Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Eve... Goodbye 2013

It's the last day of the year... what better way to mark it than with a series of sketches with fellow enthusiasts. We went on a sketching jaunt to Chinatown and captured the day's scenes: from early morning to late in the evening.

I started with this piece of the Sri Mariamann Temple along South Bridge Road...

Sri Mariamann Temple, South Bridge Road
Watercolour and ink on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
... to end with this one of a strangely quiet Club Street on a New Year's Eve evening.

Club Street, Tanjong Pagar
Watercolour and ink on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound

Monday, 30 December 2013

At a Little Cafe at Kampung Glam...

View of La Marelle Cafe from Kampong Glam Cafe
Watercolour on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound

It was a rainy when a small group of us decided to meet Liz from Australia for a bit sketching and coffee. I decided to be adventurous and did this piece entirely with waterbrushes and watercolour.

The result was surprisingly pleasant...

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Sketchwalk at Dempsey Hill

Saint George's Church
Watercolour on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
Watercolour on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
For the last sketchwalk of the year, the Urban Sketchers decided to take on Dempsey: the place steep in history and the land's architectural records of its colonial past. Looking at the lush greenery and resort-like ambience that characterises Dempsey Hill of today, it may be difficult to associate this relaxed and laid back place with the discipline and regiment of the military. It may thus come as a surprise to some that the premises at Dempsey Hill used to be the Central Manpower Base of Singapore (“CMPB”) and former British army barracks. Old-timers may still be able to make out the parade square, and the old CMPB office premise, now a lifestyle destination. They may also remember this as the place where young Singaporean men, some accompanied by anxious parents, reported for their “national service”, that is, compulsory military service, when they had come of age. 

The three-tonners ferrying men to their respective army units, and the anxious recruits with shorn heads may no longer be there, as the CMPB was eventually relocated to the more modern and larger premises at Depot Road in 1989 after 17 years. But for many, the legacy of Dempsey as the first port of call for every young man enlisting for the army will doubtlessly be remembered with nostalgia and fondness. 

Saint George's Church
St George's Church is owned by the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, and was constructed between 1910 and 1913. This Anglican church was built for the British troops in Tanglin Barracks — once the General Headquarters of the British Far East Land Forces. St. George's community currently comprises members from Singapore and many other countries.

The building was constructed from materials imported from England and cost £2,000 to build. The current building dates back to 1910 but there was an earlier St George's built in 1884 near the site of the present church. Both churches were built for the British troops quartered at Tanglin Barracks. Tanglin Barracks was once the General Headquarters of the British Far East Land Forces. After the British forces left in 1968, it was used by the Ministry of Defence as its headquarters before the ministry moved to new premises in Bukit Gombak.

The land had formerly been used as a nutmeg plantation and it included Mount Harriet, a 103-foot high hill on which the church now stands. The land had belonged to William E. Willan and was sold in 1865. However, even before the church was built, an ordained minister for the garrison was appointed in 1871.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

December 2013 Sketchwalk with the Urban Sketchers Singapore

The Urban Sketchers Singapore have voted and the winning location this month is Dempsey Hill. Let's do it slightly earlier this month so it will be cooler. We will meet 9AM at Block 9 on Dempsey Hill, outside Jones The Grocer. There we will have a short briefing and you can spread out in any direction to draw. The area has lots to explore so don't just stick to the main area. At 12PM we will meet back again at Jones The Grocer where we will do our show and tell.

There isn't an MRT to gets to Dempsey Hill but there are some shuttle buses listed on their website (http://www.dempseyhill.com/location.htm) There are also quite a few public buses that pass by. Most of them can be boarded from Orchard Road. And then it is a short ride and walk to Dempsey.

Please see the map on their website for the location of Block 9 (http://www.dempseyhill.com/location.htm)

If you are really lost, you may call Andrew at 91070735. But only if you are really lost. If you are late, no worries, just look for sketchers scattered around the area and approach any of them. I don't think you can miss us.

See you there! Remember the new timing. 9AM-12PM. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

陶光: Finding the Light within Earth's Clay...

The rear of the dragon kiln at Thow Kwang.
Watercolour on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
Thow Kwang holds a relic of the island. It is the last pottery in Singapore that still has a functioning 'dragon kiln' (龙窑). I was very fortunate to attend a pottery workshop hosted by the owner and craftsperson of the pottery, Mrs Tan. Along with other Urban Sketcher enthusiasts, we worked with our hands to mould pieces of clay into our creations and also took some time after the workshop to explore the place and of course, did some sketches...

Monday, 9 December 2013

Scaling for new sceneries: Sungei Buloh

Set done on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
So by now, you must have heard of the crocodiles that have found their permanent home at the North-western coast of the island at Sungei Buloh. While many are concerned about the safety of humans visiting the park, I have to confess to a worry for the reptiles instead: we all know who are the ones who can get really wild and dangerous when in duress or a panic. Clue: it’s not the reptiles.

When I visited Texas a while ago, my lovely host took me to Brazos Bend State Park which really is a nature reserve where crocodiles are a main draw. Crocodiles? Did I hear you exclaim? Well, before you get your scales in a frenzy, the reptiles are so well-fed and taken care of in that they it’s really safe to visit the park any time of the year. How safe? With just some precautions and common sense, you can actually camp in the park at any time of the year without any fear.

So, with the rare sunshine out at this time of the year, I managed to make trip to Sungei Buloh for a bit of plein-aire and actually managed to get three pieces in before the weather turn expectedly dark and drab again. The heat as the sun came out managed to burn off the mist as you can see from the progress of the sketches. And while the sun was out, it was an oh-so-lovely affair with colours and light in a beautiful duet…

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Sketchwalk at Punggol Waterway Park.

Punggol Waterway Park
Watercolour on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
 The Urban Sketchers decided on Punggol Waterway Park as the venue to hold November's sketchwalk. As it turns out, it's the hottest Saturday on the month and the fact that the park is a young one with hardly any mature trees for shelter was no salve.

Punggol was once a fishing village littered with pig and poultry farms set alongside vegetable plantations. Today, its new residential town is set to capitalise on what remains of this lovely setting. The waterway traversing the town centre and the coastal promenade are pleasant additions to the breezy open spacesand seafood restaurants. The Town Park is a multi-purpose park located just a few minutes' walk north of the Punggol Town Centre. Its traffic-free environment makes it an ideal venue for plenty of leisure and recreational activities along the Punggol Waterway. One can also embark on a nostalgic walk to the old Punggol Road.

The Punggol Waterway Park and My Waterway @ Punggol are joint agency projects between HDB and NParks. The project is part of HDB's 'emaking Our Heartland' initiatives to turn Punggol Town into a 'Waterfront Town' of the 21st century.

The Waterway runs through the Punggol Waterway Park, and both serve to increase park and water frontage for the housing estate and provide a green respite for residents. Designed with four themes to cater to residents of all ages, the park also provides residents opportunities for leisure activities such as jogging and cycling which can be carried out along the promenade at both sides of the waterway.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Of Price and Pen.

My Platinum 'Preppy's
Platinum 'Preppy' pens
I sketch with fountain pens, almost exclusively so. When I am out and about or hanging out with my friends, sketchers and otherwise, we ask one another about the tools and media we use. One of the regular questions I get is what fountain pens do I use. There are two answers to this question:

1. I use Sailor pens, both the ‘1911’ range and the ‘Profit’ range.

2. I use the modified Platinum ‘Preppy’ pen.

The second respond is a little more complicated, as in, “How modified?” I hear you ask.

The Platinum ‘Preppy’ 
I was first introduced to the pen when I purchased a bottle of Noodler's ink. The dropper-capped bottles of ink came with a complimentary fountain pen which I later found out, is the aforementioned pen. The Preppy (available at Books Kinokuniya for about S$3.00 each) is an entry-level fountain pen that is surprisingly write and draw-friendly. It comes in .3, .5 and felt tip options. They are really meant to be used with their proprietary cartridges from Platinum, but with a simple and affordable modification, you can convert the whole barrel, which is made of polycarbonate, into an ink barrel. I really love this conversion because it means I can fill the pen with copious amounts of ink. I don't really need to worry about bringing them out for sketching with me any more, since they practically last for months before needing a refill.


You may watch the video below for instructions on conversion:

The size 3/8 O-rings are easily available at most hardware stores. The shop I went to sells a pack of 100 for S$18 (or a crazy S$0.80 each).
I love the ‘Preppy’ pen’s affordability and convertibility which allow one to experiment with different types of nibs and ink colours without having to break into your bank…

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Keppel Bay: Playground of the Rich and Pompous

Marina at Keppel Bay: Playground of the Rich and Pompous
Marina at Keppel Bay has a public boardwalk around its perimeter that links an enjoyable walk all the way to Labrador Park

Keppel Island or Pulau Keppel is an island which was owned by Keppel Shipyard for the primarily purpose of shipbuilding and repairs. In 2008, the Keppel Bay Bridge, a 250m bridge was opened linking the mainland to Keppel Island. Earlier in 2007, the Marina at Keppel Bay opened its doors. The Marina has 168 berths which could accommodate Super yachts up to 280 feet in length. The Marina also houses operates several F&B outlets and a sailing academy.

There is a public park around the island which is opened to the general public. To enter Keppel Island, you would need to enter Keppel Bay Drive next to the Caribbean at Keppel Bay Condominium. There is a bus stop right in front of the condominium and the buses includes 10, 30, 57, 61, 93, 97, 100, 131, 143, 145, 166, 188, 408 and 963 if you are coming from Harbourfront or Vivocity.

The yachting facilities and high-end residence which forms Marina at Keppel Bay enjoys proximity to the city centre. It is in the necklace of entertainment hotspots such as the Resorts World at Sentosa and VivoCity, Singapore’s largest entertainment and retail hub. 

Marina at Keppel Bay is the crown jewel in Singapore’s southern shores and like a crown jewel, is the exclusive home of choice for international luxury yachts and a water playground for the ethereally privileged.

Located at Latitude 01°15.90' N Marina at Keppel Bay has 168 berths which can accommodate superyachts of up to 280 feet. The Marina features a world-class concrete pontoon system, designed and built by Bellingham Marine. 

While the space is quiet, serene and wildly enjoyable, walking through the space, the fenced up communities and exclusive amenities serve as constant reminders of the start contrast between the haves and have-nots. It is proof that there is a wealth disparity between the social strata and the gap while hugely gaping, is neatly tucked away from prying eyes.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

There is always time for a Group Therapy Session.

Group Therapy: A respite from the city buzz with coffee on the side...

Group Therapy Café is not a café. Not in the traditional sense anyway. It is a collective events space housed within a restored shophouse, tucked away on the 2nd Storey to allow groups to gather and seek respite in the heart of the CBD. It really is mainly an events space for lifestyle workshops, private parties and corporate events. The adjunct café then, is really just an expression of our love for coffee, food and good drink: an extension of their passion.

The unconventional and casual atmosphere of the space is truly a haven from the buzz so prevalent just outside its doors. The shophouse configuration also means that its use is modular and can be customised to suit various party sizes and functions.

The café serves up a good cuppa. The espresso café latte is delicious and full-bodied while the flourless chocolate cheesecake is a nice balance of sweet and tart. It would wonderful to revisit the outlet and try its other signature sweet – the four layer carrot cake.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

313@Somerset: Old Malaya Cafe serves up satisfying Malaysia's traditional fare

The Old Malaya Cafe at 313@Somerset
Made the decision to dine out the other Sunday. Was strolling along the Orchard Road belt and chanced upon this hole in the wall eatery at 313@Somerset that serves Malaysian style traditional food. Without many other attractive options available, I was game to try the place out.

I had the Penang Assam Laksa along with a side of poh piah (a local version of the fresh spring roll). The generous servings were greatly appreciated and the taste: admittedly delicious and believably authentic. Having enjoyed the experience, I was back again a few days later to try the other items on the menu. On my second coming (heh heh), I chose the Hainanese chicken rice balls followed by a chendol to sweeten and seal the palate.

Ambience wise, I appreciate the outlet’s attempt at recreating an authentic old-style ‘Nanyang’ (南洋) café, complete with nostalgic touches like tin packaging for sweets and enamel tiffin carriers.

Overall, it’s a nice enough place for a meal in town that’s both affordable and deliciously authentic, with good value for money in terms of quality and quantity.

Kim Seng Park, 2013

Kim Seng Park along Singapore River
I chanced upon this place in 2011 and was mesmerised by the light and space here. The canopy of the trees plays merrily with the sunlight that filters and streams through the leaves and branches. It's a beautiful peaceful piece of greenery in the city. I attempted to capture the place with a watercolour sketch (see link here).

It's been two years and I was back last week for a similar assignment. I decided to do another sketch, both as a mark of time and passage for the park as well as for myself.

So much has changed...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The ABC of breads and baking: Tasting at Artisan Boulangerie Company

Artisan Boulangerie Co. at Great World City.
Artisan Boulangerie Co. (“ABC”) is a contemporary bakery with French influences. Led by award-winning artisan baker, Eran Mayer, they employ traditional techniques to bring a wide variety of breads, pastries, morning goodies and snacks to passionate fans every day.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Things We Miss Over Busy Nothings...

It is as amazing as it sad that these beautiful blooms are invisible to the very eyes that pass them by everyday...
It’s amazing how our eyes miss the things we see every day.

There is an eco-pond at my office compound. On a daily basis, I’d notice how my colleagues pass by the spot and pass up the chance to see the beauty that grows every day within that body of water.

In the five years that I’ve been there, I’ve seen papyrus come and gone, lilies bloomed and withered and a myriad of lotuses gone to seed as their petals fall to reveal their pods. These plants are no longer in the pond, given their delicacy and lack of care.

Taking over though is nature’s creative hands with its new lease of life: tadpoles to frogs and toads, nymphs to dragonflies. Also, a whole new school of fish have made the pond home as well as semi-aquatic plants that have somehow taken root and bloomed there.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Lady M: It's In-crepe-dible!

Shown here are the Vanilla Mille Crepe and the Checkers (a vanilla+chocolate cake layered with fudge)
I read about Lady M confectionery online on HerWorld’s Facebook post. Apparently, this decade-old confectionery has only four other outlets, all in the US and this one in Singapore is the only one outside of the States.

I read much about the much-raved Vanilla Mille Crepe cake: a cake made up of twenty layers of alternating crepe and pastry cream.

While I was there to experience the place with Tony and Paul (fellow USKSG sketchers), I tried the signature pastry: light delicious and melt-in-your-mouth, the Mille Crepe is not hype; it’s the real thing.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Of misty mountains and cool moist air...

Selected flora of the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay

The Cloud Forest is a 0.8 hectare enclosure within the premises of the Gardens by the Bay. It is designed to replicate the cool moist climates, found in the tropical rainforests' mountainous regions, from 1000 to 3000 metres above sea level.

The replica of the mountain in the enclosure is clad with epiphytes: from orchids to pitcher plants to ferns and other various floras typical of the geography.

I observed and recorded the more interesting floras along the trail and for a while, I felt like a real botanist...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sweets For My Sweet (Tooth)

The new menu; the sweet corn panna cotta; the grilled barramundi and the nougat parfait meringue.

Bakerzin at United Square
It’s the soft launch of Bakerzin’s new menu featuring a new array of sweets and pastries by their new chef. I was there on the first day of the introduction of the new menu to try the dessert and food. Having been a fan of their confectionery, I arrive at the place full of expectations.

I had started with a grilled barramundi, which was unfortunately, a little overcooked. The delicate texture of the otherwise well-seasoned fish was a little rubbery and chewy. The selection of French beans also left much to be desired, being a little too fibrous, chewy and stringy.

After the mains, I was also offered two desserts to try: A Sweet Corn Panna Cotta made with lemon madeleine sponge, crunchy freeze-dried corn, toasted walnuts, popcorn and caramel sauce as well as a Nougat-Parfait Meringue made with nougat parfait with orange liqueur soaked cranberries, pistachios and almonds, topped with meringue.

The matching of the different tastes and flavours within each dessert is heaven. The execution of the sweets needed fine-tuning. The lemon madeleine sponge tastes absolutely wonderful with just enough tartness, balanced off with sweet. The level of caramelising on the sponge does require more care. The serving on the table tasted a little charred on certain bites. On the other, even though its meant to be a confectionery, the parfait-meringue was simply over-the-top with its level of sweet.

However, given that today was the first day of the launch and the assurance that they are ironing out the kinks, I will withhold my final judgement till the time when I am informed of their readiness for serious tasting. That is when, I am sure, my taste buds and I will simply be blown way.

Background of Bakerzin
Previously known as Baker’s Inn, Bakerzin started out in 1998 as a modest patisserie located off Sembawang Road, Singapore, dealing with wholesale orders and supplying French bread and pastries to restaurants and hotels. During this time, founder of Bakerzin, Daniel Tay, and his team of passionate bakers began experimenting and conjuring new and indulgent creations. As word spread, Bakerzin steadily gained a reputation in the industry as not just an authentic French bakery but one with an excellent selection of scrumptious sweets on its order list.

In 2000, Daniel Tay launched his first boutique café serving up Bakerzin’s collection of indulgent treats. The establishment also offered an assortment of savoury dishes for every palate.

In early 2011, Bakerzin also launched its first Bakerzin Artisan Bread store located at myVillage at Serangoon Gardens. This speciality store serves up authentic European style bread for the discerning customer. To date, there are 9 Bakerzin outlets islandwide.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Changi Point - Sunset Walk: An Initmate Celebration of Orgiastic Colours

An accidental pit-stop: who knew the old Changi Point would hold this secret treasury of such a colourful scene...?
It was still early after lunch with my colleagues after work today. I decided to take a breather with a change of scenery and packed a simple picnic, heading off to Changi point for the evening. Since it’s a weekday, I know it would be quiet at that remote part of the island. What I was not aware though, is the breathtaking view at sunset: a veritable smorgasbord of colours awaits anyone patient enough to linger. As the sun descends to kiss the horizon, the sky celebrates the intimacy, bursting in an orgy of colours. It’s a sensational visual treat, an incredible sight for sore and jaded eyes.

Not many are aware of this spot, tucked away at the western end of Changi Point. It is a boardwalk, which offers a beautiful view of the coastline. This 2.2-km boardwalk is open 24 hours. Strolling along this continuous scenic route is easy with any comfortable walking shoes.

There are six distinct sections on this boardwalk: Creek Walk, Beach Walk, Sailing Point Walk, Cliff Walk, Kelong Walk and Sunset Walk. It begins from Changi Creek in the east and stretches to the western rocky coast near Changi Beach Club before finally linking up to Changi Point or Loyang Park Connector at Netheravon Road.

The 'Sunset Walk' allows you to enjoy a splendid view of the sunset at the western end of Changi Point, amid a backdrop of huge boulders. In the evening, the walkway is soft-lit and you can see the lights of the Punggol Housing Estate in the distance. This provides a good spot for a romantic stroll. This is the end of the boardwalk. You can choose to double back via the way you came from or head back to Changi Ferry Terminal via Cranwell and then Netheravon Road. If you choose to walk down Netheravon Road, it is another 2.5 km.

After this little trip (an accidental pit-stop), my memory of this place as a embarkation point for bumboat journeys to Ubin and Tekong (during my army daze) will have to change. It’s now changed from a hazy sort of olive drab to a dazzling array of rainbow hues.