Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sketching while travelling with a non-sketching companion

I am an urban sketcher. My husband is not. And while he is very patient, I think it would not be fair on him if I spent our whole holiday sketching. Over the years, I've tried various approaches, but often found that I ended up sketching very little, unless we were on a one-location holiday (like a week in Kerry!). Maybe my sketchbook was too big to cart around every day? Or using watercolours required sitting down (I'm too clumsy to balance a sketchbook, palette and water container on one arm while sketching with the other!). The resulting sketches were often disappointing.

This year, I tried a new approach. I left my usual supplies at home. Brought two small sketchbooks, about A5 in size. And a pencil case full of fountain pens and Marabu and Posca markers. One waterbrush. And cutout Daniel Smith watercolour dot cards (cut out because they are A4 in size and I didn't want something so big, so I brought a small sheet of yellow, a small sheet of red, of blue and of brown, and I still had too much). One of the sketchbooks (Diário Gráfico by Firmo) was good with all the tools. The other, really only good for pen and ink. But that was OK.

I didn't necessarily sketch all the beauty spots and tourist attractions. But I took every opportunity I had. Waiting for rain to stop. Or a typhoon to pass. Most of the time standing on a street corner. Sometimes sitting on a bench. Or just at the hotel room window. Or in an airport, waiting for a plane

One of the days, I met up with fellow urban sketcher Samantha Takamura, from Ōsaka, who travelled to Kyoto to spend the day sketching with me. We had never met before. I had just posted on Urban Sketchers Japan's Facebook page, and she contacted me. By the end of the day, it was like we had known each other forever. It was so wonderful to meet up with a local urban sketcher while travelling. And to have made a new friend. It was a dream come true for me.

Here are some of the sketches I did. I have already posted most of these on Instagram (@MHBD1) while travelling, but without the narrative.

It was a public holiday in Hong Kong the first day we arrived, and every housemaid had been given the day off, it seems. All 370,000 of them! Half from the Philippines, and half from Indonesia. As a result, every single bench or shady spot in public spaces was taken up. Since they have to live with their employer and don't have a place of their own, they have nowhere to go on their day off, but the parks and public spaces of Hong Kong. Surely a social issue that will erupt at some point. Kowloon Park is near the mosque and the park seemed to be the focal point for a lot of Muslim foreign domestic workers. I did manage to get a seat on a bench (in the sun) to capture this scene. Pen and watercolours.

Trees and shadows at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul. Pen and watercolours.

View of Hong Kong from Kowloon seafront. Uniball pen.

View of Hong Kong from our room. Sailor Fude pen.

1881 Heritage (the former Marine Police Headquarters, actually built in 1884, but something about unlucky numbers led to the choice of 1881 in the redevelopment) and the YMCA Hong Kong (The Salisbury). Fineliner.

View from our hotel window near Ōsaka station. Our flight to Seoul was cancelled due to the forecast Typhoon Trami, so we had a day with nothing much to do except eat, watch TV and sketch. The typhoon passed peacefully in the end. We flew the following day. Sailor Fude.

Lots of people and luggage in the hotel lobby, stranded because of flight cancellations. Posca marker and watercolour.

I had been warned about spicy Korean food. I stuck to the bibimbaps, where you can manage the amount of chilli sauce yourself in most cases. This was my first, at a buffet at the base of Seoul Tower, so I had a chilli-free version. Marabu watercolour markers, watercolours.

I loved the green walkway near Seoul station - every city should have one. An urban sketcher's ideal location! I sat on a bench overlooking the train tracks and just drew what was in front of me. It was a glorious morning and I really enjoyed sketching the view! Calligraphy marker, fineliner and watercolour.

At Yasaka Jinja with fellow urban sketcher Samantha Takamura. It was wonderful to meet this local urban sketcher, who travelled from Ōsaka to Kyoto to spend a day with me! We sketched and chatted, and sketched some more. Sailor Fude and watercolour.

And then we had a matcha latte and a bite to eat, but not until we had sketched it! Thank you Samantha for a wonderful day! Sailor Fude and watercolour.

On Samantha's recommendation, I bought a lovely little fountain pen in Kyoto, a Pilot Kaküno, real cheap, but so nice. After that, all my sketches were with this pen only! The day we arrived in Nara was a holiday and it was packed with tourists (local and foreign), but we managed to find a quiet spot, with a tree and a brook.

The ink I bought for the pen is brown, but when you add water, it turns pink. I made it work for me, althought this scene looks more like a Spring cherry blossom view!

The second sketchbook I started while on holiday doesn't take water that well, so I just sketched with the fountain pen, using hatching for shading.

I sketched this quirky shop while standing close to a Japanese man who was drawing too. I never saw his finished work. A few people were drawing/painting in this quiet area of Nara, so I blended in well.

On our final morning in Nara, we didn't have time to venture very far, so I sketched people waiting for buses near the station. I found that a lot of Japanese women wear wide-brimmed hats to protect their skin and their eyes from the sun.

Most of the people in motion sketches on this page didn't really work out, except for the elderly lady in the bottom left. I tried to sketch her face on too, but she stared at me, so I moved on to someone else!

Back in Hong Kong for a night. Quick sketch from our hotel room window, looking down Des Voeux Road. I simplified the view by starting with the shape of the sky, then just adding a few buses and even a tram, and a quick impression of the 20/30 floors in one of the skyscrapers nearby.

After a one-hour crossing on the Turbo Jet to Macau, we explored the old and the new. My favourite spot was the lobby area of the MGM - it had these giant glass flowers all over, with a few giraffes and a big round aquarium! I just drew the flowers.

The old and the new in Macau,

And back to Hong Kong again for a final day. We enjoyed walking around Central and into Hong Kong Park. But most of all, I enjoyed the view from our room. So much so that I forgot to check out the swimming pool!

What happens when you leave the hotel at 4pm and your flight isn't until nearly 1am? Well, I eat lots and sketch lots.

People are so absorbed in their phones that you can stare and sketch and they never notice.

And when they fall asleep, you get a good chance to look at them!

Or when they're drinking. The two on the right were knocking back the champagne and as time went by, they became more and more touchy-feely.

And when you run out of people, there's plants!

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