Urban Sketchers Singapore, the book

December 7, 2011


Urban Sketchers as a phenomenon is moving from a website to book publishing, or at least individuals and groups are moving to book publishing. The most recent addition to the mix is one by Urban Sketchers Singapore. I look forward to a general book on Urban Sketching coming out in February and a forthcoming work summing up Lisbon in the wake of the Urban Sketchers Conference there. That work will complement a small number of Vimeo video clips documenting conference participants.

The Singapore book is roughly an inch thick and in roughly A5 landscape format, a very sturdy casebound book with 250 pages are crammed with urban sketches. The matt paper reproduces the feel of an actual sketchbook. It is called “Volume 1” so there are hints of more to come. Singaporean sketchers are big on very busy pen sketches with vibrant, vital use of watercolour. There is some contrasting black-and-white penwork; I particularly like the work of one William Sim who somehow manages to create quieter, more sombre work. I’ve never been to Singapore but I have been to Indonesia and I find it intriguing how these sketchers can take in so much of the detail of the plainly hectic lifestyle typical of their city. The heat and humidity is palpable in the sketches; a similar frenetic pace is palpable in Japanese urban sketching, again where the pace of life is extremely quick.

Of particular interest to me personally is the sketchers’ dedication to architectural reportage. On further re-reading, I know I’ll come to learn more about the people and social life in Singapore. Like my own city, Singapore is obviously changing at a very rapid rate architecturally – that’s a mark of economies which are financially successful. The sketchers are getting in there are sketching things they know will disappear in a short while. They are recording aspects of traditional life and place, as well as capturing the surprise of the new.

Because urban sketchers rely on the Internet for communication, there’s a strong personal presence on the part of the individual sketchers, with biographical notes and portraits. I appreciate the dimensions of works begin given. I look forward to imitating the “big brush” approach to watercolour washes.

From their exuberance, it’s plain that Singapore must be in the sights of organisers of future Urban Sketchers Conferences. There’s a lot of sketchers available to chaperone sketching globetrotters around their city. This book will be valuable preparation for such an event.


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