The Old Market

Mornings are always my preferrred time to sketch markets — before the crowds arrive and the heat sets in. In Siem Reap the Old Market occupies a full city block. The edges are ringed with vendors selling dry goods and souvenirs, but I was intrigued by a group of women squatting in the shade of this one stall, wearing big straw hats and selling vegetables from baskets. Trying to convey the sense of inside/outside was what interested me, so one of the first things I did was paint a Cobalt Blue wash over all the shaded areas. From there I built up the details both in and out of the shade. When the sketch was done I headed over to have a look at what the women were selling. To my surprise, the storefront I thought I had been looking at was actually the entrance to the fresh food section of the market and the small group of squatting women selling vegetables was only a fraction of the scene that continued inside. In fact, vendors (mostly women) were crouched over fruit, vegetables, bowls of raw fish, eels, hunks of meat, chicken with black claws still on and many more things that I can’t even name. The space inside is dark, narrow and very crowded so I was glad I sketched from across the way, but my friend Suhita did an amazing job of drawing in the middle of the chaos. Watch for her drawings on her blog Sketch Away: Travels with my sketchbook.


Temples and tuk tuks

Arriving in Cambodia from Singapore is a bit of a culture shock, at least for someone like me who is travelling in Asia for the first time. The ride from the airport by tuk tuk was an eye opener. Bus, motorbikes, cars, bicycles and the ubiquitous tuk tuks, crossing every which way with no apparent order. Dogs and cows on the road. Chaos in every direction. And have I mentioned that there are about a dozen other sketchers in Siem Reap as well? Needless to say, there’s plenty to sketch here. We spent the day around the temples of Angkor, first at Ta Prohm which is the one with the big trees growing out of it (think Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider) and then at Angkor Thom where I sketched The Bayon and the stone faces of Lokesvara (they say there are nearly 200 of them although I probably only included about four or five). At the end of the day the tuk tuk driver looked as beat as I did after sketching in the heat, so I sketched him too.TaProhm   TheBayonTuktuksatAngkorThom


I’ve just arrived in Cambodia after an exhilarating and exhausting week in Singapore. I plan to write about my experience at the Urban Sketchers symposium when I get back to Montreal because it’s impossible to do while tapping away on my phone. In between teaching my own workshops, I had time to attend one other one and watch some amazing demos. In the meantime I’m posting this quick sketch that I did by the pool when I arrived in Siem Reap. Tomorrow, the temples of Angkor!


From Boat Quay

Boat Quay is best sketched in the morning when some of the oldest shophouses along the Singapore River have the sun on them. When I arrived later in the day they were backlit, so I sat at one of the restaurants along the quay and overpaid for a lemonade to get this view. I’m sure it’s not the first time an artist has done that.

There hasn’t been time to post anything that I’ve done during the symposium but if you are on Facebook and want to see the diverse and wonderful drawings done during the past few days use the hashtag #usksingapore2015.


Sultan Mosque

I haven’t seen all of Singapore but Kampong Glam is still a favourite area for sketching because the streets are shaded and quiet, at least in the morning. There was too much to try to fit on the page in this one. The golden dome of the mosque, the row of palms, the minarets, the shophouses that line the street… can you believe this is Singapore? Every day more sketchers arrive from around the world to attend the Symposium that starts tomorrow. I’m trying to enjoy the sights now because the next four days will be chaotic. Teaching, taking workshops, attending lectures — it’s information overload for the sketcher and I’m still pinching myself that I’m here.


Waterloo Street at dawn

Painting in Singapore is a little more challenging than I expected because of the humidity – the paper just never dries. It never occurred to me that this would be a problem, but if you control the wetness on the brush (keep it drier than usual) it becomes manageable. I was on Waterloo Street by 7 am, hoping to get there before the crowds gathering around the two temples on that section of the pedestrian mall. The vendors selling bunches of flowers and red sticks of  incense were just setting up, and the street lights were still on. It’s always a magical sight to see a city waking up.   

Kampong Glam

Between the long flight, the overwhelming heat and the jet lag, it’s been a slow start to sketching in Singapore, but this morning I finally got my sketching brain going again. Like nearby Little India, Kampong Glam is one of those heritage Singapore neighbourhoods made up of tiny streets of colourful shophouses, cafes, fabric stores, and a gold-domed mosque. The thing is, you have to get out early to sketch because later in the day the heat makes it impossible, at least for a Northerner like me. I found this view looking down a side street where, fortunately, there was a cafe and a spot under a giant umbrella.



I’m off soon to Singapore for the Urban Sketchers Symposium. Palette, brushes, paper and paints are packed (as well as a lot of other things) and all that’s left is to fill my carry-on bag for the long journey. While searching for a drawing book, I came upon some drawings of Teresita the Costa Rican cat that I had never posted. Of course I hope to be uploading sketches from Singapore and other places in Asia during my travels. I do have a few days before the Symposium starts to have a look around, sketch in my workshop location and maybe even go up in the Singapore Flyer. More to come soon…


Parallel universe

Here’s something cool. There’s a whole other group of people who paint and sketch outdoors on Sundays in the summer, and it’s not Urban Sketchers. They set up easels on the Canal right by the St. Gabriel Locks every second Sunday in the summer. The group is organized by the Montreal Art Centre, and if you are interested you can even reserve an easel and a table. I joined them today to paint, sketch and watch the cyclists going by along the canal. They’re a really nice group, and if you want to find out more, check them out here. The views at the spot where they gather are pretty interesting too, especially if you like the overlapping mix of decaying industrial buildings and new condo complexes. Our Urban Sketchers group isn’t meeting again until August but if you want to meet the other group, their next outing is on July 26th.


What do you call it?

I love when I’m painting on the street and a passerby gives me a little tidbit of information about what I am painting. Especially since sometimes I’m not really sure what I am going to write for the day’s post. Today I was mostly thinking “What can I say about these weeds on the side of the road?” But the polite gentleman who stopped to have a gander over my shoulder did have a little knowledge about the white weeds. It wasn’t the name of them — that was what I wanted to know, although now that I have had a second look I think they may be Queen Anne’s lace — no, what he remembered about these plants was that when he was a child he used to snap off the flower heads and use the hollow stems as peashooters. And yes, I do know that the orange ones are daylilies.