She started painting when she was just 4 years old. Now 12, Ashley Tan is using her art to raise funds for good causes. She has already donated a number of her original works to charities and to the Archdiocese.

During dedication celebrations at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in February, seven of Ashley’s pieces sold for more than $100,000. All proceeds from the sale went to the archdiocese’s Giving in Faith and Thankfulness (GIFT) campaign.

Also displayed at the event was her depiction of the Last Supper, which she plans to donate to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

These aren’t her first fundraising endeavours though. In 2014, then 8-year-old Ashley submitted a painting to the Ocean Art Charity Campaign run by Resorts World Sentosa. The following year, she painted a series for The Business Times Budding Artists Fund and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

Ashley’s parents, Audrey and Gary, have been behind her all the way, supporting her artistic development and fundraising efforts. “From the beginning, we thought it was a good way for her to learn to give,” Audrey said.

She manages her daughter’s schedule closely, making sure the K-pop fan stays away from YouTube as much as possible and gets enough study time. Ashley doesn’t seem to mind the discipline at all. “I think it’s good, because then I can use my time well,” she said.

She’s taking it all in her stride, even the challenge of meeting so many people and talking about her work. “I feel shy and nervous at first,” she said about meeting donors and guests of honour, in particular. “But I feel better after talking a while.”

The Tan Family. From left: Gary, Ashley and Audrey

Entering a New Faith

Audrey and Gary’s support of their daughter’s pursuits has also been evident in their openness to exploring the Catholic faith with her. Both come from Buddhist/Taoist backgrounds but send their children to Catholic schools.

Ashley attended a Catholic kindergarten and spent a year at Nan Hua Primary School before moving to the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (Kellock). There, she attended catechism class every week and soon started asking her parents about going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion.

“We thought about it,” said Gary, himself an alumnus of a Catholic school. “I’m a practical person, and it made sense to look into it.”

And look into it they did, at the Church of Saint Ignatius. Gary, Audrey and also her sister went through the RCIA programme, while Ashley and her younger brother, Gideon, attended catechism class.

The family were baptised last year at Easter. They now attend Mass together either at their parish or at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. “I feel that the experience has brought us closer together as a family,” Audrey said.

Growing as an Artist

Ashley has been training with a private art teacher, who guides her in exploring textures and deciding when pieces are finished. Ashley enjoys working with different media and (at the time of interview) is particularly interested in liquid art.

“You don’t have control over how it turns out,” she said, apparently drawn to that attribute of the medium.

Naturally, her moods influence her palette. “If I’m happy, I use lots of colours,” she said. She paints things that catch her imagination, often things in nature, such as when she first saw snow while on holiday in New Zealand with her family.

Ashley poses with her finished painting of the Last Supper

The gifted young artist will, no doubt, keep honing her craft for the sheer love of it. For now, though, doing well in the PSLE is her top priority.

I asked Ashley what she thought about being a role model, before realising she might still be too young to appreciate the idea. She seems unaware of her potential to influence others and said she paints simply because she enjoys it.

Her parents, of course, are happy for her to keep making art for a cause and hope she will continue to want to pursue new fundraising projects in the future.

Written by Daphne of VITA Scribes
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