The great Malaysian artist Ch’ng Kiah Kiean came sketching in Belgium before heading to the urbansketchers symposium in Amsterdam in July and guess what? Serge, my darling husband, made a video of him sketching and I’m going to share it with you so you can admire the twig dancing on the paper …

Ch’ng Kiah Kiean is a generous teacher. His specialty is sketching with dry twigs and Chinese ink.

Here’s his website:

First, KK (We call him KK, as it’s easier for Europeans to pronounce…)  brought for all of the participants of his workshop our new drawing tools: we made our twigs (I mean: we sharpen them with a knife) and ink pots with gauze. We also had a hard brush and recipient with sponge and ink to make the shadowing.

Drawing with such unusual and new tools is the perfect creativity boost. The perfect way to get out of your comfort zone and train new drawing muscles and a whole new way of seeing and putting what you see to the paper. How do you look at the objects to draw? And how do you draw? Because you know what? You have to let go of your perfectionism because you can’t control everything!!!

I already did 3 workshops with him and it changed my way of drawing also with other tools. It’s very simple: after that workshop I felt finally I could draw anything I wanted because I let go of my perfectionism!  It was so liberating! Before that workshop I wouldn’t even have dreamed of drawing the Musée du Louvre. And Grand’ Place in Brussels, my home town! I had never been there with my sketchbook!

The twigs take away the fear of making a bad drawing. Some of the participants didn’t have a lot of drawing experience but this really doesn’t matter to go urban sketching. Everybody is welcome. And everybody did start somehow as a beginner one day, so fear is unnecessary. We just want to have fun and joy in drawing!

The most important change that happened to me was that I got rid of FEAR : fear of making a bad drawing, fear of judgment of others, fear of not being able to draw this or that, fear of missing out the important details, fear of making a fool of myself…

Let me share you some of his tips.

First the tools: dry twigs. KK draws with Water Jasmine twigs, but really: you can pick out any twig or bamboo stick and make a point to it to draw. The point on the tip has to be long and fine.

Then you put cotton gauze in a small bottle and pour ink on it. Take waterproof Chinese or Indian ink. The cotton gauze is needed so the point of the twig wouldn’t be dipped in liquid ink. It avoids dripping on the drawing paper.

After the drawing of the lines KK uses a hard brush (like bristles to paint with oil) to make dry brush strokes for the shadowing.

After shadowing the drawing with ink we finish it with watercolor, so use nice watercolor paper. For my drawings I used Saunders Waterford paper of St Cuthbert Mill.

How do you look at the building you want to draw? How do you look at the Musée du Louvre to draw it? If you look at it as the Musée du Louvre with the impressive perspective and sculptures, cold sweat and fear will take over. If you look at it simply as a bunch of lines that you want to suggest on the paper (and so it doesn’t matter really if some of them will be missing), then it starts to be fun. So don’t see the building as a building, and don’t try to draw everything. And also: it doesn’t matter if you drawing isn’t “correct” ! Who cares? If we want to see all the lines and all the sculptures it’s better to take a photograph, isn’t it?

So why I love drawing with this twig and ink is because it takes me out of my comfort zone and especially because it gives me the permission to draw in a looser way: it’s impossible to draw correctly and carefully the details of the building. The building becomes a fun bunch of lines going in specific directions and that’s what we try to render. KK holds his twig very loosley and pulls it in all different directions, turning and twisting it.

To be able to see the building as a bunch of lines, what you have to do is look with your eyes, and not with your brain ! Look with your eyes to the lines and draw them. Don’t look with your brain to the building/chair/glass or whatever you want to draw.

What is your most important obstacle for having fun?


Sketching with twig and ink in Antwerp – July 2019
This is Amsterdam

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