Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sketching George Town II

From 4-7 July, 2014, sketchers from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, and the UK, headed to Penang for Sketching George Town II. I had the privilege to attend the first one in 2012, the year I first joined the Urban Sketchers Singapore. This year the Penang group decided to organize another, and an even bigger and more ambitious one.

Following the opening on 4 July, sketchers from around the region and the globe gathered for a treat of drawing the UNESCO-listed town for 3 full days (some stayed for more!) with other like-minded artists. Many of us were already Facebook friends, admiring one another's works of art. Meeting one another in person was a moving experience.

Hin Bus Depot, an old bus depot converted into an art space.
We had our daily gatherings, workshops, etc. here.


Me and my roomie, Patrick


After a hearty welcome dinner, some of us stayed up for supper and fellowship. It's Penang, and Penang is all about food! In Malaysia and Singapore, Penang is known as a food paradise, and if you're not sketching, you're eating (or you ought to be!).

The next morning we had our first sketchwalk at Lebuh McNair. I took cover at Cecil Street Market for a dose of caffeine, having slept pretty badly the previous night. I ordered cham, also known as yuanyang in Singapore, which is a mix of coffee and tea. Sad to say, this particular cup I got wasn't very nice (I've tasted better in Penang). I did 3 sketches in that morning - a sketch of a durian seller, another of Pramote from Thailand, and one more of the market. I had plans to focus on pencil sketches for this trip, but as it turned out, this was the only pencil sketch I did. Most of my sketches ended up as pen and marker works in my sketchbook.

Cecil Street Market

Durian Seller


After a delicious lunch of local food nearby, we came back to Hin Bus Depot for our first round of workshops. There were workshops lined up for all 3 afternoons with 3 running at the same time. I signed up for only 1 - Story-telling in Sketch by Hong Kong cartoonist Stella So. Stella is a stellar cartoonist (see what I did there? huh? huh?) of international fame. It was a privilege to learn from her.

Workshop with Stella So

Stella's sketch of Chris

My sketch of myself and Stella

In the evenings, we had sharing sessions. The first evening was the welcome dinner, and the last evening was the closing dinner, so we had 2 evenings of sharing by 2 speakers each. The first was a Taiwanese-turned-Penangite, Luisa Hung. Luisa is trained in both architecture and anthropology. It's fascinating to me, since I'm quite curious about anthropology myself. She uses sketching as a means of recording her observations for her work. It doesn't hurt to be able to publish those sketches at a later point in time either!

Luisa (right) with Katherine translating

Luisa's slides

Mor Thiwawat from Thailand sharing his works.
Mor is a political cartoonist and versatile artist.
He is also hilarious! The Thais, I found, are super funny people.

The second morning's sketchwalk was at Jalan Penang. There's this "octopus bridge" spanning the cross junction of 2 major roads there where most of us started sketching. I didn't find anything interesting to sketch, so I went walking about and ended up at Lebuh Keng Kwee where we ran into Mdm Tia, the fearless leader and founder of USK-Singapore. Incidentally, Lebuh Keng Kwee is also the place where the famous Teochew Chendul stall is. The stall hadn't opened when we arrived, so the rest started sketching first. Me? I waited. And I was the first in line for the first bowl of chendul of the day.

Sketchers on the "octopus bridge"

Mdm Tia at work

First in line!

One lucky girl got drawn!

I didn't draw much that morning aside from the lucky gal above, and the chendul stall. I did draw a couple more pictures in the afternoon though. I didn't sign up for any workshops, so I went to a nearby cafe with some friends. While they sketched, I decided to listen to my body and crash, so crash I did. I became a celebrity of sorts that afternoon, cos while I was napping, I got snapped, sketched, selfied, all at one go. When I woke up, the lady I was napping next to showed me a photo she took. I took a glance and I just had to sketch it.

Photo of a sketch of a photo.

After my nap, I stepped outside the cafe
to sketch KOMTAR. How can one come to this part
of George Town for a sketching trip and not do at
least 1 sketch of this iconic building?

We had a hearty dimsum breakfast the next morning at the coffeeshop downstairs (actually we had hearty dimsum breakfasts all 5 mornings we were there!). After that, we headed down to Hin Bus Depot before going to Jalan MacAlister for our third and final sketchwalk. We walked to the Penang State Museum and sketched around that area.

Penang State Museum at Jalan MacAlister

Drawing by Don Low

Luisa Hung's sketch

Luisa and I with my sketch of her and Katherine

Again, I had the afternoon free, so I took the chance to do a couple more sketches that I needed to - one for a souvenir for myself, and one for a souvenir for someone else. We were going to have a sketch exchange that night, and each of us was given a card to draw on.

My souvenir. I sat outside to draw Hin Bus Depot.
As the sun moved, my toes started to roast.

After a bit of a rest, I decided to go back to the hotel room to shower before dinner. It would be a 15 minute walk and the weather was pretty warm over those few days. Little did I know that dinner included satay! So much for getting clean and then getting BBQ smell all over my fresh clothes again!

Besides the closing dinner and ceremony, it was time to exhibit our works. Each registered sketcher could submit 1 A4 sketch, which would be displayed at Hin Bus Depot, and later at other locations and coffeeshops during the upcoming George Town Heritage Festival. I only managed 2 A4 pieces for the entire trip, and the watercolour piece turned out awful, so I submitted my pencil sketch.

After the awards, sketch exchange, dinner, and what-nots, we hung around, reluctant to leave. For the first time in a long while, I actually went and got some autographs from people - I asked them to draw themselves in my sketch journal! We've come a long way, made new friends, sketched together, enjoyed Penang food together, and it was sad that the event had finally come to an end, and we were going to make our way home soon.

My sketch and I

KK and Cheang Jin, 2 of the leaders of USK-Penang

Someone shouted, "Look!" And this is what we saw. An awesome
sunset fit for our final evening at Hin Bus Depot

Old-school snacks!!

Sketch Exchange!

Look who got my sketch!

I got this sketch by Theerawut Dermlim from Phuket

I need a wider angle lens!

Stephanie and me

Bo Juan, another leader of the USK Penang

The hardworking Urban Sketchers Penang group, who organized
this amazing event!

Supper/dessert with the guys (and gal) near our hotel.

Patrick and I were due to leave the next evening, so we took the opportunity to do some shopping and sketching in the morning and afternoon. While the others went sketching and eating after our dimsum breakfast, I needed to get some famous tau sar piah from Him Heang, an approximately 2 km walk from our hotel, and some dried nutmegs.

It was a beautiful morning with blue skies!

Octopus bridge

After about half-an-hour of walking and wondering
if I had missed the building, I finally arrived

I was originally planning to buy more, but it
would've been hell to carry all that and walk back

Shopping before catching our taxi to airport

Patrick, my roomie, found out he "owned a motor
shop" in Penang!

At the airport! We went early. Or so we thought....

Our flight was supposed to be at 9:50 pm. We went to the airport at around 6+. We didn't see our flight listed on the screen, so we found a seat at KFC. Maybe we were too early.

While Patrick took care of our bags at KFC, I went to make some enquiries. Slowly it dawned on me that something had gone horribly wrong. We had missed our flight.

Tiger Air had rescheduled our flight earlier and we didn't realise that it was a morning flight. There were no more flights by Tiger to Singapore that night. They kindly put us on the next flight at 11 a.m. the next morning at no extra charge. In the meantime, we needed a place to stay. I immediately contacted Bo Juan, who kindly opened his place for us to crash for the night. We were very grateful, even if we were still in shock. After dinner, we booked a cab back up north to Bo Juan's apartment. In the meantime, we needed to make arrangements back home for the next morning. Patrick had to get his wife to fetch the kids from school, and I had to email my office and apply for emergency leave the next morning.

The face says it all...

Bo Juan's kid's room

Anamorphic art! How cool is that!

The kids gave up their room for us. We were so blessed!

By the time we reached Bo Juan's place, it was late and he had gone to bed with the kids. Ashley greeted us and ushered us into the kids' room. The 2 young ones gave up their beds for us! I had to borrow one of Patrick's shirts because I had used up mine, including the spare shirt that I brought. In turn, he had to borrow my towel because he didn't expect to need one since the hotel supplied towels. Good thing I had a spare small travel towel.

The next morning, we realised that the apartment was just next to the coast! We were treated to a beautiful sunrise, and Bo Juan and Ashley took us to breakfast at Gurney Drive, a famous eating spot along the north coast, for some dimsum. After breakfast, they kindly drove us to the airport and made sure we checked in before saying goodbye just in case we got stranded again, in which case it would mean more time with our friends in Penang. Thankfully we managed to get on our plane and had a safe flight back. Since I needed to get to work immediately after getting home, I put aside my sketchbook and slept all the way back.

Sunrise from Bo Juan's balcony
Copyright © Favian Ee  July 2014

Copyright © Favian Ee  July 2014

Copyright © Favian Ee  July 2014

Copyright © Favian Ee  July 2014

Breakfast at Gurney

On the way home. Finally!

Here's the video I put together of the trip:

Check out my post on Sketching George Town 1 from 2 years ago and our exhibition back in Singapore!

Coming up, my Sketching George Town II sketch journal! 40 pages or so of sketches, and I'm hoping to make it available on an online Print-on-Demand publisher so anyone who would like to order a copy can do so. Stay tuned!


  1. This is such a great report on the weekend! Thanks for sharing!

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