Chinatown Sketches

Last year, not being able to travel to Asia, I started a series of sketches in this uniquely visible cultural neighbourhood. I had great feedback and am carrying on.

The Moon Gate entrance to Sien Lok Park.

Hang Fung Foods has a very modest visual presence on Third Avenue in Calgary but is a busy source of Asian groceries.
My wife once sent me there to buy red beans which were sold in bulk to make “hung dau saa”, delicious red bean dessert. While sitting and sketching, there was a succession of food trucks delivering stock for the store.

The Far Eastern Shopping Centre combines restaurants and market stalls. What I wanted to capture the Bas-Relief Carvings almost hidden by the foliage.

From close up the view of the distinctive roof of the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre is blocked by the base building so I set up in the adjacent parking lot. It is a detailed scaled down version of the upper roof of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The two guardian lions protect the west entrance.

Chong Chou immigrated from from Vietnam and started the Golden Happiness Bakery opening this second location in 1988.
I used Gansai Tambi watercolour metallic paints to pick up the shiny signage….and I took extra time attempting to get the lettering all correct!

Built in 1954 the brick facade of the Chinese United Church stands prominently in contrast to the newer taller residential buildings behind it.
The street scape has changed radically over the generations.

I am fortunate enough to live downtown and can sketch the inner city!

Keep sketching,


More Chinatown!


IMG_7611The Ho Lem Block’s brickwork caught my eye, especially the fully rounded arch. Its a humble structure built in 1911, scroll right to see its history.
I took extra time at home to do the signage and calligraphy. Its a little tedious but I like to do the details, I think it’s important!

q0KmCFwERGaRYYobfJ8IcA_thumb_7688The colourful and decorative architectural steel elements converted a 1970’s era office building with its angled walls and windows into an iconic landmark building.
The interior atrium is delightfully asian in shops and products.
We attended Chinese New Year banquets, weddings and hot pot dinners in the third floor Regency Palace restaurant.


I sat down to draw a building but ended up trying to capture the activity on the sidewalk in front of the building. I think this is Calgary’s only sidewalk market stall!!
The Chinese National League building was erected in 1954 although the league had been around much longer.
Sun Yat Sen was hosted by the League in 1911 during a visit to Calgary on a North American fund raising tour.


View along Centre St.
Never would have noticed the remnants of house roofs behind and above the store fronts housing the Wong Affinity Association.


These elderly ladies have been selling vegetables and some odds and ends on this patch of sidewalk for at least a couple of years.
I tried to sketch surreptitiously while sitting on a bench facing the street.
Pencil and watercolour!


The brick moon-gate!
This modest structure has been a landmark for decades. I have walked through it maybe a hundred times. Sitting in the shade at 26 degrees was a pleasant sketching activity.

Happy sketching!



Reader Rock Garden and Union Cemetery Outing

It was the perfect summer day, a warm sun in the open parts of the cemetery and delightfully cool spots in the lush vegetation and babbling water of the garden.

Members of the Calgary Association of Lifelong Learners joined in the activity with their sketchbooks.

This was my first time. The garden is amazing!


Many tombstones are carved from sandstone. Sadly they are eroding and will likely disappear in time. I focussed on the grave stone of Cordelia who’s inscription is still readable.


There are many more.


Our next sketchcrawl is Tuesday July 28 in the evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, 840 3 Ave SW.

See you then!! Rod


4 sketches of Chinatown

It’s glorious summer in Calgary and the best time to sketch outside.

The Golden Inn has been in this location almost forty years making it an unpretentious landmark.


The Silver Dragon was the go to place for Dim Sum when we came back to Calgary thirty years ago.


Last year we Urban Sketchers met up in the Muze Cafe after sketching the lions on the bridge. Coffee comes with egg tarts and pork buns. I never would have noticed the fish and the dragon atop the roof edge of this corner building.


Now historically designated, the Canton Block ca. 1912 is one of the oldest structures in Chinatown. Simple and unpretentious but appealing is it’s brick facade.

IMG_7562 (1)

Keep sketching!


Three Churches

St. Stephens Anglican Church is uniquely clad in concrete block but has the traditional form and details of a British Norman style structure.

The Cathedral Church of the Redeemer Anglican, occupies a quiet piece of downtown and has cruder sandstone finish.

Knox United Church has a refined sandstone with elaborate detailing in the tower. It was once the tallest structure in Calgary.

See you soon!


Recent Sketches

Last month, at the peak of the stayhome era, I went through our travel photos, nostalgically, and found some scenes to re-create as well as to do some watercolour practice.

Anna in that beautiful village!


Ah Vicenza!!!! With more time I might have sketched this scene.stale_thumb_6e54UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_6e55

Kyoto had so much beauty!


This was my favourite,  a Sunday morning in Tokyo!



April was a bit cool but I managed to sneak in two Calgary sketches.



We shall meet together again….soon!


Memories of Italy

Looking back six months ago, it is catastrophic how much the world has changed and how much we took for granted.

These are my sketches in and around Venice.


Sitting anywhere but the cafés was not permitted so I sketched quickly and coloured up later.


Vicenza is a small city full of Palladian Architecture, and a delightful square where you can sit and sip Spritzers while you sketch!


Every house in Murano ( a traditional fishing town near Venice ) is washed in a distinctive colour. A watercolourist’s delight.


It was a wonderful view and an enduring memory.


Ontario sketches

Last October we visited Ontario and I was able to sketch three buildings, one in Toronto, a second in Waterloo and a third in Kitchener, my home town.


The Gooderham building is an iconic flatiron landmark inToronto.


The post office building is seen duplicated throughout the small cities and towns of southern Ontario clad in stone or brick or as here in combinations of both.

The Market Square building sits on the site of the old Farmer’s Market where as a kid my family would shop for fresh produce and summer sausage from the Amish farmers and their horse and buggy wagons.

Sketching at Home

Hi All,

Like most of us I have been socially distant and staying at home. This time of confinement can be an opportunity to practise skills or just have some sketching fun.

I started sketching commuters from photos taken a couple of weeks ago to meet the oneweek100people2020 sketching challenge. I did nowhere near 100 people but got me into a daily routine of drawing people.


After using up my commuter photos I made up people.


Mechanical pencil, HB and 4B on watercolour paper.

Stay home, wash your hands but have a little fun!