Friday, 28 February 2014

Saying goodby to the King: King Albert...

King Albert Park (Complex) along Bukit Timah Road.
Le Roi est mort! Vive le Roi!
Holbein on
Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
The News
When I first heard the news that King Albert Park complex was going to be demolished, my first thought was, “Again? They’ve said for the umpteenth time since I don’t know when…”

Then someone else mentioned that it’s real this time. The mall is going away for some other development. Having some extra time because I got out from work earlier the other day, I thought I’d record the building for posterity: something to remember the place by.

The Meeting
I got acquainted with that place during my national service days (my camp was in the vicinity). There were occasions when I’d visit the mall, my camp buddies would order their junk and process foods while I just grabbed a coke (I was never a fan of fast or processed foods). Inside the McD’s then, when you look up the ceiling, you’d notice a model train sitting on rails that span the ceiling. It had already stopped running then. Rumours were (from my lecturer in college) that the train used to move and greet diners overhead while they ate. I never saw it move.

The Second Time Around
When I started working and found my weekend interest in baking, especially in experimenting with scones recipes. I discovered the Cold Storage supermarket at that particular mall was about the only one that sold real Devonshire cream (aka clotted cream) which is “accompaniment de rigueur” for scones.

The End (but not quite...)
When my scone-obsession phased off to other recipes, so did my visits to the mall. Being a working class person, it’s hard to sustain a distant-relationship with an entity inconveniently located and within a high-end, high ‘SES’ neighbourhood. So the ties unbound and the relationship died a natural death.

The Rebound
I sat at a corner of the busy junction, at an island of pedestrian crossing and traffic lights. The fast moving traffic and the sound of their engines, the occasional military vehicles zooming past the place and relived the memories, my memories of the place. And for that period of collected moments while I was there, I was THERE, again.

P.S. I hope I did the place justice with this sketch... for my memories.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Sketching Tools: Meet The Walkstool from Sweden.

The Walkstool: Small. Light. Strong. Comfortable.

The Walkstool is a Swedish invention and the only three legged stool in the world with telescopic legs, patents and trademark protections. Telescopic legs offer two sitting positions; with or without folding out the lower legs. Walkstool is compact, durable, light and very comfortable for sitting.

The Walkstool comes in six different models – Walkstool Comfort in four different heights produced in Sweden and Walkstool Basic produced in China. The Walkstool Comfort models have very big and comfortable seat sizes and big rubber feet. The seat is black and of a mesh material. The upper legs are black and the lower legs are anodized in a natural color – all made of durable aluminium. All Comfort models come with a bag for easy carriage and storage. The Walkstool Basic models produced in China sports a black seat with both upper and lower legs powder coated in a dark grey color.

The model I use is a Walkstool Comfort 45. Designed at a regular seat height and with a seat that is wide and comfortable, it feels just like I’m sitting on a regular stool when I use it outdoors. It’s my travelling companion to the many countries I’ve been whenever I am sketching outdoors. For more ideas on the different models and to select the one that caters better to your needs, you may wish to visit this site here.

The local distributor for the Walkstool is listed as:
Camera Corner @ Macshop
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
B1-35 The Central Clarke Quay
Singapore 059817
tel. +65-63341633

You may also find online retailers here.

When I first purchased my own model, because I could not find any satisfactory model at the local stores, I researched online and got mine from (now known as Rakuten) as it is the one with the lowest cost (USD69 then) and delivers worldwide. I am not sure how much it is currently. You may wish to do more research on that with the list of online retailers listed.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Sketchwalk with Urban Sketchers at the National Museum of Singapore

Daler & Rowney aquafine watercolour with Zig water brushes on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
In conjunction with the National Museum of Singapore’s exhibition on “A Changed World”, Urban Sketchers Singapore was invited to host a sketchwalk on the museum grounds. It was an opportunity to introduce an interested public to the art of urban sketching: a worldwide freehand sketching phenomenon that is catching on like a forest fire on a summer’s day.

Speaking of a hot summer’s day, the registration and the impressive turnout in spite of the turbid hot day was certainly encouraging. After a short introduction of the group by resident sketcher, Paul and founder of the Singapore chapter, Tia, the group went on their merry way to capture scenes with their pen and paper, live from the grounds of the museum.

Not being a fan of UV-overdose, I settled myself at a café nearby, overlooking the eastern façade of the building and did myself a watercolour sketch. Once again, the Stillman and Birn paper did wonders for my sketch and I was completely satisfied with my ability to tease out the various hues, tints and shades from my very economically coloured Daler & Rowney pocket watercolour with my Zig waterbrushes: the day’s effort allowed me to capture a side of the museum building (pun intended) I have never tried before.

The National Museum of Singapore (新加坡国家博物院) is a national museum in Singapore and the oldest museum in Singapore. Its history dates back to 1849 when it was started as a section of a library at Singapore Institution. After several relocations, the Museum was relocated to its permanent site at Stamford Road at the Museum Planning Area in 1887.

The Museum is one of the four national museums in the country, the other three being the two Asian Civilisations Museums at Empress Place Building and Old Tao Nan School, and the Singapore Art Museum. The museum focuses on exhibits related to the history of Singapore. The Museum was named the National Museum of Singapore in 1965.

For a brief period between 1993 and March 2006, it was known as the Singapore History Museum, before reverting to its previous name. The Museum underwent a three-and-a-half-year restoration and reopened on December 2, 2006, with the Singapore History Gallery opening on December 8 of the same year.

National Museum was designed in Neo-Palladian and Renaissance style and consists of two rectangular parallel blocks, with a dome at the front of the building. Its architects were Henry McCallum who designed the original version and J.F. McNair who designed the scaled down version of the building.

The building has two rotundas, a new glass-clad rotunda at the rear area of the building. Its glass rotunda is a cylindrical shaped building which is made up of two drums, with the outer one made of glass which sheathes an inner one made of wire mesh. Black out curtains has the same length of the inner drum with images projected on sixteen projectors in the day. The curtains are drawn after sunset, and projection can be beamed out through the glass to get a view of the city. Coats of arms are found on the building's front.

The redeveloped building was designed by local W Architects with the glass-clad rotunda designed inspired by Chinese American I.M. Pei. The chief design consultant was Mok Wei Wei from W Architects, who was appointed in June 2004 and modified the designs of the glass rotunda and the atrium between the two buildings. The new glass clad building was designed such that the old building would still be the centrepiece of the museum.

A six-metre gap exists between the back of the main museum building and its new annexe as conservation guidelines do not allow old and new buildings to be directly connected. In the gallery theatre, bricks are designed in a herringbone brick pattern, which helps to control the echoes and acoustics in the space. Initially, the designers planned to use bricks from the old National Library building, but the cost was too expensive. Black concrete flooring was used for the new block instead of gray granite flooring as initially planned.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Workshop with The Citi Sketcha: Drawing on Penmanship.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Cafes That Got Away...

On my visits to various cafes, I made some earlier sketches on my Stillman and Birn Delta sketchbook. I was experimenting with colour splashes and ink. Here then, are the cafes that got away...

Windowsill Pies, Horne Road.
Holbein Artists’ Watercolor on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
Windowsill Pies at Horne Road serves an array of dessert pies with a menu that changes on a weekly basis. Its whimsical setting lends itself nicely for a chitchat session with friends over coffee and pies.

Coffee Shot, Lavender Street.
Holbein Artists’ Watercolor on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
Coffee Shot is a peaceful, spacious cafe that is wonderful for quiet gatherings or just for moments of reflection over a cuppa. I enjoy coming in the afternoons alone and just feel the peace and tranquillity away from the city outside...

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City
Holbein Artists’ Watercolor on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
I love the croissant baked fresh daily at Tiong Bahru Bakery. This outlet at Raffles City is their second one outside of their eponymous and premier location. However, the quality of the baked goods and coffee is just as good although I wouldn't recommend coming in on a weekend. The crowd! Yikes!

Hoshino Coffee, Plaza Singapura
Holbein Artists’ Watercolor on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
I remember Cafe City at Raffles City, inside of the now defunct Sogo Deparment Store. They were the purveyors of good coffee. Ever since they have disappeared (to where?) it is rare to find a decent Japanese coffee house. Hoshino Coffee at Plaza Singapura comes in nicely to fill in the gap that was left. They serve specialty coffees along with typical 'Nipponised' western cafe food. Don't know what that means? Drop by for a visit. You will not be disappointed.

TWG Tea Salon, ION Orchard.
Holbein Artists’ Watercolor on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
The Wellness Group Tea Company, usually shortened to TWG Tea, is a Singapore-based luxury tea company with several tea salons across the world and product distribution in more than 40 countries. It began in 2008 and primarily sells tea and light snacks. Its menu has since expanded to offer full menu and even set meals.

P.S. Cafe, Palais Renaissance
Holbein Artists’ Watercolor on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
I will not be setting foot in this cafe again. While they serve that is passable at best, they do not know how to serve a proper pot of tea: the leaves are left to steep in a pot without any means to remove them to prevent over-steeping. The tea is thus ruined.

What is worse, was the atrocious service. It is understandable that photography is disallowed in an establishment, but no sketching as well? Given that that is a company policy (what's with the preciousness of the interior?), one could politely remind the paying customer to refrain from graphically recording the space. However, I was simply and rudely told off to "obtain pictures from the website".

They can keep their precious interiors. My friends and I are never coming back.

Cafe Gavroche, Tras Street
Holbein Artists’ Watercolor on Stillman & Birn Delta Hardbound
This place is truly le petit Parisienne! The ambience is fantastique and the food, magnifique! Hanging out here is like a being transported to a cafe or bistro in gay Paree!

I was there with a couple of friends for dinner: do go as a party of four and order platter to share. It comes with a range of cured meats and stews and an array of breads and pickles all to be washed down with a bottle of beautiful rosé... aah... c'est la vie, c'est bon, c'est beau!

Comfort at a 鹿港小镇...

鹿港小镇 at ION Orchard
Brush pen on Muji Hardbound Sketchbook
If food is salve for the soul, then, comfort food brings the soul home. And, homecooked food is the ultimate healer for the mind. If one cannot find that, then home-style food would be the next best thing.

Feeling particular lazy and lethargic last Sunday evening, about a long weekend of convalescence at home, I wasn’t feeling particularly up to it to dabble in the kitchen. Further, having been cooped up indoors for the past 3 days, I really wanted to get out and get some fresh air.

I found myself in town, window shopping and by evening time, hunger pangs (finally!) struck. I had an appetite for some familiar home-style comfort food. Having been to ‘鹿港小镇’ before, I know they serve food that mum often makes, especially with leftover ingredients (mum and not them use leftovers, that is, at least, I hope not…): stewed roast pork, stewed vegetables, stewed chicken and mushroom, etc.

I ordered stewed roast pork with leek and a serving of rice and allowed myself to be transported back home to a familiar kitchen and felt comforted…

Friday, 7 February 2014

Un Cafe S'il Vous Plait : Part Un

I was acquainted with this dark mysterious caffeine drink since I was five, when my grandmother would mix it in my formula to entice me to drink up the mix. Questionable parenting aside (my grandmother is AWESOME and I dare you to challenge that notion), it started me on my passionate journey to the perfect brew. I am always looking for new coffee blends and roasts, gadgets and extraction methods. Just like any wine connoisseur would, so was I about coffee.

So, from the humble corn and margarine robusta roast of the local ‘kopitiam’ to the delicately balanced blue mountain to the overhyped ‘kopi luwak’, I have one time or another, tasted them. There are a million and one ways to extract the elixir of morning life from out of these roasted miracles, however, with the arrival of the ubiquitous ‘green siren’ and its global manifestation, no one can claim ignorance to the fast, efficient and tasty method popularised by the Italians: the espresso.

Espresso is the term used to describe many things about coffee: it is a type of roast, it is a method of extracting the drink out of said roast and it is also the term to identify the drink.

That’s the easy part. The challenge, for any barista is to extract the perfect espresso drink from the grounds. It is a delicate synthesis of consistency of grind, quantity of grounds, amount of temping of grounds and the crucial water-to-grounds ratio.

Finally, the extraction, which is perfectly enjoyable on its own, can also be used in combination with various dairy creations to create a myriad of coffee based drinks. As a benchmark, I have always used the latte: it test the barista’s skills in abovementioned extraction AND the judicious method of steaming the milk with a careful milk-to-coffee ratio. A right balance creates a beautiful symphony of flavours that enhances the coffee while a poorly executed one is simply not worth the time nor the calories.

Here then, is a collection of tasting trips and sketches that I have done over the past few months of the cafes in Singapore. Allow me to humbly present “Un Café S’il Vous Plait: Part Un”.

 Click on image to launch the e-book
Series done in ink with fountain and brush pen on Clairefontaine Goldline Hardbound 20x20 Sketchbook.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Phuket 2014 - Ten Years On...

It occurred to me, in the midst this holiday I had in Phuket, that it has been 10 years since I first visited this place. That was a memorable visit in more ways than one.

It was my first visit to Thailand and the island of Phuket. It was the first time I flew budget (it was a very new thing then) and with Air Asia.

Most significantly, it was also the year of the Boxing Day Tsunami, as it is called now. Regardless of the tragedy, I fell in love with the place, perhaps that was the reason why I fell so much more in love with - the emotional attachment linked to it...

Since then, I have been there umpteenth times, confident enough to jog around the Patong area for my morning exercises, knowing where to go for my favourite eating places. Some of the locals, especially the sales staff at the various shops and stores I frequent, already recognise me when I visit. That endears the place even more to me. Most significantly, I surprised myself when on my last visit just past, I was actually telling the cab-driver which landmark to look out for, when driving me to my hotel from the airport...

Here then is the pictorial journal of this very special trip to this one very special place to my heart.

Patong, Phuket, Thailand...

Patong Beach and its signature vibrant and gaudy sunbrellas...(click on the pic to launch the journal flipbook)
Series done in ink and watercolours with fountain and brush pen on Muji Hardbound 23x23 Blank notebook.