The Flame Tree

Yesterday I shared about the beautiful blooming trees in my neighbourhood, and I want to share a few more of the fabulous bloom today. Royal Poinciana is a very common tree in Hong Kong. It can be seen almost everywhere, but it is in summer that it makes a dramatic appearance with its red hot flowers to ensure that everyone admires it! It is nicknamed as The Flame Tree for its sharp red bloom, while it is also called The Shadow Tree for its light and feather-like leaves give a really good shade for people. I made a little sketch of it’s lovely petals and took some snapshots today. Hope you enjoy it!

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Fire and ice

It’s Monday again. To cheer things up a little, I guess it won’t hurt to have a little throwback of the last weekend!

The day started with a walk in my neighbourhood. It’s just May but the trees are already blooming like crazy, as the summer this year comes get early and intense (36 Celsius degree yesterday, it doesn’t reach this height often even in August). Don’t you just love these flowers in burning red? So full of fire and passion! I would love to sketch this lovely scene if not for this melting sun.

Speaking of summer, I shared in a previous post that I was crocheting a hat with raffia. I’m so glad I’ve finished the hat just in time to give me shade in this hot wave! It’s in a bucket shape with a short brim just enough for shading me from the sun and for putting in my bag to follow me around. I think the shell stitches don’t look very obvious now that it’s done but the mixed ash colours look great enough with my summer tees and jeans! On the right is another crochet project that I’ve just started. Probably not too wise to use woollen yarn under this weather, isn’t it? I’m quite attracted to the colour though, so I hope by the time I finish, the weather will be a bit cooler for me to wear it.

Summer is also a time for me to indulge myself with tasty desserts! The above is a combo of guilty pleasure I had on Saturday – French toast and iced red bean and coconut milk, so delicious yet so evil! Apart from the sugar and butter, I’m also told to avoid having cold drinks as it is particularly unhealthy in Chinese medicine. The theory is that it’ll be like pouring cold water on a hot engine. But seriously, who cares when the weather is this hot?

Bittersweet

Thank God it’s Friday! And I mean it so genuinely not only because weekend is coming but also I’ve had such a bad week that I can’t wait for it to end. To put it briefly, my boss resigned a few days ago. God knows how stressful it is that I have to cope with the sadness of my good boss’s leaving, a cloudy future in the company, and for some reasons I still have to pretend I didn’t hear the news yet. Anyway I am so happy that I could take a little break from the mess at work.

Art is always my escape. The above is a drawing that I did lately and I think it describes my mixed feelings very well. Black and white, yet there are lots of complicity and changes in the details when you look closely. I enjoy getting lost in the subtle changes and it comforts me so much to have achieved something at least. There’s no guarantee that hard work pays off at work place, but in art, it always rewards me with so much joy and peace, regardless of the outcome.

Ash and Kites

This is a glimpse of my new crochet project. Can you guess what it is from this wheel? It’s a women’s bucket hat with shell stitches on the side!

As summer is drawing close, I figure it’s perfect time to make a hat to give me a shade under the sun. I made a wide-brim hat with another pattern last year also from the Japanese book below. This time I want to make it more different from the last one, so I choose raffia in a mixed ash colour (it just looks slightly blue to me). I love crocheting with raffia for its uniquely rough yet durable structure and the changing colours keep me excited to see how my hat will look!

It’s not easy to make this hat though and I’m solely to blame. The raffia I choose is wider than the Japanese material suggested by the pattern. I have to do some calculation myself to ensure the hat won’t be too big, so in the process I have undone my work quite a few times. I also use a 4.0 hook for this hat, which is obviously small for the raffia, because I want the structure to be more firm and that makes the process very tiring and particularly frustrating when I have to undo it.

Although that taught me a lesson to take note of everything on a pattern, I still think it’s worth it to make a little twist sometimes. A little exploration makes me feel really fulfilling (I literally picked up the pencil and paper to do some calculations!) and it makes me feel that the hat is really my creation!

My hat is yet to finish but I’ve already gone to the park several times because the sunshine couldn’t wait! The park near my place is a popular place for flying kites. On sunny days, the sky is always as crowded with kites as it is with people on the ground!

I sat with my husband on the bench, looking at the kites in the sky and the people flying them. I have never successfully flew a kite, so I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to see my own one flying. And I couldn’t help thinking what was the fun when the kite was already up there.

There was a veteran running around on the field to busy himself with instructing those strangers and ‘beginners’ in his eyes. He sometimes even took over the wheel to show how to fly the kites in ‘a right way’. Watching from the bench, I thought I wouldn’t let him fly my kite if I were playing. I would like to try it on my own even though it might mean failures. The kite would go up and fall, then go up again. Every time it falls, one would think of something new, to push it higher and keep it longer.

To me that’s the point of flying a kite. Isn’t it the same with everything else?

Happy Three

It’s almost bed time here, and I’m just trying to quickly add a post when it’s still April 11 coz my husband and I are having our third anniversary today!

I drew a pair of toothbrushes to celebrate this special day. Not very romantic, I know, but I found it perfect for the occasion, not only because toothbrushes can be quickly sketched, but also because it reflects our everyday life. Marriage to us is to share our lives together. It can’t be sweet or passionate all the time as some people picture it to be; it’s also about commitment, communication, shared responsibilities and more. We have a wonderful time together, even though sometimes it means doing grocery shopping or cleaning up our home. We enjoy every bit of it and cannot imagine a better partner to share it with!

Kapok in the Sun

I’m not sure if spring has come to Hong Kong and gone or it never came at all, as it’s hot like summer already. The weather may fool but I’m glad the plants always faithfully do their jobs so that I know that spring is here after all.

Kapok is among one of my favourite plants, which has a tall and straight trunk and big red flowers.  When I was small, I was told that Kapok is also named “Hero Tree” for it resembles a soldier standing upright with so much pride and bravery. In my city, it is a common scene in spring that rows of kapok along the road please everyone’s eyes with their fist-size sharp red flowers blooming in the sun.

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At this time of the year, these gorgeous flowers are everywhere on the floor for one to pick up. Children pick them up for fun; old ladies collect them because these flowers become a therapeutic herb in Chinese medicines when they dry up. For me, these beauties are great inspiration for drawing and of course I couldn’t resist to put them in my sketchbook. I used watercolour to do a quick sketch, as you can see in the above photo, trying to keep the lines and details simple and express the beauty of the flowers with bold colors. I’m quite happy with it, though next time I may use oil, which would be a good match to echo with the bold character of kapok.

I hope you enjoy this little drawing, a tribute to kapok.

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High in the sky
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Down on the floor

Cabbage of Prosperity

As the Chinese New Year is just two days away, let me send you season’s greetings with this quick sketch of nappa cabbage I did last week! One may wonder why cabbage is associated with the new year, to be frank it doesn’t look very festive in pencil, however, nappa cabbage is very common on the Chinese (perhaps in other parts of Asia too, I’m not sure) dining table at this time of the year.

In where I live, cabbage usually appears in a stew with a lots of ingredients such as pork belly, dried mushrooms, dried scallops, etc. All the flavours would blend together and taste very sweet and delicious, perfect for sharing with the family in winter time. Cabbage also symbolises prosperity as in Cantonese it is called dai bak choy, rhyming with the pronunciation of wealth, so you can imagine why it is popular here. I am also told that nappa cabbage is one of the most common ingredients for kimchi and is called baechu in Korean. Isn’t it interesting to know that the red hot kimchi comes from this big white vegetable?

Back to my drawing, I think the first challenge was that the nappa cabbage was so big that it took up most of the space on the paper! Well, I decided not to scale it down because I thought the size was the most special thing about this plant. It looked fun because it was so big. Now I look back, it should be even more fun if I could put some regular-sized bak choy beside it to make a contrast. Another challenge is the fine lines and stems on the cabbage body and I was sure it would give me a headache to draw everything. In my opinion, do not try to draw every detail and never use straight lines because that will only look unnatural. Be specific in where the lighting contrast is strong and the shadow is obvious, and blur it a little in the white and lighted part. I think the most enjoyable part for drawing plants is that there are no rules. There are all kinds of shapes and colours, so who could say what’s right and what’s wrong?

Today is Valentine’s Day and I can’t believe I keep talking about cabbage! If anyone is out there reading my post, I wish you a great time with your loved ones and prosperity in the new year.