ environment. Some were concerned that if they showcase our work, others would approach them for visibility and they would not be able to justify these. (Bear in mind , I emailed their CEOs and it is ALWAYS their CEOs who would instruct them to explore possibilities.)
Having sketched in the trains for so many years, I am certain that no one can recognize anyone from my drawings. The train cabins are installed with an insane amount of security cameras. If there is any concern about privacy? It would be the train companies' CCTV and the numerous smartphones commuters carry.
3) Art for Art Sake:
We wanted to showcase commute sketches. Unfortunately, one company couldn’t conceive this notion of showing the real landscape and suggested that we sketch what they feel would be ‘beneficial’ in terms of promoting their company’s cultures and value. I found this ironic because what we drew was genuinely what they offered and delivered. Shrugs*
I am blessed to have gathered a bunch of friends who were willing to share their work and are just happy to see them in the public. Right from the get-go, we didn’t expect remuneration unless the transport company commissioned us to do work tailored to their needs. Of course, all of us would be happy if remunerated for our talents and contributions. Making money from art is a tough nut to crack.
Coordinating a group can be challenging but I am very fortunate to have work with a really responsive group. They all submitted work when I asked and there was no politicking. Everyone was fun, enthusiastic and understanding. I reckon the key is to work with a small group and to be ultra transparent. Our group included: Alvin Mark, Francis Theo, Benedict Tay, James Tan, James Lim, Pocholo Issa Estremos & Ken lee. They are the founding members.
Congratulations to everyone involved and hoooray to the commute sketchers ! Special thanks to SBS transit Limited for partnering with us.
To join us ? Visit our facebook group at