SG Trip Prep 2: Reviewing previous travel sketchbooks

June 13, 2015 | 4 Comments

Part of a series of posts about my preparation for this years Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore.

After looking at some other people’s books of sketches of Singapore during the week, it was time to look through my own.  I visited SG over two consecutive Xmas/ New Year breaks in 2012 and 2013 – the second was was coupled with a 2 week visit to Penang Malaysia. Both times I had an amazing sketching adventure and this is a little review of them. I have decided to share with you photos of my sketchbooks rather than the scanned versions, just to put my work in the context of the book. But if you want to see the scanned versions:
Full set of Singapore 2012 sketches here
Full set of Penang/Singapore 2013 sketches here

Many people I talk to are dismissive of Singapore as a tourist destination. ‘It is too slick and modern and not anywhere as interesting as most other Asian cities and countries’, they say. I just found this quote on the Lonely Planet website “Long dismissed as little more than a sterile stopover, Singapore has reinvented itself as one of the world’s hotlist destinations.” and guess what? Lonely Planet has chosen it as the top destination for 2015! Wow!

All I have to say is that I love visiting the place! It is so easy to visit, clean and safe with lots of English signs everywhere that I just feel at home. There is so much to sketch as well! But, like any trip I go on, people are the most important part and I have a lot of friends in SG – both church friends and of course Urban Sketchers. The SG USK group is so inspiring!

So anyway, I am rambling already…. but an important part of Trip Prep for me is to pick up the threads from previous sketching trips. Instead of looking through Brazil, Tasmania and Melbourne sketchbooks (my last 3 trips), this morning I went through my two Singapore ones.

The first trip to SG was highly significant as I arrived the day after leaving my full time architecture job of 18 years! It was the start of my new adventure and so much has changed in my life since then. During my 2 week visit, I picked up lots of new ideas as a result of hanging out with the local sketchers – in particular my good friend Paul Wang who shared a lot of his techniques with me. It was like a personal symposium for me.

These two sketches of the ‘new Singapore’ were the highlights for me, achieving a result I had been striving after for a long time. And I spent the next year experimenting with different ways of working – different from the standard ink and wash approach that I had used obsessively for many years. I really wanted to become a better painter, and visiting SG and hanging out with the local USKers was a great kick starter for me.

The next year in Penang I was still in this searching and experimentation mode and my two big goals were to achieve expressive lines and add more texture to my watercolour painting. Going to Penang and seeing KK in action with his twig and ink work was as inspirational as it gets. I had a lot of solo sketching time in Penang and then ended up back in SG for the last week – madly catching up with people and once again gleaning lots of ideas from them.

At the end of this trip I discovered how much Paul’s approach of alternating between line and colour suited the way I wanted to work and in combination with seeing KK’s linework a few things ‘clicked’ for me. So, once again, a visit to Singapore was a break-through!

I think that the most important factor was that I had times to focus on my own sketching in between meeting other sketchers and I was in a city that was so easy to get around and sketch. Note: although Penang is more interesting, I found it a more challenging place to sketch on my own. I feel much more comfortable sketching solo in SG.

Last years USK symposium in Brazil opened the door to new ideas – well, in fact, they were old ideas revisited in a new way  – so I am looking forward to a new adventure again this year in my creative journey though I don’t think it will be easy to get solo sketching time! It will be great to be teaching once again and whilst I have recently taught my Pointless Perspective, I have a few new ideas to explore in the ‘Coloured Shapes’ component of my workshop! Note: In fact my ‘fad colour’ from yesterdays post has to do with this!

After using the 9 x 6” alpha book for the last two short internal trips, it will be a shock to the system to go back to the large A4 watercolour moleskine. Looking through my sketchbooks this morning has not only prompted me to think about what my challenges should be this trip, but also that I need a few specific strategies for up-sizing to this book… anticipating SGTripPrep No. 3!

And oh! I almost forgot… although many of the shop houses have been demolished to make way for big skyscrapers, there are still PLENTY to sketch … and last but certainly not least, the food is GREAT in SG.


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  • Beautiful re-visit of these gorgeous sketchbook pages. Thanks, Liz!!

  • sandra de says:

    Just returned from Singapore and absolutely loved walking all over the city, eating delicious food and evening doing a few sketches. Looking forward to seeing your amazing sketches.

  • sophie says:

    Love this : i think it is si interesting that you will visit this place again : am looking forward to seeing the évolution in your sketches .

  • Wonderful sketches – specially the one with the red boathouse. As always it is fascinating to read about how you learned and your style evolved over the years. I'm looking forward to seeing what you will create this time around.

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