Woman Immortalises Old Shops Around Bangsar By Turning Them Into Beautiful Sketches

Meet Gladys Teo-Simpson, an urban sketch artist in KL.

Cover image via Gladys Simpson (Facebook)

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It's no easy feat for businesses to stand the test of time in a world that's constantly evolving at a rapid pace

Especially in high traffic areas, it's common to see shops and businesses slowly disappear, or if lucky, develop through the years.

As a way to document some of these places before things change, local artist Gladys Teo-Simpson recently turned some long-standing businesses in Bangsar into beautiful sketches.

Simpson, who hails from Kuching, Sarawak, made KL her home since 1988, but has moved around quite a bit due to the nature of her husband's career

The 53-year-old previously worked as a graphic designer and art director for several advertising agencies. When she and her husband relocated to Makati, Philippines and Hong Kong, she started to dabble in acrylics and oil paints.

After returning to KL, she felt that advertising was no longer the path she wanted to pursue and decided to take up creative writing courses in the hopes of 'finding' herself.

"I was lost artistically," she revealed in an interview with SAYS.

Simpson with her sketch of one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.

Image via Gladys Teo-Simpson (Provided to SAYS)

All that changed in November 2012 when her niece sent her a photo of her newly-adopted dog from the Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA)

Simpson began sketching it, and within 15 minutes, she sent her niece a sketch of her new furry friend. Surprised by Simpson's speed, her niece asked if she ever thought of pursuing it as a career.

"Years on, a hundred dog sketches and portraits later, I've never been so sure of anything else," the artist shared.

In 2014, Simpson discovered urban sketching and has produced hundreds of beautiful drawings, ranging from landmarks and people to food and celebrations

"Sketching provides me with an opportunity to explore my creative streak. When I sketch, I don't just draw the subject or view that I see. I try to find out how a person relates to the surroundings or about the history of the place. I liken it to visual reportage," she told SAYS, adding that she views sketching as more of a hobby as it's free flowing.

Many of her animal portraits, which include dogs, cats, orangutans, and birds, traverse between semi-realism and hyperrealism.

Aside from animals, she often travels and has sketched many areas in KL, Kuching (her hometown), Penang, Melaka, as well as other countries over the years

It doesn't matter where she is, whether on the plane or on the streets of India, Simpson is ever ready to whip out her pen and paper, and escape into another world

On a plane to Bario.

Image via Gladys Teo-Simpson (Provided to SAYS)

Free Tree Society in Bangsar.

Image via Gladys Teo-Simpson (Provided to SAYS)

Sitting along a street in Kemang, Jakarta.

Image via Gladys Teo-Simpson (Provided to SAYS)

One of her most memorable artworks was a colour pencil piece titled '3 Generations' that she did back in 2016.

"Promise, Sophie, and Tosh are daughter, mother, and grandfather Irish Wolfhounds living in Oregon, US. Tosh has since passed on. The size of the painting is 50 cm x 80 cm and took me at least 50 hours to complete."

Another sketch she treasures dearly is of her late parents, whom she captured mid-air, while they were flying from her hometown of Kuching to KL

As they have both passed on since then, Simpson expressed that their sketches are truly precious.

A sketch of Simpson's late parents.

Image via Gladys Teo-Simpson (Provided to SAYS)

In 2018, she painted a mural in Art Lane, Penang, after receiving an invite from the owner of China House. The mural was done in memory of her Labrador, Samwise, who had passed away the previous year, at the age of 13.

Made up of the silhouettes of 192 dogs and one cat, her mural attracted locals and foreigners, who shared many stories of their beloved pets with Simpson.

"Some would help me paint a dog or two, some would just watch me paint. It was a tiring four days, but I will cherish the experience forever," she recalled.

Her mural at Art Lane, Penang.

Image via Gladys Teo-Simpson (Provided to SAYS)

Her one piece of advice for aspiring artists is to constantly draw, paint, or sketch.

"Carry a small sketchbook and sketch whenever you can. Explore different mediums. To make progress, you have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It took me awhile to sketch in the streets with people looking over my shoulder. Sometimes I had to multi-task when curious spectators ask questions.

"Lastly, never compare yourself with other artists. Learn from them instead, and in time, you'll develop your own style and uniqueness."

Simpson, who has been urban sketching for eight years now, shared that she has no intention of stopping any time soon.

South Jakarta.

Image via Gladys Teo-Simpson (Provided to SAYS)

Her commissioned artwork of animal portraits and shop front paintings start from RM650 and RM750, respectively.

If you want to see more of her work, you can follow Simpson on Instagram, or her blogs here and here. To enquire, you can reach out to her via email at [email protected]

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