Here's Looking at You

Jun 21, 2011
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Comparing the art of people-watching in Singapore and New York

People-watching is to New York City what vista-gazing is to the Grand Canyon: You haven’t really been if you haven’t done it… . [You] don’t just watch people here, you watch their poodles and pugs, too. And you don’t just watch people, you eavesdrop on them or even follow them (briefly, please). There are no ethical qualms: People here know that what they do and say on the streets of New York is fair game.

- From People-Watching: Here’s Looking at You by Seth Kugel


I frequently indulged in the greatest of New York City pastimes. I would park myself on a bench or a stoop, ostensibly to read a book or magazine, but in reality to while away the hours watching the world go by. My favorite spots: the downtown A Train, the Union Square Greenmarket, Fort Tryon Park, Columbus Circle, Gowanus.

There are just as many spots here in Singapore to get my people-watching fix: on public transportation, at my favorite wet markets and hawker centers, and in well-trafficked city parks, such as Telok Ayer Park. People-watching allows me to slow down and better appreciate the beauty and rhythm of a community. Like many creative-minded people, I find infinite inspiration in this activity; it has been the spark for many a story, a sketch, a craft project, a journal entry, a blog post.

Tia Boon Sim, architect, art and design educator, and founder of the Singapore chapter of Urban Sketchers, spends most of her Saturday mornings ”combing the streets [of] Singapore.” Her blog, tiastudio, is a repository for all her wonderful ink and watercolor sketches:

Most of all, I love this fellow people-watcher’s architecture sketches. Tia is exhibiting twenty of her pieces, all from her “Tiong Bahru Revisted” series, at White Canvas Gallery. The show will open on June 30. All of these drawings are currently on sale; contact Tia if you are interested in previewing and/or purchasing.

More on Tia’s Flickr stream.

(Additional credits: Illustration collage via tiastudio.)



Pooja Makhijani made her way from New York to Singapore about six months ago. She blogs at the popular Notabilia website.