Slowly Sketching My Way through Asia

Day 43, Grand Asia 2018

Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, At Sea:

I’ve written before about how I discovered a love of watercolor during last year’s Grand Asia cruise. Our instructor Jack encouraged us to paint what we wanted, to use all the supplies we needed and to paint all day. He also urged us to sketch and paint while ashore.

I never had time to do that, as I was focused on seeing new lands and trying to get perfect photographs with my DSLR camera and lenses. Beside, I was a slow artist.

Since returning from last year’s cruise and moving to Chicago for the summer, I discovered the Urban Sketchers organization and its Chicago chapter. (I’ll connect with the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter when I return from this cruise.) Through many sketching meet-ups, the chapter’s symposium and an intensive urban sketching class at the Art Institute of Chicago, I learned to quickly capture the essence of a scene and add a little color. It didn’t have to be perfect in order to preserve my memory.

So this year I left my fancy camera and lenses at home and brought my iPhone, a sketchbook, some pens, ink and watercolor palettes.

I still am not fast enough to complete sketches on site, but generally in about 10-15 minutes I can get an outline and a few details. When I’m back on the ship, I fill in the details from photographs. It’s not quite the Urban Sketching ideal, but it works for me.

Vietnam from the ship

What I hadn’t realized was that between my sketches, watercolors and blog posts, my sea days would be full.

Today, after finished my blog from the previous day, I spent the hour of the morning watercolor class finishing my sketches from Singapore. I use a fountain pen (Sailor Fude with a 55-degree nib) designed for calligraphy, which gives me the option of thin or thick lines. The result is that the ink (Noodler’s Bulletproof black waterproof) takes a while to dry.


So yesterday I put aside the four pages of sketches to dry and joined friends for Stitch and Knit (I’m still working on same appliqué quilt block) and then went the cooking demonstration with Guest Chef Heinz Von Holsten. I’ve signed up for his special dinner in a couple of days featuring food from Bali, where he has spent 30 years, first as the executive chef at the Grand Hyatt and now at his own restaurant, Bumbu Bali.


In the early afternoon I went to hear the new speaker, Mark Lax, talk about Indonesia. Our other speaker, Kate Mead, also is talking about Indonesia, and there may be some crossover. As I recall, Holland America leaves it up to the speakers to pick specific topics under the general category of “destination related.”

By late afternoon, I got back to my sketching and added watercolor to the first two pages. Because they are in a bound journal (Moleskin watercolor, 8½” x 5”, 135-pound paper), I had to leave those pages to dry before finishing the next two after dinner. The Lido buffet offered a Makansutra dinner, featuring the food from Singapore’s local food stalls. I enjoyed trying a bite of a few new things.


Of course, I had already posted my blogs about Singapore, well before I finished the sketches. I can’t stay up to date on blogging if I wait for the final sketches.

Tomorrow we will be in Indonesia, and I’ll have another blog to write and more sketches to start along the way and finish later. When we don’t have a sea day between ports, it’s easy to fall behind.


Frankly, I’m looking forward to next week, when we have three consecutive sea days after our stop in Darwin, Australia. I’ve preordered the Kindle version of Michelle Obama’s memoir, and I hope to have time to read it. I’ve enjoyed previous First Lady memoirs and biographies going back to Bess Truman, whom I covered when I was an editor in Independence, Mo. Just reading will be a luxury.