Guess who visited Brussels again to do a sketchwalk with us and to give 2 workshops? The King of Happy Lines: Ch’ng Kiah Kiean from Malaysia !

The sketchwalk we organized with Urbansketchers Belgium was part of the 50th Citydev.Brussels Anniversary, were Citydev.Brussels invited Urbansketchers to explore different city sites they developed the last 50 years. What an adventure! It allowed us to explore parts of Brussels we didn’t know well yet, and it allowed us to pay for the trips of our invitees… (Thank you Citydev.Brussels!)

I already did 4 times his workshop about drawing with dry twigs and Chinese ink, but the workshop with watersoluble graphite and watercolor was a première for me! It was amazing!

But now my main takeaways of lessons learned from this great artist Ch’ng Kiah Kiean.

My takeaways from the Twig & Ink workshop:

  • Make happy lines! Hold the twig like a brush: hold it light. Try to turn the twig when you sketch, and vary the speed so you get different line work and textured lines
  • Take a big enough paper to feel free to play with the lines. I defintely will try to use a bigger sketchbook
  • Start from a point on top and let the drawing grow
  • Leave blank space! A very difficult point for me! Blank space is important to let your composition breathe and leave space for the imagination of the viewer
  • Find the rhythm of your view. The rhythm is composed of different shapes of lines and spaces
  • Choose your focal point
  • Use mostly continuous lines
  • Simplify: dots and lines
  • Play with lines. Make it “organic”. Make dancing lines ❣️
  • The dancing lines play with the empty space
  • Don’t worry about drawing reality. (Again: You’re not a copy machine)
  • Choose where you put colours: what you will highlight with colour will attract attention
  • Don’t colour everything with same intensity
dry twigs for drawing

My favorite workshop was the graphite workshop.

Kiah Kiean mixes drawing with very soft pencils (6B and even 8B!) and with the watersoluble graphite paste by Viarco Portugal. Put the paste in a container, and spray it with water to make it wet. Then you use any watercolor brush with a fine tip and use the graphite paste like you paint with watercolor. dip the wet brush in the paste and then draw with it on your paper.

Pay attention that there’s no binder (like arabic gum in watercolor) in the graphite, so unless you fix your paper afterwards, the graphite will stay soluble on the paper.

Here are my take aways from the graphite workshop:

  • Try different formats of paper, like long vertical composition or , square or even round formats
  • Attention to lines and rhythm: combination of pencil sketch with water soluble graphite and watercolour
  • Use of calligraphy brush technique
  • Draw and paint together
  • Find Space and rhythm
  • Leave white space for imagination
  • Don’t color everything
  • Place your signature in a right space: pay a lot of attention to where you place your signature so as not to ruin your composition. It doesn’t always have to be in the bottom on the right…
  • Most difficult part is to stop in time
  • Use soft pencils to be able to make a variation in line work: 9b, 8b, 6b or 4b, and blending tool and small eraser
  • Make a variation in your lines with thickness, speed and pressure . Try to have different line weights to outline your subject
  • Take a big enough paper (min A4)  to have freedom of movement
  • Start from a point that catches your eye , a dark strong point
  • Spray water on the graphite paste to make it soft
  • Understand the shapes of the plants but don’t need to draw photographically
  • Use the smudger to smudge away some edges
  • If you want a clean colour only add watercolour near pencil lines otherwise the watersoluble graphite will “dirty “ the colour, but personnally I like when the watercolor mixes with the graphite because it creates a lovely granulation

beautiful frog and turtle painted by Kiah Kiean with amazing lines

Below I share a video from my You Tube channel where you see him sketching with twig and Chinese ink!

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