Two Chinese Temples

The day before the Urban Sketching Symposium started in Singapore, I wandered along Waterloo Street, the site of my workshop. I came upon this Chinese temple, seemingly grafted onto a three-story office building.

In contrast to the Waterloo Street temple is the Thian Hock Keng Temple in the Chinatown district, which is one of the oldest Hokkien temples in Singapore. The more traditional layout was completed in 1842 to accommodate Chinese immigrants giving thanks for a safe voyage. Because of the heavy street traffic, I decided to focus on the composition of tiled roofs and animated ridge and hip lines, leaving the rest to the imagination.

Raffles Hotel Singapore


The Raffles Hotel is an icon in Singapore, having been established in 1887 by two Armenian brothers. Named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, it was designed by the architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren.

This view, looking down Seah Street from North Bridge Road, is one of the many drawings done during the 6th International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore that wIll be auctioned off to benefit the urban Sketchers organization.

More Signs of Fremont

Continuing from a previous post from this past January, these are more signs of Fremont. While I am concentrating on those of places with a history here, a few relative newcomers have probably snuck into the picture. In drawing these, I am struck by the subtle differences in typography that we normally do not notice but which convey the character of a place

First Street Langley

Spent the 4th of July weekend with a few dear friends on Whidbey Island. On Saturday, we drove into Langley, which likes to call itself the Village by the Sea. While the setting overlooks the Saratoga Passage to the east, its heart lies along First Street with its shops, galleries, and restaurants. Along this main street, no particular building stands out from the others but together they prove the adage that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

I chose this particular view of First Street because the sun was intense at midday, the temperature was in the 80’s, and I was fortunate enough to find a bench in the shade.

Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ

A recent addition to the Freelard neighborhood is this BBQ joint at 4105 Leary Way NW. Even though the scene contains a lot of detail, I find that picturesque places like this are easier to draw since slight errors in proportion are much less noticeable than when drawing examples of classical architecture, which followed certain principles of proportional relationships. For example, drawing the Tempietto in Rome was a real challenge. Notice the comment that I wrote after finishing—A little too tall… I had exaggerated the height of the structure just a bit too much.

The Kubota Garden

An ad hoc group of Seattle Urban Sketchers met this morning at the Kubota Garden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle. Fujitaro Kubota purchased the five-acre parcel of swampland in 1927 and proceeded to clear the land, dig several ponds, and create a spectacular landscape merging Japanese design techniques with North American materials. As the now 20-acre garden was threatened by developers, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designated the garden a Historical Landmark in 1981. The City of Seattle acquired the grounds in 1987, which is now stewarded by the Kubota Garden Foundation.

These two views is of the latest addition to the garden, the Terrace Outlook, the base of which was constructed by the Awatas, a 15th-generation family of Japanese artisan stone masons, along with a host of volunteer workers. Drawing a view dominated by landscaping and plant materials with a fountain pen requires paying attention to the various textures of the plant materials and using patterns of light and dark shapes to create implied layers of depth.

One could spend an entire day sketching in the Kubota Garden and so I plan on returning to capture more views.

Starting a New Sketchbook

Having filled one sketchbook, I pulled a new one off the shelf to do this drawing. In beginning, I was instantly reminded of how the change from an absorbent surface to one treated with sizing affects the quality of lines from a fountain pen. Where I was used to being more tentative with thicker lines in my last sketchbook, I had to be more insistent with the thinner, lighter lines on the Moleskin paper.

This view is typical of the shipbuilding and related industries fronting the Ship Canal in the area between Fremont and Ballard, which some people are calling Freelard. I decided to begin with the barbed-wire-topped chain link fence and blackberry bushes that separated me on the street from what I was viewing, a ship under construction. The drawing ended up being more of a vignette than I had intended but that is the nature of sketching. Like a conversation, the drawing process can often lead to unexpected results.

Wide vs. Close-Up Views



I have always preferred taking photographs with a wide-angle lens—a 35 mm, 28 mm, or even a 24 mm fixed lens. This preference shows up in the views I usually select when drawing on location. My inclination to include context and information in my peripheral vision often leads to panoramic views or perspectives that stretch beyond the classic 60° cone of vision for linear perspectives.

Some photographers prefer the more tightly composed shots made possible with telephoto lenses, which can be seen in how they might frame and compose their on-location drawings.

For those who prefer the flexibility of a zoom lens, the choice of subject matter can suggest how it is to be framed, whether it is a panoramic cityscape or a tighter close-up of a building fragment.

The Polar Pioneer

Amid a lot of controversy, the Royal Dutch Shell oil rig Polar Pioneer docked recently at Terminal 5 in Seattle to be fitted and supplied for oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. When the 400-foot-long vessel arrived after a 12-hour journey from Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula, it was met by by environmental activists in kayaks and on shore protesting the proposed drilling in the Arctic ecosystem in general, and more specifically, the presence of the oil rig in Seattle.

Workshop Offerings


A month after attending the 6th International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore (See, I will be joining Norberto Dorantes, Simone Ridyard, and Climaco Cardenas in conducting a series of workshops, offering demonstrations, and leading sketch crawls in Amsterdam and Liverpool over two long weekends, August 13–23. For more information about the schedule of events and registration, please visit

And finally, to cap off the summer, Gail Wong and I will be teaching another Line to Color workshop in Portland, Oregon, September 25–27. To find out more about this event, you can email Gail at