Monday, August 17, 2015

Singapore Part 2

Here are more sketches from my trip to Singapore, where I was honored to teach a workshop at the Urban Sketchers Symposium, "Light and Dark with a Punch of Color".  A few photos and sketches from the workshop are in the previous post below.  If you would like to download a PDF of my workshop handout, here it is--and hope you'll let me know if you find it helpful!

Click here:
Light and Dark with a Punch of Color

These sketches begin with the journey there, the last several days I enjoyed sketching with the wonderful Singapore Urban Sketchers, and then coming home...

 Aboard Cathay Pacific..."day" and "night" of a long flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong...

Sketching in the Hong Kong Airport lounge, enjoying my free meal voucher from the airline due to a delayed flight...

...almost ready for take-off from Hong Kong to Singapore...

After the Symposium...
Don and Kat Low treat me to an evening at the fabulous Singapore River Safari and Zoo, with just a bit of quick sketching this pair of white tigers--the fellow in the water got a hold of a turtle...

Don Low's sketch of me and the tigers at top, mine below
Later, Don and Kat take me for an unforgettable feast at Long Beach Seafood Restaurant and the famous chilli crab!

I sketch Don with families gathered for a Sunday night dinner and the fish tanks in the background...

Don is a master with ink and watercolor, so I'm inspired to do more ink drawing...

The next day, a fantastic day of sketching with Don, Tony Chua, James Tan and Teoh Yi Chie (aka Parka), starting at Marina Bay...
 A sudden rain (normal for Singapore!) means it's time to stop, and move on to the next spot--Gardens by the Bay, and the Supertrees!
Sketches of the Supertrees from left, clockwise--me,
digital sketch by Teoh Yi Chie, Tony Chua, James Tan, and
at center, Don Low

According to Wikipedia, the Supertrees "are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.

The Supertrees are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of bromeliads such as Tillandsia, amongst other plants. They are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy which can be used for some of the functions of the Supertrees, such as lighting, just like how trees photosynthesize; and collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays, exactly like how trees absorb rainwater for growth. The Supertrees also serve air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories' cooling systems."

I felt I was seeing the future here...pencil, watercolor and gouache

From there, a subway ride to Chinatown, where I was lucky to find a spot to sketch next to the MRT station exit.  A group of tourists stood in front of me, so they became part of the sketch...

Dinner in Chinatown at the Hawker Center...

Next day, we join more Singapore sketchers in Kampong Glam--Somali Dasgupta, Francis Theo, Grace Liau and Dawn Lo.  I loved this neighborhood and could have sketched there for days!  The Sultan Mosque with storm clouds, and another sketch from Bussorah street--after running for the covered walkways when the rain came in a real Singapore downpour!  

These two sketches were made on site in pencil, and colored later with ink wash and watercolor...

The Blue Mosque
That night, I couldn't resist returning to Gardens by the Bay to see the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest...I loved these baobabs lit up as the light faded into evening...

Then, a little late night dinner at
The Better Field, a nice bistro off Waterloo Street...
Finally, time to return home.  With a long layover in Hong Kong, the airport terminal felt coldly cavernous in the middle of the night, but fills with light in the early morning...

Sunday, August 16, 2015


It was very exciting to be part of the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore last month...still thinking daily about all that I saw and experienced, and especially the wonderful Singapore Urban Sketchers community!

It was an honor to present my workshop, "Light and Dark with a Punch of Color", and I'd like to offer a PDF of the workshop handout.  Let me know if you find this helpful!

click here:
More about the subject of the workshop in the previous post below...

Here are a few photos 
from my workshop site 
at the Singapore Art Museum...
My easel parked in front of "SAM"--
Singapore Art Museum, with a demo sketch

Don Low sketching in front of SAM
Don Low sketching in front of SAM
My charming helper, Grace Liau sketching 
Kee making a beautiful composition
across from SAM
Suma laying in a
bold pattern of light and dark
Don Low's thumbnail sketches

Sketching in the shade of those
lovely tropical trees

Rob and Keesung sketching digitally--
I loved seeing the ideas working
across different media!

Gabi Campanario and Rob Sketcherman sketching
and chatting at our lovely, shady site

Murray Dewhurst, one of our official
sketch-reporters at the site

Some "first stage" sketches--finding patterns
of light and dark in the landscape and
composing them on the page...
Some more "first stage" sketches,
will have to find a better way to
document the digital sketches!
Some "final" results--with color added
--using color intentionally to add emphasis,
meaning or create a path

Jason Das sketching some visitors nearby

End of Workshop #3--we may have lost a few
before this picture was taken, but
I love seeing the results!
Before and during the Symposium, I spent lots of time at my workshop site considering best views and approaches...

pencil sketches--a way to gradually mass the light and darks
These were demo thumbnail sketches...using pencil to mass darks and light.  As I did these, I considered 2 ways to compose:  creating a small frame first helps you see the whole right away by working "outside in"...another approach is to start with what most interests you, and work from there--"inside out"...being mindful to balance areas of light and dark as you "grow" the sketch...

thumbnail views of SAM--laying in shapes with
a brush pen makes you really commit to the
lights and darks right away!

more views around SAM--light and dark with color
added for emphasis...
Sketching here inside Dome, the Italian-style coffee bar in the museum, where the interior is elegantly
black and white--so were the patrons, and the photographer and bridal shoot just outside...

 More Singapore sketching in my next post!

Light and Dark with a Punch of Color...

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to teach a workshop at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore last month!

My workshop, "Light and Dark with a Punch of Color" focuses on ways to create dynamically composed sketches by exploring the idea of "Notan"--a Japanese word meaning the harmony of light and dark.  Understanding Notan gives us a way to grasp and compose the essentials of a subject.

We start with exploring ways to see the rhythm of light and dark in an urban landscape, and bring that to the sketchbook page--and then add a punch of color for emphasis!

I'd like to offer you a PDF of the workshop handout--It would be great if you could let me know if you find this helpful!

click here:
Light and Dark with a Punch of Color

A sketch made at the Los Angeles Arboretum prior to Singapore...

In Singapore, our workshop site was the Singapore Art Museum, which gave us a great variety of subjects--the beautiful architecture and grounds, people and foliage.  Creating a dynamic composition starts with discovering and selecting the visual story that you want to tell--and it's as much about what's left out as what is left in!  Another key to a strong composition is creating paths for the eye to follow...

While there are many ways to do this, for this workshop we practice creating paths of light and dark, adding the element of watercolor washes, and then use color selectively for emphasis in the visual story.

So, what does Notan have to do with working in color?
I find that practice in making strong value choices in black and white helps you more instinctively create a bolder, richer range of values when you're working with full color!

Sketches from Singapore to follow!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Olvera Street a place I return to sketch again and again, and as I continued to prepare to teach my workshop at the Urban Sketchers Singapore Symposium, I spent several days sketching here.  One of my favorite locations, Olvera Street is the oldest part of Los Angeles--at the center of El Pueblo de Los Angeles.  It's certainly popular with tourists who arrive by the busloads and quickly leave after buying something from the colorful market stalls, but the visitor in a hurry might miss the real sense of community here!

At one end of the street is the Plaza, graced by several large Moreton Bay Fig trees...this particular tree feels like the heart of the Plaza, and I notice that besides the tourists who visit, there are lots of "regulars" who come to sit here in the shade.  Sketched here with pencil, watercolor and gouache on tan paper...

On some afternoons, Aztec Dancers perform in the center of the Plaza, to the delight of children who visit in large school groups...a quick pencil sketch...

One afternoon as I sat sketching, a fancy black tour bus pulled up nearby with "La Adictiva" emblazoned on the side...and 17 or so men in spectacular studded suits jumped out and lined up in front of me to be interviewed by a glamorous reporter from Spanish language TV Telemundo.  I sketched as fast as I could, while others took photos of what I discovered is a very popular Mexican banda.  I was pointed out to the reporter, and was suddenly pulled off my stool with my sketchbook to have my picture taken with the Banda!

I did lots of thumbnail sketches of visitors and the beautiful architecture at Olvera Street, preparing for my Singapore workshop--in black and white...

...Practicing massing light and dark with ink, then adding mid-tone watercolor wash...

...and adding a punch of color for emphasis...

Sometimes working from the outside in (starting with a border) to frame a little composition, and sometimes working from inside out (starting with an interesting spot and moving out, composing in a freeform pattern)

Here, a relaxed sketch in pencil, watercolor and gouache over lunch as I watch a stream of visitors posing on the stuffed donkey to have their pictures taken in fancy I child I had my picture taken here on a real donkey!

And finally, my favorite Olvera Street moment--late afternoon on Friday in the Plaza, wonderful cumbia music begins to play and couples start dancing in the shade of the huge fig tree--first just a few, then lots of them...