Thursday, 6 July 2017

Parts of town: Haight Ashbury

Summer of love event was a good excuse to visit Haight Ashbury again, I remember quickly walking through the streets during my apartment hunting a few years back. This time the organizer of the sketch Meetup found a perfect spot to enjoy the street view, outside a busy grocer. The street is extremely busy on the weekend, but the benches are surprisingly empty (even after I went back after the meetup to finish up the painting) 

 I was still paranoid about painting people without their knowledge (somehow I feel more intimidated here than the more crowded places like Singapore) So instead of drawing the guys chilling at the table next to us, I twisted my body to draw the scene across the street (my seat is actually facing in the direction of the street)
I was extra impressed by myself that I could negative-paint the letters without any pencil under drawings!

I saw the church (St. Ignatius) while riding the N-train into Haight, so I tried finding it again after hopping off the train. The green in the foreground is part of the Panhandle.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Coast to Lakes, roadtrip in Ontario: The Main Course!

The trip itself was planned around the visit to Algonquin Provincial Park, but we still lingered a bit in Gravenhurst and tried looking for wine to no avail (since all liquor stores, save for a few in downtown Toronto, were closed for Victoria Day) We could cross the border at Niagara Falls to get some, but that would be decreasing valuable time spent in Algonquin Park, so no! 

View on Highway 60 heading into the park. It is truly a highway built for the city folks, since it takes a huge detour to connect Toronto and Ottawa through all the cottage country. Traffic was heavy on the opposite side, since it was the last day of Victoria Day long weekend, which makes me even happier heading in! This is my first and probably last attempt at drawing in the car though...even though it is a good way to pass time and stay awake, but I got car sick before I can finish it properly
The next day on the Big Pine Trail. This one was split through the middle (probably by thunder?) The look was pretty stunning

This is the only one that I had some proper place to put my tools (okay, I put them on a rock...but at least there was a rock!) This is the view in front of our cabin, with some canoes to use and a pier to set out into the lake. This time we finally canoed to the shore on the far side (helped by the windless morning)

A final one done just before sunset on the last night. More memorable than the scene itself was how the black flies swarmed over the car right after we parked (probably thinking it is a big moose or something), after which we quickly decided not the open the window/get out of the car.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Coast to Lakes, roadtrip in Ontario: The Lakes!

 Water was an unavoidable subject from the 2nd day of the road trip onwards, because we were either looking at lakes, rowing in the lake...or getting rained on!

Lake Erie flowing into Lake Ontario at Niagara Falls. Canadian Horseshoe Falls on the right, American Falls in the middle, and Rainbow bridge on the left. The steam blocks the view from time to time, but this time I had the luxury of relaxing in the hotel room sofa perched high above ground and sipping hot tea, while waiting for the wind to blow the steam away. Niiiiice

Scribbled together a quick one at Gravenhurst's Steamship pier before the drizzle set in. Since my last visit was nice and balmy weather, I was totally unprepared of the freezing wind...so the boathouses to the right was left undrawn...The steamships are (left) RMS Segwun and Wenonah (right). The water itself is Muskoka Bay. And...they're both off season, since I still chose early Spring to revisit...oh well, at least Segwun is not under renovation this time.

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 falls...in the autumn!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAnqbFiLbyM

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

And...it 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 

 Naples
http://www.mapcrunch.com/p/40.716406_14.488369_128.83_-12.71_0

 Milan
http://www.mapcrunch.com/p/45.462947_9.174987_106.8_-13.22_0

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)
http://www.mapcrunch.com/p/43.773486_11.253803_89.86_-2.66_0

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 dig...in 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 reply...lol ehmmm, but sorry I don't think I know them...


Monday, 10 April 2017

Painting spree continues in...Golden Gate Park!

I continued my painting spree the next day in a beautiful Spring in SF's Golden Gate Park. Our meetup group's real reason was to sketch the blooming rhododendrons (that have big magenta pink flowers cluttered together) However, there were so many things going on in the park (radio-controlled steam boat racing, biking, people walking their dogs, etc) that our group all got distracted and scattered around the park. I remembered bring some snacks for lunch so I didn't end up starving to death in the park this time!

I parked my car in the nearby neighbourhoods of Ocean Beach and then biked to Golden Gate Park after saying to my friend who lives nearby. I was so wrong about the parking situation in the park, thinking it was going to be very crowded on a pleasant Sunday noon. Actually there are a lot of places to park along the roads, especially that I have a bike to roam around. 


People watching the radio-controller model boat race. I intended to draw the dog enjoying the sun with its owner, but by the time I got back to colouring it, the pair was long gone....oh well. Apparently the tree whose trunk I sat on when doing this piece is called a tea tree. (Still named so even though nobody uses its leaves to make tea anymore) It has a very twisted and worn trunk and a nice shade, perfect for sitting and sketching!


Next I got around to the rhododendrons groves. But the big tree in the middle of the grove was so elegant and eye-catching I ended up sketching that instead. (A fellow sketcher's bike was parked next to it) I tried to use more raw colours than mixing neutral grays this time


After finishing the piece in the grove, I was feeling really cold (because it was damp and shaded between the trees) so I got on my bike and took a small tour through the park. Just as I rode into the no-car zone, I saw a small fall spilling into a pond. I never noticed it before (maybe because of the draught last few years) and really liked the green colour of the pond. I quickly pulled this piece together in 15 mins before I need to rush to the nearby cafe to share sketches with fellow sketchers.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Coyote Point revisited

Time was ripe for another visit to Coyote Point, a nice little corner out in the bay in San Mateo that has a beautiful coastline and nice breeze. Plus it is very easy to find parking in the surrounding neighbourhoods and take a stroll along the bay trail to the park itself. Double plus it lies under SFO's approach path, so it never gets boring with planes coming and going all day long. 


Sunlight really brings out the shape of the roof, this one was done on the bay trail before entering the park proper. I was far away enough that nobody in the house got suspicious of me...maybe


The long grasses and marsh, with the San Mateo bridge and Foster City in the background. You know the grasses are long when I forgot to pick up my palette when I finished, and then spent 10 minutes looking for it in the grass when I came back looking for it...


Last year I challenged myself to paint the yacht to a less-than-satisfying result. This time I came back armed with opaque white ready to give another try. Okay I lied, I searched everywhere for my precious Titanium White gouache tube but couldn't find it, so I brought my next best hope, Naples Yellow instead. It is far from white, but enough to stand out against the darks (as seen in the first boat) Oh, the twisted shapes on the left was the shade casted by the tree out of the frame.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Bringing a much-traveled book home

This weekend I had a very important mission, to return a book (Runaway horses by Mishima Yukio) that has stayed and traveled with me for the past 8 months back to the East Asian Library. My progress through the book was so slow so I insisted on taking it with me on every trip because of the guilt. In the end, I estimate that it has clocked up 6 round trips to Asia with me. 4 of them to China, 1 to Taiwan, and 1 to its homeland in Japan. The book probably has never returned to Japan since it was published in the Showa period...so it is always interesting to think how the book might end up after this.


I picked my previous spot along the slopes of Hearst Avenue. Even though I walk pass this location every day on my way from between my apartment and the lecture halls, the way the streets split up and curve up never fails to captivate me. The shadows casted by the greens and colours of the retro apartment buildings are also fun to watch.


After my emotional farewell with the book, I noticed the long shadows behind the East Asian Library itself (the dark shape to the left) and the building behind it. The Sunday is quiet at Berkeley because it was the last day of Spring Break and students usually don't come back until late evening. As I had the walkway and warm sun to myself, it was truly an enjoyable moment...except that I am starving (it was close to 1pm and I didn't really have breakfast) So I was glad when the sun helped out and dried the paints for me with extra swiftness! Then there was the long walk downhill to where I parked my car (I was still recovering from my trauma the day before venturing into the hills of San Francisco downtown)

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Rehabilitation time!

Coming back after another 2-week stint out of town. I usually bring all necessary painting supplies with me on trips, never giving up on the hope that I might, just might, have a day or two down time that I can wonder around town and sketch. Unfortunately two weeks went by again with my brush un-wet and palette untouched (the only day I got off work was spent lying sick in bed) Even though the glamour of Macau is only 20 mins away (according to the locals), I could only gaze upon its lights from afar...

 For rehabilitation of course, I biked to my usual spot, Los Gatos Creek Trail, so I could exercise my body and brain at the same time. As with suburban life, you could never get away from trees from this part of town.

An overview of the Vasona Reservoir that the bike trail loops around

Monday, 6 March 2017

Coming back home after a long trip

After an exhausting 3-week long trip out of town, I finally got to paint some more now that I actually have time to roam around on the weekends. 

I always try to combine biking and sketching in the same outing so I save time and can get some rest during my exercise (although I usually end up shivering the shades) This one is a tiny plaza a few blocks away from my apartment. As usual, not much foot traffic around this area so I get to have the corner all for myself! 

The next day I headed up to SF to attend the annual History Day at the Old Mint. Really it is less of an event, more of a convention, with groups from all over tabling and holding panels. While I was waiting at the front door, I sketched the 2 gentlemen greeting visitors in their fancy coat and top hat. The building behind with the clock tower is SF belongs to SF Chronicles.

I remember I didn't have the confidence to draw the wonderful corridor of the Old Mint during last year's event and ended up drawing Westfield shopping mall instead lol. This time the inside was much less crowded than last year (because it wasn't raining this time) and the chandeliers are too enticing to reject. Maybe next year I'll gather enough courage to draw the people in costume up close!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Experimenting with Virtual Pleinair

After coming across the #virtualpleinair tag on Twitter, I decided to give it a try. All daily pictures from mapcrunch.com
Geylegphug, Bhutan 

Rockaway Park, NY

Monday, 6 February 2017

Oakland Museum of California, 2nd round!

 I headed to the Oakland Museum of California with the SF Sketchers meetup. I've only been here on a previous sketching trip with the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers, but the quality of the exhibitions left a good impression on me. 

While I was waiting for a friend to join me, I started sketching on the roof (although technically it is also the ground floor since the entrance is on the roof-level and everything else is underneath), which offers a good view of Lake Merritt. (Since last time I came it was after dark, so I had no idea it had such a good view) there were also a few people practicing skateboard in the small square to the left. When I showed this piece to my parents, my dad could instantly tell that the hills in the background are the East Bay hills, even though he's never been to Lake Merritt...only possible after years of driving up and down Berkeley

This was my most memorable exhibit from...I think 2 years ago? I'm glad to see it is still there :D
The intense expression on the animals were so captivating that I decided to do another sketch of it, this time in B&W with my new favourite brush pen.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Just off the Highway: Gate Vista Point

I drove through I-280 between San Jose and Millbrae almost every weekend. At first it was just small hills one after another, but when I reach around the intersection with Highway 92, the mountains open up and from the highway you can see to the distant costal mountains (in their misty blue colour) as well as the reservoir between the valleys. The scenery gets even better when the morning fog moves through the valley in the sun (but I haven't got a chance to paint that yet)

 I did my extensive research on Google Maps the night before and had my eyes set on this parking lot right off 280. It was very spacious and a few people were already there enjoying the scenery from inside their cars. You can see the highways in the distant. Because of the clouds, the sun disappears and reappears frequently, but long enough for me to remember where the shadows were~ When I was drawing, an elderly Asian gentleman walked up to me, asking if I'm Chinese. To which I replied sure, yes I am. Then he told me he is Japanese. So I started talking to him in Japanese, telling him that I've worked there before. Quickly both of us realized that his Japanese is nowhere close to my proficiency (since he said he moved here when he was 6, I'm guessing he didn't have much chance to use it afterwards) Since he had to use a lot of English words to complement his Japanese, I then switched to entirely English, thinking that will make it easier for him. However, he looked surprised that I suddenly switched to English...then I found out that his English was broken too...The conversation was getting difficult and he was also starting to get to some personal questions, so I just packed up as I was finishing up my first piece and moved to different spot. America sure is a strange place :P

The way the sunlight breaks through the mist and lights up the fresh grass in the front really caught my eye. As I was working on this piece, an Indian family came up and all took a look at my drawing (the dad even took a picture of it~) And then a little girl and her mom walked by, and the little girl told me excitedly that she found a cat in the bushes on the right. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

One fine afternoon in Campbell

 After exhausting my options at Santana Row, I thought I was probably done with all scenic architecture to draw near my apartment (which unfortunately situates itself in a bland suburb) Campbell, a town few miles away, came up as an option when I was planning to go biking again at Los Gatos Creek Trail (also in Campbell) And Google timely suggests the Campbell Heritage Theatre as a point of interest. The slanting sun, the red roof, and the calm fountain; I wish there's more of these places near me! There were also very few passer-bys on foot, so I can spread out my stuff and worry about blocking anybody.

After that I headed to my usual biking spot, Los Gatos Creek Trail. The sun setting over the reservoir was so stunning I convinced myself to paint another piece. Just as I was admiring the pink hue and taking my time to mix the colours, the sunlight disappeared from the trees to the left, then the walk way...I thought it was a cloud covering the sky, but it turns out that the sun is just about to set beneath the hills to the right. (Now I understand why people living in valleys complain out short daylight periods!!) I was scrambling for my darker paints and filling in the shadows for the trees when the sun completely disappeared on me...so I ended up relying on my memory to finish the reservoir and reflections. This was probably the most intense sketching sessions I've done...thanks Mother Nature, appreciate the lesson

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Counter activities: Barebottle Brewery

More than the counter scenes, I was still recovering from the harrowing experience of trying to park behind the brewery. Hint, it was on a steep hill; also, I drive a manual. So after making some unnecessary engine noises, possibly scaring the car behind me and the pedestrians passing by, I gave up parking on the hill and headed up to park on top of the hill...still took me more than 10 mins though

There were a lot more people than I expected. Thankfully our meetup group has already taken 2 tables in the middle so I had some place to sit down and recollect myself. I rarely draw people as the focal subject, but I had no choice now that I'm at a crowded brewery haha

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Question Mark and its surroundings, SF MOMA

Joined the SF Sketchers at SF MOMA. The original plan was to draw the atrium and perhaps the exhibits inside the museum, since it was forecasted to rain. However when I got there, the sky was dark, wind was howling, but there was no rain! Okay, just some tiny drizzle here and there. Since the museum forbids any kind of water/paint media inside the buildings, I decided to try my luck outdoors and see how long I could hold off the rain... Turns out there is indeed some artwork outside, namely Chris Johanson's giant inflatable question mark (I thought it was a giant snake in the beginning)  Since I'm at a modern art museum, I decided to try cropping my field of view and focus on the lines instead. Hence the vertical and horizontal sliver below

w/ the carpark next door

view from ground level

After the group session was done, I headed outside to draw some cityscape again. Thankfully it still didn't rain on me, but I was left trying my best to hold on to my paper and hair against the wind.