Monday, June 15, 2015


Think of the classical Chinese paintings you have seen of steep, mist shrouded mountains with perfect wind pruned pines clinging to rocky outcroppings. This is the beauty of Huangshan, The Yellow Mountains in Anhui Province. The ever-changing scenes are an inspiration to artists……and also a life's work. It would take a lifetime of daily study to do them justice. The mist rose and evaporated, hiding and revealing stunning views at every point along the beautifully laid stone paths criss crossing the mountains. 

The other thing about visiting Huangshan that must be mentioned is that there are legions of tourists  enjoying the sights. In fact, this was part of the charm for me. In this quick sketch, I tried to capture the sense of the group tours, complete with matching hats, guide flags and leaders with megaphones keeping their charges together. We saw orange ball caps, more stylish yellow hats, pink, Louis Vuitton-esque brown plaids and everything in between.  

Huangshan - Yellow Mountains

Huangshan - Yellow Mountains

Huangshan - Yellow Mountains

The hotels at the top of the mountain allow people to camp in the basketball court for 150 yuan per night. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015


One morning in Hongcun, Chris was having a coffee in a cool little shop. I got drawing and was having fun with the juxtaposition of old and new snacks. M&Ms are my guilty pleasure. We also discovered these yummy black sesame filled cookies, sold by the village grannies from a big basket. I assume these cookies have been a local favourite for some time.


Apparently May is the season for this delicious little fruit called pipa. I think the English translation is loquat. It is a small, easy to peel fruit that is like a juicy apricot and has dark, round shiny seeds a bit like in a persimmon. We saw this fruit everywhere for sale along the highways and in the towns but did not try it until we got to Hongcun village. And then we were hooked.

Pipa seller in Hongcun

This is the sketch I was working on when the pipa lady offered me her fruit. Eggplant was growing in the small plot beside me. Mops and laundry were drying in the sun.

Street sales in Suzhou

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Fabulous Bridge in Hongcun

This is the fantastic stone bridge that brings everyone across the small lake and into the village of Hongcun: tour groups in matching hats, grad classes in black gowns, women with striking red scarves brought especially for photo ops, young men taking shots of the backs of their girlfriends as they walked away from the bridge and school girls with selfie sticks. And of course, many of the art students tackled the complexity of the structure and the reflections in the water. This was the bridge and path that led past the front of the small hotel where we stayed and in to the maze of canal lined paths through the middle of the village. We could sit on our balcony and watch the comings and goings throughout the day. The tour guides led their tours past our window starting at 7:15 am.

Our hotel on the far side of the bridge.

Dinner on  the waterway, in front of the hotel.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

China 2015 - Exhilarating

We are just back from three weeks in China, and I have to say, the trip was nothing short of exhilarating. Happily, I did lots of sketching, mostly in situ.  I will spend the next few days or even weeks posting from the trip. 

One of the real highlights from the trip was our time spent in Hongcun, Anhui Province. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site. (read more here Apparently about 1000 people still live in the village, a rabbit warren of tiny, water channel lined stone footpaths between ancient two storey buildings and tiny yet productive vegetable plots. There are infinite possibilities for sketching and the cool thing is that the village is a magnet for art students from all over China. We met university students from Xian, Sichuan and Guangdong provinces, as well as from some local cities like Hefei. Literally hundreds of these students emerge in the mornings with sketchbooks, paints, easels and tiny stools to capture the beauty of the place until late in the afternoons. We had a great time sketching along side these students, sharing our work, looking at images on their cell phones and becoming Wechat buddies (a bit like a Chinese version of Facebook). 

Art students painting  Hongcun.

Old fellow drawing in my book.
The old fellow's 10 minute pencil sketch. 
At one point, an old fellow from the village came over to look at my sketchbook. He seemed really interested, took my book in his hands and flipped through the pages. I was a little nervous, wondering if he might walk away with it. I have had people ask me for pages from my book or even if they could have the whole thing. Instead, he picked up a pencil and started drawing the scene. Turns out, he is a bit of a local celebrity and can certainly draw!

Painting set up on my tiny borrowed folding stool. 

The inspiration