On 9th November 2019, I start teaching a small group of new sketchers. The course is broken down to an evening in class learning fundamentals, and Saturday mornings on location around Singapore to apply and practice those fundamentals.
Thoughts on how I design the module comes from the experience of travel sketching on locations. Most of the time, I have no control over what I'll see and whether there's time and comfortable spaces to sketch. I could be in a bus station and it's empty, or I could be in an airport lounge I've never been before where it's not conducive to sketch. In any case, the key to continuously drawing in any location, is energy. An example of energy, is when I had a good night sleep, and we arrived early enough in this transit place that I find myself sitting down with a drink and looking around for interesting things that catches my eyes. Observing my surroundings comes easily when I had a good rest. So first that.
Second thing, curiosity comes when there is time to observe, and sometimes this comes rarely when you're in a rush. So I thought of finding a place that we can stay in, with lots to observe and not much moving around required.
Finally, deep seeing, this is what I call it when there's energy, and curiosity, and a blank paper, and the more you observe, the more you see things that you didn't notice before. The best condition for travel sketching isn't beautiful sceneries or palatial buildings, it is the mundane, the every day places that usually gives the most interest to travel. It's the things that everyone misses because they're going from A to B, going about their daily business, and have errands and people to meet. For travel sketchers, it's all about intentionally meandering and aimlessness. Deep seeing comes from aimlessness first, then the deep seeing happens when we are curious. Roman Muradov wrote in his book On Doing Nothing that " Every place we visit, for years or for an hour, imprint itself on our minds. Without much effort or intention, we keep refining these mental maps for as long as our brains can manage".
So that is when I decided for beginners, one class to learn the techniques, and then one class as an excursion to apply the techniques, is the way to go.
Feedback from the first group of students has been positive and encouraging and some find the short course is too short. It does feel quite fast for 8 sessions twice a week. Perhaps there's something we can do there for the next one.
We went on location sketching to Tekka Market, The park in SMU campus near the National Museum, the food court under the Flyer, and then to the airport.
Most of these places are chosen so that comfort is not ignored, when we have art supplies we need to use, first, comfort and space, as this encourage the quiet, and the deep seeing. The locations was chosen to balance offering just enough things to see and observe, yet not overwhelming with crowds or heat. On hindsight, the last excursion that included sketching while on the MRT train, did not go as I planned because the train ended up being too crowded and too uncomfortable both to draw and also attracting too much attention. So this I'll change for the next course.
Funny things seem to always happen when we go on locations. There's a lot of people quite curious about what we're doing, lots of gawking and looking, which is normal, but for new sketchers, this can be awkward and slightly uncomfortable. But mostly, we had a laugh, we got some free snacks and a good exchange with random onlookers.
I really enjoyed myself, and I think the module works for the most part. With some adjustments to make it better next time, this can be quite a good short course for people who wants to start sketching while travelling.
For post course practice, I offer the students to come with me when I go on sketch walks. There are some interesting places in Singapore that I want to go myself, this included the Singapore Zoo, Haw Par Villa, The Natural History museum, and a lot of unusual places, back alleys of Little India, Fishing areas near the Park Connectors and more.
I would love for these students to continue their practice and if I can encourage it by participations, why not.
Students can join Ostudio artist community on Facebook, which I started not long ago, I hope to be more active there.