Sunday, September 7, 2014

Visiting Louise

View from the winding driveway

Last Sunday, I finally had the chance to visit the Segu Bungalow when Louise invited USK members for sketching and morning tea.
I have passed this building many times as I was growing up – it is at the midpoint of my journey from my grandmother’s house and the basketball court at SUPP. Perched on a hill, the house itself is not very visible from the road (then called Pig Lane – recently sterilized to Park Lane) but its most arresting feature can be seen from the road, the ceiling covered with dozens of colourful native art murals.
Its most arresting feature is the ceiling covered with dozens of colourful native art murals.

Members of USK showing their completed sketches, our host Louise is seated far left
This historical building was originally located near the Segu River in the Padawan area; built as a holiday house for Rajah Vyner Brooke by Tan Sri William Tan, a former speaker of the Sarawak Assembly. In 1936, it was dismantled and relocated to its present location.

Since then, the bungalow has been the residence of Tom Harrison the former curator of the Sarawak Museum and many other expatriates including our friend, Louise who heads the non-profit, Friends of the Sarawak Museum.

I found two articles relating to the ceiling murals - one claims that they were painted by Tusau Padan, a Kenyah from Ulu Baram and Harrison cohort while the other by a member of the Sarawak Heritage Society informs that the murals were originally painted on paper and glued to the ceiling. Since the second article makes no mention of Tom Harrison as an inhabitant of the Segu Bungalow, I am going to discount it. 

The front verandah opens out onto a secret garden not visible from the road

The main house is linked to a servants' quarters

View from the top of the drive

The floor plan reveals that half the house is a covered verandah

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Sale

Recently I sold the first of my sketches to James who wanted it as a birthday present for a friend, I was not able to name a price for the A3 sketch and suggested that he simply paid a donation to the Sarawak Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), which he did handsomely.

James has the idea that I can display some of my sketches in his new bar for sale - I am torn between displaying scanned prints of my sketches, and producing originals which takes more time and commitment but contains the trace of hand and therefore, a touch of soul.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Walk Back in Time

On Sunday I took a walk back in time on that familiar road that led me from my grandma's house to school. Almost everything has changed along Tabuan Road since those days in the seventies but in my mind, the row of single storey shops are still there where in one of them, a man and his son sold deep fried fritters from the five foot way. The customers took away the foot-long fritters in a parcel fashioned from yesterday's news and a length of string. There was often a queue of customers waiting for this breakfast delicacy; usually dunked in sweet coffee before that delicious first bite.

Beyond the shops is a tall metal fence, and behind them; the town prison with its barred windows.
Further down the road just as it is about to turn up McDougall Hill, a solitary tree on a triangular piece of land which is the traffic island and local landmark - "sa-kak-po"

On rainy days, my grandmother would drive the neighbour's children and I to school and along the way, she often stops to pick up my class-mates; saving them from a wet walk to class. In that ten- minute drive, the car would fill up with up to half a dozen school children who were just happy to have a break from routine - talking loudly and jostling for space.

Some of my companions this Sunday were equally boisterous and energetic - some young and some not-so-young, scattered throughout the vicinity of my childhood memories in the late afternoon.

The usual highlight of our USK sketch crawls is the sharing of our sketches and a group photo, however this Sunday, this was surpassed by George's pizza treat. I was sitting in front of the supermarket, putting in the line-work when I heard a familiar voice -"Min!, come by and have pizza later, and bring your kids!" George and Rosalind are the chef and owners of The Junk, a popular local restaurant that serves up western favourites in a row of restored Chinese shop houses.

One of the many joys of living in a small-ish city where most people know one another, and are generous and inclusive. I'll give George some of my postcard sketches as payment for the pizzas and beers.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sketching on-site

Our Urban Sketchers Kuching group is growing in number and I am pleased to see new comers each time we meet. I thought that a few sketching tips might come in handy for their next excursion...

Step 1
Make some marks to determine the limits of your view.

Step 2
Link up the marks with lines to create a perspective; giving your sketch depth of view. Don't worry about details yet. Its about getting the general feel of the place. I take my glasses off and use free flowing strokes to frame the body of the sketch.

Step 3
I add details, shade and tone now (with glasses on).
I decide where the focus is and leave the rest of the sketch loose and vague.
Colours are often added at home and these are used sparingly to suggest rather than to inform.
Some other useful hints
1. On site sketching is about being spontaneous, so be brave and commit line to page, don't erase.
2. Show your viewer the whole street and not just one building, mundane objects like street signs can often enhance your sketch and give it a local flavour.
3. Drawing in people will give your sketch scale and a sense of place.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Room without a view

After our run on Saturday, Sia made some observations about sketching and sketchers in general; about the general lack of imagination regarding the subject of their sketches. "..why draw the hotel room when you can simply open the window and draw what is outside?..."
Well, today I found this sketch that I drew of my room at Bay Hotel Singapore - I did not draw the view outside the windows instead I was more interested in capturing the facilities the hotel designer was able to fit into a space the size of a car park (2.5 x 5.0 m).

view from the bed

the little dots at the side of the sketch represent one metre spacings

Monday, July 21, 2014

Running Happy

On a windy night in July, three thousand people gathered at the Kuching city hall to run distances from 5 to 25K to raise money for local charities. Some of us used the 25K as train for the Kuching Marathon in August - I joined them for one loop of the two loop run and enjoyed myself overtaking runners who normally race past me.

The sketch was done in the following morning, as a part of a visual journal - showing the end of the run as we headed towards the city hall.
Some people have no decorum...