Artists document S'pore through art

Lee Lip Jiang, a visual arts student at the School Of The Arts (Sota), and his mother, Madam Tia Boon Sim, a founder of a sketching group called the Urban Sketchers Singapore, showing their sketches.

SINGAPORE - They show the world, one drawing at a time.

Started on photo-sharing website, Flickr,

Forget art museums and paintings in small stuffy studios - people around the world are joining the Urban Sketchers movement.

The idea is simple: Visit a location and portray it on paper, using watercolours, chalk or just plain pencil, to capture the look and feel of the place.

The local group was started in 2009 by Madam Tia Boon Sim, 58, a lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic, after she came across the Urban Sketchers global site.

She had initially wanted to find like-minded individuals to do some quick drawings together.

Since then, their numbers have grown to more than 2,000, judging by the group's local Facebook page.

The local sketchers have also produced four books - compilations of their sketches.

They meet on "sketchwalks" at least once a month - and they hit places as diverse as those in the heartland, Gillman Barracks and Gardens by the Bay.

One of the sketchers, Mr Patrick Ng, 42, says: "Once you sketch a place, you'll never forget it."

He joined Urban Sketchers two years ago after a friend told him about the group.

"I went for one of the outings and I was hooked," says Mr Ng, who was in the music industry but left a few years ago to pursue his postgrad.

He estimates that in two years, he has done more than 100 sketches.

The most memorable one was a building at Clarke Quay.

"I used to live there when I was four years old. My father was a bumboat operator.

"We lived right on top of a coffee shop that is now a modern coffee joint.

"Sketching that building so many years later was just amazing," he says.

Sketching, he says, is also a lot more personal than taking photographs.

"When you take a photo, what you see is what you get. The person sketching imparts his own feelings about the place in his sketches.

"The strokes he uses, the instrument used to sketch, they all convey emotions that photos cannot capture," says Mr Ng.

He has also introduced his hobby to his two children.

Both his daughter, 10, and son, eight, have taken to joining him at Urban Sketchers' sketchwalks.

"They were so amazed and satisfied that they captured the places with pen and paper," says Mr Ng.

Another sketcher, Mr Favien Ee, 35, says urban sketching has helped him appreciate Singapore more.

The visual effects artist was introduced to the group by a friend but had not given it much thought until he ran into the group one day on Pulau Ubin.

"Urban Sketchers is about sketching at a point in time, experiencing an area and locking it in your memory. When you sketch, you get to soak in the atmosphere," he says.

It is more than just a hobby.

Urban sketching, Mr Ee says, is also a way to preserve the heritage of Singapore.

"It's really also preserving things in Singapore that might disappear one day. Singapore is always changing," he says.

The group has sketched the former National Library and several old flats in Queenstown that are no longer around.

These sketches will be published in a book later this year.

Madam Tia says: "Heritage preservation is the by-product. Our main goal is still to sketch and have fun. Sketching is a social exercise. When you sketch with people, you bond with them."