Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sketching the Space Shuttle Endeavor for Worldwide Sketchcrawl

Los Angeles group of sketchers went to California Science Center for 50th Worldwide Sketchcrawl. The star attraction of this museum is the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

The more I studied it, the more it felt like a "living" creature, snub nose and all. I liked seeing the dirt and scratches, joints and seams - it's incredible to see something that went to space 25 times and back again. It is now resting comfortably here on earth.

I sketched here in 2014 when the Shuttle first arrived, so I looked for more dramatic angle and focused on painting rather than drawing this time. My fellow Urban Sketchers correspondent and sketching buddy Virginia Hein learned that this exhibit is going to close this year for remodeling, so I feel lucky to see this view!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking back at my sketches

I found an old sketchbook while cleaning out my place. It is Handbook panorama sketchbook with watercolor paper, and I had a few sketches in it and the rest was blank. Remembering that I didn't like the way watercolor behaved on this sketchbook, I still decided to use it again. This time around, I really enjoyed how watercolor flows on the page. By coincidence, the first watercolor I did and the last watercolor I did in this sketchbook were of the same place (The Getty Center), around the same time (sunset in autumn), and done with the same waterbrush (Sakura Koi waterbrush).

Here is the first sketch, done in 2011....

...and here is the sketch done this year in 2015....

I remember facing the same limitations with using a waterbrush: I scraped the sky with plastic body of the brush in the first sketch in my effort get a large wash in the blue sky area, and I still had a hard time getting a large wash in the second sketch. Even with these restrictions, I think I made improvements in getting the value and got better at letting watercolor work its magic. It's amazing what four years of daily sketching can do, even when I am not aware of how I am progressing when I look at my sketches from day to day. Here's to more sketching in 2016, and my your new year filled with art! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl in San Diego

Here is a belated post about West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl that happened this summer. The Sketchcrawl took place in San Diego, which is a pleasant train ride away from Los Angeles. I sketched on the way to get ready, of course - I was passing by Oceanside, which lives up to its name.

Shiho Nakaza San Diego West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl San Diego watercolor train sketch Oceanside photo
Shiho Nakaza San Diego West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl San Diego watercolor train sketch Oceanside
As soon as I arrived in San Diego, I headed to Balboa Park to meet the group for some sketching. Balboa Park is very large, and has a lot of museums and gardens within its boundaries. I met my sketching friend Alice to do a quick watercolor study by the reflecting pond by the Botanical Building.

Shiho Nakaza San Diego West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl San Diego watercolor Balboa Park reflecting pond botanical building

After a group photo and lunch, I sketched the dancers at international dance group. I'm not too happy about this one - sitting under one of those colorful umbrellas made the color shift on this sketch - but I still enjoy sketching to record my experiences.

Shiho Nakaza San Diego West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl San Diego watercolor Balboa Park international dancers

Alice put her local knowledge of the city to good use and lead a small group of us to Alcazar Garden. I found a spot in the shade with a great view of Museum of Man. A small wedding was happening, so I included the couple in this sketch.

Shiho Nakaza San Diego West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl San Diego watercolor Balboa Park Alcazar Garden

On the next day, the group went to Old Town. This is the "birthplace of California", where the Europeans first settled in 1850's. There is still a flavor of Old West along with strong Mexican influence in the buildings. After a bit of scouting, I settled on sketching the colorful scenery at Fiesta de Reyes plaza. I attempted to sketch the dancer in traditional Mexican costume as well.

Shiho Nakaza San Diego West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl San Diego watercolor Old Town Fiesta de Reyes

Sketching as a group in a beautiful setting like San Diego is a great change of pace from my daily solo sketching at home. It was an ideal weekend getaway!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Ten Hours in Korea

On the way home from Urban Sketching Symposium in Singapore, I had a 10-hour layover in Inchon, Korea. I did some research beforehand and found that the airport offers free city tours specifically catering to people who are on long layovers!

After my arrival, I signed up for a Heungryunsa Temple tour of Inchon. The stop itself was very brief - maybe 15-20 minutes at the most -  so I made the best of it by sketching as fast as I can. I ran out of time for painting, so this was colored at home.

For the rest of the tour time, I scribbled what I saw out of the bus window. The town on Inchon looked clean and quiet. I hardly saw anyone walking (this was on a Thursday afternoon) - maybe it was due to the humid summer heat.

I passed through modern highways, spanning bridges, leafy trees, and a glimpse of the Yellow Sea. It made me contemplate that a city like this on the peninsula has a different landscape from an island (like my childhood in Japan), or an edge of a continent (like my current home in Los Angeles).

I had a pleasant experience back at the airport. I browsed some pottery and scrolls and got some stamps for my sketchbook at Korean cultural museum. I also visited a Korean spa with showers, communal bath, and a lounge to relax. After a good meal, I found the indoor observation deck area upstairs with Korean-style structure and benches for people to sit and watch the planes.

This was the most enjoyable layover I had. It made me want to visit Korea for a longer stay: it is another item on my growing list of places to visit!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Sketches from Cambodia

After the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore, I spent a few days with fellow Urban Sketchers artists to explore and sketch Cambodia. This was my second visit in Cambodia and it was more memorable than the first time I went in 2006 because I did not sketch then, and while I took a lot of photos, the experience truly sinks in only when I actively observe and record what I see. Being with other artists to share the experience this time also made for a fun trip.

Our first stop was ruins of Ta Prohm temple. It is where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. Lush green jungle took over the stone structures and a giant tree was growing on top of one of the ruins.

I had a hard time conveying the color and scale of this place, so I did several small studies. I also wanted to include the workers who are restoring parts of the temple - it seems that restoration is an ongoing work.

In the afternoon we went to Bayon temple in Angkor Thom. Bayon is known for giant carvings of faces on the surface of the buildings. I did a quick line sketch of the north gate as we rode in.

When I was inside Bayon complex, a monk with bright orange robe walked by, so I placed him in the sketch for scale and color.

I also like to capture everyday moments, like this tuk-tuk driver taking a nap in the parking lot outside of the temple complex. It gets very hot in the afternoon, so I am learning to pace myself and sketch at a leisurely pace to beat the heat.

This one is an entrance to Royal Palace in Angkor Thom complex. It makes me contemplate how the building might have looked when they were being used.

The next day we went to Angkor Wat, which is the most popular temple in Cambodia. The entire area and the temple itself is very grand. This sketch is a part of the back side of the temple - I couldn't fit the entire terrace in.

One I walked inside, the scale and complexity of the structure is very awe-inspiring.

It was a rainy afternoon when we went to Baphuon the next day. This temple was restored in 2011 so it was truly my first time visiting this site. I sat under the eaves and sketched the view of the building across from me, and included the carvings on the column. Listening and sketching to the cooling summer rain made me feel peaceful.

Besides the temples, I also enjoyed exploring the town of Siem Reap where we were staying. This is a quick sketch at night market on Pub Street of young guys doing leather work for shadow puppets. It was amusing to see the guy on the right pounding leather with a mallet while his friend is casually leaning against him and checking his phone.

I also went to Artisan D'Angkor, where young people are working on traditional Khmer arts like lacquering and carving. It is fascinating to me to see people working on their craft.

When I went to Psar Chas (Old Market), the smell and the heat were overwhelming, and the sound of vendors talking, birds flapping, andl tuk-tuks wheeling by added to the atmosphere. In the meantime, red plastic chairs caught my eye in front of the meat market (where I couldn't even identify the animals). I have seen similar stackable plastic chairs everywhere I have traveled, yet these had a decoration in the back so that became the focal point of this sketch.

More travel sketches are coming soon....

Sunday, August 30, 2015

More Sketches from Singapore

While I really enjoyed attending Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore, I had very little time outside of the workshops to sketch on my own, so I woke up early before the first workshops to sketch the nearby scenes. Singapore has a fascinating mix of modern and old buildings and multi-ethnic history, and I wanted to capture as much of it as I could. All the watercolors were done directly in my sketchbook without any preliminary pencil or pen lines - a lot of times that's the fastest way to jot down an impression!

On the very first day, my flight was delayed so it was around 7am by the time I arrived at the hotel. I dropped my bags and headed off to Sultan Mosque in Kampong Glam section of the city.

This mosque is at the end of Arab Street, which is lined with shophouses with various stores and restaurants below. From this view I could see the tip of the minaret of the mosque.

I joined a group sketchwalk in the afternoon at Purvis Street. I like the contrast of gray modern highrise in the background and colorful shophouses in the foreground.

On next day I went inside the courtyard of Raffles Hotel, which is a white colonial-style building. This sketch came out too busy with lots of elements, but it still reminds me of the peacefulness of that morning. 

I went to Waterloo Street on following day on recommendations from several sketchers. It was fascinating to see a Jewish synagogue, a Christian church, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple near each other on the same street. This one is a very quick impression of Sri Krishnan Temple from afar.

I had more time to sketch this Kuan Im Temple the next day, which happens to be right next to Sri Krishnan Temple (coincidentally represented by a stamp from the Symposium on the left - big thanks to the organizers for providing a fun souvenir!)

Another must-have element in Singapore is food. Everything I ate tasted great, and there are a wide array of cuisines that blend Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan influences. I usually don't sketch food because I'd rather be eating though it helped to get some pointers I learned from food sketching activity led by Anita Ryanto: use warm colors, and you can add texture to watercolor washes by sprinkling salt (which should be pretty easy to find if you are eating!) The dish below is Nasi Lamak sketched during the activity.

I do take my trusty Uniball Signo gel pen out to do small, quick "reference notes for later" type of sketches. This is a collage of odd and ends relating to food. The empty brown eggshell and teh (tea with condensed milk) on bottom right are remnants of kaya toast breakfast - the toast is not in the sketch because I ate it before I remembered to draw it :-)

I also made sure I didn't miss Gardens by the Bay. One of the attractions there are 16-story structures covered with a vertical garden called Supertrees. They are similar scale and shape to naturally tall trees, and they are lit up at night. The sketch below doesn't do justice, even after I added blue wash for night sky at home (It's a struggle to do watercolor painting in the dark), but it was a magical sight.

I also visited Cloud Forest at the Gardens, which is a plant conservatory with tallest indoor waterfall in the world. Interior is kept misted and cool while glass windows let in the sunlight. Backlighting on the plants as I peered and painted through the grotto added to the their beauty. Here are a few photos and some small sketches. The purple background on the second sketch was painted at home - I'm still learning to get dark colors really quickly on location!

People take elevators up to start their visit at the the top, and walk down spiral walkway. Fortunately I am not afraid of heights, but I made sure I held onto my pen and sketchbook while I was sketching so I don't drop them! The space was tight and I tried to squeeze against the railing to let a continuous stream of visitors pass through, so I did the linework on location, and painted this sketch at home.

After a whirlwind of sketching in Singapore, I went to Cambodia with a group of fellow urban sketchers - more sketches will be posted soon!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sketching at Urban Sketching Workshops in Singapore

I really enjoyed attending Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore - the energy of people gathering to draw on location is contagious! I appreciate the hospitality shown by local sketchers, and it was fun to meet new sketching friends in addition to meeting familiar sketching friends I met over the last few symposiums.

I've taken some workshops at the Symposium to concentrate on learning to paint as opposed to "drawing with color". In the meantime, I also took workshop taught by Lapin on 180 Degree Sketching to capture the scene as if with a fisheye lens - and it was a lot of fun to think of perspective in an organic way.

Workshop taught by Nina Johansson was about observing and expressing how the light tend to fade from the sky to the ground. This Selegie Arts Centre was part of many shophouses on Prinsep Street. The wedge shape and different colors on the building made it challenging and fun to paint at the same time.

Workshop taught by Shari Blaukopf was about using a big brush to paint in broad strokes. This helps to cover the paper with paint quickly to better capture the moment. This is a view of the National Museum, which is at the same place where Worldwide Sketchcrawl took place. Painting in hot, humid conditions meant that my washes (and paints in my palette) almost never dries completely, so it was hard to add darker colors without it running. I finished adding some dark values at home for this piece.

Workshop taught by Matthew Brehm was about learning to study the color values and making clean watercolor washes. I did many thumbnail sketches at Singapore Management University - this is one of them. Singapore has a bright light that is ideal for seeing the contrast on the buildings very clearly.

While sketches I do at workshops are typically not my personal best, I know what I learned at the workshops will sink in and help me advance my sketching skills - so I did as much sketches as I could in the short amount of free time I had in Singapore. More of those sketches will be posted later as I finish scanning them....