The irresistible charm of the architectural landscape in Tiong Bahru forces you to reach for your camera. Click.
Then, you walk past a group of people sitting along the street, a pen in one hand and a book in the other. You peer over the book and do a double take — amazed that it is the very image you captured with your camera. Only this time, a different medium.
Welcome to the world of Urban Sketchers Singapore, a fraternity that immortalises the scenes of Singapore — stroke by stroke — on paper. The instantaneity of cameras takes a backseat to the patient craft of creating an image by hand. Last year, a collection of 360 beautiful sketches by these enthusiasts was published into a book — Sketchers Singapore: Volume 01. From spice streets of Little India, to the landmark Sultan Mosque and the last kampung of Lorong Buangkok, the sketchers had them covered. Urban Sketchers Singapore Exhibition was also held at Urban Redevelopment Authority last year.
This Singapore Day, marvel at how the intricacies of Singapore are captured by the simple tools of pen and brush. But before that, we talk to Ms Tia Boon Sim, founder of Urban Sketchers Singapore, to find out more about this group of avid sketchers who are quietly documenting the ebb and flow of Singapore life.
A sketch by Boon Sim, founder of Urban Sketchers Singapore, of Circular Road.
You founded Urban Sketchers Singapore in 2009. What was the motivation in setting up this group?
I joined the global Urban Sketchers as a Correspondent contributing my sketches to the main blog from Singapore in 2008. I began to connect with people who shared the love of urban sketching from all over the world and from Singapore. As we met up with increasing frequency to sketch the streets of Singapore, I found the company revitalising and stepped up to take charge of organizing sketch outings and set up a group to share our sketches on the blog in Singapore.
What are some of your personal favourites for sketching?
I am always intrigued by the shape of shadows and how quickly they move and change on a building facade. So sketching buildings and street scape in the outdoor are some of my personal favourites.
A nondescript street scape in Macpherson makes for an amazing subject for sketching
under the hands of Boon Sim.
How long does it take normally to finish one sketch?
I used to carry a 9cm x 14cm Moleskine in my bag and it took me around 20 to 30 minutes to fill up a double-spread page. Now, I carry a 13cm x 13cm square Muji sketchbook and it took me around 30 minutes to sketch a cafe scene measuring 13cm x 26cm double-page. For an outdoor watercolour piece, I normally take about an hour to do a sketch of size 20cm x 40cm.
Which Singapore landscape has been the greatest challenge to sketch thus far?
The Singapore skyline. I was up at the Sky Park at Marina Bay Sands a few times just to sketch the Singapore skylines from a few different angles.
What are Sketchwalks all about?
We call our sketch outings "sketchwalks". Our official sketchwalk is once a month on the last Saturday of each month and the turnout is really big now at about 30 to 50 sketchers. However, anyone is free to organize any ad-hoc sketchwalks so we do have frequent sketchwalks on almost every Saturday or even weekdays attended by 3 to 10 sketchers each.
Tell us more about the Urban Sketchers Singapore Exhibition held at URA last year.
The Urban Sketchers Singapore Exhibition on 21 October 2011 at URA provided a platform for our sketchers to showcase their talents and for Singaporeans to appreciate the smaller and sometimes overlooked details of our lovely urban landscape and beautiful buildings through the original sketches on display. The exhibition is the result of a book published by me partially funded by URA as part of the Architecture and Urban Design Excellence (A.UDE) Promotion Programme funding. The funding programme is to support projects that have creatively promoted architecture and urban design excellence in Singapore.
How do you feel about the sketches by Urban Sketchers Singapore being brought over to overseas Singaporeans for Singapore Day in New York?
I am thrilled and thankful for the opportunity to be able to showcase sketches of Singapore for Singapore Day in New York. The world will be able to see our beautiful Singapore through the sketches which capture moments and memories of places and events and in some cases preserving a record of our heritage and culture before they disappear forever.