watercolor

Sketch Bhutan June 2018 by erwin lian

Last week, in collaboration with Drukasia, I conducted Sketch Bhutan 2018. Similar to last year, participants from Australia and Singapore joined me on an all-inclusive sketching tour to Bhutan. Within 7 days, they learned about sketching and painting on-site while touring Bhutan.

Here are some of my paintings and sketches completed during the workshops:

Flight to Bhutan via Drukair

Flight to Bhutan via Drukair

Tiger nest sketch 

Tiger nest sketch 

Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu

Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu

Chimi Lhakhang , Punakha

Chimi Lhakhang , Punakha

Thimphu from Namgay Heritage

Thimphu from Namgay Heritage

Live drawing of Sangay

Live drawing of Sangay

Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha (36.5 cm x 24 cm)

Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha (36.5 cm x 24 cm)

Punakha Dzong, 37.5cm x 21 cm)

Punakha Dzong, 37.5cm x 21 cm)

Shop houses opposite the post office. (26 cm x 18 cm)

Shop houses opposite the post office. (26 cm x 18 cm)

Tashichho Dzong 27 cm x 12.5 cm

Tashichho Dzong 27 cm x 12.5 cm

The backstory to Sketch Bhutan:
About three years ago, I spent a month in Bhutan volunteering as an Art coach to various primary schools and organization.

Taught drawing to Shaba Primary and donated some art supplies to their art club.

Taught drawing to Shaba Primary and donated some art supplies to their art club.

As part of my effort, I rallied a few Bhutanese friends to initiate Thimphu’s Urban Sketchers chapter. Just like that, Urban Sketchers, Thimphu chapter was born =)

The founding members of Urban Sketchers, Thimphu 

The founding members of Urban Sketchers, Thimphu 

While I enjoyed coaching art to students in Bhutan, one of the things that troubled me extensively was the guilt of influencing others to pick up art where a livelihood may never be realized. When Bhutanese children asked me about the future of being an artist?

At Shaba Primary, I brought them art supplies and sketchbooks sponsored by Bynd Artisan and a few friends.

At Shaba Primary, I brought them art supplies and sketchbooks sponsored by Bynd Artisan and a few friends.

I cringed and advised them to enjoy sketching merely as a hobby. This episode bugged me for years as I persisted with my hunt for a more sustainable lifestyle in the arts. Sketch Bhutan is one of these initiatives where I bring tourists to Bhutan to not only sketch and tour but also for creating meaningful interactions and exchanges with Bhutanese artists. Members of VAST Bhutan (Voluntary Artists' Studio Thimphu) for instance, are welcome to attend our sketch lessons and a hired Bhutanese Art Instructor, Rajesh, co-teaches with me throughout our sketch and travel experience.

Unlike other sketching experiences that I'd attended, our focus isn’t on the technical competencies in sketching. Rather, I wanted to provide the perfect travel sketch experience where participants can very comfortably sketch and be fully immersed with their environment. Accompanied by a professional tour guide and driver, Sketch Bhutan offers the harmonious ease of an on-location group sketching experience.

Sketch Bhutan 2017

Sketch Bhutan 2017

Sketch Bhutan 2017

Unlike other sketching experiences that I'd attended, our focus isn’t on the technical competencies in sketching. Rather, I wanted to provide the perfect travel sketch experience where participants can very comfortably sketch and be fully immersed with their environment. Accompanied by a professional tour guide and driver, Sketch Bhutan offers the harmonious ease of an on-location group sketching experience.

Highlights of Sketch Bhutan 2018:
This year, we managed to find a new and wonderful spot to sketch and paint Tashichho Dzong.

Painting Tashichho Dzong 

Painting Tashichho Dzong 

Another successful run of portrait drawing at VAST Bhutan

Another successful run of portrait drawing at VAST Bhutan

Sangay and her friend Tshsten were our beautiful models

Sangay and her friend Tshsten were our beautiful models

Once again, we were very fortunate to have VAST Bhutan host us and invited Sangay and Tschten, to be our models. VAST students were amazingly attentive and time went by so quickly at VAST. 

The friendly children in Thimphu.

The friendly children in Thimphu.

While sketching the old buildings around Thimphu, a group of children came to us and offered us candies.

Punakha Dzong. The most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan

Punakha Dzong. The most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan

In Punakha, We switched gears and I taught color theory and the handling of pigment for plein-air watercolor studies. We also visited Bhutan’s most beautiful Dzong, Punakha Dzong and spent our evening painting this iconic fortress.

Of course, we didn’t forget to end our trip without a sketch Bhutan’s most sublime attraction, The Tiger Nest at Paro.

Phyllis sketching up at Tiger's Nest

Phyllis sketching up at Tiger's Nest

When is the next Sketch Bhutan

As long as there are 4 participants interested? They can register via Drukasia tour agency.
Bhutan’s finest artist, Rajesh will be leading Sketching Bhutan. Rajesh is a co-founder of VAST Bhutan and has extensive experience teaching, sketching and painting on-location.

Contact Drukasia today to request for a sketching tour.

Rajesh, one of the finest artists in Bhutan will be leading Sketch Bhutan tours. Contact Drukasia to book your next sketching tour. 

Rajesh, one of the finest artists in Bhutan will be leading Sketch Bhutan tours. Contact Drukasia to book your next sketching tour. 

What have I learned or gained from starting Sketching Bhutan?

1st time:

  • Blown away by Bhutan’s pristine landscape and wished I have more time to paint the place.This wish came true when Drukasia bartered the usage of my sketches on their corporate calendar in exchange for a 2 weeks trip to Bhutan
Paintings featured in Drukasia's calendar

Paintings featured in Drukasia's calendar


2nd time:
Solo painting trip.

  • I gotten to know quite a number people and was given this special cockpit landing experience.Was commissioned by Drukair to do a painting.
  • Participated in a group show with the finest Bhutan Artists in Singapore. 
Group show with Asha Karma and other VAST artists.

Group show with Asha Karma and other VAST artists.

3rd time:

  • Spent close to 3 weeks teaching and sketching Bhutan.
  • Volunteered to do sketching and painting workshops at Shaba primary, VAST Bhutan and also Thimphu Primary school.
  • Experienced the real local life with local accommodations.
Teaching basic of drawing at VAST Bhutan

Teaching basic of drawing at VAST Bhutan

  • Help founded Urban Sketchers, Thimphu chapter. The following year, founding members of Urban Sketchers, Thimphu were invited to attend the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore.
Look for the Bhutanese in the group !

Look for the Bhutanese in the group !

4th time:

  • Collaborated with Drukasia and initiated Sketch Bhutan. Brought 8 special participants to The Kingdom of Bhutan. The whole experience forced me to recognize and come to term with various aspects of running a successful traveling workshop. From cost and preparation of art materials, marketing, to the considerations of logistical arrangements and teaching materials, it was challenging to make these work. The operation needed to be profitable so that it can be sustainable. 
Sketch Bhutan 2017

Sketch Bhutan 2017

5th time:
Second Sketch Bhutan.

  • Successfully handed Sketch Bhutan to Bhutan artists, Rajesh.
  • Operations will continue with more frequencies!
  • I had plenty of epiphanies throughout these trips but what hit me hard on the 5th trip were our interactions with romance. Often driven by insecurities, many of us like to park our ideals in romance and unconsciously subscribed to delusions.
  • It’s also interesting to note that by doing something for the locals, I am granted this ‘role-reversal’, where I get to experience how it is like to be ‘in control’ and to objectively assess my own predicaments and solutions. The tussle for power, status and pecking order diminishes in the grand scheme of things.  Life is just a dream.

How to make use of fresh pigment to paint on-site. by erwin lian

Perhaps the most useful technique by watercolor plein-air artists.

This technique allow you to complete a painting on-site without getting bugged down by details or with too many glazes.  Theoretically, you can complete within 3 layers. However, apart from time constraint, there aren't any rules to why you should limit yourself to just 3 layers. Bear in mind that this method is most appropriate when you use fresh pigment from a tube.. 

Here's how you work the magic. By the way, I am demonstrating with just two colors. Why ? Because beginners too often have problem managing colors . If you can't even work with 2 ? Reduce it to one. There's no prize for the artists who uses most colors.  


At the most fundamental level, one just need to ensure that that the correct sense of color temperature is in place. Excessive colors rarely enhance an image when the temperature shift is nothing but a chaos. 

Important things to remember when painting: 

  • Shapes + Composition (Simplification and design is key. It is literally impossible to paint everything)
  • Value structure / Good drawing / Chiaroscuro (extremely important for watercolor since it rely extensively on light versus dark dramatic structure )
  • Soft versus hard edges
  • Color temperature (warm versus cool) . There is no need to score accurate color. A painter merely depict a color's relationship to its surrounding. e.g does the color have more warmth (Red or orange) or cool (Green or blue) in it ? 
Think about the density of tea, milk or cream to assess how thick or thin your paints are. Maximum coverage is made with the thinnest layer, mid tone and shadow mass are all connected with milk layer and details are left in for for thickest coat of paint. (error - Tea layer was yellow orche and not burnt sienna as written above:)

Think about the density of tea, milk or cream to assess how thick or thin your paints are. Maximum coverage is made with the thinnest layer, mid tone and shadow mass are all connected with milk layer and details are left in for for thickest coat of paint. (error - Tea layer was yellow orche and not burnt sienna as written above:)

Putting it all together: (two colors)

The technique sounds all easy but can be quite a challenge when you are on-site and overwhelmed by the gamut of colors and details that mother nature throws at you.

The truth is, no one can paint everything on the spot. A good painting isn't a good photo and how you capture the essence creates the impression that mattered the most. (Paint language)
A few things to note:

  • Things will change.
  • You are painting an illusion and it doesn't have to include everything. 
  • A quick thumbnail study is exceptionally useful for a complicated scene. I often make the mistake of painting without preparation, only to regret after I lay down the first wash. 
  • Resolve your value structure before you paint. Changes in light cannot affect your vision if you have this road mapIts also a whole lot easier to focus on other aspects of painting if you have this. 
An illustration of how this works. Putting it together for a scene . Note that you want to cover as much as possible with the first lay-in wash.

An illustration of how this works. Putting it together for a scene . Note that you want to cover as much as possible with the first lay-in wash.

The watercolor clock as illustrated here and taught by the famous water colorist Joseph Zbukvic. On this clock, he documented the way to assess pigment's consistency versus the result on the various degree of wetness on the paper. His book however is out-of-print but this remained a crucial technique for anyone trying to paint on-sight.

The watercolor clock as illustrated here and taught by the famous water colorist Joseph Zbukvic. On this clock, he documented the way to assess pigment's consistency versus the result on the various degree of wetness on the paper. His book however is out-of-print but this remained a crucial technique for anyone trying to paint on-sight.

In Transit 2016 by erwin lian

In-Transit

Sep 01, 2016.
One month in America.

During this trip, I caught up with so many friends and held a show at Curt’s new tattoo shop, Enso Tattoo.  My flight was delayed in Hong Kong due to the weather. When I reached Dallas? I missed the connection to Ohio… Luckily, there was another flight scheduled for CMH and I reached at about 2am. (Thursday night)

Jet lag consumed me and I couldn’t sleep… Awake the whole time, I proceeded to set up my show with Curt until midnight on Friday. I was completely destroyed on Friday night but In-Transit was scheduled to open on Saturday and we have 29 paintings to frame and hang….  
 

Eventually we succeeded and put everything up right before Gallery Hop !

Eventually we succeeded and put everything up right before Gallery Hop !

 It came as a nice surprise when one of my backers, Cassandra for The Perfect Sketchbook notified her mum to visit my show on Saturday. What's interesting is that Cassandra who now lives in France was actually from Columbus, Ohio. Her mum bought a painting that day before the show opened!!

Framing and putting up 29 paintings within 48 hours wouldn’t be possible without my amazing friends. Special thanks to these amazing friends: Daniel Painter (Decal) Curt Everitte (everything) Joe Galati (Cutting Matts and frames) Nathaniel Wood (Cutting Mattes and frame).

 

Taught a watercolor workshop to a bunch of Tattoo Artists and Enthusiast at Enso Tatto 

Taught a watercolor workshop to a bunch of Tattoo Artists and Enthusiast at Enso Tatto 

The show successfully opened on Gallery Hop night. Unfortunately the traffic wasn’t that great since there was an Ohio State game. However, I was super stoked to have caught up with many of my college friends and professors. It was defiantly one of those moments where I felt a genuine sense of belonging.  Realizing that I haven’t done much to promote my show, Professor Hiroshi suggested that I email the Columbus Dispatch to notify them of my show. I thought it was harmless and emailed. Interestingly, the Columbus Dispatch responded and wrote a full front page feature on their life section in the papers. A few more sales resulted from this feature.  Thanks to Charlotte, I was also given a chance to speak to an audience of about 100 students in the Cazani auditorium at The Columbus College of Art. 

Interview by The Columbus Dispatch 

Interview by The Columbus Dispatch 

Speaking at CCAD 

Speaking at CCAD 

There’s so much I wanted to write here but the most important things really aren’t my paintings or my crowd funding projects. It’s actually my amazing friends in America who saw me through the toughest time in college and life; they are my family’. Mad thanks to Dr Chilin Yu for always sharing her wisdom with me and not forgetting the Yue family and CaregiverUSA for providing me with shelter in Columbus, Ohio again.

I didn't have much advertising. So we printed a bunch of cards and we just try to plaster as much as possible, wherever possible. (bad idea).. Here's one at CCAD. I didn't get approval because I was out of time. 

I didn't have much advertising. So we printed a bunch of cards and we just try to plaster as much as possible, wherever possible. (bad idea).. Here's one at CCAD. I didn't get approval because I was out of time. 

The Yue Family provided shelter and cycling ! Thank you 

The Yue Family provided shelter and cycling ! Thank you 

We cycled to the zoo to sent Nora away. 

We cycled to the zoo to sent Nora away. 

Then one day, I just rent a car and gun it all the way to Canada to see this. 

Then one day, I just rent a car and gun it all the way to Canada to see this. 

Went Plein-air with Curt at The Hocking Hills. Listened to radiolab on the roads.

Went Plein-air with Curt at The Hocking Hills. Listened to radiolab on the roads.

My painting at Hocking hills. 

My painting at Hocking hills. 

she was an amazing model .

she was an amazing model .

Cleveland Musuem of Art is one hell of an impressive musuem 

Cleveland Musuem of Art is one hell of an impressive musuem 

Met a gentlemen who works for a major eCommerce store when I was sketching here. He offered some freelance work. 

Met a gentlemen who works for a major eCommerce store when I was sketching here. He offered some freelance work. 

After Ohio, I took a flight to California and spent two weeks there to catch up with west coast buddies. I finally managed to visit Yosemite. It was amazing and I am so thankful. Thank you Youn and Hao for making it all possible. pd thanks to Janice and Pencil Cafe for convincing me to visit them.  I love you all.

Yosemite is for real. 

Yosemite is for real. 

Pencil Cafe is my Favorite Cafe. 

Pencil Cafe is my Favorite Cafe.