Photo credit: Yong

Khairul Anwar is painting to the beat of his own drum

He replaces paint brushes with drumsticks to create his own art technique, 'playnting'.

Shani Yong

Published: 21 May 2019, 12:00 AM

A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting on a rooftop in a cosy apartment in Simei, alongside paint bottles and drumsticks.

I was about to witness a live demonstration by aspiring artist Khairul Anwar, known for his unconventional painting technique, ‘playnting’.

“Playnting is basically visualising drum beats by using paint. It is a combination of three aspects of art: music, visual arts and theatre,” said 21-year-old Khairul.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary – until he started getting ready to ‘playnt’.

Playing ‘Shadow Moses’ by Bring Me The Horizon from his phone to get himself in the zone, Khairul dipped his drumsticks in paint, and started drumming on his canvas to the beats of the music.

Looking engrossed, he moved around the canvas as he ‘playnted’, ensuring that he gets splatters of paint in all directions for his art piece.


“I playnt to any song that carries a beat. Mainly rock, rap and electronic dance music,” said Khairul.
Photo credit: Yong


Khairul came up with ‘playnting’ while pursuing his IB diploma in St Joseph’s Institution International (SJII).

While researching for one of his projects, he came across Ushio Shinohara, a Japanese artist who paints with boxing gloves to visualise his frustrations.

That was when he got the idea of combining his two passions: art and music.

Needless to say, he did very well for his project. His teachers were so impressed by his unique technique that they encouraged him to pursue a career with it.


Khairul with his proudest artwork titled ‘Duality’, which portrays the duality of war. The right side of the girl represents her before the war, while the left represents her after the war.
Photo credit: Yong


Since 2016, ‘playnting’ has provided him several performing opportunities, even when he was still a student.

He was invited to perform at SJII’s 10th year anniversary in May 2017, in attendance of guest of honour, former president Dr Tony Tan.


Khairul (fourth from left) performed for President Halimah Yacob (second from right) at the launch of Roses of Peace Ambassador Programme in February 2018.
Photo credit: @Playnting on Instagram


Admittedly, it took Khairul some time to convince others about ‘playnting’.

Khairul recalled: “When I first told my parents that I wanted to pursue a degree in the fine arts, they were very concerned. I remembered having quite a lot of arguments with them over this.”

His friends were also skeptical about his technique – some even questioned if he could even bring bread to the table with ‘playnting’.

Such skepticisms only spurred him to prove them wrong.

Khairul, who spent his childhood doing art with his mother, said: “I couldn’t care less because it’s something that I enjoy doing. I don’t want to wake up every day dreading to go to work even though I might get a good pay.

“With ‘playnting’, I get to wake up feeling excited to create a new piece of art work and teach other people my technique,” added Khairul.

Thankfully, things slowly started shaping up 10 months after Khairul developed his technique.

One of his proudest achievements was being invited to perform for 500 people at the I-Slam 2016 Art Awards, held at the Axica Centre in Berlin, Germany.


Khairul, who was the only guest from Southeast Asia, also received a standing ovation for his debut performance.
Photo credit: i-Slam 2016 Art Awards


Khairul received the rare invite after his father met the founder of I-Slam Art Awards at a business conference: “My father showed my art work to Youssef Adlah, a Syrian living in Berlin.

“As the art work was about the victimisation of innocent [people] in the Middle East, it struck a chord with him.”


This is the painting that impressed i-Slam Awards founder, Youssef Adlah.
Photo credit: Khairul Anwar


Subsequently, he started receiving more invites to showcase his technique.

As he got more confident, he started teaching ‘planyting’ classes at social enterprise MIJ Special Education Hub, helping special needs individuals explore their creative and psycho-motor skills.

Khairul recalled his first time teaching in March this year: “Some students lose their concentration very easily, which can be challenging.

“But the important thing is to have patience and to continue believing that they can do it.”


“The students at MIJ Special Education Hub bring joy to my life,” said Khairul.
Photo credit: Yong


Khairul also shared that his strive for perfection tends to influence his creative process.

He said: “I got so frustrated when I couldn’t get the right consistency of paint on my canvas that I threw my drumsticks. When I came back, I saw a completely new imprint that I can make. I was like, whoa sweet, I found something else that I can do with my drumsticks!”

Since then, he has learnt to take his failures in stride, even referring to them as “happy accidents”.


“What I love about art is that you can create something through your accidents or failures,” added Khairul.
Photo credit: Yong


Apart from his creative struggles, he acknowledged how hard it is for an artist to make ends meet.

“You can’t just rely on selling your art pieces. I want to be able to rely on different sources of income, such as selling my own art work, performing and conducting lessons,” said Khairul, who hopes to dabble in art therapy.

Sounding hopeful about his future plans, Khairul added: “Perhaps one day I’ll have a studio to call my own and I can finally go all out in ‘playnting’…and show my art technique to the world.

“I hope that one day when someone mentions my name, they’ll think of ‘playnting’.”

You may like these