May 28, 2017

Sketching at Buffalo Street, Little India Singapore

Buffalo Street, Little India Singapore
I have been here many times but it is quite impossible to explore everything here. This was done on the second floor of the market and food center located along Buffalo Street. On the first, food and vegetables. On the second, you would find all kinds of Indian boutique and accessories for the women. It is nothing like any other market in Singapore. If you walk along the aisle and browse the stalls, you wouldn't imagine yourself in Singapore at all.

In this sketch, I have changed the colours for the building. Originally, this building is painted with bright yellows and many other colours. I thought it might be too much for this drawing, so I changed it. What drew me to draw this? Well, the palm trees that stand on both side of the building in the center.

Line art was done on location while the colours were added later in the studio digitally.

May 22, 2017

Exploring Little India with a camera

Across Campbell Lane
I took a bunch of photos when I was there to do some sketching of the place. My favourite spot to sketch and paint. I took these photos and converted them to monochromatic and then adjusted the contrast. I am pretty satisfied with the results.

Sewage workers on Clive Street
A mini-mart along Buffalo Street

May 21, 2017

Combat Kong in Photoshop | Digital Character Drawing

Obviously it all started with watching a trailer of a coming new release of Planets of the Apes in which genetically enhanced apes are battling men with strength and wits. I saw in the trailer, a large gorilla, standing on both of his feet, helping to load an artillery gun, which gave me the idea of one wielding a machine gun. So here it is.

I really enjoyed this one, especially when I was drawing on my Cintiq. So this can be a burnt-in for my newly acquired gadget that I am pretty please about. It gets tiring to draw on a raised platform at first but I will get used to it. I placed a cushion below my elbow so I could rest my arm when I draw. That works very well. The screen doesn't heat up too much though it gets just a little warm but not uncomfortable. I used the canvas rotation to turn the canvas at an angle more for comfort. I could turn the Cintiq too if I wanted.

#inking in #photoshop

May 19, 2017

Plein Air Easel from a China Online Store

Plein Air Easel Delivered & Assembled
I think I made an order for this product after seeing it on probably a month ago. I forgot all about it and left it as it is, until just a week ago I saw that it has been delivered but was awaiting my confirmation and payment for delivery. As far as I am concern, the price has dropped to about SGD80, and I think I bought it at a higher price. If you are interested to get it, here's the link:

The only worry I have for this product is how well the palette tray would sit on the tripod. To my delight it is pretty sturdy with an additional supporting behind the tray. It bounces a little but I think it should work fine. The set comes with a water container that fit nicely through the inserting hole on tray. With additional weight when the container is filled with water, the tray should be less bouncy. I would not be using the free stay-wet-palette since I already have my own. I would probably use it if I am painting acrylics.

The tripod when folded measures slightly more than a foot and when placed in the bag, does not look bulky at all. Everything will fit well in a haversack.

Best buy ever. Now I have to bring it out for an actual field test.

May 18, 2017

Sketching At Chinatown, Yakun Kopitiam & Gemmill Lane

Nothing beats sketching in the heat of the day. The sun beat down on earth mercilessly on May 17. The date could be written as such, 17.5.17, no big deal, but I thought seeing the date like this intrigue me. Anyway we sat and stood under a huge tree to draw this scene. James and I decided to get out of our studio to see the world, no, I suggested it. But I chose the wrong day to get out as the following day, the weather was perfect to be out. The huge tree provided us a good shade and shelter from the sun, but not enough to shield us from the heat and humidity. I was already ignoring the beads of perspiration that trickled down my entire body, in order to stay focus on the drawing.

Here's a little story to this place, Gemmill Lane:

Gemmill Lane (仁美巷) - just a little stretch of road between Club Street and Amoy Street - named after a 19th century banker, John Gemmill, Singapore's first auctioneer, who erected a drinking fountain at Raffles Square in 1864. The fountain was inscribed with the words "For the use of all nations at Singapore". 
This place is now home to atas eateries, restaurants, cafes and bars, also a home to many foreigners, tourists and maybe some locals.
Before this, James suggested to have coffee at the flagship branch of Ya Kun, a localised kopitiam aka coffeeshop that has been around for decades, maybe even before Singapore became a nation. I was disappointed with the coffee, which tasted a little diluted. Not as "gao" (thick with aroma) as I wanted it to be. Not as "gao" as the coffee from a kopitiam near where I stay. We were also sketching people there and the kitchen. 

My sketch against Yakun kopitiam
My sketch of Yakun kopitiam kitchen
We were fortunate to be so timely as to arrive when the place was still relatively empty. Just when we sat down with our orders made, hordes of office workers steamed in. Oh one thing, this kopitiam is slightly different because we were brought in to our seats like eating in a restaurant, and the servers come to you to take your orders and serve them to you at your table. The take aways would require standing in line. 
The kitchen where the drinks are prepared is in a frenzy but everyone seems to know what they are doing. Its like a production line. And with the crowds, coffee was made at a rate of 1 cup per 5s. I am exaggerating. 
Just like any other kopitiam, this place is not air-conditioned. You may choose to seat inside or outside, which is also sheltered. Its cooler inside as there are fans placed strategically around the coffeeshop. However the noise was unbearable as everyone was speaking at the top of their voices. If I can measure the amplitude, it would be 200 decibels, way more noisy than a construction site. I also observed that there were more male customers than female. I presume females prefer air-conditioned places. Here are some sketches of the rare female customers.

May 12, 2017

Wacom Screen Tablet Drawing Glove Hack | Don Low

My drawing hand is always sweaty, especially when I get nervous or excited about something. But most of the time, the weather plays a huge contribution to my sweaty palm. When I was drawing on the Intuos tablet, my drawing hand would be sticking on the tablet surface, making it hard to glide across when drawing long lines. Now that I am drawing with the Cintiq screen tablet I want to draw long lines without getting resistance. Many have suggested using glove to prevent direct contact between the skin and the tablet surface. So I went around the house to find me a pair of glove that has been lying around for ages in the tool box, still wrapped in plastic.

I have actually seen a specially designed glove just for the screen tablet. XP-Pen produces it. There is a proprietary brand that manufactures this special glove too. It's called the SmudgeGuard.

It is actually a regular glove made of nylon and spandex materials, and according to the manufacturer's website, its materials also aids in perspiration absorption.

The glove only comes with 2 finger inserts, for the ring and the last finger, leaving the thumb, index and middle finger exposed. This allow easy grasp of the stylus. The area that covers the side palm entirely thus prevent direct contact between the palm and the tablet surface.

XP-Pen produces these gloves too, and they come with the tablet (I think). Therefore the glove has the text XP-Pen embroidered onto it - kinda cool! :D

I searched the internet and realised that Q10 has it. Most likely it comes from China, as I saw similar product specs displayed on a China online store. I ordered 2 from the Singapore online store, but waiting for the order to arrive, here's what I did.

The pair of gloves I found, I took the right hand side and cut out the fingers for the thumb, index and the middle fingers. But I did not remove the materials adjoining the thumb and the index finger for better support. My last and ring finger remain in the glove.

It works very well. Just when my palm feels sticky on the tablet, I wore the glove for a test spin. The glove glides very smoothly and it helps me to draw long lines without jamming brakes.

Everything went well until I looked at the stylus. It has lint all over the pen's barrel. Now I have to look for my lint sticker.

Well, the hack is good, now my stylus looks like it has been used for a hundred years.

Cheers, mate!

May 11, 2017

New Studio Setup for Drawing and Painting | Don Low's Studio

I would like to introduce my new Digital Drawing and Painting Setup. Basically, after pondering for more than 10 years, I felt that the time is ripe to purchase for myself a Wacom Cintiq to help me with drawing and painting digitally. I have using the Intuos setup for the longest time since when I started digital art back in 2000. My first tablet is a 12"X12" Intuos 2 which was slightly too large for me at that time. Before I went to US for my studies, I gave it away, and I have seen it since. I am also not sure what my friend did to it too. Anyway I am hoping the tablet has been put to good use, even if it is not at the moment, it has served me well many years too.

When I acquired an iPad Pro, I was delighted (I have mentioned that for the umpteenth time in this blog and on my Facebook). It has definitely changed the way we draw on the iPad. Not just drawing, but note taking too. I googled for Note Taking App and tons came up on my search result. After sketching and painting for more than a year, I thought to myself, maybe I should also upgrade to a Cintiq. I have thought of it many years back. Used Cintiq in school as well in some office. Somehow, I felt that the technology back then wasn't cut for it. The drawing surface just got too warm for comfort. Resolution wasn't that fantastic too.

Finally, when Cintiq 22HD Touch was launched I felt it was right. After watching reviews after reviews on Youtube I finally succumbed to the urge to get myself a Cintiq. It is a lot of money so I have to ask my wife for permission. And she agreed. Well, she always agrees to my whims and fancies all the time. So here's my latest studio setup.

On the left is my iMac which is about 3-4 years old. Then in the middle the newly acquired Wacom Cintiq 22HD Touch. To the right of the drawing screen are my analog drawing materials which I really have a hard time organising them. I am bad in organising stuff. To the extreme right is my painting easel which can be tilted at any angle.

This arrangement of the tools was inspired by pictures and studio setup found on the Internet. At the spur of the moment. Before that I cramped everything on one desk which made it hard for me to reach out to the mouse and keyboard. Beside my iMac, I have my Epson scanner beside the PS4 box (yes! I have a PS4) and Brother printer behind.

This current arrangement leaves plenty of space on the desk. I could then roll the Cintiq out flat to draw more comfortably. I could also stationed my Cintiq this way so I could have lots of table space to draw by the traditional ways too. The cutting board makes it easy to use the knife too. The iMac would double up as a secondary monitor when I am need to draw from reference. If I am drawing and writing at the same time, I would move the browser window to the iMac.

From the screen grab above, you would tell that I have placed the iMac and Cintiq according to how I placed them physically. The larger screen which is the iMac is placed on the left, whilst the Cintiq is on the right. Why is this important? Just so you can move the mouse in the right direction. Remember to turn the "Mirror Display" option OFF.

Other adjustments I made to the screens are the Brightness, Contrast and Backlight. These are the things that would get your eyes tired if they are turned up too much. Other than that I love the setup and I am hoping I can get used to the new arrangement. :D

May 3, 2017

Apple Pencil Mod | Don Low

When Apple Pencil was launched with iPad Pro in 2015, around the month of Sep/Oct, I was elated but not sure how it performed. When Robsketcherman, an urban sketcher from Hong Kong did a review on the new devices, I was pretty sure I need to have it because it will definitely change the way we draw on the digital platform. Rob's demo video on the functionality of the Pencil on the tablet was mind boggling and eye opening. By simply tilting the Pencil, Rob was able to produce a thick line and with pressure sensitivity so perfected, the device feels like a real pencil on paper. Later I found out that the APP that goes well with the devices is Procreate. At first I was worried about how well the "Palm rejection" function would work. After watching the video, there was no doubt Apple Pencil is going to change the world of digital drawing on the go!

A Product Shot of the Apple Pencil
So I have been using both the 13" iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for more than a year, since Dec 2015 when I bought one at Changi Airport on my way out on a free and easy travel to Taipei with my wife to enjoy a 7% discount on the tax. I bought the Apple Pencil later in 2016 after I got back from the trip because everywhere it was sold out. I was so happy with both the devices and Procreate I went around sketching with them for almost 6 months straight. The only thing I was unhappy about the Apple Pencil is, the surface material is too slippery and the barrel is made too circular and narrow like a pencil. I like using tools with a thicker width. The cap covering the charging port is also easily dropped. In fact I lost my cap on a trip to UK.

Finally just recently I decided to make some modification to my Pencil, after hearing so much about how other people inserted rubber sleeves they got from other tools over the barrel of the Apple Pencil to help with over coming the slippery surface. I found a mechanical pencil eventually and used its sleeve on the Pencil. It was a tight fit which I was happy about but it could only go so far in. The sleeve ended up quite near the tip and added too much weight to the tip end of the pencil.

But I wasn't to happy yet though it worked pretty well as I do not like to hold the pencil too near the tip while I draw. The I chanced on another pen I got free from a road show. It has a sleeve which has a wider diameter and fit loosely so I could push it higher up the pencil body.

This therefore allow me to hold the pencil higher up the barrel. It is more comfortable for me to draw this way. Finally I decided to put these sleeves together. Here's the result.

I inserted the larger sleeve from the back end of the Pencil with the broader end going through first. As it reaches the first sleeve, it covers the latter nicely creating a even broader grip. This by far is the best mod I have done so far.

April 24, 2017

Urban Sketching - My Reflections & Thoughts

When I was introduced to the concept of Urban Sketching back in 2008-2009-ish, almost 10 years ago, I was pretty impressed. The idea is to draw and finishing a sketch on location of the location. We can call it in-situ sketching too. The sketch becomes a direct response to the environment and location we were in while we were sketching. We could response to the people around us, or the traffic and noise we heard and of the elements. The satisfaction is to see the sketches we made as a group and sharing what we learned. Becoming a correspondent of Urban Sketchers for Singapore made me want to sketch more, everyday, and so I did, eventually, accumulating almost a hundred sketchbooks since I started to sketch more in 2010. I see myself sketching faster and a lot more looser in approach and the handling of lines.

urban sketching at a coffeeshop

2013 was the year I saw myself adding watercolour washes to the sketches I made, and then progressing to finishing small size watercolour paintings as well. I was making larger painting in 2014 and also moving on to plein air painting with different mediums. At the same time I saw many others doing the same too. We used to exchange information among ourselves about pens, sketchbooks and so on, but now, we hunger for information about water-colours paints, papers and more. There are almost close to a 1000 members for the Singapore chapter now compared to only about 5 when the group first started.

Because of work I have not been attending the monthly sessions. However I noticed that smaller groups have sprouted under the umbrella of the large USK group. Besides meeting monthly, some have been meeting on a regular weekly basis. Much to my encouragement. I am certainly glad to see how this act of sketching on location has proliferated in a very positive direction.

If you are a beginning urban sketcher, here are some thoughts and reflections that I may think is helpful.

1) - Draw ALL the time, whenever possible. Have a sketchbook ready in your bag. Draw when you are waiting for someone, for transport, for food. The notion is not to get better, though in the process of doing so, you will get better, but to develop a lifestyle of sketching, recording your life in a visual journal.

2) - Draw ANYTHING. From your own tools to a building that has become a significant part of your life. We will not run out of things to draw. It is just a matter of whether you want to draw it or not. Don't be hindered by your inability or capability to draw something. See your environment with a fresh pair of eyes every time you pick up a pen and sketchbook to draw. See a building or a facade of a shopfront as though you are looking at it for the first time. Don't rush to draw something, but take some time to ponder and to look, sometimes to reflect. 

3) - Keep a sketchbook. You may use loose sheets of paper but they may become difficult to handle or manage in the end. A sketchbook is like a tangible timeline of your life. When you date a sketchbook before or after you have finished using it, it becomes a flippable time capsule in which it keeps a record of what happened, where you have been and even what you have done. It is a pleasure always to be able to flip through a collection of your sketchbooks from time to time.

4) - Remember therefore to date your sketches too and even number of sketchbooks. 

5) - Adding your thoughts to your sketches can help you remember and gives your sketches an additional layer of context and narrative. 

6) - Don't just draw on your sketchbooks, but use it to keep receipts, ticket stubs and etc.

7) - Use a variety of techniques, mediums, approaches within each sketchbook. 

8) - Share what you have with other sketchers. This would build up your confidence and it is always good to listen to what others have to say about your sketches. 

9) - Start small. Don't get too ambitious when you first started out. 

10) - Keep at it and don't get discouraged when you see others doing "better" than you. 

Digital sketching with Procreate and iPad Pro

April 19, 2017

Sketching a Car Show Room | Singapore

Sketching a car showroom | Don Low 
Throwback: Sketching a car show room... a while ago (maybe about 2 years, not sure whey time passed so fast these days), James and I were attending an exhibition located right above a car show room, like a part of the office lobby portioned out for putting up art exhibits. However we got more interested with looking at the show room below us and seeing the cars from a top down angle just triggered me to want to try drawing them as a challenge. Well you could do that if you are staying in a HDB estate overlooking an open air parking lot. Very common. I don't, so I am thrilled. I am not posting this without making some modification to the original line drawing. So I brought it to Photoshop, and added some halftone effects just to throw in some light and shadow.

April 17, 2017

Sketching Students at work in Class | Procreate & Pastels

There are always some students in need in class, and you have to attend to them no matter how small the problem is. Fortunately, most problems are good and constructive ones. When some, not a big percentage though, are just lost. I have students who have zero experience in art, be it drawing or painting. Many first timers who do not have a clue on how to hold a pencil to draw. Teaching a class like this takes lotsa patience but most of the time, very rewarding experience. I usually consider teaching an opportunity to learn afresh and to understand the process of learning.

sketching students at work

I like students to ask me things, anything. The reason is, I cannot remember everything that I intended to say or teach when it comes to delivering a lecture or some sort. If a class is too quiet, I drift off. I am not the type of teacher who could put up a show, like a magician or a clown does. I am there to impart my experience or knowledge about something, not to entertain. And certainly not to inspire someone to learn something. Don't get me wrong. This is different about inspiring someone to be better. To me, the ability and the desire to learn is from inside out. You have to be interested and be inspired to learn to begin with. My job is not to help with a student's lack of inspiration to learn or to get better. Like a physician who cannot make you get better unless you want to.

sketching students at work

Anyway, when the class is focused in their own work, usually their personal project, I would be sketching the students in my spare time. I have been doing that since I started teaching. Its part of my own training and you don't get to sketch people hard at work behind their easels all the time. And it is far more interesting than drawing or painting nude. :D It keeps the class quiet too. And if anyone interested to get behind me to see the process, they are very welcomed to do so.

Here's one done with hard pastels on newsprint. If you can tell, I actually edited this on my iPad Pro with Procreate. It wasn't intentional though. On its own it looks OK, but when I took a pix with my iPhone, the flaws of the drawing become apparent. I have to correct them before I put it out for everyone. It would be embarrassing if someone came to tell me what went wrong with the drawing. Though it is not perfect yet, I am fairly satisfied with the result for now.
sketching students at work
Now back to ranting about learning how to draw....

It definitely takes quite a bit of time to learn to draw or paint and to be good at it. There is no shortcut. First of all you need to grapple with the basics, then you have to apply those basics on a more tangible subject matter, like simple geometric forms to human figure. If a student fresh out of school who has no more than doodling on his or her exercise book, the whole process of learning the foundations can seem daunting. I would be if I am that student. Picking up a charcoal or a pencil to draw is like having to learn to use muscles that have not been used before. Just like when I was trying to teach myself to play the piano. I have no idea how to move my fingers at all. I also tried drawing and painting with my non-dominant hand (left hand) and I realise that I am also facing the same problem as a new learner in drawing. I remember those times when I was learning how to drive. The legs just wouldn't want to listen to me. But with practise, driving becomes a breeze. To learn something you need to spend enough time practicing. The more one practices, the better he gets. There is no doubt that any skill needs a considerable amount of investment, in terms of putting in the time. Animators call it putting in the pencil mileage.

To draw well and to paint well, we need to put in enough mileage of time to understand mediums, techniques, ideas, composition, designs, style, and etc. There are so many things to learn and attending just 20 lessons just isn't enough. To become an artist, it takes a life time of learning, exploring and discovering. Without passion to fuel these, it is easy to give up. Moreover, there is also a possibility you may not end up a great artist in the end. However, working hard with patience always pays well.

Art School Series: Sketches of Students at Work

 Students paying attention to their work are the best subjects to draw.

April 15, 2017

Sketching at a Food Court, the Atas one.

It was only a couple of years ago, the idea of a food court changed when big companies decided to brand the idea of selling street food in a shopping mall, where patrons would be able to enjoy relatively cheap and their favourite street food in the comfort of air-conditioning. Well the prices went up quite a bit but many of us seemed to welcome the idea of eating in comfort.

Don Low - Sketching at a food court
Procreate | Ipad | Photoshop
For some, the price hike is not worth it so they stay with the open air food courts, some with ceiling fans, and wouldn't mind basking in the aroma of steam and oil. You could save quite a fair sum if you are eating out everyday.

Procreate | Ipad | Photoshop

So now if I say I am sketching in a food court, most people would understand that I am sketching in the comfort of cool air, and comfy chairs. A food center whilst is alfresco, open air concept, and warm if the ceiling fans are broken, or the climate got too hot and humid. A kopitiam is a smaller version of a food center, usually privately owned, open air and is most of the time found in HDB estates. Every venues have different demographics but equally noisy.

Now here's the class divide. Most, but not all, Singaporeans belong to the middle and upper class, so they wouldn't mind paying more for the same type of food you can get almost halved the price in a food center. Blame it on the weather too. We welcomed the idea of having everything housed under one roof. We want to shop after we eat, why not eat in the mall, thereby we would not be exposed to the elements, protected and kept safe every steps of the way. Food courts are now for the elite.

April 13, 2017

Digital Watercolour on Corel Painter 2017

I chanced on someone doing a demonstration with Corel Painter and decided to find out what is the latest version available now. I am not surprised to see that the newest is named Corel Painter 2017. These days, every software is named after the year it was developed. Adobe Photoshop is not PhotoshopCC 2017 too, and the same goes to the rest in the suite.

Corel Painter 2017 is free to download and use for 30 days. So I downloaded the trial, tested the speed of the brushes, especially Real Watercolour Brushes, and added a wash layer to a sketch I did with Procreate on iPad Pro. Loved the result, though it got really slow at certain times. I also tested the paper texture and use the Fat Real Chalk for it and turns out pretty good too. See result below.

Sketching Singapore's Shophouses

Shophouses are my favourite sketching and painting subjects because they are Singapore's very own historical heritage. Preservation of shophouses has been carried out since the 80s but a large portion of these shophouses were demolished due to safety factor and urban development. It is our "duty" as a sketcher to preserve our heritage and our history by visually documenting things that face the possibility of disappearance one day.  Besides it is a joy to sketch these buildings as each location offers a different sentiment, sensibility and architectural flavour that links our present to the past.

These are some but not all the collection of sketches and drawings of shophouses done on location. Each one of them offers a different approach to how they were draw and painted. Even though I love to draw with fountain pens, I don't usually repeat the same process for each location. Every time I visit a place, I will do my best to use a different style or method to sketch or paint, since the atmosphere, weather and lighting conditions change in each visit.
The above was done in a more colour style because it was during the Chinese New Year period. But I didn't want it to be too colourful except for certain areas. Sometimes, less is more. Like the one done in monochromatic below.
Little India
Emerald Hill Road
Kampong Glam

April 9, 2017

Don Low | My own Self Portrait Caricature

Don Low | Self Portrait Caricature 

Technology is Fickle

Technology is advancing faster and faster, spinning like a top that refuses to slow down, buts kept on spinning, regardless of any opposing forces like gravity. Just 20 years ago, I was using a laptop with a  80486 Intel processor, learning how to use Photoshop 4.0 to make my wedding invitation, and now it would be hard for me to imagine how it is back then. The exponential growth of technology has served mankind well. I would think so. Right now smart devices have made our lives a lot better, especially for artists like me who love to draw digitally. I am using an iPad Pro that I bought end of 2015. Before that I was struggling with drawing on the iPad because none of the stylus that were developed could worked well. Apple Pencil has made my sketching experience a lot better and more enjoyable.

Ironically sometimes new doesn't mean good. Take for example Apple's Magic Mouse. An old one died on me suddenly. It runs wirelessly and looks sleek with its innovative design. It took me a while to get use to one when it doesn't have any buttons on it. When I got a new one to replace the bad one, I was literally "forced" to upgrade my OS, which I reluctantly did so. The system got slower after that  and made me regret everything that I have done.

When I recently tried to get back to using a 3D Modeling Programme that requires a mouse with 3 buttons to navigate through the interfaces, I had it with the Magic Mouse. So I bought an $11 Logitech mouse instead. It works well without any installation of a driver, just simply plug and play. I have yet to use it on the 3D programme, but I am quite confident it will work much better than Apple's Magic Mouse. It is like regressing on technology. New is not always good. The old is still pretty reliable.

So I changed from using a bluetooth mouse to a wired one. Cheap and reliable is what made me a happy user. But there is still stuff that new technology has made better. Take for example a bluetooth headphones. No cumbersome wire to deal with. Easy to carry around and easy to plug and play too. I had it with wires, so I bought myself a bluetooth headphones. Wonderful!!

March 26, 2017

3rd Article for Zao Bao

A Weekend of Sketching and Drawing

iPad Pro and Procreate with customised brush tool
Hock Choo Kopitiam - Breakfast 

At Orchard - Mandarin Gallery

At Mandarin Gallery for lunch with friends