Monday, 19 June 2017

Coast to Lakes, roadtrip in Ontario: Airplanes!

I wanted to visit the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum ever since I saw Rick Mercer (CBC Monday Report)'s piece on it (lucky bastard got to ride on a Lancaster Bomber over Niagara the autumn!)

The Museum is right beside Hamilton International Airport (yes, we did drive from Toronto's Pearson Airport straight to another airport lol) After going through some mandatory patriotic education (okay, fine, just some general display explaining where the planes come from and how they were used during war. Plus some display of pilot's personal account and memorabilia. After going through the small exhibition space, it is onto the hangers and airplane crowd. Yay!

Catalina w/ its loooong wingspan

Star of the museum, the Lancaster Bomber

It was exciting to see so many airworthy planes in a plane museum, especially when you see the metal pans under the planes collecting oil ;P just happens that the first page is also a plane (because I was waiting around at the airport, trying to experiment with the new sketchbook) I was struggling with the smooth surface, so the colours of the Lufthansa tail went totally off the board (it was supposed to be deep blue...)

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Virtual snapshots of Italy

Done over a few weekday evenings, trying out some value study and new brushes. All references from Google Street View 



Florence (I stumbled across a documentary on the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, the building method of which is still not completely known. Hence this street view)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Bay Natives Nursery - where the chickens have fun

I honestly haven't seen chickens roam around freely for a long time (or at all??) let alone hen with a queue of chicks following behind. Which is the first things I saw at the nursery. Forget about the native plants, I could follow the chickens around all day! There was also a gorgeous looking chicken with flowy golden feather around its neck and shiny dark green plumage on its tail, too bad I didn't get a chance to sketch it because it was too busy getting attention from other customers lol. (side note, while following the chickens around with my sketchbook, I discovered that the owner actually built them an underground passage way and a two-level chicken co-op where they can get water/food and avoid human interaction whenever they want!)

There was also a fenced area where the goats rests. I was expecting to graze around all day, but it turns out this bunch are content just sit lounging around in the sun. Only but a few ones show interest in the bucket of hay. (yes, the nursery provides a bucket of hay next to the enclosure for you to feed them) Oh well, sitting around is easier for me to paint I guess.

A little walk out is Heron's Head Park, with a direct view onto Pier 96. The cranes looked nice, so I decided to paint this view.

Archaeology in the city: Historic Presidio

I really didn't take it seriously when I saw the next sketch event is at an archaeology dig site in SF. Why will there be anything to a city this young? Turns out the particular area has had Spanish and Mexican settlement in the 18th century and also American military presence since it was used as a military base since the mid 19th century. 

Here are the archaeologists at work with their nifty supply cart nearby. I suspect the role of the archaeologists on duty during the weekend mostly comprises of educating the public about the science itself and also the general history of Presidio. But it really was quite cool seeing them digging away in a park and under the palm trees!

 The building across from the dig site. I just thought the red roof and the long branches of the tree were quite nice-looking lol
Among the artefacts on display in the lab were a broken chamber pot and a pair of old boots. There were some colourful stories thought up by the staff for these 2 artefacts. Since the broken chamber pot was found in the laundry ladies' quarter, it was probably a still sleepy laundry lady who hasn't had her morning coffee accidentally dropping the chamber pot while dumping its contents. The pair of boots were found in the cubby holes behind the walls of the soldier's quarters, so it could be a soldier hiding the boots in there along with other stuff to avoid inspection, but later forgot where he put them.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

This is a long one: Adventures in Manila

Although I prepared myself mentally for the chaos after hearing horror stories from colleagues who have been to Manila many times, I was still under-prepared for the string of troubles that were about to unfold. Getting out of the plane and through the customs, thankfully, was much better than I thought. (I had a last minute panic attack before heading to the airport because I was unsure if my visa waiver includes business trips.) Anyhow, I was half-expecting the border official to ask for bribes, but the lines were short and the process extremely efficient (only asked me how long I'm planning to stay). But oh boy, once I collected my bags and headed out to the arrivals area, reality finally set it. The small hall was filled with people, little stalls selling portable Wifi and SIM cards. The air was noisy and humid.

There were at least 4 different taxi options, but the signs at the crosswalk only pointed to a vague direction. So I turned around to ask a security guard where the queue for metered taxis are. Instead of answering my question directly, the guy was all smiles and started asking where I am heading to. To which I dutifully answered. Then he asked me to show it on a map for him, which I thought was weird because the hotel is 15 minutes away from the airport and should be a very popular choice. I still showed him the hotel on my phone nonetheless, thinking that there may be a few hotels with similar names. But then he started asking unrelated questions such as where are you coming from, which is normal when coming from a friendly info desk staff, but completely unnatural from a security guard. At this point, I was convinced he is not going to give me useful info to the taxi stand so I bid my farewell and said I'm going to look for it myself. He kept his smiles and just nodded. Because of this instance, for more than a week or so, I could not shake off the uneasy feeling whenever people smile at me. It is almost as if I suspect each of them to have an ulterior motive behind the pretence...

The "airport taxi" I got in wasn't much better either, even though it is supposed to be higher priced and safer. Or perhaps I was just not familiar with the customs, but apparently the taxis here do not have a habit of giving back changes. Or so I have discovered in the hard way. (Thankfully though I did get some smaller bills when I paid the toll) No wonder Uber and GrabTaxi are the norm here. It seems that Uber can only get a strong foothold where the taxis are utterly hopeless (as in the case of US and Philippines).

The scans and X-rays before entering the hotel I have heard of, so no surprise there. After getting into my room I finally relaxed and phoned my parents about my safe arrival. Half way through the shower, however, the realized that my drainage system broken. This is so unheard of that I first thought that I forgot to press a button for the release. After fingering my way through all the walls and making sure there were no artistically hidden buttons, I phoned the front desk. For the next hr, I sat bored on sofa while listening to the technician furiously plumbing away in the bathroom. To put it into context, it was 11:30pm; I was just off from a 17-hour journey, my brain threatening to shut on its master while I numbly browse through my Twitter feed, all the while listening to unending plumbing noises coming from my flooded bathroom.

In the end though they did switch me to a different room (after I "kindly" reminded the front desk that I have been waiting for 30 mins) and I finally was able to enjoy a nice shower shortly after midnight.

I did gather up my courage and decided to venture out on the first Sunday. There was after all a few places that I wanted to visit in the walled region Intramuros. On the map it looks like a nice stretch of coastal walk and a central park...but as I was on my way to my first destination, Manila Cathedral, I discovered the whole park is littered with trash and the lawn in a state of neglect. Pedlars lined the entrance to the cathedral selling toys and guided tours. Since I original intention was to draw the cathedral from outside, my whole body was on high alert as I brushed aside pedlars and find a good spot with view of the entire cathedral. I noticed that there were a few police patrolling the area, but after the incident at the airport, I did not feel any bit safer...

I can still feel the shakiness looking at the painting now (that is probably the most tense painting I've done, surpassing the one at Saints Peter and Paul Church in SF)

I couldn't wait to finish up with Manila Cathedral and head to the next stop, Fort Santiago, another relic from the Spanish colonial era. This time the fort together with its gardens were in a gated area. After I purchased the ticket and went it (not after being mistaken by a Chinese tour guide as part of his entourage) I discovered it is an oasis compared to the chaos outside, with casual Filipino tourists , Chinese and Korean tour groups, and some occasional western tourists roaming the area. So I settled down my stuff and painted the garden in front of the Fort.

The roofless building was really quite cool. I've never painted anything like this. At some point during the painting, there were a few Chinese tourists standing behind me watching and discussing, but I pretended I didn't hear them because it was really unbearably hot and I wanted to wrap up and go back as soon as possible lol

It was not the first time I stood for more than 3 hours painting, but my legs started aching as soon as I finished dinner as though I just finished a long hike. I suspect it was probably the high alert my whole body was on ;A; 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Town inside Town, Alviso

I have contemplated going to a nearby park on the coast to paint for a few months now. The reason why I never made it there is because the horrible experience I’ve had at the park nearby, where I was swarmed by flies as I biked down the trail filled with stagnant air. The coastline was nowhere to be seen, it was taken over by salt ponds and water treatment plants. Since I had plenty of time to spare that afternoon, I headed to Alviso Marina County Park. The way to the park did not bode well, it was basically an extension from my usual commuting route. The air is hot and dry and the sceneries are the same as usual, trees, cars, boring town houses, and more trees. As I got over the highway however, cars disappear suddenly and before I knew I was the only one on the road. As I crossed a bridge, I saw a brick warehouse on the left of the road. Normally there is nothing surprising, but this is Silicon Valley, and I don’t recall seeing a proper red brick building in a long time. 

So I braked immediately and parked my car on the side of the road. Other than a few cyclist riding by, there were hardly any foot or car traffic. Right about when I finished though, there was indeed one Caltrain heading South that came by (that was when I realized the dyke behind the warehouse is actually a train track.

The town of Alviso is actually much more interesting than I expected. Many old houses / warehouses from back when it was a major port for both ferry and railway traffic. The coastal park also looks new and well-maintained. I’ll definitely be back for more!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Hey that's something on the way home!

I was scouting for afterwork sketch locations as usual when I noticed the nice shadows casted by the tree. Since the building in question is an apartment complex, I felt more confident about standing in front of it without drawing too much attention. So I turned right and parked my car at an inconspicuous dead end, walked back and took up my place in the shade. There were a few people walking by after work, and a few families heading out for a stroll, but there were very few foot traffic so I had the sidewalk to myself! There was also an interesting guy who, after confirming that I am Chinese, started telling me that he knows 2 Chinese who were studying biochemistry, and that one of them he knew since he was 5 and that he had perfect teeth even though he never went to the dentist. To which I could only ehmmm, but sorry I don't think I know them...