Monday, 26 December 2016

Another kind of Winter: Christmas in Taiwan

 Ended up dropping by a friend's place in Tamsui for Christmas before heading home for New Year. In between our busy schedule of eating and shopping, I found a few hours to sneak out and paint. Since I didn't have time to go too far, I painted around the Tamsui old street / port area (Man was it crowded on Christmas day!) 

Mount Guanyin across from the Tamsui port. There was no mistake to the shimmering light; it was well over 25 degrees celsius that day. It took me days to see the Buddha's head in the mountain, despite driving/riding metro in front of it every day. There was a cross facing the sea...not sure what its origins are...

The store fronts of the old street. Please imagine crowds of people moving in the shadows below 

When I was trying to find the way back (while avoiding backtracking my steps through the crowd) I came across this interesting stairs and mural behind Fuyou Temple. (I kinda glossed over it here, but the mural on the left is of a harbour scene during sunset) The old brick houses on the left and the looming high rise on the right really creates a unique scene, probably why there were also university graduates taking group photos and tourists alike

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Top of Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral

Another trip joining the SF Sketchers on a sunny, but windy winter day. The sliver of light against the dark facade of the church was striking, so I refused the warmth inside the church and stood out on the sidewalk. (I put my water jars and other supplies on the stone side walls of the lawns, thinking it was convenient, but ended up annoying scores of children as they liked to walk on the higher curb, and had to jump down and start again when they met the obstacles I laid out...

 The afternoon sun was casting nice shadows across the building across from the cathedral (Pacific-Union Club) so I decided to stay for another piece. It also happens that the Transamerica Pyramid peeks through from between the buildings on the left. More than the scenery in front of me, the labyrinth behind me was constantly on my mind because of the non-stop feed steps. It sounds like that many of them are impatient children waiting for their guardians to get out of the cathedral, and walking the labyrinth was a pretty good time-killer...

The sun looks warm from the painting, but I was so cold I probably gulped down the cup of hot tea afterwards in matter of minutes

Monday, 12 December 2016

Biking with a mission: Los Gatos Creek Park

Biking and drawing require fine balance. Draw too long, body heat dissipates and my body gets too cold, bike too long, I run out of energy to concentrate on the paining. A nice way to keep the painting session concise though!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Rainy Day Conquered, All Thanks to Apple Store

To be honest I was skeptical when the meetup group suggested drawing from the Apple Store (at Union Square) if the rain doesn't stop. Surely they won't allow a stranger who has no intention of buying their products spending hours in their store taking up space, let along a group of them! Which was why I was surprised when I showed up a few minutes late, finding everyone comfortably seated on the store's second floor and the staff more than welcoming us to stay and draw...even when I refused to try drawing on the new iPads... such mystery. Several staff even came up and hi, which made me flattered and even more confused lol

 Looking down at a corner of union square, with some orange cones lined up on the bottom.

Goddess of Victory standing above the Christmas tree and the white tents for SantaCon. (When trying to describe the statue to my parents, I discovered that the monument commemorates American victory over the Spanish in the Philippines....history sure is complicated)

Monday, 7 November 2016

City Hall reboot, with food this time!


Went along with the SF sketchers Meetup group again, this time to the Asian Art Museum around the corner from San Francisco City Hall. There was a long line for the museum when I arrived (I thought it was because of the free admission Sunday, but it turns out they were lining up for a special Indian performance in the museum). Anyway, I decided to avoid the crowd first and worked on the City Hall. I vaguely remember that my previous and first time drawing the same subject was pretty nerve wracking because the plaza was eerily empty and only had people who were aimlessly wandering about...The statue in the foreground represents Plenty, part of the Pioneer Monument.

Maybe because of the farmers' market happening nearby, the place felt much more cheerful this time! I also grabbed a hefty bag of grapes (which took me a whole week to finish) and a nice bag of mushrooms.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Annual Figure Drawing Session!


Joined the annual figure drawing session at Fort Mason hosted by the Bay Area Model Guild. The morning session in the 1,2-minute pose room consisted of furiously scratching pencil (or charcoal), lightening fast page turning, and that dreadful sound of the alarm clock (signalling the end of a pose). I was going through my sketchbook so fast, that it took me almost 7-8 pages in to realize I'm drawing in the last of its kind, rare moleskine watercolour book that I grabbed up in China (by that time all North American outlets have phased into the new edition, which has a slightly different surface texture) So I ran out during the 5 min break, stormed into FLAX next door, and got myself whichever sketchbook I found first.

Another frantic 30 minute session later, I thought that was enough stress for the day and switched to the long pose room at the suggestion of a fellow sketcher. Truly it was a bless. No crowd, no stress. Since I draw quicker than the pose change (most other painters are using oil/acrylic), I move around myself to get different poses (hence the above result). Bonus point for having a sink to wash off the paints in the classroom!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

On the Occasion of SF's New Tallest Structure


Joined the SF Sketchers to mark the occasion of the Salesforce Tower becoming the tallest building in SF. Light drizzle, construction noise, and curious glances from the construction workers (seeing a bunch of suspicious onlookers staring at them and furiously scribbling for an extended period of time)
 First time using a new brush I brought back from Japan (the only place that sells it in a brick-and-mortar store, albeit underground of course) It was softer than my previous brush, which explains the uncertain edges here and there.
Walked around the block to find a nice brick building with a stunning backdrop that is the Millennium Tower. I was originally planning for a fisheye lens effect towards the end (since using normal perspective will cut the top of the building off)...but since I forgot to bring a pencil, my grand plan still fell through. Oh well, next time!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Short Hop over the Pacific: Autumn in Japan

Done over a week-long trip to Japan, in between meeting up with friends and former colleagues
 Sunset over JR Osaka station was too stunning to ignore (I can never ignore good train station concourses!) So I sat down for 30 or so after getting off the bullet train, before dashing off to check-in at the hotel, before dashing off to meet my former colleagues; which, by pure luck or innate timetable planning ability, I made it within minutes of the arranged time, all with no pre-planning whatsoever. I really just finished having lunch with friend in Tokyo, thought it was about time, walked into Tokyo station, bought ticket for the next train to Osaka... Japan sure has trained me well

A view onto the narrow alleyway just outside friend's apartment. Always feeling self-conscious of being mistaken to be a stalker, I tried to find as inconspicuous a place as possible, so to avoid staring straight into some people's door.... (Which is always harder to find in bustling Tokyo) Despite how it looks, a garbage truck still made it through the narrow maze and collected all the trash while I was drawing the scene. Adding the overhead electric cables were always a bonus that I rarely get to enjoy in the US!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Golden Gate Bridge All Day

Went with the SF Sketchers to the Home Land Security Art Exhibition at the West batteries near GG Bridge. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), I got lost on the way (typing in Fort Winfield Scott in Google Maps somehow defaults to Fort Point at the very northern edge of San Francisco). At this point, I finally realized that something is horribly wrong, since the description in the meetup clearly says Presidio, but my remaining route can no way lead uphill. Since the ending point is already nearing, I decided to just accept the fact, parked my bike, and drew whatever I can. 
 The shadow on the left from the hills was so interesting I abandoned the bridge all together!
This is after I went to the correct meet up point (finally!) and drew the expected view. The weather was nice and warm, but the wind was so strong I could hardly see amidst my free-flying hair... For some reason, there were a few people down at the very bottom of the cliff (looks no more than a moving speck of dust from where I was standing), wonder how they got there...

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Not quite on location: More sunset and mountains!

Having recently discovered a nice blending brush in Photoshop when working on the previous sunset piece, I couldn't stop myself from going back to use the brush again, so I ended up doing 2 more digital work in the following few days.

This one comes from a photo I took after the sketching session at SFAI, since I was running for the Caltrain and didn't have time to sketch on location. Location is at Market & O'Farrell intersection.

I took the reference from a magazine on my shelf, since the photo has a nice contrast of values and colours. Based on the footnote, this photo actually depicts Mount Everest

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Not quite on location: Outside My Window

Saw this beautiful sunset after getting back home from home the other day, so I snapped a picture (no time to draw because feeding my stomach is more important~) Worked over a few days to get this done in Photoshop

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

San Francisco Afternoon in Translucent Orange

Now I shall carry on the tradition of singing the praise of Schmincke Translucent Orange, which I finally gave up my futile resistance and bought a tube a few weeks ago. Feeling the impending heat from my window in the morning before setting out for the city, I decided to shove tube in with my kit and give it a go. The colour successfully outshone every counterpart and the intensity comes out almost effortlessly (somebody rename it California Sun please!) 

The hallway of arches in SFAI. There was also a nice fountain in the middle of the courtyard and I already waited to long to get my hands on hallway with arches :P
The scenery is definitely worth the climb onto the hill. Also I'm glad there's horizontal poles on the sidewalk, or else I'd have real trouble securing my bike on the hill. (Bike thief would probably save themselves some trouble and avoid the killers hills too haha)

View from the SFAI "rooftop", which is really their first floor back courtyard if you walk in from the main entrance. I successfully found myself a place with shadows. The Coit Tower is blocked from view on the right, a worthy sacrifice to avoid the burning sunlight though

Finally, street view when I was snacking at the 901 Columbus Cafe. Left is Coit Tower (on Telegraph Hill) and Saints Peter and Paul Church (North Beach). 


Observing the Roses, San Jose Municipal Rose Garden

Hopped over to the local rose garden to draw some roses on a weekend afternoon...since I don't have the luxury of having any flowers indoors (and don't want to look like a creeper inside my apartment complex garden) I tried to stay in the shadows, which probably unintentionally scared a couple of merry-makers and photo shooters alike. Haven't painted flowers in detail for a looong time, so it's a nice change of pace!


Open Air Shakespeare!

Out with the SF Sketchers Meetup group again at a free open air performance of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. I have no idea what the plot is about, and given my horrendous understanding of Shakespeare's works back in high school, I was expecting to understand anything the actors would say. 

Thankfully a lady sitting behind me was trying to get her impatient daughter interested in the show by spilling the entire synopsis right before it starts, which gave me a great head start! So aside from the singing and dancing I actually understood a few scenes! 


I realized the mistake of not bring a pen/marker with me and so had to settle with quick (and tiny) sketches of the crew. Since I'm too slow, I can only barely finish my character before a scene ends...need more figure drawing sessions...or I just need to continue pretending that no people exist in my cityscape paintings!


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

This Time with People! Crossroad at Santana Row

Popped by Santana Row for another drawing session before dinner, this time including some passer-bys under the bright sun! I haven't felt the sun moving so much before, since I didn't realize I was standing under the shade of a palm tree. I was forced to move one step forward every 5 minutes or so to keep myself in the shade until I finally gave up and pulled out my sunglasses. And then the shadow from the buildings behind me caught on and all problems were solved!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Sun, Buildings, and Shades! at Santana Row, San Jose

Dropped by Santana Row (outdoor shopping complex) this afternoon to do a few studies. I wasn't expecting much because the complex was completed only in 2003 and I'm mostly interested in dated buildings...but I was pleasantly surprised! Not only was there bike parking (there's not even any roads with decent bike lanes feeding into the complex!), the fences that surround the trees have a flat surface that is perfect for my water jar and palette while the tree provides ample shade against the raging afternoon sun!
Pink building with fancy balcony fences

Right across the street, a performing arts centre I believe

The shadow is so stunning in this view that I couldn't resist painting it in full! A nice couple stopped to say hi and then asked if I was Japanese. I was a bit surprised, said no...and then ask them if they were Japanese, and they got even more confused than I was haha

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Sun at Full Force: Scenes from Capitola, CA

Spent weekend with dad walking around Capitola. A totally different experience from Point Coyote last week! Well, probably because one is facing the Pacific, the other the SF Bay.

 I tried to squeeze myself in the tiny shadow created by a bike rack, trash can, and a tree. Behind me were stream of people filing out after brunch / lunch. Even the shade was proved too weak agains the blinding sunlight (probably why the colours are tad darker than usual) I was looking for that curious railroad bridge in the left hand background when I saw it when I first entered town, so we ended up finding our way on top of it ...-->
Even the tracks were totally rusted, it was still labeled as off-limits. Still, there were people (normal people, mind you, not delinquents or suspicious graffiti artists) strolling casually on there, so we gave it a try anyways. The view on the creek was good, occasionally there were paddleboard-ers coming through. Even though the beach was burning, the breeze through the bridge was so cold my fingers were totally numb afterwards :(

Monday, 8 August 2016

View that was worth the cold: Palace of Fine Arts

For an unsuspecting biker passing by, this might be most surprising scenery. Even as I was biking slowly down the quiet road looking left and right for the PFA (Palace of Fine Arts), which I have been to on one previous occasion, I was still shocked to see this view pop up on the right out of nowhere. So one naturally had to stop the bike on the spot and pulled out the painting supplies. Thankfully the remaining body heat from biking all the way from Caltrain station kept me warm until I finished this piece. All the tourists coming and going were complaining about the cold, and I was like, cold? what cold? It hit me though in half an hour that they were not joking about the cold...


I was supposed to find the SF Sketcher Meetup group, but I failed to get up in time for Caltrain (for a 10AM event, I needed to catch the 2nd earliest Caltrain at 8:15!) But I decided to come anyways and after finishing the first drawing, decided to go into the PFA and see if I can see any sketchers there. As luck would have it, the group just finished their walking tour and starting to sketch the palace. So I settled in too. The cold wind and my starving stomach tormented me, but sketching with a group was such a relaxing experience it was worth postponing lunch~

I usually keep a straight face when I'm sketching in public so that I don't get distracted by talking to passer-bys. But this a little boy came up to us, pointed to one of the ladies and said," look mom! There's an elderly lady drawing!" And then looked at me and shouted, "Mom, this little girl is also drawing!" Which cracked me up so bad I had to respond :P
The lady is definitely not elderly by the way...and I'm pretty sure I look at least high school...

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

More water! This time onsite at Coyote Point, San Mateo

Wheeled my bike over to San Mateo over the weekend in search of some good water scenes. Water in SF is usually rough, so I decided to take my chances at a closer waterfront park that has an enclosed marina in San Mateo. The park turned out to be much better than I expected. Weather is much cooler than South Bay even at 2pm (and sunny!) and area has many nice facilities (trash cans, water fountain, and washrooms) And hills also make the scenery much more interesting. Basically I just lean my bike wherever I want to draw (on a tree, on the rocks, etc) and start working.

 Quiet marina (save for the occasional Pokemon catching families walking by)

 Rocks, hills, and wind-blown trees, oh and plus people fishing on the rocks
More wind-blown trees and rocks. (At this point I decided I was too hungry to draw more)

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Water practise

Finally brought myself to face one of my 2 biggest fears...water. Practise based on a photo of Vancouver's waterfront

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Second time around: Fort Mason Center


This is my 2nd time drawing Fort Mason Center, this time sitting at a lower location because the wind is too brutal on top of the hill. I was looking for an excuse to sneak out of JPOP summit (happening in one of the red-roof pavilions) all day and I finally got my chance after 2pm. Usually the hottest most unbearable time of the day in South Bay, but only barely warm enough to sit still under the sun at Fort Mason. The wind almost flipped my drawing board onto my face a couple of times...


The view onto North Bay right after sunset (from Fort Mason). The fog has covered the city, but the remainder of the sunset is still visible under the cloud. The view was quite unusual, but it was too cold at the time to draw anything (plus it is really hard to capture on camera). So I memorized the scene and drew this snippet on my tablet a few days later.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Halfway home - Sunnyvale Community Center

This little pond (plus geese and ducks) is right about half way between my office and apartment. I never noticed this place until I decided to take bus to get from the nearby Caltrain station to home. (The bus does a detour around the community center) Perfect spot to rest and enjoy the sunset

Monday, 25 July 2016

Studies on Highway

When one ultimately runs out of subject to draw in a tiny town, such is exactly my case, one starts drawing things normally unthinkable. To me, that's the highway. True that they are never far away ever since I move to the US, but with buildings, flowers, ocean, and people to draw, I never had to consider the artistic potential of the highways....until last week, when I was itching to get some practise but was also starving and couldn't wait to start cooking dinner. Such is the dilemma, starve to death or draw the highway (since it's next to my apartment). The highway won.
I must look like an idiot standing in the middle of the overpass when all the cars whooshed past me lol

This is the view off the other side of the overpass, so the direction of sunlight is opposite

Monday, 18 July 2016

West Portal, SF

For some reason I can never predict the correct weather in SF ever since moving down south into Silicon Valley. And so I got off the train to a perfect Sunday morning...blanketed by fog and under 15C...with a skirt and only 2 layers
Hiding in the warmth of a local cafe (in West Portal neighbourhood) while carefully identifying which is my tea cup and which is my water jar before every brush dip.

Sketching (stalking the strangers sitting in front of me) at the Stern Grove Festival! Great music and surprisingly, calm wind and bearable temperature thanks to the trees surrounding the stage.

Monday, 13 June 2016

After work duties in Shanghai

 Being sent to Shanghai during one of the not-so-humid/hot and not-so-cold months was a rarity. So I convinced myself to either get up half an hour early, or postpone dinner by half an hour to draw. (last time I only got to draw out of my hotel window because it was a burning hell outside) I did get stomachache and limped my way back to the hotel on one occasion, but it's that special opportunity that a Shanghai-nese actually get to stay near the Bund for an extended period of time. All worth it.

Somewhere on Jinling East Road, through which I basically walk from my hotel to another hotel (20 mins walk away) to catch the shuttle to work. The scenery was so interesting that I was really sad when they arranged additional shuttles to my hotel a week later... Honestly I never got to see any of the shop fronts open (it was too early in the day), but there was a lot of hustle and bustle on the street, parents sending kids to school, people getting to work, lining up for the pharmacy, etc 


The Customs building and former HSBC building. I basically walked a block out of the hotel, poked my head onto the bund, scribbled into my sketchbook, and quickly left. It was Friday of the long weekend, but I still needed to work that Saturday...;A;

I totally overestimated myself when I started working on this one. My brain just didn't have the processing power to process both the demands of my eye-hand coordination, and the dire warnings from my stomach. In the end my stomach lost, so I spent the next hour lying motionless on the sofa