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

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.

Can Drawing be Taught ?

Every time I tell people that I teach drawing.  I am faced with this assumption that it cannot be taught. 

portfolio_workshop_students2.jpg

Half in jest, I often joke about artist profiles that stated how young they were when they started or how long they have served as apprentice to famed artists. These profiles seem to incite a sense of head-start, discouraging others from joining if they have discovered Art later in life.  It is also worthy to note that romance occupied the arts. 

Many love this notion that an artist is born, never made. To me, that’s a little ludicrous. Imagine a baby born and the next thing you know, picked up a pencil and started drawing ! A true and natural talent, ya ? I would personally run if I witness such prodigy ! (traditional arts we talking about here BTW)

Many Asians have this tradition that 'predicts' the future of their kids base of items they would pick during their birthday . This baby shows an affinity towards money. (image from Japanupdate.com)

Many Asians have this tradition that 'predicts' the future of their kids base of items they would pick during their birthday . This baby shows an affinity towards money. (image from Japanupdate.com)

Dramatic, I know…but that also seems to be the romance fantasized by many.  Interestingly, this is also how many artists are commonly evaluated or marketed for his/her monetary worth. 

Dali, clearly understood the importance of being perceived as a born-Artist and introduced himself as the divine Dali and informed his audiences that he was born with the blood of Gala. No kidding.

Dali, clearly understood the importance of being perceived as a born-Artist and introduced himself as the divine Dali and informed his audiences that he was born with the blood of Gala. No kidding.

Are Artists are born?
Well..... Though I can’t dispute that some are born with better hands and eyes coordination. The same can be said for driving, flying or even walking. Some of us just have peculiar motor-skills but we can all learn to be better drivers, swimmers, runners or pilots.

So,.....Yes ! drawing can be taught and everyone can draw.  As far as how well one can draw.. It all boils down to the level of interest, effort and determination.

Personally, I have taught drawing for close to a decade and here are what I have observed:

Sketch of my students during studio time. 

Sketch of my students during studio time. 

  • Improvement and progress are always the most dramatic during the first few weeks of drawing classes.
  • Students are thrilled when they learnt that there are actually proper instructions and technique to drawing/ they would pick up pace on hands and eyes coordination and their observational drawings would improve dramatically during the first 4 weeks. 
  • Depending on the group’s size, progress usually tapers off around week 4 when students noticed the development of their peers. When students notice that others can obtain better results, many start to lose interest and reduce effort. (risk adverse strategy) This is often challenging since it’s hard to justify for the additional effort required.
     
Sometimes, students get so competitive over drawing that they openly criticize outstanding students for spoiling the 'market', guilt tripping them, in collective effort to stop the better artists from widening the gap. (This is a very common scenario in Singapore schools/society)

Sometimes, students get so competitive over drawing that they openly criticize outstanding students for spoiling the 'market', guilt tripping them, in collective effort to stop the better artists from widening the gap. (This is a very common scenario in Singapore schools/society)

Some competition is good but excessive competition and insecurity is death to motivation. 

Some competition is good but excessive competition and insecurity is death to motivation. 

So do I think drawing can be taught?

Well... My conclusion is that it can be taught but only some can accept or afford the necessary effort required. I have also personally come to believe that it’s a lot healthier to learn drawing when you approach it like Yoga, instead of O-level Mathematics.

When you don’t have to reside livelihood on drawing, you won’t be pressured to compare your effort and with less anxiety, you can definitely achieve better results.

You must enjoy art to learn it. 

You must enjoy art to learn it. 

 


I am currently conducting a sketching tour (For beginners) to Bhutan in Jun 15-June 21. Join me and rekindle your love for the arts. Limited to 10 particpants. Visit www.drukasia.com for more information. 

James's Gurney Vol 1 , The Living Sketchbook

I was pleasantly surprised when James Gurney invited me to review his latest app, Vol 1 Boyhood Home.  James Gurney lives the life of a painter/illustrator and shares his work extensively on youtube. He is also the artist and author of the book ‘Color and Light’ and Dinotopia.  Yup! I am a huge fan of his work.

His latest app, Vol 1 Boyhood Home. 

His latest app, Vol 1 Boyhood Home. 

When I found out about his app, I thought to myself: “Why didn’t I think of that?”  It embraces technology and allowed user an opportunity to get closer to an artist’s sketchbook.  The app functions as an ebook with the option of voice narration. Some pages also included videos to his painting process. Imagine a talking sketchbook with videos.
 

Finally, a sketchbook that talks to you :) 

Finally, a sketchbook that talks to you :) 

The only 3 buttons in this app. 

Unlike a physical book, there were few words to read and users can zoom into every painting for its brushstrokes and details. Each painting is also accompanied by a voice narration and James carefully recorded the ambient sounds of each setting to give us a better sense of the actual environment. With sights and sounds, he takes us through his decision-making processes and introduced us to his painting tools, techniques and materials.

I mean, real details. Something analog books can't offer

I mean, real details. Something analog books can't offer

The app was really intuitive and easy to navigate. To go to next page, you swipe the image.  To zoom in, you pinch outwards. Last but not least, there are buttons that brings out the voice narrations with occasional videos of how he has painted on-site. Though most of his fans may have seen his paintings videos on his youtube channel, this app presented a uniquely seamless and comprehensive experience to peek into James Gurney’s sketchbook.  

Video process of his work. One click away. 

Video process of his work. One click away. 

I love how James is constantly improving his work and exploring new avenues to showcase them. This app is a great example of how traditional art can co-exist with technology and deliveries

 The first volume of the Living Sketchbook app will be available March 20 for $4.99 for both iOS and Android phones and tablets (go here for updates).

How to Commute Sketch like a ninja

SECRET UNVEILED !!!!!!!

The Secret Manuel to Ninja Sketching in the commute. 

The Secret Manuel to Ninja Sketching in the commute. 

Step 1 :
Find a good spot to draw
 If you can find a seat, perfect . Otherwise. look for somewhere you can lean against to secure that support. A hardbound sketchbook is crucial and  Its imperative to bring a small sketchbook.  Simple logic. Something huge = attention grabber. If you want attention and want to be invisible, this may not be  for you.  Really. 

Step 2:
Tempo
Since your hand and the train are often moving in opposing directions, it is wise to gauge the speed of the vehicle before you push ink around. When the vehicle stops, it is the most stable. When it accelerates, its not wise to lay in intricate lines . When its at optimum speed, its stable again. Finally, if it stops abruptly, be ready to stop. In short, gain a sense of the tempo and movement. 

Step 3
Be invisible:
Its really easy. Don't lock eyes with anyone no matter how cute he/she is, Don't smile or try to wink at them ,  avoiding wearing something loud and try to blend in as normal person, sitting still,  pretending to take note.  Always keep a 45 degree tilt and look at sketchbook, with occasional peek at your subjects.  If he/she is really cute, alone, and you did a fantastic job ? Consider parting that precious piece of drawing for his/ her number. Remember to assess risk versus reward. This is all well within the code of ethic in my ninja book. You go !

Step 4:
Overlap and fore shorting:
To draw fast, you need to be economic with your strokes, Its absolutely imperative to master foreshortening . Take mental note of overlapped shapes with that magical "T" . Allocate sufficient white spaces to secure foreground/backgrounds shapes.  You don't have to draw with pen, pencil works great as well. Pen is just another one of those ego boaster for people who can draw.  No kidding  !! STOP IT, Mouthbreathers who brag about your ink drawings. 

Step 5: 
Chose easier subjects if you can't deal with that kid who has ADHD. Life is stressful enough and a ninja don't get promoted for catching Flash on the subway . Consider the following subject if you are just picking up Ninjatsu :
1) Sleepers- duh
2) Phone drones -double duh
3) Reader s-Triple duh
4) Back View. ( i know what you're thinking but hey its a start)

Step 6:
Montage:
A montage is a great way to get into the flow of just drawing. Once you gather more confidence and speed, you can sketch an entire row of commuters without breaking a sweat.

Step 7
Ethics:
If someone notice ? You can either stop or ask for permission. Obviously, its riskier if you ask for permission. However, you will be surprised by how many nice people there are on the commute.  At any given rate, if they get real mad at you for drawing their cute husband or wife ? Be prepared to give them that piece of drawing, and bounce.  Really, its not worth fighting for Art. The last time I saw someone fighting over who use  some ABC pen first versus who drew triangle before there is even squares ? I almost cut myself.  

This is it. Its that simple/ Have fun sketching on your commute :) 

PS: if you are a transit company and wish that I can teach my Ninjastu to your customers ? Holler !  POOF*

Commute Sketchers

I started the Commute Sketchers Facebook group a while back to gather and discuss about commute sketchers. Recently, I approached local transit companies, SMRT and SBS to see if they would be interested to showcase our work. Both companies expressed interest and SBS transit was most proactive. This is a trial run and we managed to get our sketches into Bedok, Bishan, Boon Lay and Clementi Bus interchange. SBS is currently pending approval from LTA to exhibit our work in the MRT stations of their downtown line. 

Commute Sketchers at Bishan Bus Interchange 

Commute Sketchers at Bishan Bus Interchange 

The media took this news well and we were featured on all the major newspapers in Singapore. 

We were in The Straits Time. Zao Bao, The New Paper and even Channel News Asia

We were in The Straits Time. Zao Bao, The New Paper and even Channel News Asia

Chee Chew's take on our sketches :P

Chee Chew's take on our sketches :P

Here are some challenges that I faced when it comes to getting the commute sketches onto the transit system:

1) Territory:
Art is undeniably territorial.  In Singapore, the Artwork in MRT stations are commissioned and selected by a committee that determines who deserved to be in the stations. The MRT stations are also governed by LTA (Land Transport Authority).  In short.  LTA elect a committee who will select the artists and commission them to make Art for the station.

Art in Transit -  An Art Commission by the LTA in our MRT Stations.

Art in Transit -  An Art Commission by the LTA in our MRT Stations.

2) Red Tapes:
Apart from territory, there are always bureaucracies. Some of the train companies’ staff I communicated with expressed concern about privacy and influences. They worried that by showing our sketches. It would mean that they are promoting a less ‘safe’ environment. Some were concerned that if they showcase our work, others would approach them for visibility and they would not be able to justify these. (Bear in mind , I emailed their CEOs and it is ALWAYS their CEOs who would instruct them to explore possibilities.)

Having sketched in the trains for so many years, I am certain that no one can recognize anyone from my drawings. The train cabins are installed with an insane amount of security cameras. If there is any concern about privacy? It would be the train companies' CCTV and the numerous smartphones commuters carry.

3) Art for Art Sake:
We wanted to showcase commute sketches. Unfortunately, one company couldn’t conceive this notion of showing the real landscape and suggested that we sketch what they feel would be ‘beneficial’ in terms of promoting their company’s cultures and value.  I found this ironic because what we drew was genuinely what they offered and delivered. Shrugs*

4) Money:
I am blessed to have gathered a bunch of friends who were willing to share their work and are just happy to see them in the public. Right from the get-go, we didn’t expect remuneration unless the transport company commissioned us to do work tailored to their needs. Of course, all of us would be happy if remunerated for our talents and contributions.
 Making money from art is a tough nut to crack.

5) Group:
Coordinating a group can be challenging but I am very fortunate to have work with a really responsive group.  They all submitted work when I asked and there was no politicking. Everyone was fun, enthusiastic and understanding. I reckon the key is to work with a small group and to be ultra transparent.  Our group included: Alvin Mark, Francis Theo, Benedict Tay, James Tan, James Lim, Pocholo Issa Estremos & Ken lee. They are the founding members. 

Congratulations to everyone involved and hoooray to the commute sketchers ! Special thanks to SBS transit Limited for partnering with us. 

To join us ? Visit our facebook group at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/commutesketchers/

The commute sketchers !

The commute sketchers !

https://www.facebook.com/groups/commutesketchers/

 

In Transit 2016

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).

 

Professor Hiroshi an Jonathon with his wife stop by my show :) 

Professor Hiroshi an Jonathon with his wife stop by my show :) 

Marshall Shorts :) 

Marshall Shorts :) 

Nate and Dr Yu with me

Nate and Dr Yu with me

Randy Liu from 1GR Builders

Randy Liu from 1GR Builders

Charlotte Belland = Best Animation professor !

Charlotte Belland = Best Animation professor !

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. 

Got to join Nate, Hiroshi and a bunch of real top notch artists in figure drawing at the Ohio Art league.

Got to join Nate, Hiroshi and a bunch of real top notch artists in figure drawing at the Ohio Art league.

Pretending to be serious = looking like a kungfu master

Pretending to be serious = looking like a kungfu master

she was an amazing model .

she was an amazing model .

Sean from S77  (The baddest mograph shop) set me up with a VR to see how my future wife will look like. UNBELIEVEABLE

Sean from S77  (The baddest mograph shop) set me up with a VR to see how my future wife will look like. UNBELIEVEABLE

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.

I finally made it to Yosemite !!!

I finally made it to Yosemite !!!

So lucky to know yall !!!

So lucky to know yall !!!

Yosemite is for real. 

Yosemite is for real. 

Pencil Cafe is my Favorite Cafe. 

Pencil Cafe is my Favorite Cafe.