September 1, 2014

Sailing Through The Mist

The continued story of my time spent sailing on the restored Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving wooden whaling ship in the world:



As we sailed toward Boston on the Charles W. Morgan, a thick cloud of fog and mist settled over the ship. In that magical atmosphere, she seemed transformed into another ship, from another place and time. Which, of course, she was.  Putting our trust in the captain and crew, we on board could not see where we were going, or have any idea how we would get to our destination. I drew slowly, methodically, as the ship moved forward into the mist.
As we continued on through the fog, one of the sailors began singing an old French sea shanty, The Legend of the Whale. It was a truly unique moment in a truly unique experience, and a voyage unlike any other.
If you would like to read Part 3 of my visual essay about the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, you can visit my blog HERE

This past July, I had the honor of being selected as one of 79 "38th Voyagers" to sail on the restored whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, as she made her way along the New England coast. The program, through Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, and partly funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, sought to bring artists, scientists, writers, and other academics on board, to see what their experiences would create.

Beyond Starbucks

Okay, Seattleites love their coffee and their coffee shops. You don’t have to take too many steps down the street in any down town area or neighborhood of Seattle before you have multiple choices of coffee shops to choose from. There are some really interesting coffee shops around here. Places that draw you in to stay because of the ambiance and unique character.

Here are a few some examples:

ADA’s Technical Books and Coffee Shop on Capitol Hill.
ADA’s Technical Books and Coffee Shop on Capitol Hill.  This is a bookstore that is specifically geared towards Math and Sciences.  The decor reinforces it.  Glass lidded tables showcase all manner of technical equipment,  test tubes and flasks are used as flower vases,  mobiles of framed pages taken from math and science books.  A freestanding wall separates the bookstore from the coffee shop is made of old wood paneled doors and floor to ceiling walls of books line the perimeter of the room.

Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee Interior and entry

Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee Interior

Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee Shop is located in the historic Panama Hotel in the International District. This Hotel was a major character in the historically based novel “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by writer Jamie Ford. Many of the local Japanese families who were relocated from their homes during World War II left their personal belongings in the basement of this hotel. There is a window in the floor of the coffee shop where you can see a display of items that were never picked up...a reminder of a terrible event in our history.

Bauhaus Books and Coffee
A coffee shop that is no longer here was Bauhaus Coffee on the corner of Melrose and Pine Street in Capitol hill. This coffee shop, much loved by people in the neighborhood, had a musty old feeling and detailing from Bauhaus period.  All the businesses in that particular block were recently moved out for construction of a new building.  Luckily the facades of the old original buildings were kept, the new building is being constructed behind the Historic Landmarked facade.   Glad I had a chance to sketch the coffee shop space before it was demolished.


Took a short break in Singapore to attend a wedding. The morning after was a late brunch at Dean & Deluga , Orchard Central. Nice quiet place that also serve breakfast all day and good coffee.

August 31, 2014

Book review: Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger

By Róisín Curé

In the eighties, I attended a very prestigious art college for a year. On the instructions of our tutors, I learned how to scour rubbish dumps for objets trouvés, how to gather dead leaves and mossy branches for an installation and how to make a xylophone from scrap metal.

I certainly didn't learn anything at all about using watercolour. The very idea! Fast forward thirty years or so, and I used watercolour all the colour in my drawings. I was very conscious that I never used watercolour for any pretty effects, or to summon atmosphere in a painting. I knew how to make a sketch look "real", and to that end, sure, I knew what I was doing. Turns out I had no idea what I was missing.

I found Felix's book by chance, browsing for something else. Someone had posted one of those flick-throughs as part of a review, I was immediately excited and bought it without hesitation. I also bought one for my sister, who is an accomplished oil painter, but a relative beginner in watercolour.

I don't know when I've looked forward to a book as much.

I wasn't disappointed. The book is absolutely stunning, as vibrant as the best kids' book you've ever seen; the format is great, a double-page spread for each topic, peppered with madcap illustrations full of life.
I've chosen a few pages to show just how impressive and vibrant the illustrations are. The first is from the section near the beginning which gives a little history of the origin of colours. It's like the opening act of a symphony...

I apologise to Felix for cutting off the edges of the pages, I think I'd be most unimpressed if my carefully-designed page was unceremoniously chopped, but my scanner isn't big enough I'm afraid. But doesn't the page give you a rush? It's so loose, so fluid, so...dramatic.

As I read through Felix's book I realised I'd had another of those epiphanies. I wrote a review of another book not too long ago, and I had said in response to a comment that there would never be a book that would make such an impact on me again, because you can't die twice: a bit of a smart-alec remark, to be sure, but now I can top it. Having read Felix's book, I've died and gone to heaven.

It's not only a delight to look at, but is extremely practical and useful. There's lots of stuff on putting colours together harmoniously, and the theory behind this. There's a section on which colours to put in your travel sketchbox (which I have now followed slavishly). There's fascinating information on using complimentary colours, being bold, and interpreting a scene just how you want to, like leaving lots of areas unpainted, forgetting measuring or counting (something  of which I had always been a keen practioner). Then there's loads of really useful techniques on different ways to use watercolour, all of which were new to me, and I've had a great time playing around with them.

Felix generously opens his bag for us to poke around in -

...which is a lovely thing to do because people always think that if only they had the tools someone else had, they'd crack the secret (well, I did anyway, before I learned that it the answer lay elsewhere i.e. non-stop practice).

Since I have absorbed this wonderful book, my eyes have been opened to the myriad possibilities of watercolour. My natural control-freakery still wants to measure, count and weigh, but I'm trying.

Here's another page, included just because it's beautiful:

I just love Felix's style and while it will probably be many years before I can be loose and sketchy in the way that I want to be, I've definitely learned loads and my work is very much the better for it.

It's also reminded me of something that can sometimes be forgotten -  the sheer, naked joy to be had with a pen and box of watercolours.

August 30, 2014

Urban Sketching Symposium Paraty 2014 - Day Four Highlights

Today was the final day of the Symposium, even though everyone felt like they had just arrived. It is the same every year - it never feels like enough time! We are happy about the connections that people have made here and we are proud of the things they have learned. We hope that participants take the good feeling of the Symposium back home with them, and continue meeting, sketching and sharing through the year.

Until next year, here are some highlights from Saturday.

Carol Pereira's photo of Paul Heaston's workshop. And a dog!

Carolina Maluhy's sketch from Norberto Dorantes' Line Flow/Live Spot workshop

Susan James' photo of Frank Ching from his workshop Architectural Sketching: Composition and Perspective

Sue Pownall's photo of Gabi Campanario's lecture Drawing for Publication: The triumphs and tribulations of a newspaper sketch columnist

Liz Steel's photo of "the morning sketchers group" - starting the day sketching for themselves before workshops and activities began

Norberto Dorantes' Line Flow/Live Spot workshop

Omar Jaramillo captures the reflections of Paraty's high-tide streets

Ronaldo Kurita's photo of Ch’ng Kiah Kiean's demo

Simone Ridyard's lecture Same World, Different Hemispheres

Suhita Shirodkar's photos from her workshop Never Fear the People

Thiago Salcedo's sketch of that Paraty light

All participants at the last sketch walk of the day!

College Game Day in Fort Worth!

If you can't be in Paraty, the next best thing is to be in the crowd watching ESPN's live College Game Day broadcast on the opening day of the college football season from Sundance Square Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas.  The Plaza is one of my very favorite places to sketch, and it's a pretty wild party right now--football fans from all over the region, marching bands, cheerleaders and Chef Tim Love grilling wild game backstage...high energy!  If you are wearing team colors today, good luck to you!

Sketching at Singapore's most bizarre theme park Haw Par Villa

Every end of the month, we sketchers from Singapore have a sketchwalk. Today, we visited Haw Par Villa, a theme park here.

The video below is what I shot today. Viewers' discretion is advised because there are some gory scenes.

The park was originally called Tiger Balms Gardens and was built in the 1937 by Burmese-Chinese brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par. In 1988, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) took over the park and modernised it into a Haw Par Villa Dragon World. Entrance fees were imposed but the attraction did not do well and was forced to provide free entry 10 years later. Now, the park barely maintained.

There are over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas depicting scenes of Chinese mythology and folklore. The designs can be really offbeat at times. STB still maintain the statues as I can see that their coat of paint are quite new and vibrant despite being exposed to the weather.

To check out some photos, visit my blog post, and for more sketchwalk videos, visit my Vimeo page.

- Parka

Urban Sketching Symposium Paraty 2014 - Day Three on Social Media

Another full day of sketching and sharing in Paraty on Friday. The sketchers are more settled in their temporary home, and are finding a minute here and there to share their adventures on social media.

There are fewer #uskparaty2014 posts on Twitter, but the ones that are there are great! Check out that horse!

Sketchers are sharing a lot of individual sketches on Facebook:

Thiago Salcedo's sketch, posted when "hot out of the oven"

Ch'ing Kiah Kiean warming up for his demo, Sketching with Dry Twig and Chinese Ink

Kumi Matsukawa's early morning sketch

Liz Steel's early morning sketch

Suhita Shirodkar from her workshop Never Fear People

Jessie Chapman's twig sketch following Ch’ng Kiah Kiean's demo

Roberta Gonçalves, Church of Sorrows with watercolor pencils

There's plenty of sharing on Instagram - these are just from the morning! Follow USk Paraty 2014 on Instagram or search for #uskparaty2014 to see the rest of the day.

Marc Holmes' workshop Tea Milk and Honey: The Three Step Watercolor Sketch

Miriam Ben's sketch from Lynne Champan's workshop, Afraid of Color?

And Miriam's photo of Nina Johansson's workhsop In the Mood

Jessie Chapman photo of these lovely gifts from Urban Sketchers Hong Kong

Liz Steel's photo from Thursday, when the higher-than-normal tide presented a challenge for getting to the afternoon workshop

Jessie Chapman's sketch from Simo Capecchi's workshop The Sketched Reportage

Ronaldo Kurita's sketch from Paulo von Poser's activity Collective Drawing

And Ronaldo's photos from Liz Steel's workshop Feeling the Edges

Fernanda Vaz de Campos' sketch from Marc Holmes' workshop

Ronaldo Kurita's photos from Fred Lynch's workshop Capturing Intangibles

And don't forget Flickr! You can search #uskparaty2014 on Flickr, also.

Liz Steel's photo of Richard Alomar's activity Unfolding a Sketching Story

Murilo Romeiro's sketch using dip pen and walnut ink

Omar Jaramillo's watercolor and Super5 sketch

Linda Permann's photo of sketchers sketching sketchers