Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sketchpacker Feature: Liu Wen Xiang from Taipei!

When I decided to go to Penang with the Urban Sketchers Singapore, I was pretty nervous at first. I didn't know the itinerary except that we would have accommodation provided, and that we had to make our own travel arrangements. I wasn't linked up with any of the others, most of whom had already booked their flights with their own groups, and I have almost never travelled alone. The last time I remember was when I flew alone to the Philippines on a recce trip for a Youth Expedition Project and had to meet my contacts at Cebu Airport. Penang isn't as far or unfamiliar as Philippines, but still I wasn't used to it. And this time I needed to book my own flight too. I didn't even know the bunking arrangements. But as time went by, and I managed to get the same flight as some of my friends, and after some panicking over making some mistakes with my return flight and amending it, I was eagerly looking forward to the trip.

When I got the bunking arrangements, I realised I would be sharing the room with 4 people I didn't know - 1 guy from Singapore, 1 from Penang, and 1 from Taipei. Things were getting exciting (yet not as exciting when my roommates got switched around, but that's another story).

The guy from Taipei is actually the Taipei group's correspondent. He arrived the day after me, and with a bicycle! I was wondering where he got the bike, if he brought it with him or rented it from somewhere. I soon learned that he actually brought the bike along! And he had some stories to tell.

My roommate Liu Wenxiang (right)
Liu Wen Xiang is his name. Interestingly he speaks Mandarin interspersed with a little bit of Hokkien (which I can understand a little). His Taipei accent is more similar to the Chinese accent in Singapore than in mainland China. He gave a talk on one of the nights, and I discovered that he is a real sketchpacker. I mean, if a guy travels around on his bike and goes about sketching, what else can you call him? He even cycled up Penang Hill and Genting Highlands, and from what I heard, was planning to cycle down to Kuala Lumpur from Penang before flying back to Taipei. That is halfway down Peninsular Malaysia, and then some!

During his travels, Wen Xiang sketches not so much to create beautiful art, but to capture impressions of the places he visits and the people he comes into contact with. He often uses the local paper - exercise books with lines, hole-punched paper, etc. - which adds another dimension to his art. His art is also a way to bridge gaps and make new friends. What an awesome way to travel!

On the last night of talks before the day of our exhibition, we had a postcard exchange where we exchanged postcard-sized sketches that we did during the day, and guess what? I got his postcard! (Much to the envy of a few people). It's one of the best souvenirs from the Sketching Georgetown trip to Penang.

Wen Xiang's postcard that I got. The Chinese characters read "Penang".
I have no idea where he got this paper from.

I didn't get to interview Wen Xiang or go through his sketches (except the ones he showed us during his talk), but he's a great and adventurous guy with a unique philosophy to sketching. Here's wishing you all the best and many adventures in your sketchpacking travels, my friend!