Sketch and the city

Singapore is like a science fiction city to Bhutanese artist Jampel Cheda.

Last week, Mr Cheda was in Singapore for the first time to take part in Urban Sketchers Symposium, an outdoor sketching event.

And the local architecture blew him away.

Mr Cheda, 42, said: "For us, coming from the jungle, Singapore is a futuristic setting that's kind of sci-fi, it has architecture that you can only dream of or read in books."

Held from last Wednesday to Saturday, Urban Sketchers Symposium Singapore 2015 was the sixth edition of the annual event organised by international organisation Urban Sketchers. The organisation aims to show the world one drawing at a time.

It was the first time the symposium was held in Asia.

Almost 400 people, ranging from house husbands to engineers, travelled here from countries such as Israel and Japan.

Singapore has one of the most active Urban Sketching groups in the world that does sketchwalks every month.

Over the weekend, you might have seen participants of the symposium at sketchwalks, workshops and sketching activities at places such as Prinsep Street, the National Library Building and the Singapore Management University.

Ms Tia Boon Sim, 59, founder of Urban Sketchers Singapore and artist-in-residence at Centre for TransCultural Studies at Temasek Polytechnic, said that the turnout of 393 participants was the largest for this annual event.

The first symposium in Portland, US, in 2010 drew 70 people.

For many foreign participants, this was their first time in Singapore.


Mr Cheda said: "Compared to our country, where we have certain perimeters we can't break, architects here let go of their creativity."

Portuguese geometry teacher Vincente Sardinha, 52, said: "I imagined a more modern city, but I find the people very personal and friendly."

During one of the sketchwalks, he tried chwee kueh, which he described as "a little too strange for my taste".

Nevertheless, he hoped to try durian during his stay here, "even though people say it smells bad".

Many participants said they enjoyed making new friends and learning new skills.

Ms Virginia Hein, a US teacher and toy designer in her 60s, was thrilled to meet Hong Kong artist Rob Sketcherman, whose work she admires.

Mr Sketcherman, 45, himself admitted he was "excited to put faces to sketchers whose artwork I've seen online".

He said of the workshops: "The instructors are able to explain the art fundamentals in the most simplest way.

"It turned on a switch and allowed me to see in a whole different way."

But why not sketch in the comfort of an air-conditioned studio?

Mr Ch'ng Kiah Kiean, 42, an artist from Penang, Malaysia, said: "When you're in the location, you can feel the space - hot or cold, people passing by and saying hello."

Ms Elizabeth Alley, 42, who is from the US and is president of Urban Sketchers, agreed, saying: "Sketching on location develops an emotional connection with the place."

Mr Sardinha feels sketching is not a solo effort, adding: "We share our drawings, techniques and we always have something to talk about."

This article was first published on July 27, 2015.
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