Friday, October 16, 2015

Sketching in challenging conditions ...

Sketching can be a fun way to capture the moment or it can be like a test of will power. I hadn't posted anything from the Urbansketchers Symposium from Singapore so I thought I'd post about sketching in challenging conditions. 

I am hoping others share some ways they battle challenging conditions so I have some extra game plans like managing snow conditions like Shari (from Montreal Urbansketchers) by painting in the car. 

Handling the WEATHER

I can handle dry heat up to 45 C and I can handle the humidity in Brisbane. But, the humidity in Singapore was more consistent and I wasn't acclimatised coming from the Australian winter. It typically takes most people about 2 weeks to acclimatise to the climate. I adjusted how I sketched by mixing being outside to resting in an air-conditioned cafe. 

Tip 1: Find Shade

Find shade if you can. It might just be looking closer or further on street level but you can also find vantage points from cafes and public buildings from higher levels. The sketch below was done in the shade of the outdoor stage with the sea breeze to cool us down as well as an ice Kopi! We sketched the Science Centre and Marina Bay Sands from here. 

Choir practice for the SG50 celebration underneath the outdoor stage on the Esplenade, Singapore

William Jolly Bridge from Level 3 QAGOMA, Brisbane

Tip 2: Pick a different Time
It might not always be possible, but iyou might want to do a quick pencil sketch if the subject grabs you and come back to do a painted version at a different time. If you want to do a sketch of your local town, coming back at a different time could give you a completely different mood to your sketch.  

Both of the sketches below were completed with Kumi (from Tokyo Urbansketchers). I painted the Raffles hotel from the bus seats whilst Kumi had her own seat. At this time, we were both in the shade. I still remember that even at dusk it was still hot enough to melt the chocolate in Kumi's bag.  

We would have been in the shade in the Skytree, but doing a night time sketch could be fun too! 

Raffles Hotel, Singapore (L) and View of the Tokyo Tower from the Skytree, Japan (R)

Tip 3: Ask a Local
In Singapore, a friend recommended Clark Quay to sketch in the morning. All the restaurants were closed so that we could the tables and chairs and a cool breeze was blowing. There was a view of the marina bay sands, boats to practice my reflections and a coffee shop within a 5 min walk. Great opportunity to sketch and to catch up. 

Clarke Quay, Singapore

Handling the TOOLS

Sometimes you have a location where there are tables and seats, and sometimes you don't. I tend to have a compact sketch kit with watercolours but there are times I make a slight adjustment. 

Tip 4: Find a makeshift Table

For the sketch of Career del Bisbe in Barlceona, I found a small window ledge where I could rest the sketchbook and watercolours and still be out of the way of the other pedestrians. A lot of people stopped by to have a chat. 

For the sketch below of Asakusa, Japan I rested the sketchpad on a bar and placed my watercolour palette on the sketchpad and worked in sections. I was with Kumi for this sketch and I am not sure I would have been bold enough to sketch from this location without her!

Carrer del Bisbe, Barcelona (L) and Asakusa, Japan (R)

Tip 5: Simplify your tools
Sometimes I just sketch with a pencil to capture something interesting and sketch standing up. I had the sketchbook resting in the crook of my arm and wrist. I think it would have been harder if the sketchbook was any shorter or longer. 

Museum of World Cultures, Barcelona

Handling the CROWD

There are times when you want to sketch but it's crowded. I usually make sure I am not in a main thoroughfare and I am not taking up too much room. 

Tip 6a: Be out of the way - sit underneath the railings
For the St Paul's Cathedral sketch, I walked over to Flinders St Station stairs as the sun was catching that facade in an interesting way. I sat underneath the hand railings so I would be out of the way with my bag in-between my feet with the bag strap wrapped around my ankle. A lot of other people sat shoulder to shoulder beside me and gave me commentary along the way! 

Tip 7a: Be out of the way - sit on the ground
I caught a bus to the Marina Bay Sands close to dusk. The sun had started to set and the sea breeze was picking up. It was a great time to sketch. It was light enough to see, dark enough to see the lights of the Gardens by the Bay trees! The viewpoint wasn't busy when I arrived and I sat on the ledge and started to sketch. After about 30-40 mins the area was packed. Since I was sitting down, I wasn't blocking peoples' view, I had my sketchpad in my hand and watercolour palette on the ground beside me so I wasn't taking up too much room.   

St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne (L) and  Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (R)

Break the COMFORT 

Sometimes the sketch I suffered a bit for, resulted in some of my better sketches. I sat on an uncomfortable make-shift seat for the sketch of the Sultan Mosque. I am usually comfortable sitting on the ground but sometimes, it's a bit too grotty. I think I am going to buy a compact Japanese-style Picnic sheet that I can put in my handbag. The sketch of the Science Centre was completed in a light mist of rain. I liked the splotchy mist and bleed marks.  

Science Centre, Vancouver
Sultan Mosque, Singapore (L) and Science Centre, Vancouver sketched in light mist (R)

I know some other people sketch in the rain (NB Sydney Urban Sketchers!) and would be interested in how they actually do that! 

For my other sketches please visit Instagram account on (@asuka_art). 



  1. Fascinating and very helpful. Thank you for your insight (and brilliant sketches)

  2. brilliant blog post thanks Asuka!!!