Thursday, January 31, 2013

Go to the Riverside / 去河邊


An-ching (meaning: sunny coast) was my student several years ago, but she is my colleague now. Despite her hearing disabilities, she has made it, which I find really a remarkable achievement. 


It's she that endeavors to read our language most of the time. Yet one day in Yunlin when I was about to sneak out for a sketch, she asked me where I was going. Maybe it was because of the lovely day and the relaxing atmosphere. She offered to teach me how to make the hand gesture for the question. I answered, "I am going to the riverside." She also taught me how to say that with my hands. I had learned so many spoken languages, but I didn't know the sign language can be so beautiful. I was particularly in love with the word "river." To do it, you wave your hand with the palm side facing downwards. 


Lately I've been upset because my students can't meet my expectations. But this girl reminds me again that everyone has their own life journey. Rather than obsess about others, I might as well go to the riverside for some sunshine! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ximending / 西門町


I am not a fan of Ximending, but I couldn't resist my latest urge to draw a sketch of the square near the exit of Ximen MRT station. The colorful billboards there always remind me of Times Square in New York City. 


Knowing that I would have to put up with the crowds, I set out for the hotspot of teen subculture.  Still, I felt ill at ease because I hardly felt so hesitant after having taken a long look at a place. Since I wanted to draw the aging veterans that hang out here and the trendy adolescents, I gave up the Red House. Here, historical buildings don't compare to the river-like crowds because the latter are what makes Ximending unique. 


The shape of a sketchbook plays a key role in the formation of an image. My new Rhodia sketchbook is rectangular, so I couldn't help but cut the square into halves. I started by drawing people in the foreground, then I moved on to the second layer of people, the third and the fourth. Most of them were waiting and talking on the cell. In front of me walked by several limp old men. It was funny that though  the square was packed with people, no one came to talk to me. Even though the old man sitting next to me leaned sideways to look at my drawing from time to time, he didn't say a word. Before he left, he turned to look at me in the eye, in silence. My image was almost full, but this is the most lonely place I have ever drawn. 


Usually I can't help coloring a sketch at home for I derive much pleasure from doing it. Yet I can't figure out the color schemes of Ximending since there are too many. And like Caterina said, white is the color when you combine all colors, so maybe black and white are for the place. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Astoria / 明星咖啡館


After having heard about Astoria for long, I finally came for a visit. The truth is,  it was on the way from my high school to the cram school. In other words, I passed by it for three years in my youth without knowing its existence. On the other hand, it was my past ignorance that led to the joy of discovering a new site today! 


I was more interested in the facade of the cafe. While waiting for A-mei, I sketched across from coffee shop. A lady, after staring at me, made the remarks: I think your drawing is more beautiful than the actual cafe. I bet she must have taken a course in illustration! Then another Westerner dropped by. He gave me a compliment in very fluent mandarin. Well, the cafe is named "Star" Cafe in Chinese, and standing here, I more or less have that star feel too. 


This is such a prestigious tourist spot that soon after I was seated, I ran into a group of my current students, who were here because of a literature camp. Astoria was founded by five Russian emigres and Mr. Archiybold Chien. It is an eatery as well as a bakery featuring Russian cuisine and desserts. Later it turned out to be a very important gathering place for Taiwanese literati.  


After tasting Russian soft candy and old-style pastry, I strolled along the streets packed with cram schools in the same area. I was quite impressed by the small yet interesting eateries tucked inside lanes and alleys. Truth be told, I detested this part of the city when I was a teenager. The high-rise buildings and crowds really sucked my soul dry. Strange to say, I paused when passing by the cram school I used to attend. Rows of adverts boasting how much their students had accomplished really amazed me. At this moment, I felt blessed to be childless. I don't have to worry if my child is good enough in studies, nor do I have to guess if my child is happy. I am so small here, but the good news is that I am not part of it. 


Twenty years ago I was too eager to swear not to come close to Taipei Train Station after graduating from high school, but today I think differently. A tourist can't miss this part of the city. If I get to draw it, there will be many unique images! 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kamome Diner / 海鷗食堂


I don't have any traveling plan this winter. However, after watching the film Kamome Diner, I was mentally transported there. For people who are interested in learning color schemes, this country offers a very good starting point. The Finns really have a unique talent of coming up with soothing color combinations... 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

snapshots at home / 居家剪影

NTUE / 國北教


One evening while taking my daily walk in National Taipei University of Education, it occurred to me to draw what I saw. The Japanese-style building behind the school tree is my favorite. With the moon as the background, this, for me, is my oasis in the city. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mucha Market / 木柵市場


After reading Men's Markets written by Ker-shiang Liu, I'd longed to visit Mucha Market for a while. Though I had worked in this area for more than decade, I hardly knew anything about the market. 


Before leaving, I checked online the location of the market, and the first blog entry I found was posted by Erica's mom! While I was sketching on the spot, someone planted her feet right in front of me, and it turned out to be Master's mom! Though I do not live in the neighborhood, I have to admit that I already have had many friends here. 


In addition to a hall with different stalls, the vendors also line several streets around it. This market is so much part of people's lives. I got a very good guide Huei, so I was rather in my element doing the grocery shopping. 


If one day I am going to buy my own apartment, this neighborhood will be one of my top choices!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nanmen Market / 南門市場


Mom and I are a traveling duet. Every day I name a place which I'd like to visit. She brings her camera along, and I have my very important sketchbook and drawing kit. 


Today our destination was Nanmen Market. I have been greatly impressed by what I saw since I took a quick look at it with my colleagues a few years ago. Apart from fresh produce, this market is known for its variety of traditional goods and dishes from the southeast regions of China. I had my eye set on the red sausages right after we went in. Luckily, an empty stool was placed opposite the stand, beckoning me to sit on it. The crowds surged in after 10 a.m., but I was rather at ease. 


After finishing the first piece, I turned around to draw another two stores specializing in dried goods and desserts. It was then when a gentleman said to me, "The police are after some people. Are you a journalist?" Looking at the sketchbook in my hand, I replied with a smile, "I am here to draw." He went on to say, "OK, then you can sit here and take your time. The police won't chase you away." In the middle of drawing, the lady owner of the shop on the right side in the picture came for a glimpse. She asked me if I was doing my homework. I didn't imagine that I could still deceive people with my appearance. 


In fact, what I wanted to draw the most was people at work in the market. However, it would be impossible to hide in a corner to draw them. I had no other choice but to take out my camera today, thinking that I should at least take some pictures for reference. But it feels totally different to sketch on the spot and at home. I prefer the former because I have to go with the flow and that's why my lines are full of life. 


This afternoon I took out the sketches I did more than three years ago and one year ago. I could tell my own differences. We all have our own ways to deal with aging, and mine is to record life with lines. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chiufen / 去九份

NTU / 台大


Before leaving the office, I asked my colleague Anna, "Could you name me an interesting cafe where I can sketch?" She suggested the campus of NTU. "There is an outdoor cafe which faces the lake. The view is quite nice." 


I was lucky enough to be offered a ride by another colleague. On our way she made such remarks: NTU is getting uglier and uglier. Well, I can't agree more with her. 

Though I did not find the view of the lake as suggested, I saw something equally charming in the front yard of the cafe. My mission is to record the beauty of as many places as possible before they become more artificial. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Confession / 告白


During the first four days of the winter break, I traveled to Yunlin in South Taiwan with my students for voluntary work. In fact, traveling for the sake of work always makes me anxious. It was especially so this year because I started the semester a few months ago with passion and ideal, but when it ended, I didn't see any trace of my effort left in the students. At this moment, I only felt like running away from the crowd. 


When my colleagues recorded the whole trip with cameras from the beginning to the end, all I have is this sketch. For me, experiencing the moments was much more important. Only by doing that could I get to see more clearly the true colors of my students. 


I did love to observe the looks of the local kids, though. I was especially attracted to the innocent visages and eyes of first and second graders. Time leaves marks in elder children little by little. I found it a revolution against the world in trying to keep that purity in our eyes as we age. 


I sneaked into the kitchen to draw how everyone found their place in the kitchen. The beautiful and fresh produce from Yunlin gave so many vivid colors to the space. 


I often disappeared for some fresh air when no one noticed. He-An Elementary School is surrounded by farmland. One morning at 7 a.m., I stood by the roadside to draw the rising sun. Next to me was a girl who desired to be loved but was hardly loved. We breathed in the morning silence, but I felt we had said so much. 


My colleague took me to a nearby personal market for buying baby corns. In the country, farmers usually sell produce in their trucks. However, this family displayed everything on the ground floor of their own house. Though there wasn't much space, I was surprised by the variety of the choices they offered. I was so thrilled that I couldn't help but borrow a stool from them and began to sketch at the roadside. Sometimes I saw villagers come by scooter. They picked what they wanted and decided how much they would like to have just like in any other market. 

Halfway through my sketch, the granny sent her granddaughter to give me a can of coffee for free. When I said goodbye to them, she even invited me for lunch. People in the countryside are so hospitable and generous. I brought home a huge box of produce, most of which was gifts from the villagers. 


Looking down from the jetty, it was a vast farm field. At 2 p.m. when the sun shone like in summer, one or two farmers could be spotted. Behind me kids played and laughed happily on the small campus. 


In the evening while I was sketching, I heard the head of the village announce important news through the loudspeaker. Standing outside a row of red-brick houses, I could hear what was going on inside as well. 


After the trip came to an end, I am wondering about the reason why I had such a hard time during the past semester. Might it be that I didn't open my heart? 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shuanglian Market / 雙連市場


On my walking tour around Da-tong and Zhongshan Districts a few weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that Shuanglian Market has become a major tourist attraction for Japanese visitors. Having a peculiar preference for traditional markets, I swore to take a look at the market in person one day. 


Shuanglian Market is an open-air market, with a long and narrow street as the center lying against a small park running parallel. More vendors and shops nestle in alleys that extend from it. This is a perfect venue for sketchers because there are benches everywhere. I chose the end of street where the fruit wagons gathered because I found it a local cultural feature here. Meanwhile, the memory of my sketching in freezing Europe last year at this time surged back. I couldn't help thinking, Taiwan is such a fantastic place in winter for sketching! 


In London, I ran into vendors that borrowed me a chair or offered me fish for free. In Taipei, it was mostly leisurely passers-by who came for a look at my sketchbook. There was also a very friendly middle-aged man who complained about not being in the picture. One lady from Southeast Asia working as a maid here gave her compliment in English. Though I wasn't so popular among vendors here, I think traditional markets in Taiwan are second to none. I can totally understand why Japanese are curious about this part of my culture. 


There were endless inspirations for me. In the middle of the street is the Temple of Wenchang Emperor, who is known for blessing people with good luck in studies and taking exams. I was ambitious enough to take on the challenge of drawing the temple. However, after I finished all the details in front of the temple, I realized the image is already full. Thus, I apologized very sincerely to Wenchang Emperor before leaving. 


I'll come back. It takes months or even a year to record such a colorful market. Tomorrow I am heading for Yunlin. Hopefully the market there is equally inspiring! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

word game / 文字遊戲


Not having time for doing a sketch today prompted me to look for new entertainment. I clipped words that spoke to me from the New York Times to make my own sentence. And what I saw right in front of my eyes offered possibilities for an image. 


Some word strings evoke visual images without my having to add more ideas to them. What a lovely game! 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Birds / 鳥兒


I can't help recalling my previous winter in this drowsy winter. Being insomniac, the sun always occupied my night sky, along with the birds' melodious company.


Well, I am a master at romanticizing my memories...

Apple x Banana / 香蕉蘋果


It takes bright colors to wake me up on a rainy morning!