USkKuching: Drawing on Kuching’s rich history
By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
From the old Tua Pek Kong temple in downtown Kuching to a secluded yet familiar coffee shop somewhere in Siniawan, each of these iconic sites has a historic background to share.
For Urban Sketchers Kuching (USkKuching), instead of writing it down in words, sketching is another form of story telling, living up to one of Urban Sketchers (USk) manifestos: ‘Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel’.
USkKuching celebrated it’s fourth-year anniversary with a month-long exhibition from Sept 5 to Oct 2, fittingly held at the Old Courthouse built during British colonial rule in 1874.
Featuring 80 pieces of artworks from 20 USkKuching sketchers, a silent auction of the members’ artwork was also held on the last day, giving visitors an opportunity to bring home a piece that depicts the core of Kuching city.
The artists behind the artwork
During the exhibitions, visitors got to know the sketchers behind the artwork during a sharing session, where members shared what they loved to sketch, how long they had been sketching for, their favourite sketching tools and what they loved most about urban sketching.
Among them were artisan bookbinder from Chapter & Star Annette Chung who sees sketching as a way to express herself and document life.
“I think it is the gratification and satisfaction that you feel at the end of the day when you have produced a very nice artwork and it makes me happy when I am able to produce this,” said Annette.
“Aside from that, USk is one of the most supportive group of people I have known and I am proud to call them my friends,” she said.
For Kuchingite Tan Siaw Chia, her experience as a freelance designer in interior architecture and design ignited her interest in sketching.
“What I enjoy most about Urban Sketchers is the people that I meet because different people come from different backgrounds who share similar interest in drawing and art, prompting us to have something to talk about,” she said.
“And when I travel, I tend to find whether that country has an Urban Sketchers group, so that I could learn more from them,” said Tan.
For secondary school maths teacher Sophia Tan who joined USkKuching in November 2014, she has loved drawing since she was young and has experimented with various art utensils like watercolour and crayons.
“After I joined teachers training college, I stopped drawing for a few years,” admitted Sophia, recalling how SMK St Joseph, the first Catholic missionary school in Sarawak, was her first visit with the group when she joined.
Since joining USkKuching, she has picked up the habit of taking a sketchbook and pen wherever she goes. Now she has a sizable collection of sketches she amassed from the group as well as personal travel.
The second art exhibition to be organised by USkKuching since 2014, the members also brought in some of their previous sketch books that they used for sketching as well as some art utensils that they used such as water pen, brush and calligraphy pen.
How Urban Sketchers Kuching got started
USk’s Kuching chapter was formed in September 18th, 2012 by architect Peggy Wong. It is the second Urban Sketcher regional chapter to be established in Malaysia with 30 members locally and more than 900 members online.
“USkKuching is more like a grassroots or a community group whereby those who enjoy sketching are encouraged to join us. However, we do not just doodle, we try to tell a story from our sketches with a context,” said Peggy, the founder and correspondent of USkKuching.
“When you look at it, you should know that there was an incident or an event going on,” explained Peggy.
“There are also those who sketch food, but they will add on stories to it, so you know that this is a story about the food and not just pictures of food.”
Formed in 2007, USk is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel.
A worldwide group consisting of passionate sketchers, members globally are connected by a single blog (www.urbansketchers.org) where they would share their drawings and storytelling, updating each other with their sketches and activities featuring places they live or places they travel to.
Currently, USk has 81, 517 members in 156 regional chapters. According to Peggy, there numbers are expected to grow by the end of the year.
What does a USk correspondent do?
Having been elected as the USk correspondent for Kuching recently, Peggy said that among the responsibilities of a correspondent from each regional chapter was to give regular updates, news and feature stories with the aim of sharing stories to the world through their sketches.
Prior to being elected as a correspondent by USk, Peggy used to write to the USk blog as a guest poster. Her regular updates on USkKuching combined with postings to USk made her the perfect correspondent for the Kuching regional chapter.
“As of now, there are about 100 correspondents worldwide,” said Peggy.
To date, Malaysia has five regional chapters. Besides USkKuching, they are Urban Sketchers Batu Pahat, Urban Sketchers Ipoh, Urban Sketchers Kuala Lumpur and Urban Sketchers Penang.
Having met regularly every first Sunday of the month with a regular turnout of 12 to 15 members, the members decide as a group where to sketch which is usually decided by popular vote.
“Usually we like to sketch things that really epitomise Kuching life, but sometimes we like to sketch events as well, such as the Kuching Food Festival,” explained Peggy.
Adding that USkKuching not only emphasises on sketching buildings around town, Peggy said that they also sketch cityscapes as well as places they travel to.
This was clearly evident by the exhibited artworks available during the exhibition where the sketches were arranged according to categories such as buildings and sketches, cityscapes, details and close ups, and also people and activities.
“Our previous exhibition was in 2014. I am not sure whether we will be organising another exhibition next year or the following year which would be once every two years,” mused Peggy.
“However next year sometime in October, we are toying with the idea to host a nationwide sketch,” she said, adding that they were planning on inviting other regional groups nationwide.
Peggy said they were also planning on inviting regional chapters from neighbouring countries.
As USkKuching is close with those from other regional chapters, a few of the USkKuching members will be participating in the ASIA-Link SketchWalk hosted by Urban Sketchers Thailand and Bangkok Sketchers Group in Bangkok, Thailand this November where there could be close to 300 sketchers participating.
To those who missed the chance to admire their artwork, USkKuching will be holding another exhibition during the Sarawakiana Carnival at Pustaka Sarawak at the end of October.