The Mountains and the Seas and some other things

One of the best things about being an illustrator is that you can set your own hours and days and weeks. This means that you can be as lazy or as active as you like as long as you can continue to pay the rent, and maintain a balanced image of languid Bohemianism for your friends and of hard-working professionalism for your clients and your girlfriend’s parents. What I’m driving at, is that I often have flurries of activity at rather unusual times- in the middle of the night (as I’m writing this now) or at weekends (as I’m about to show you).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Saturday I went down to Aberdeen. (To clarify, the southern-most district in Hong Kong is called Aberdeen, and is distinctly different from the Aberdeen in Scotland in which I grew up. Aberdeen-Hong-Kong is warm and sunny and full of delicious food. Aberdeen-Scotland is grim, desolate, and full of deep-fried Irn Bru and neds.) In Aberdeen, HK, we walked around by the water and I drew a lot of boats and some people fishing, and made hundreds and hundreds of puns on the differences between the two Aberdeens. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlso in Aberdeen, a pal of mine has a place called the Butcher’s Club, which as the name would suggest, is a butchers shop, and also a restaurant full of meat. They were doing a deal on delicious burgers so we ate delicious burgers until we could eat no more. I only made one drawing there, because my hands were covered in grease. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs punishment for all my burger-indulgence, we went hiking the following day. Despite being built up, all the urban areas in Hong Kong are sort of fenced in with steep mountains and every weekend people flock to exhaust themselves climbing up these slopes. We went up the tallest peak in Hong Kong (that is to say, we drove most of the way up and walked for about an hour to get to the top) but it has this observatory on the top. As we were coming down the cloud rolled in and presently a storm began, which was just minutes after I finished drawing this picture. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was followed by warming up with coffee, and warming up by drawing lovely hipsters in the cafe.

That’s a quick summary of the weekend’s drawings- today we went to Sha Tin and climbed another hill to look at the Temple of Ten Thousand Extremely Gaudy Golden Buddhas, which does exactly what it says on the tin. I always had a sort of naive, “John Lennon” view of Buddhism as being all about humble nobility and valuing spiritual wealth over materiality, but it turns out Buddhism is as fond of a giant golden palace on a mountain-top as the next religion. The drawings from there were all dreadful, but I did draw a flower shop with its grumpy owner afterwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the last few weeks I’ve shown a lot of on-the-spot sketchbook drawings, and very little of what they actually develop into. This is for two very good reasons, and several bad ones. The good reasons are because either because I’m working on commission stuff which I won’t show until its published, or because I’m making lots of observational drawings as a broad research base before I develop them into anything more resolved. The bad reasons are alternately laziness, snobbishness, paranoia, inconvenience, or drinking wine on the studio roof. 

However, I’ve just started getting back into watercolours. Over the years I’ve been very bad at watercolours, or at least had a very love-hate relationship with them, in that I love them and they don’t seem to like me very much. But recently I came across a Chinese-American painter called Dong Kingman who reignited my passion in the same way that Ivan Gantschev did right back when I first started being bad at watercolours. So I looked over a lot of my drawings from reasonably concentrated areas, and made a small watercolour painting of a scene on Lockhart Road, in Wan Chai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think we can all agree that it’s not my finest moment, but there are things that I like about it. I think with media like watercolours and ink painting (very, very wet media) it takes a lot of really “understanding” the way the pigment will move around of its own accord (unlike lino prints, where you can force the ink to stay as still as possible and press it very exactly onto the page), so the process becomes one of leaving a lot of room for the paint to do its thing, and gently manipulating it into making the image in a very simple, natural way. I also saw an exhibition earlier in the Heritage Museum of a Chinese painter called Chao Shao-an, who makes the most beautiful insect paintings and understands this movement of pigment perfectly.  There are some details of this painting I do like though:

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Here, where the blue and yellow blend into one another in a column, under the word club, which is a nice contrast to the ultra-thin line of his glasses.

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Also here, with the layers of paint put on to build up the tone very gently, and also the negative space that marks out the girl’s figure.

Well, that’s all I’ve been up to. I have a magazine cover coming out later this week (which will be a surprise to everyone, and not necessarily in a good way), and then I’m going to visit Taiwan for the weekend- more, more, more drawings will follow!

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Filed under Hong Kong, Painting, Sketchbook, Wine

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