Monday, February 24, 2014

Bangkok Sketches part 2

In my previous post I talked a bit about going  in a new direction with my sketches.  Whereas previously my sketches were a weird jumble of things that I saw with no distinct purpose, I liked the exercise of drawing everything I could see without moving my head.  This forces me to put myself in a position where there's an interesting angle that I can draw.  As Paul Heaston said, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  To add another degree of fun to my sketches I'm also now visually thinking of where I should be placing the text, so there's a little graphic design exercise for me there.

The left-hand page is from a boutique in Pratunam Market.  Aissa left me sketching while she went shopping.  I love the little detail of the dog lying underneath the clothes.  The right-hand page was made while waiting for our train to Ayutthaya.  Train stations and airports are visual feasts if you're sketching people.  They draw in all kinds of people, from the hippie backpackers in the background and the average Thai travelers in the foreground.

Filled with the vigor of my new sketching exercise, I decided that sketching in the train wouldn't be a bad idea.  Sure it was kind of shaky, but it turned out all right.  On the right hand side is a sketch of Aissa in Wat Phra Si Samphet.  I'm trying to get over my fear of sketching her.  A fear born of never being able to capture the image of her I have in my head.  She liked it, so that's what counts.

After tramping through temples we visited a night market and sat down to have dinner.  My eyes were drawn to this bedraggled man selling what looked like wooden flowers.  There's a part of me that always feels for the guy who looks like he's had a rough time.  Luckily, before we stood up, he'd had quite a few customers already.  I guess wooden flowers are really popular in Thailand?

The right-hand page sketch is the famous Buddha face lodged in a Banyan (Bodhi?) tree.  I had no idea, but turns out there were quite a few people leaning over and taking photographs of me sketching.  A white guy patted me on the shoulder and gave me a thumbs up before saying "Good job."  A Japanese man and his wife came over and started chattering animatedly about it, and looked through my sketchbook with choruses of "sugooiiii!".  I think they were pleased that there were sketches of Japan in there.

This "drawing everything" style can be quite tiresome, and sometimes when you rush it the perspective of things is all awry, like the bench on the left-hand page.  On the right hand side our train back from Ayutthaya was even shakier than the train going there, hence the wiggly lines.

This was the last sketch I made.  I was already feeling quite tired at this point, but I wanted to record the last few moments of our vacation.  Passengers had congregated in this area where there were a bunch of benches and comfy sofas to wait until their plane was boarding.

The copy I inserted to the left of the gate sign, "Everyone is just waiting to leave again." is my half-hearted attempt as something poetic, and isn't actually written there in real life.

Bangkok and Ayutthaya were fun, and I was happy to be able to visit some places old an new.  I'm definitely happy that I lived here once, and I think I would happily live here again one day.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bangkok Sketches part 1

Aissa and I took a short vacation to Bangkok a couple of weeks ago, somethong I'd been looking forward to for some time.  Our first trip to Bangkok was about going to the main sights, but this time around I wanted to try to visit some of the places I used to go to when I lived there as a child.  It's amazing to me that I can say that I lived somewhere 20 years ago, but that is Bangkok to me, a part of my history.  I ultimately failed at going back to my old school due to some time constraints, but I did get to eat at a Sizzler and an S&P restaurant, as well as visit the grocery we used to go, which opened up a wellspring of memories for me. Here are some sketches I made with a quick description of each.  I'm sorry I can't do more, but I'm pressed for time lately!

Wat Yan Nawa.  This curious temple is a few minutes walk away from Sathorn Pier/ BTS station.  It has a chedi built like a Chinese junk (the boat, not their privates).  It's a riverside temple, so I suppose the idea was to pay homage to the Chinese junks that used to crowd the Chao Phraya river, bringing information and trade into Bangkok.

I'd forgotten this about Thailand, but most houses and large establishments will have a spirit house, where theoretically spirits are appeased and given offerings so they won't harm the inhabitants of the dwelling.  When I was a child I had no understanding of this, and just thought our apartment had an oddly located dollhouse.  This is the spirit house of The Littlest Guesthouse, whose proprietor also owns the serviced apartment we stayed in.  I would highly recommend staying in either place.

The classic Thai form of transport, the Tuk-Tuk.  This was sketched right outside the Littlest Guesthouse.  Aissa was getting a massage while I sketched it, and I finished it just as the mosquitoes were starting to wake up and dine on my blood.  I really liked how this turned out and I plan on coloring it at some point.

This is a quick sketch of the area around our apartment.  Those W buildings are everywhere!  The scene on the right was from a riverfront marketplace called "Riverfront Asiatique".  There are free ferry boats there, and while it's touristic and a little pricey there's a nice history to them, given that the buildings are the former warehouses of the East Asiatique company, a Danish trading firm that was very active in Bangkok until the early 20th century.  We also lucked into a showing of Muay Thai Live! It was one of those "not on the itinerary" things that we just randomly walked into.  Tickets were a pretty steep 1300 baht each, but I was considering it.  Then the saleslady explained that for February they were running a buy one take one promo, and it was a done deal.  No sketches of the show, but I highly recommend it.  We learned some Muay Thai moves, our favorites being "Rama walks in the jungle", "Elephant destroys the shelter" and "Master pounds the herbs".

Part of my memories of growing up in Bangkok was a restaurant called Sizzler.  It's not very Thai at all, as it featured Steaks and an unlimited salad bar.  But Sizzler opened up its first restaurant in Bangkok when we were living there, and it became one of our go-to places for dining out.  I'm glad they're still around, but very sad that one of my favorite items in their salad bad, the fried potato skins, was no longer there.  I guess they realized that some potato lover had snuck them in the salad bar menu, where they really had no place whatsoever. Whoever you are, I salute you, brave potato lover.

I'm going to leave this post with this last sketch of Bangkok traffic because it represents a new direction in my sketching style.  While we were on our way to Pratunam Fashion Market I browsed through "The Art of Urban Sketching and discovered the artist Paul Heaston.  He describes his process as simply drawing from the bottom up and capturing as much detail as possible.  With some exceptions, this is what I've tried to do in the sketches I made for the rest of the trip, which I'll talk about in more detail next week!