Here's where I rant about the weather in equatorial Singapore. October is no different to previous months in terms of weather. Its either very hot and humid, with rare occasions of cooler and less humid days, or it's rainy, and gloomy and unpredictable. Sometimes the rain can come quickly and heavily, and clouds lingers for most of the day or its a thunder and lightning kind of rain, that is short and sweet, and brings with it such humidity I could not tolerate for long.
On full day sketching days, my body's readiness and my artist mind's ambition does not always work in parallel and I find the morning a slow time to get going. With morning rituals and routines taking up most of the slow waking hours, household chores comes next, and then the body needs to move through its full morning cycle before I am ready to leave the house. It's quite interesting to observe all the emotional and movements of this body as I prepare it for a full day of being outdoors.
Below's a selection of sketches I did on location in October. The goal was to improve my resilience to being on location, to learn about myself when I am drawing buildings instead of mostly people. The other goal of the month is to loosen my need for perfection and to just start. It is not just about quantity but also about quality. It is about attention. Giving a lot of attention to specific things. Improving my distracted brain into quieter less noisy brain. I want to see how and what changes, and if there’s a new style emerging from it.
It is showing that I don't always succeed in making a good sketch that reads beautifully. Sometimes I can sense it very early in the moment that its a struggle, and in other days, a good day, the sketches are wonderful, hoping with expression and depth and I am really pleased with the outcome.
No matter what sketchbook I use, whatever size and quality, I find that each sitting, when I decided to settle takes about 45 minutes to 90 minutes, and I would do multiple sketches of the same subjects or areas, so I could work on them interchangeably.
Most of all, I've been able to visit a lot of locations with such depth, and such quiet contemplation, that even if they're places I frequently go to, I see them with new eyes, and it is something I can highly recommend if you're an artist looking for new subjects. A new sketching energy seems to come even in familiar places if you have time to examine, focus on them through your drawings. And a great way to feel you've explored somewhere new while still unable to travel. This pandemic year just feels so exhausting and the familiarity breeds some contempt which I am sure is a shared emotion globally. We live in such a small island, and we have taken the ability to travel around regionally and internationally for granted until now, and I feel the restrictions achy in my bones 9 months on.
How I planned:
- Starting early and getting a lot of quick sketches, some of them without thought.
- Not posting all my process on IG story every day, just focusing on doing the work. Less focus on recording the process.
- Quick sketches helps me reduce the need for perfections. Sometimes a whole sketch book without planning can show a lot of things.
- It is a good idea to keep the sketchbook filled, with and without quality work.
- I will not look for perfection.
- I will not judge myself harshly, but only constructively whenever necessary.
- I will allow the flow of work to be there without trying to change it
- On October 31, I will do a big review and see what happened but not before.
Here's the day by day actions- locations I went to in October:
Thur 1 Oct Whole day Tiong Bahru
Fri 2 Oct Dhoby ghaut- whole day marina south pier, Armenian Street
Sat 3 Oct - no sketching
Sun 4 Oct - no sketching
Mon 5 Oct - Fort Canning Park, Fort Gate (half day)
Tues 6 Oct- Half Day Kampong bugis water way.
Wed 7 Oct - Whole Day Sentosa
Thur 8 Oct - Arab street
Fri 9 Oct - Half Day Robertson quay, chijmes
Sat 10 Oct - life drawings
Sun 11 oct - no sketching
Mon 12 oct - whole day queen Elizabeth Walk, empress place, victoria theater.
Tues 13 Oct - studio day
Wed 14 Oct - Studio day
Thur 15 oct - Whole day - Bishan park, kebun baru birdsinging club
Friday 16 - Half Day tanglin, loewen Road
Sat 17 - life drawing
Sun 18 oct- no sketching
Mon 19 oct - Whole day Joo Chiat Road. Shophouse
Tues 20 oct - Kallang River, golden mile complex
Wed 21 oct - telok ayer Thian hock Keng temple
Thur 22 oct - Whole day Geylang, Joo Chiat, Katong.
Fri 23 oct - no sketching
Sat 24 oct - Waterloo st & Life drawings.
Sun 25 oct - hampstead wetlands park. Little india MRT.
Monday - Punggol
Tuesday 27 October - Blair Road.
Wednesday 28 oct - studio day
Thursday 29 oct - whole day Hong lim park, Telok Ayer, Yueh Hai Ching Temple
Friday 30 Oct - No sketching
Saturday 31 Oct - USK Singapore sketchwalk Little India, Life Drawing.
What I also learned this month is that the morning sketches are generally always better than the afternoon ones, in energy level, in attention and focus. I had a few sketch walks with other friends some of these days and the work does seem to look a bit distracted, even if we don't talk much. Solo sketching gives a lot more focused energy into the work, despite other external distractions like noise and people and nature.
I got used to being crawled on by different insects as I sketch. I let them continue as long as it doesn't distract or impede on my work.
I got used to the gawking passerby, and they don't tend to bother me much.
I understand how to find the focus of my sketch a bit faster than in earlier months.
I find this month to be a time to release all the precious energy around productivity, around quality of work and to give myself some space to be more intentional in the future with my sketch walks.
It was a great end to the month with joining Urban Sketcher Singapore official October sketch walk in Little India where I did one good sketch and a very loose two page spread.
Just for data fun, in October I did 108 pages of sketches across 4 different sketchbooks. While in September, I did about 86 pages (or 43 double pages) across three sketchbooks. An increase of about 20%.
I learned that a very good 100% cotton paper sketchbook is unbeatable for sketching on location. Moleskine watercolour journal's doesn't really have good paper, it buckles and the colours tend to become somewhat muddier. The moleskin sketchbook with red cover becomes my workhorse sketchbook where all kinds of learning and experiments happens in it, as well as some excellent drawings.
My travel kit is slowly tightening up, I no longer carry any grey tombow markers I learned from urban sketchers such as Ian Fennelly and Liz Steel, I strictly use the fude pen, palomino pencils, and my generally all Daniel Smith palette, with the occasional Schmincke paints here and there. I got used to the larger travel brushes now and sometimes only use them exclusively.
I should have brought a square sketchbook if I want to post beautifully on Instagram. A note to Self. The landscape orientation sketchbook is very difficult to capture in a square frame for social media.
Finally, one- two hour sketch walk can be plenty if you choose the right time of day, and in the right mood and state of mind. A full day sketchwalk is tiring but can be so fulfilling if I can find exciting subjects, and on days where it's just meh all the way, I have to learn to let go faster, and just call it quits while I was still fresh.
What I would do differently knowing all these things? I would adjust my expectations on producing a large quantity of work, I would slow everything down and be more in the present. I would remind myself a lot more often that this is a process driven outcome, not an outcome driven process.
Now I feel I've gotten most of the need to do full day of sketching on location out of my system, I am focusing on other things in November, back to teaching classes on Zoom, and in person. Back to some portrait sketching and weekly life drawings. And learning from a new teacher.
More to come in November. Stay tuned.