A quick-ish hop around the world via Singapore and now I find myself sketching in Rotterdam.

Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi. Watch our for large numbers of people dragging their luggage around while looking at their smartphones.

First sketch in Rotterdam the Markthal (Market Hall) by MVRDV architects, (2014).

Next the Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) by Pier Blom (1984).

This is an earlier version which I wish I had left at this stage instead of turning it into a turgidly overworked mess.

Then part of Auke de Vries sculpture ‘Maasbeeld’, with De Rotterdam, by Rem Koolhaas (2013) and the Erasmus Bridge in the background.

Today even further challenges with De Hef, (Koninginnebrug) a now defunct, lifting railway bridge.

Drawing the exhibitions, Singapore

I only had limited opportunity to sketch while I was in Singapore  in May. Travelling with non-drawers meant that sketching was more of a challenge.

We did make it to the National Gallery of Singapore which is interesting not only for the art it contains, but also for its new architectural structure that joins and transforms two historic buildings, the former Supreme Court and City Hall.

The joy for me is finding artists whose work I haven’t seen before. I’m a bit of a modernist so it’s no big surprise that Dora Gordine’s sculptures caught my eye. Because the gallery had quite a number of Gordine’s sculptures I assumed there must be a strong link to Singapore. However I haven’t been able to find a link other than that she was commissioned to make sculptures for the Singapore City Hall in 1935. Gordine worked mainly in London. The work below was made in 1949.


Serene Jade, Dora Gordine, 1949, Bronze

I can’t leave the NGS without mentioning the paintings of Georgette Chen. This striking self portrait was but one of her works in the collection.

Self Portrait, Georgette Chen

Not all the artwork in the city is in the galleries. I saw several statues by the sculptor Fernando Botero, whose work often exaggerates it’s subject, in this case a bird.


Fernando Botero’s The Bird, (view from the rear)

At the Museum of Asian Civilizations I saw the exhibition  Joseon Korea, which was full of engaging and colourful works. This wooden sculpture was in the section on religious practice.


Boy Attendant, 19th or 20th century, painted wood, National Museum of Korea

The Empress Place building  (1867), which houses the main part of the museum,  was originally government offices. Now it houses a range of historic  exhibitions which I only managed to fly around quickly in the time I had. However I did manage a sketch of this contemporary work by Eng Tow inspired by grains of rice. The grains are several metres in length and were hung suspended in the gallery space.


‘Grains of Thought, Eng Tow, 2015, acrylic paint on carbon fibre forms

One last sketch from the waterfront with a storm passing in the background.


Singapore skyline, ArtScience Museum (left) and Marina Bay Sands hotel (right)



Collage at cruising altitude

Hi, long time no see. I’ve been away in Singapore (more of that another time) and of course came down with the dreaded lurgy only days after returning home. So I am slowly catching up as my recovery allows.

One thing I have been looking forward to showing you is what I got up to on my return flight from Singapore to Oz. Not particularly long-haul as flights go, but with enough time to want to fill it in with something. Thankfully I remembered Nina Katchadourian’s wonderful work ‘Seat Assignment’, where she uses any means possible to create art while travelling by plane.

Checking my resources I discovered I had plenty of printed material, airline magazines, a freebie copy of Readers Digest Asian edition and thankfully a glue stick in the pocket of my day pack. No scissors of course. But I did have some inspiration – a set of room notes from the Ancient Religions room of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.

So here it is:

TZ12 Collage coverlr

Booklet Cover


Ancient Religionslr




Because hairlr

Back cover


Sketchwalking, Singapore Style

I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about workshops at the USk Singapore 2015 Symposium, but perhaps the most fun thing we did at the symposium were the sketchwalks. Our Canberra Sketchers Group is still in its infancy, so getting 10 people along to a sketchwalk is a good outing. Imagine how amazing it feels when a whole street is full of sketchers. I don’t know how many people actually came on the registration day sketchwalk, here are just some of the sketchers in Purvis St. And there were two other groups in other nearby streets!

Some of the sketchers in Purvis St

How many sketchers can you fit in one small street?

While the sketchwalks are fun, they are also taken seriously, as an opportunity to get to know a new location.

Heads down and working hard! Purvis St, Singapore

Heads down and working hard! Purvis St, Singapore

We were lucky that the restaurants that lined the street hadn’t opened yet, because we sketchers commandeered all the available seating, as well as the footpaths and anywhere else we could find.

Here is what I drew on that first day (BTW the drawings of houses at the top of the left-hand page and the patterns on the bottom of the right-hand page are washi tape I purchased at the Singapore Art Museum shop).

Drawings of the roof lines and building decorations in Purvis St Singapore, 22 July 2015, watercolour and pen and ink

Drawings of the roof lines and building decorations in Purvis St Singapore, 22 July 2015, watercolour and pen and ink

There were other opportunities to join similar sketchwalks, which we did on the afternoons of day 2 and day 3 of the Symposium. But the biggest of them all was the sketchwalk on the final day of the symposium. The official count was 106 participants.

The sketchwalk on the lawns of the Singapore Management University, 25 July 2015

The sketchwalk on the lawns of the Singapore Management University, 25 July 2015

It was a grand finish to three days of amazing teaching and connection with sketchers from around the world. But what thrilled me was the impact those three days had made on my work. I could never had imagined that my final sketchwalk drawing would look like this.

My drawing at the final sketchwalk, brush pen, ink and watercolour, 25 July 2015

My drawing at the final sketchwalk, brush pen, ink and watercolour, 25 July 2015

A huge thank you to all the organisers, sponsors and the Singapore USk group. All I can say is ‘do yourself a favour’ and get yourself along to the 2016 USk Symposium in Manchester.

USk Singapore Symposium Day 3

OK there has been a bit of a gap in the Singapore saga, a result of problems uploading my posts while traveling, traveling in general and having other things to do, like traveling. So now the big catch up.

Day 3 in Singapore saw me in a workshop with Melanie Reim, titled ‘Found in Translation – The influence of Calligraphy on Gesture in the Figure‘, exploring how we can use the influence of calligraphic marks to make lively sketches. Melanie walked us through some of the calligraphic styles found around the world and then showed us the work of artists who have used this approach. You may like to check out the work of Ben Shahn or David Stone Martin.

We were encouraged to draw using shorter, more graphically interesting lines. This is in contrast to the way I usually draw with a continuous line. As Melanie said we should look at the joints of arms and legs and the shift of weight in the body as the point where you could use a calligraphic mark to indicate the body’s movement. The other instruction she gave us was to use the notes she had provided to find the marks that might suit what we were drawing. This proved to be good advice – I don’t know about you, but I am prone to believe I’ve taken the information in and don’t need the prompt of notes – wrong!

We started with faces and bodies, the challenge was to draw 20 faces and 20 bodies in 40 minutes. Ohhh Kayyy – using a brush pen (Pentel) I got underway.

Figures and faces in the Albert St Mall, 25 July 2015, brush pen

Figures and faces in the Albert St Mall, 25 July 2015, brush pen

More figures, Albert St Mall 25 July 2015

More figures, Albert St Mall 25 July 2015

The note to myself about holding the brush was a reminder that if I used the brush as I would normally hold a pen to write I got very uniform strokes. I recalled that on the odd occasion when I have taken a calligraphy lesson I have to hold the brush in a vertical position, using my thumb and forefinger. This way I can get both thick and thin lines and a much wider range of pressure in one stroke.

After this first exercise we collected for a quick review of what we had learned and some advice on how we might better apply the ideas and techniques.

Melanie, providing an on the ground crit session in the Albert Mall

Melanie, providing an on the ground crit session in the Albert Mall

Our second exercise was to draw a scene using calligraphic marks and incorporating figures in the scene. One tip that Melanie gave us was to place an interesting figure in the foreground to help draw the viewer into the image. Just when I was asking myself “will I see someone take an ‘interesting’ stance?”, that person materialised in front of me. In my case a young man walked by with a bag held up on his shoulder – perfect! I was positioned outside the Chinese temple so I had lots of colour and movement to include in the drawing. I also, usefully, had the view-finder that Virginia gave us the day before to help focus in on my subject.

Outside the temple, brush pen, pen and ink, 25 July 2015.

Outside the temple, brush pen, pen and ink, 25 July 2015.

I liked how Melanie’s calligraphic figurative style worked so well with Virginia’s teaching from the day before on using light and darks. I was really pleased with the resulting drawing.

The next day we found ourselves in a local food court where we could sit and sketch while eating our Bandung bean curd, (a rose-flavoured dessert rather like a junket). Again Marc Taro Holmes’ lessons and Melanie’s gestural lines proved to be a good fit.

At the food court, some of our fellow diners, brush pen, 26 July 2015

At the food court, some of our fellow diners, brush pen, 26 July 2015

USk Singapore Symposium Day 2

Another early start. We were up and out to find some breakfast before the day’s workshop . This I was with Virginia Hein for Dark and Light with a Punch of Colour.
Virginia started us of by explaining the concept if notan, a Japanese word for the harmonious blance of light and dark. Not a 50/50 split but rather a means of examining the bones of a composition before making a study or final work. It turns out , unbeknownst to me at the time that this is something I really love doing.
There were three steps to the class. First drawing a thumbnail sketch in pencil , preferably a flat carpenter’s pencil, or a regular pencil drawn using it’s side , marking in the dark tones. It may help to use a view finder, that is a piece of paper with a rectangle torn into it , so you can frame a scene and select what you want to draw.


By the way its easy to say that there’s not enough time to make a thumbnail sketch, but it is time well spent as we were reminded. Since the class I’ve tried to stick to this approach and I’ve found it very helpful way of noting a scene particularly if I don’t have time for a full drawing.
Next step is to fill in the mid-tones. For some reason I struggled with this at first. Virginia suggested that this should be in grey. You can mix your own or use Payne’s grey, just remember that the mid-tones can also be used to delineate objects.


Finally for that punch of colour. For our first attempt Virginia suggested that we limit it to one colour. But once you’ve got the hang of things you can try it out with more colours. One tip, remember that some of your colours may act as mid-tones, this can make your final image less satisfactory.


USk Singapore symposium, Day 1 workshops

It was pretty chaotic as all the workshop participants got themselves organised this morning.

I started with ‘Thin line bold sketch‘ with Inma Serrano and Miguel Herrantz. We were literally across the street from the Nation Design Centre in the Bras Basah complex. Starting with a quick try out of different line techniques to get us thinking about how we might draw lines. After that we we let loose to do a cartoon of what was happening in the centre. We didn’t need to format it into cells but try and capture what was happening. The idea is try and capture busy scenes without drawing from A to B.


We also did a second exercise drawing in a spiral. Again another technique to present complex subjects. Starting with your most important subject then moving around it adding relevant details.
A bit hard to explain as the result looks similar to a ‘normal’ drawing, but you capture what you want first and work around it.

In the afternoon I went to ‘Sketching the Sketchers‘ with Mark Taro Holmes. I have Mark’s book on Urban Sketching so I was always going to choose this workshop. I need plenty of help with drawing faces so Mark’s tuition was invaluable. We went out into the Albert Mall, a bustling street which has two temples in it so there were lots of subjects to choose from.

I took my usual approach of trying to sit and draw unobtrusively but that just isn’t going to happen in Singapore. Before I knew it a stall holder had come over to see what I was doing and then she called out to the person I was drawing! No one was concerned and before I knew it I had a line up of stall holders waiting to be drawn.

Shop owner, Albert Mall, 23 July 2015, pen and ink and brush pen

Shop owner, Albert Mall, 23 July 2015, pen and ink and brush pen

We started with a thin pen line then added stronger lines with a brush pen. Mark emphasised drawing the skull shape and hair first, then the shadows on the face. With any luck he said, you may never need to draw eyes!

Shop owner, Albert mall, pen and ink and brush pen, 23 July 2015

Shop owner, Albert mall, pen and ink and brush pen, 23 July 2015

I was really pleased with the days work, but we were so tired that we ate at the hotel and went to bed very early.