Png:Sg Trip 05: Markets, tea and colonialism

January 19, 2014 | Leave your thoughts

During supper the night before,  KK had told me that I should visit the morning market and that there was a good tea place nearby. So naturally, I decided that that was a plan! The market was busy and crowded and although I would have loved to sketch there,  I couldn’t find a spot that I would feel comfortable to sit on my own ( a sketching buddy comes in handy on occasions like these when you need a bit of courage!)

So instead I found myself pursuing part 2 of that plan! Yes, another tea place – Huang Chen Hao Tea Art Import.

It was a little early in the morning to start drinking tea ie. I was wasting the cooler hours of the morning for an indoor activity. Had a truly wonderful at chatting to the owners (father and daughter), hearing all about their tea selections, trying their favourite teas and learning about the importance of the bubble that sits on top of the tea (a sign that it is a quality tea). Naturally, I needed to buy a tea to take home so I bought my first cake of aged puerh tea – but it was a green variety which I had never come across before. It is what the owner drinks to start his day. It is hard to sketch at the same time as drinking tea and engaging in an interesting conversation – but of course I tried.

On the right side of the page you can see the lovely gifts that I received from KK the night before – a wonderful calendar and one of his special sticks and a bottle of ink. Time to give it a go!

So I headed towards the Campbell St Market – a wet market  – and I was able to site in the shade and sketch opposite the building (BTW I love all the Scottish names in Penang!)

This was my first serious attempt at sketching with a stick (I have had a number of half-hearted attempts previously but not a full sketch) and I found it a little challenging! Whilst I love the variety in the line from constantly dipping the stick in ink I found I had to start thinking about where and when I should draw with a newly dipped stick so the ink was thicker and where on the sketch to work with the drier stick. This overlay of additional thinking disrupted my normal flow and engagement with the object I was sketching. Not a bad thing at all – it is always good to try something new! I have been told subsequently that I needed to lighten the pressure on the stick so that I don’t get all the ink at the beginning.

It was getting hot quickly so I needed to find a cool shady area… and wanted not to be surrounded by tourists. I found a Malay bungalow-style building and a shady park area opposite to sit  – perfect! Whilst sketching I noticed that I was being surrounded by Malay setting up stalls …

Which I then sketched! Thankfully the subjects of my sketch didn’t mind!

Back to my hotel for a rest in the heat of the day (see hotel view below) and then I was itching to sketch some colonial architecture. There is a lot of very grand white Colonial buildings in Penang – I had my eye on a few but thought I would go and check out the Eastern and Oriental Hotel. I was thinking it would be as grand as Raffles in Singapore but sadly the interior of the hotel was a little disappointing – there was no beautiful courtyard to sit in and sketch. So I ended up on the pavement opposite. A nice building but without much presence and a very insignificant entrance in the corner.

Here is my big sketch of the view from my hotel room on the 16th floor of the Cititel Hotel – loved it! You can see the E& O hotel and also my next destination… the Blue Mansion (it is a glorious purple-blue!!)

I turned up at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion at 3.40pm. I didn’t realise that there are only 3 x 1-hour tours a day so the guard told me to go away till tomorrow.

“Can I sketch the outside of the building?” I asked.
“How long do you need?”
“Can I have 20 minutes?” I pleaded….
“ok – you have 20 minutes!”

Sigh – total craziness!!! …. but I got it sketched and painted in about 20 minutes. While sketching it I was thinking to myself- why am I trying to sketch the whole building at high speed – why didn’t I draw a simpler representation? or a more abstract one? or work smaller? Anyway – I did what I did! Ideas for next time – but at the moment my reflex was just to go fast and furious!

I was so hyperactive when I walked away, that I needed to sit down at the next corner, and let my sketching hand wind down a little by drawing and painting random bits in front of me.

Evening: dinner with my friends who I would spend the next week with during the church conference (local family, visiting speaker and his wife from Scotland and a friend from Sydney who had come for the conference as well)

Another great day – the next day would be my last solo sketching day in Georgetown (pressure is on!)

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