My watercolour sketches from 2023 Auckland trip

As I’m writing this, I kinda regretted not writing more for my earlier trips to other Urban Sketchers Symposiums and AsiaLink Sketchwalks as it’s always useful to have something to refer to in the future. Very often people will just share on their social media pages but most of what you write can’t even be easily searched in the future. I also regret not taking even more photos but that’s another story.

The 11th Urban Sketchers Symposium was in Auckland and it ran on 19 to 22 April 2023. I was there two days earlier and came back to Singapore two days later. It was, as with other USk Symposiums I’ve have attended, an incredible experience. If you have not watched my video coverage for the event, you can watch the videos here.

Below are all the sketches in the Etchr Sketchbook I’ve used for the trip. For those times where I did not feel like using ink and watercolour, I sketched on my phone with the Concepts app.

Many sketchers created name cards to give out at the symposium but I think stickers are a better idea. With stickers, you can stick them onto sketchbook pages but name cards need a space to store.

One of the stamps above was stamped upside down and that’s alright. Sometimes things just don’t go as smoothly as planned, and that’s alright.

My packing list for this trip:

  • Uniball Air x3 (two would be enough)
  • Sakura Gelly Roll
  • Da Vinci Casaneo size 8 round (not used)
  • Da Vinci Casaneo sword (not used)
  • Etch Lab hotpress A5 watercolour sketchbook with 2 clips
  • Waterproof hat
  • Hero clip
  • Lip balm
  • Travel adapter
  • Gan charger
  • Portable painter palette
  • Portable stool
  • Water bottle
  • Macbook Air 13
  • 1 jacket (forgotten to pack)
  • 3 shirts
  • 2 jeans
  • 1 shorts
  • 3 underwear
  • Scarf (not used)
  • Gloves (not used)
  • SIM card ejection tool
  • Po Chai pills
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, shaver
  • Nail clipper
  • Portable battery for iPhone (essential)
  • Sennheiser MKE 400
  • Panasonic GH5 with 8-18mm lens
  • Velbon table top tripod
  • Tripod extension
  • Sennheiser IE600 earphones
  • Camera battery charger
  • 5x camera batteries (4 including one in camera is enough)
  • Boya iPhone wireless mic (not used)
  • USB cables
  • Lanyard iphone holder (very useful)

Additionally, I had also brought

  • Saramonic Blink 500 wireless mic (not used)
  • WN Bijou watercolour box with integrated water bottle
  • Size 6 pocket watercolour brush
  • Uni POSCA markers yellow and orange (a red and thick white could be added)

I actually brought some wireless lavalier mics thinking that I may interview some people but ended up not using those instead. Those are lightweight so not a big deal but the more things you have, the more you have to keep track of. I also did not use the two Da Vinci Casaneo brushes because the additional size 6 brush I brought is more suitable for the A5 size sketchbook.

The WN watercolour box with integrated water bottle was used more often because it’s so quick and easy to set up than the Portable Painter Palette.

Instead of the usual Panasonic 12-60mm f/2.8-4 lens I usually use for event coverage, this time I used the Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8-4 which is more versatile thanks to the ultra wide field of view. I had to use my iPhone for the 3X zoom though when recording close ups of people sketching. And that’s where having the $5 iPhone lanyard case was so useful! The main camera malfunction during the trip and that was a major bummer but at least that happened after the symposium, which is a huge relief for me.

This was sketched at Changi Airport Terminal 3. I only had one hour and was only able to complete the ink sketch. The colours were added on later at the hotel in Auckland. It’s always good to have some warm up sketches at the airport. You can sketch planes or people.

This was sketched at Auckland Airport while I was waiting for my shuttle bus (Skydrive). I did not pre-book my shuttle bus and had to book it while I was at the airport and had one hour to spare while waiting. One week later, I realised that it’s possible to purchase the bus ticket from the driver and don’t even have to do pre-booking. Just pay with your credit card and you can hop on the bus instantly.

On the first day in Auckland, I saw Louisa at the hotel reception, joined the Hong Kong sketchers for lunch, and then another lunch (above) as Ben Luk wanted to check out the cafe that he will be teaching at. There I meant Stephanie Bower and South Korean sketcher Onion (who probably sketched more then 200 over sketchers at the symposium).

After the 2nd lunch, Alvin Wong and I made the tiring climb up to Albert Park and of course we met some sketchers, Bryan from New Zealand, Judy Salleh, Sally Black and other Australian sketchers. I happen to be watching some of my old videos from the Kuching Asialink Sketchwalk from 2017 and saw Judy in the video too. I seem to remember her saying she was in Singapore too in 2015 for the USk Symposium.

Eric Ngan, organiser for the USk Symposium in Auckland, planned a trip for the instructors to Papakura Marae to let us experience the local or native way of welcoming visitors. We exchanged songs with the locals, had lunch, and sketching inside this hall with all these beautiful wooden sculptures.

I was at the Maru Godas‘s workshop on painting with gouache and friends of gouache (coloured pencils and crayons). Maru Godas and Marina Grechanik are so funny together. They are fantastic instructors by the way.

This was drawn at Hugo Costa‘s workshop on drawing perspective. This was a challenging scene to sketch with two intersecting slopes and buildings by the side. The students did a wonderful job with their sketches and I think that’s because Hugo is so good at teaching.

This was drawn at the first big sketchwalk after the participants had collected their goodie bags. I did not colour this because I was too busy recording and livestreaming on Youtube. It’s so great see so many sketchers, and it did not rain. Oh, there was live music from Ellen Melville Centre which was just in front of us. It was a wonderful evening.

The sketch on the left was drawn inside St Paul’s Church while I was covering Stephanie Bower’s workshop. On the right side was my first try at sketching the interior and I placed the horizon line too high and drawn the back too big.

The sketch on the left is the Auckland Town Hall. And on the right side are more mistakes and tries for the church interior from the previous page. This is where making thumbnails first can really help you sort out problems with composition, perspective and prevent you from making bigger mistakes later.

Next I rushed from Stephanie Bower’s workshop to Ben’s workshop which was inside a cafe/restaurant. I was lucky enough to cover the outdoor workshops when weather was good and on the last day when it was raining, I could cover workshops that were held indoors.

Ben was teaching food sketching and I tried to draw in his style. The colours were added with paint from Ben’s watercolour box. And it was difficult to find out which colour was which as he has so many colours. I used his paint because I did not want to clean my own watercolour box. Thanks, Ben!

This was sketched at the debrief one day after the symposium ended. I love this sketch because this was the only time I could slow down, sketch, and really enjoy the moment, even if it’s just me sketching something mundane such as a meeting. I had more time to capture the facial expressions better compared to rushing through the faces from the previous sketch at Ben’s workshop.

This was drawn outside St Paul’s Church which was exceedingly difficult to sketch because there’s so much details on the exterior.

This was drawn from the same location but I just have to turn 180 to see the Auckland Sky Tower. On hindsight, I probably should have filled the page on the right, or maybe I will write something.

This was my first attempt at sketching the waterfront of Auckland. I had drawn the Sky Tower too big so everything else later will have to be drawn bigger which means I will run out of space.

This was my second try and the ink sketch did not have much details but using watercolour, white gel pen and POSCA markers to add details really help make this sketch look complete.

The last sketch was drawn in Auckland Airport, and there I meant Ameli Oration and a Noumea sketcher whose name I forgot who were headed back home.

This was such an incredible and memorable trip. 2024’s Urban Sketchers Symposium will be in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 9-12 October 2024. It does not seem likely for me to travel to Argentina since the airfare is around USD 3000 and the flight takes 36 hours to and 36 hours back to Singapore.

It was really nice to meet so many old friends and new ones.