CHIZURU Harada won first prize in an art competition during her junior high school years.
And while drawing and painting is no big task for the 15-year-old Japanese exchange student from Fukuoka, the petite lass found out that it is much harder to paint a mural.
“It’s my first time painting something on a wall.
“I love painting and drawing, but I must say it is not that easy as compared to doing so on paper,” she said.
Chizuru and seven other exchange students and two officers from her country were on a nine-day visit to Ipoh, the sister city of Fukuoka.
On Tuesday, the group had embarked on a heritage trail of Ipoh on foot, before getting the opportunity to leave their “mark” along the back lane of Jalan Masjid and Jalan Sultan Iskandar.
Mako Haraguchi laughed shyly when asked how she felt about having her name on the wall for all to see.
“I’m very happy and proud, of course,” replied the 17-year-old, who was trying her hand at mural painting for the very first time.
On hand to guide the group was local artist Eric Lai, who is on a mission to complete 57 wall murals in the area by the time of the country’s 57th National Day at the end of this month.
To date, Lai has completed 34 pieces of mural pieces despite a recent distraction.
On Aug 3, vandals painted graffiti on walls along the alley although they had carefully avoided Lai’s work.
“As a fellow artist, I call on them to join me in beautifying the walls here but I do hope they will give some thought to their subject matter.
“They should also put down their names to claim ownership of their work.
“But they must first seek permission from the building owners and discuss their plans with us,” he said.
Lai added that he had also managed to convince one landowner to allow street artists to draw graffiti at a vacant corner lot, which the latter intended to rebuild in six months’ time.
“It should be an ideal place for them to express themselves through graffiti,” he said.
Lai, who was approached by the Ipoh City Council to paint murals on the pre-war buildings to add life to its dirty-looking walls and turn it into an art lane, added that he was in the midst of setting up a society.
The society, he said, would consist of building owners, the council as well as tourism authorities, and was aimed at promoting the murals there.
According to Lai, the back lane of Jalan Masjid and Jalan Sultan Iskandar was most ideal for mural painting as there were no open drains there.
“When I first started painting here 20 months ago, the back lane was filled with rubbish and overgrown with weeds.
“I even witnessed a snatch thief in action. Now, the road is not only tarred but the place is clean. It is also safe to walk here,” he said.
Murals by Lai depict children playing hide-and-seek, dulang washers, a man bearing a kavadi, a wayang kulit show, a kuda kepang dancer, workers tapping rubber, a bharatanatyam dancer and a Chinese cultural dance.
One of his latest artwork is a black and white mural depicting an airplane, in memory of the 298 passengers and crew members of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.