BALI, INDONESIA “Traveling is definitely more fun when I have my sketchbook with me,” says Penang-born artist Ch’ng Kiah Kiean, best known for his graphite drawings of George Town’s old
streetscapes. “Sketching brings me closer to the places that I visit, and leaves me with indelible memories that are far more personal than images recorded through a camera. As with these three
scenes from Bali, which I sketched during a trip to the island last July, I look for scenic locations where I can also interact with locals and listen to their stories. People teach me more about a place than any amount of observation can, and the Balinese are among the most genuine and hospitable people that I have met on my journeys, with a vibrant spiritual culture to match. Bali also happens to be incredibly picturesque, whether amid the shimmering rice terraces of the highlands or down on a temple-studded beach. I can’t wait to return—and when I do, I’ll be sure to have my sketching tools
along. They are as important to me as my passport.”
From top: The venerable sea temple of Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s most popular sights; Mount Batur, an active volcano in the Balinese highlands that rises above the largest crater lake on the island; the picturesque rice terraces of Ceking village, near Ubud.
The Art of Urban Sketching is both a comprehensive guide and a showcase of location drawings by artists around the world who draw the cities where they live and travel. This beautiful, 320-page volume explains urban sketching within the context of a long historical tradition and how it is being practiced today. It includes profiles of leading practitioners, a discussion of the benefits of working in this art form, and shows how one can participate and experience it through modern-day social networks and online activity.
The book is illustrated with over 600 beautiful, contemporary illustrations, and includes artists’ profiles and extended captions where these urban sketchers share their stories, how they work, sketching tips, and the tools behind each drawing. With sketches and observations from more than 50 cities in more than 30 countries, the book offers a visually arresting, storytelling take on urban life from different cultures and artistic styles, as well as insight into various drawing techniques and mediums.
About the author
Gabriel Campanario is a staff artist at The Seattle Times and the founder of Urban Sketchers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the art of on-location drawing. Campanario’s newspaper column, Seattle Sketcher, was recently awarded first place for blog writing in “The Best of the West” journalism contest. The blog and weekly print column, which combine location sketches and written stories, have quickly become popular in the Seattle area, where Campanario has been featured in TV and radio appearances.
A native Spaniard, Campanario moved to the U.S. in 1998 and has lived near Seattle with his wife and two children since 2006. His journalism career spans two decades, working for newspapers in Barcelona, Lisbon, California, and Virginia. Campanario has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.
Publisher: Quarry Books, an imprint of Rockport Publishers
Text: Sharon Cheah @ Art in the City
ONE can see him sketching away, a pencil or a twig in his left hand, on Sunday afternoons, usually in a shaded five foot walkway in the city named after Britain’s King George III. In the last few years, 37-year-old Ch’ng Kiah Kiean has made a name for himself as an urban sketcher and an artist of shapely lines as he immortalises George Town’s 18th and 19th century buildings – the core collection which is now bounded within an area listed under the World Heritage Site – on acid-free paper.
Ch’ng captures the elaborate outlines of Chinese clanhouses and Indian temples, the simpler silhouettes of the Straits Chinese shophouse, and eclectic details in facades in graphite and black Chinese ink – drawing them not as photo-perfect representations but with lively lines and exaggerated angles, infusing the buildings with personality and a joie de vivre.
In his second solo show, Line-line Journey, he spreads out from George Town to Bangkok and Macau, having been inspired by a global online sketching group called Urban Sketchers. He has also started sketching with twigs sharpened to variously-sized points, dipped into Chinese ink.
My favourite sketch, I think, is the one of Cheah Kongsi which he uses as the cover sketch of his catalogue/book for this exhibition. The quintessentially Chinese outline of the row of buildings in Armenian Street, seen from within the clanhouse’s administrative building, is like a glittering necklace worn against George Town’s skies.
Line-line Journey, 10-24 July, 12noon - 6pm, at Galeri Seni Mutiara, Lot No. 2 & 4, First Floor, The Whiteaways Arcade, Church Street, 10200 Penang
Find out more at: Art in the City