bring out the artist in you

relax amidst a friendly environment while putting ideas, inspiration and paint to canvas at an art jamming session. 

art jam peek
paper palette

“i don’t believe that art should be exclusive or elitist,” says self-taught artist jennifer tai. “you don’t have to be an artist to paint. you don’t have to care what others think, just paint what you want.”

it is that carefree, cathartic effect of putting paint to canvas and turning a blank slate into an expression of one’s thoughts and feelings that jennifer wanted to let people experience when she introduced art jamming in kuala lumpur four years ago. jennifer and her husband jonny ishaque set up the studio at kl, an extension of a similar art studio they ran for 10 years in hong kong, which was where the couple met about six years ago.

born and raised in terengganu, jennifer was a cabin crew with cathay pacific for 14 years until an injury forced her early retirement – but gave her the time to pursue her passion for art. under the mentorship of several prominent hong kong artists, she picked up the basics before setting up her own studio at stanley market. jennifer’s style is varied, ranging from abstract to jackson pollock’s drip art, landscape and street scenes to portraits, as are the mediums she works in: acrylic, oil, ink and even bleach.

art jam jennifer
art jam paint
sample art
art jam wip

“people started asking if they could come and paint with me at my studio,” jennifer recalls. “they were not artists but had an interest in art. during our painting sessions, they often had many questions and i would guide them along. then they started bringing their children and friends.”

that led to jennifer teaching art classes for adults and children, and set the tone for her art jamming sessions, which was already a popular activity in hong kong at the time. “there, people live in tiny apartments so they’re always looking for a reason to get out of the house. it’s no surprise that art jamming is such a hit, it offers them something different to do on weekends or after work hours.” 

the concept is a simple one: create a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere where people could gather and hang out to music, food and drinks – not provided, but feel free to bring your own – while playing with colours and letting their inner artist shine. it doesn’t matter whether you have any prior experience or have taken any lessons in art as there are no rules.

art jam kid

art jammers, as participants are called, are each given a blank canvas on which to paint as they wish, and have free access to a cabinet filled with all the necessary art supplies. on the paint-splattered shelves are containers of brushes and palette knives, tubs of quick-drying acrylic paint, small sponges and disposable plates as trays for holding and mixing colours.

jonny, a former business and economics teacher at an international school, starts jammers off with an introduction on the nature of the paints, tips on colour mixing and basic paint techniques. you then move to your assigned easel and for the next three hours, do exactly as you please. music plays in the background while friendly chatter takes place between friends, or new-found friends. jonny and jennifer, or their staff, comes by occasionally to see if you need any help or to give suggestions.

art jamming sessions are sometimes held concurrently with the other classes, such as oil painting for adults and as these more experience painters work on their pieces, they provide additional inspiration for jammers. auditor robin yeo is one of jennifer’s most regular students and comes to the studio to paint every week. “i like to do it freehand and i don’t paint anything that’s too difficult,” he says as he works on a sunset forest landscape. “it’s a good way to switch off on weekends.”

art jam ricky
art jam iranian

iranian student termeh haghighat, who is waiting to start a degree course, is putting the first coats of paint to a portrait of a ballerina. “i’ve always wanted to be a ballerina so i’m painting my dreams,” she says with a smile, adding that she loves painting for the peace it gives her. “it takes me to another world. i love working with colours and the freedom to do whatever i want.”

indeed, it is that freedom that many seek and have found through art, be it in an oil painting class or an art jamming session. “if you wish to mingle and chat while painting, you can as art jamming is very much a social and lifestyle event,” says jennifer. “or if you so choose, you can also just ‘talk’ to your canvas.”


the studio at kl d1-g4-09 solaris dutamas (publika), no 1 jalan dutamas 1, kuala lumpur tel +603 6211 3840 email price (ages 16 and above) rm120 per person for three-hour sessions; (ages below 16) rm100 per person for 90-minute sessions; inclusive of all materials sessions check website for schedule


art jam brushes
art jam jonny
art jam colours

this article first appeared in the edge review