Tuesday, October 16, 2018


The 3rd Asia-link Sketch Walk was held in Taichung, Taiwan this year! It was another great reason to visit Bubble Tea Land... and of course meet up with my favourite sketchers from the region. A total of  400 participants representing 21 countries took part, all the way from Russia, Netherlands and the U.S.A.!

I spent a few nights with friends in Taipei (north) before heading to the central region of Taiwan. The bus ride was very comfortable and I'd recommend that over taking the regional trains.

As usual, I will be posting highlights of the event via my Youtube links below. Within the links, you get to meet artists, hear their thoughts, see their works and explore Taichung through my eyes. So get your fingers ready to click away! :D

Asia-Link Sketch Walk Videos:

1. ALSW2018 TAICHUNG Opening (Day 1)

2. ALSW2018 TAICHUNG Day 2

3. ALSW2018 TAICHUNG Day 3

4. ALSW2018 TAICHUNG Day 4 (Houli excursion)

5. ALSW2018 TAICHUNG with Tae from Bangkok Sketchers

My friends from Taipei fed me well! :D 

Noodles from the first bubble tea shop (Chun Shui Tang) ever in Taichung

Oldest artist I met this trip. He's 96! Saved an entire village by painting it. 

I love collecting stamps in Taiwan. They are everywhere! 

Vanont from Bangkok and his souvenirs. 

Tae from Bangkok right before her sharing session on her book.
A book swap just happened. 

One of the 5 paintout sessions 

Sketching at Taichung Park. 

万春宫 (Wan Chun Gong)

Watercolour piece I did during Vanont's workshop

 Eleanor Doughty (@herbcoil) from Seattle

Panoramic sketch from Ah Tong (Kuching), Jason (Kuala Lumpur), me and Benedict (Singapore)

It was another fantastic and event not to be taken for granted and being able to sketch alongside like-minded sketchers in Taichung. I made a ton of new friends this year since I missed the event last year in Kuching. There were too many people to get to know and say "hi" to in four days. (400 participants is a pretty sizeable amount.) But I did manage to catch up with friends that I had already known or artists I have been following.

I've always thought of us sketchers being ambassadors of our countries, fostering friendship and passion for art whenever we go for such trips. Not only do we represent the Urban Sketchers Chapters from our region, but also as citizens from countries. And it is really great to see that neither boarders nor language separate us, and art that binds us all - that common language.

Looking forward to Banda Indonesia coming up shortly.


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Explore the planet with globe trotting artist Alvin Mark Tan in his Travel Sketch series. Check out the daily local scene of a village, town or city and experience the culture and food that intrinsically binds us all together. Also get insights into oil painting and ink sketching while on the fly.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Art in the Open 2018

It was another eventful painting trip to Wexford! Art in the Open is in its 11th year and is Europe's largest painting festival. Live demos and workshops stretch for over 10 days in County Wexford. This year's edition ushers in a lot of new artists both locally and from across the globe. There are also many tie-in events with the National Gallery of Ireland scattered throughout the evenings in Wexford town. Culminating with an excursion by the National Gallery of Ireland, artists boarded the Irish Rail from Wexford's O'Hanrahan Station via the scenic coastal route to Pearse Station in Dublin. Participating artists toured the latest summer show - the O'Conor and the Moderns (from Paris to Post Aven) and took part in a mass paint-out with local Dublin plein air artists at Merrion Square.

Above Redmond Square, Wexford

I vlogged each day's affairs and have organised them neatly on this post. May it be a source of archive and joy for all who watch the videos.  If you like the content, I would like to invite you to LIKE the videos and SUBSCRIBE to my Youtube channel, so that the algorithms tell the company that I am working hard to provide everyone with good content. :D

If you are new to Art in the Open and want to know how to get from Dublin Airport to Wexford, do watch this.  -->  From Dublin Airport to Wexford via the Wexford Bus: https://youtu.be/Cjj3FJwJuZ4

Day 1 - Wexford https://youtu.be/EI3kXck2KBA

Day 2 - Duncannon https://youtu.be/-68YVxfloks

Day 3 - Artramon House https://youtu.be/LqjK7-6t0U4

Day 4 - Clonegal & Huntington Castle https://youtu.be/ntnLWsH0NBk

Day 5 - Rosslare https://youtu.be/iiHJgdVnxZY

Day 6 - Bunclody https://youtu.be/iiHJgdVnxZY

Day 7 - Quick Draw https://youtu.be/bns4jUjY5fU

Day 8 - Exhibition/ Gala https://youtu.be/WbMP5SPxM6Q

Day 9 - National Gallery of Ireland Excursion https://youtu.be/K-XgCcgYN_g

Above Wexford County  https://youtu.be/PGdzou96cuY

From Arklow to Rathdrum on the Irish Rail https://youtu.be/-77Yb-vztEQ

Until the next post... ciao ciao!

That's me working on a mural near the bridge

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Painting Down Under

Hello 2018!

Perth is a short 5 hour flight from Singapore. Ever so often, I go there to visit my family. Here's a confession - it's been 2 years since my last visit.  So I bought a one way ticket there.

Being down under often reminds me that I'm on a really huge planet, because at a time when many of my friends are experiencing snow and rain, it's baking in dryness and sunshine in Australia! I used to think that all I'll ever be painting are summer scenes because whenever I'm in Perth is during their summer.

I had a lot of time to catch up with family, but priority was also given to documenting my trip. I pushed the boundaries of filming documentaries while outdoors as a documentary maker with the use of drones for those gorgeous aerial footages. Not only did I make my usual on location painting videos, but also a tutorial on painting tools, and even produced a food trail!  I also went painting with award-winning painter, Leon Holmes, and made a documentary with him painting in the scrubs.

For those who are video fans, this post is packed with videos! And it might be my new direction for 2018 - You Tube Videos. (Don't forget to subscribe - Youtube: Alvin Mark Studio) Painting a steam engine and riding on one, soaring over the distinctive landscapes of Western Australia, and hang out where the locals go for food... you're definitely going to find these clips informative, more so if you are an artist. :)

Here are my top 3 favourite videos from the trip: 

#1) Travel Sketch (PERTH) with Leon Holmes [CC] 

#2) Travel Sketch (PERTH) Food & Sketch Trail [CC] 

#3) Travel Sketch (PERTH) - Castledare part 2 [CC] 

Here are the other videos from my Perth adventure:

FLYING on SQ213 [CC] 

Travel Sketch (PERTH) - North Mole Lighthouse [CC] 

Sketch Travel (Perth) - Commute Sketch [CC] 

Travel Sketch (PERTH) - Castledare Part 1 [CC] 

Ride the Freight Australia

Travel Sketch (PERTH) - Ciao Italia [CC] 

Travel Sketch - TOOLS for oil painting [CC] 

Travel Sketch Perth - Show & Tell

Flying Above Perth

Thank you for tuning in! Until the next update... Stay happy and healthy for 2018! :)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Alvin Mark Sketchbook

This is my first shot at designing sketchbooks for fellow artists to use. Being a full time urban sketcher myself, I know at first hand what sketching conditions are like on location. This is my creation together with AlsoDominie, to produce a B6 landscape (17.6cm x 25.0cm) format size sketchbook. Here's the rational behind the choice of materials used.

There are plenty of A4 and A6 (hardback) sketchbooks out there, but only a handful of A5 and B6 hardbacks. It makes a difference when you are out there sketching on location for about 30-45 mins, standing up and holding your sketchbook. What may seem like a 400gm A4 can miraculously turn into a 10kg dumbbell after 15-20 mins of sketching. 

An A6 (10cm x 15cm) sketchbook doesn't really do justice for me.  I use a Moleskine Large (21cm x 13cm) every once in a while in my travels when I know that my schedule is very tight, and I do feel the difference. The 21cm x 13cm doesn't allow me enough space to express what I want to say, in this instance, sketch.  The A4 landscape for me is always my personal choice of preference if I had all the time in the world to sketch. :) 

I am a lover of landscape format sketchbooks. They allow for those long panoramas! 
Enough said here. :)

The B5 is a format that allows me to sketch what may seem like an A4,
but in a much shorter span of time. 

AlsoDominie and I had to come to a compromise. I was looking at heavy weight 300gsm Fabriano, but given the budget for the project, we settled for 180gsm Maple Leaf. 

I've finished using 2 books so far, and my take is that it's great for inks, pencil sketching,
and a light wash. 

It never hurts to have an extra pocket especially when you are travelling. It's a good place to store maps and tickets for quick references. 

Elastic band:
Never underestimate a gust of wind! A small elastic band does wonders when you are frantically finishing a sketch before the looming storm. :) 

I use the hardback as a table during those moments when space is tight or if I am standing up for a sketch. It can also balance my watercolour kit and water container at the same time! 

Size comparison:
A4 - 21cm x 30cm
B5 - 17.6cm x 25.0cm
A5 - 15cm x 21cm
Moleskine Large - 13cm x 21cm
A6 - 10cm x 15cm

The Sketchbook at the Taipei Art Book Fair 2017

To purchase copies, write to:

AlsoDominie (in Asia and the Americas):

Spectrum Art and Framing (in Europe):

The Alvin Mark sketchbook is a collaboration with AlsoDominie Print and made its public appearance at Inkling: Vol 2 on 4 August 2017.

Here a run through of my Sketchbook Volume 1 using a time-lapse format.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sketching the last Shangri-la

Imagine a whole entire country measured by the collective happiness (Gross National Happiness) of its people, and not by its GNP (Gross National Product). Meaning its GNH is more important than its GNP.  Not only is this a real place, the better news is that many other countries are looking into developing this philosophy too. The term was coined by the country's 4th king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in the 1970s. I was blessed to be able to spend sometime there, learning and observing the people and culture of Bhutan.

Thank you, Druk Asia, for the opportunity to experience this.

My sketching expedition began on board Druk Air, 
where the friendly stewardesses' Kira, the national
dress for women in Bhutan, became the point of interest for me.

I heard so much about the open tarmac concept at Paro International Airport,
that when the plane landed, I immediately threw in one for my sketchbook. 

Welcomed by my guide and driver upon arrival, our first stop for lunch was at Thimpu, the capital.
After which, the string of sight-seeing (and sketching) began. This is inside the weaving room 
at the Royal Textile Academy.

My hotel in Thimpu is right within walking distance of the Norzin Lam, its main street. I headed there immediately after dinner for a sketching spree. The tiny commercial shops that line this street is worth visiting. Still puzzled as to how they can squeeze so many things into that one little space? 

Finally got into a Gho, the traditional dress for men in Bhutan. 
It's actually pretty comfortable. You should try one when you are there.

I found some time in the morning to paint Buddha Point from the hotel. Having the cool, 
crisp morning air with the mountain ranges as a backdrop was definitely a plus for me. 

The chief abbot is in town and chanting mantras for a 3-month long event being held at Buddha Point. 

Meeting and interacting with locals is the main highlight of my travels around the world. Here in Bhutan, it is no different. A good portion of my time is spent talking and sharing my art with the locals. And in return, I learn heaps about their way of life.  

Staff at Simply Bhutan run through my work in progress 
while I catch a moment to enjoy a cup of local butter tea.

Interacting with students from the Punakha Higher Secondary School 
right after a picnic and sketch.  2km away at the Jimba Gyeltshen General Shop and Bar
(where the suspension bridge is), I meet more students on their way home from school.
the walk each way from home to school takes about 80 minutes. 

Waiting for the oldest monastery Changangkha Lhakhang, to dry.

So delicious and exotic are the food dishes, especially the vegetable dishes, 

more locals here are becoming vegetarians. 

 We spent some time at a paper making factory. Here is a 
little clip I made to show how paper is made in Bhutan.

Here at the Natural History Museum. One of my greatest joys – animal sketching, 
and especially in spaces that do not permit photography. :) 

At the halfway mark while scaling up Tiger's Nest.
Climbing Tiger's Nest Video clip: https://youtu.be/L7D09Zivsus

Here are highlights of my sketching adventure on You Tube.

Thank you to my super informative guide Kuenzang, my cool driver, Jamyang.
Thank you Druk Asia for creating this memorable experience for me.  
And thank you all of you for tuning in with me on this fantastic journey back to the past. 


About the Artist:
Alvin Mark Tan 
is a traditional oil painter residing in Singapore. He also illustrates in ink and watercolour.

A graphic design graduate from Woodbury University in Burbank, California, 
Alvin began his graphic design career with the Ministry of Defence in Singapore.  

Later, at the Singapore Press Holdings, he branched out into advertising, environmental 
design and documentary-making.  He also has an Animation diploma, with a focus in concept art. After walking the Camino de Santiago in 2012, Alvin made a bold decision to sell and leave everything to study what he was always called to do - traditional oil painting.  

He graduated from Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, where he studied Natural Realism under Maestro Michael John Angel for three years. Apart from doing commissioned art works ranging from still lifes to portraits to ink sketches to wall murals, Alvin loves drawing directly from nature.  So he is often outdoors doing plein air paintings, on the streets urban-sketching, or commute sketching in his travels.  His goal by being a full-time artist, is to encourage people to live out their vocations in life. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Art in the Open 2017

I spent a fruitful 2 weeks in lovely Ireland in a festival called Art in the Open which takes place in Ireland every summer. In its 10th year running, the 8 day programme took us to several spectacular sights and locations in south east of Ireland, specifically in the county of Wexford. I made many, many new friends, and also met friends I haven't seen in over a year! What a joy it was to be there, reminding me that I am not alone in my painting quest.
In the words of fellow painter Louise Treacy: "Aren’t we really lucky to be out here in nature looking at this? Painting and representing it in our little happy place?"
I was invited to give a workshop on Urban Sketching at the local library, attended by 70 over people. It was the first of its kind and many were grateful that the whole sketching thing finally took off. My hopes that the sketching spirit keeps going for the next 11 months - until the next Art in the Open.
Being the only South East Asian in the festival has its perks. I can be spotted a mile away. After being interviewed live on South East Radio's Morning Mix with Alan Corcoran, the locals who saw me painting on the streets, would walk up to me and say, "Aren't you the guy from Singapore?" or "I heard you over the radio, welcome to Ireland!" This is just scratching the surface of how hospitable the locals can be. Thank you, Wexford!
 Sketching Premier's Fish and Chips from Burgler Doyles Bar

Sketching inside my favourite art store in Wexford

Paint out at the Woodville House in New Ross

I sold this piece from Kilmore Quay

 Met Aussie painter Leon Holmes and 
learnt a thing or two about self-made easel boxes

Dylan with his personalised Rosemary brushes

 Us having ice cream with Brendan Howlin

Carlos, Antti and Mish

 Sold to Kelly's Deli

With Bill Kelly and his daughter. Thank you for stopping by!

Truly humbled that this piece was bought by the County Council of Wexford

 Won the O'Brien Award for this Quick Draw piece

This is Sadhbh ('Sive') - the artist who won the sketching contest.
Watch out for her, Wexford!

With Roger Dellar

I met Van Gogh! John Moriarty taught me how 
to fly a drone within minutes.

We all studied in Florence! :)

I spent a lot of time documenting and putting together the sights and sounds of the entire event.
Here are the videos links for Art in the Open 2017. Enjoy and share!

Day 1 - Wexford Town https://youtu.be/C_5vfwfUKB8
Day 2 - Woodville House https://youtu.be/_iupWwrkToY
Day 3 - Kilmore Quay https://youtu.be/191ujGBmIaE
Day 4 - Enniscorthy https://youtu.be/7nxw5QEmzDU
Day 6 - Hook Head https://youtu.be/yONTV1VXVO4
Day 7 - Quick Draw https://youtu.be/Hdg0O5KaAT4
Day 8 - Exhibition https://youtu.be/ZND8S55RiWs
Day 8 - Gala Dinner https://youtu.be/4udMbcV1xMU

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Drawing from Life

I started drawing again because of an animation programme I took in 2009. Many might find that peculiar because 3D softwares like Maya was the main staple.  During the first semester, drawing (with pencils) took up most of the day’s schedule - from short gestural poses to sketching simple still life set ups. The classically trained animation-based instructor, Philip Garcia, took us outside the classroom to draw too, like the zoo, botanic gardens, bird park and Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS exhibition. That eye-opening semester began to change the way I thought about art. 

The last time I picked up a pencil before the animation programme was probably during the first year of design college. After which, I used the mouse to draw logos, design advertising campaigns and churn out illustrative graphics. Fast forward to 2011 – the time after the animation programme.  I headed to the city of Los Angeles for a short 3-month stint in concept design with some of my animation classmates. Most of the classes I signed up for were drawing classes at the Animation Guild in Burbank. It was there that I was able to study under two great living instructors of the human figure - Glenn Vilppu (bottom left) and Karl Gnass. Although I didn’t pursue the field of animation after the three months in LA, my appreciation for traditional arts deepened. 

2012 was the year I decided to move away from a digital artist to become a traditional one. Some of the things I did to achieve this goal were to 1) request for more illustrative works, 2) buy an annual zoo pass and faithfully headed there once a week and 3) sign up for portrait studies and figure drawing at the local community clubs. I heard about Urban Sketchers Singapore (USKSG) who meet to sketch every month end and decided to join them. Finally, I was able to connect with like-minded people with a passion for drawing. I learned heaps about inks, watercolours and sketchbooks from the various art groups that I joined. The more I sketched, the more I craved for it. By the summer of 2012, I decided it was time to attempt a sketching journey on the Camino de Santiago and make a book out of it.

Sketching in the Pyrenees

After completing 800km and using up four sketchbooks, a revelation hit me - life is too short to be doing something else. After publishing my first sketchbook in Dec 2012, I made plans to study art… from scratch. And by April 2013, I began my basic training at the Angel Academy in Florence under Maestro John Michael Angel. It was only a year after (spring of 2014), did I begin to learn the methods of oil painting like the traditional old masters. 

The difference between ink sketching and oil painting

Initially I thought that I would be weaning off my ink and watercolour sketching at some point in order to focus on oil painting. But over time, I realized how the doodles that I do on the streets complemented my oil painting, and vice-versa. For example, the amount of ink sketching I do would directly translate to quicker and more accurate drawings in the painting stage. Likewise, the oil paintings I make sharpen the way I see values and depth, and that would allow me to easily apply those concepts while I’m sketching or watercolouring.

Using inks give me the needed breathing space away from oil paints. This time allows me to absorb  and process what I just did, instead of moving immediately into the next project. It’s almost like giving the food I eat some time to be digested before rushing to my next meal. 

I let myself stay loose when doodling in my sketchbook. When I do my oil paintings, I tend to be a little more precise and meticulous. This sketchbook play time helps me stay creative (without any boundaries) and maintains that balance I need as an artist. 

The tools used for sketching takes up very little space, all I need is a pen and a piece of paper.  This is crucial when I want to create art in tight spaces like cafes where an easel or the smell of turpentine is not too pleasing to customers. One of my favourite spaces to sketch would be onboard a plane. Imagine all that flying time to draw!  1

My oil paintings are usually kept for a specific group of art collectors. Sketching allows me to turn my art into products for the masses. I turn my sketches into books, posters, postcards, collar pins, mugs, etc... you name it. And I would put myself in art fairs to sell them and also use the opportunity to sell myself as an oil painter.

What inspires me to draw?

I get inspiration from everywhere. It could be a new cafe that just opened in the neighbourhood. Or an old coffeeshop that might be closing down permanently. It might be a book that I am working on that gets me sketching a certain theme like my recent book about the coffee scene in Singapore called La Kopi.

Seeing beautiful work by other artists who share them on social media also encourages me to post mine online. It’s always a joy to be able to connect with another artist via social media. 

I travel fairly often. For every trip that I make, I will sketch. Just being in a new environment and checking out the local sights and smell, it’s all eye candy for my sketchbook. I used to take home thousands of photographs when I travel. But ever since I got into the habit of sketching, I find more joy in being at a location where I can carefully observe (and sketch) the place or structure. It also opens up the possibility for communication between the locals. Sketching creates memories that are etched more deeply than what a photo can do.  2

I know a lot of urban sketchers around the world. When I travel, I make it a point to meet up and sketch with them. Not only are they a better guide of the city or town, it is always good to see how others approach the art of sketching within a certain region.  3

Commute Sketching is also a good way to practice figure drawing outside the studio environment. When I commute on a train or bus, I get models of different height, shapes and colour. And the best thing is that I don’t have to pay model fees.  4

Not a day goes by without me not sketching. If I take a 3-day break from drawing, I do see a difference when I get back to it – a drop in quality. It's subtle, but this reminds me how pen mileage makes the difference.

Besides the drawing and painting commissions I get, my next sketching journey takes me to Art in the Open in Wexford, Ireland where I will run a sketching workshop on July 30, following by a series of sketching trips to Bhutan. I am blessed to have all these opportunities as an artist. Looking back, I am ever so grateful to have taken that leap of faith during that Fall of 2011. 

Video and blog links from the article above:

1 -  Catch a sketch done 30,000ft up here: https://youtu.be/tIg7qSUa6cw 

2 - Sketching an outdoor kitchen in Bangkok: https://youtu.be/qheU2aWdt-E

3 - My day out with some Urban Sketchers in Tokyo: https://youtu.be/jjbw82ItoiE

4 - Catch a short documentary on Commute Sketching: https://youtu.be/NzibLiGFzwE

More on Commute Sketching:

More on The Short Pose:

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instagram (oil paintings): www.instagram.com/alvinmark
instagram (inks and watercolours): www.instagram.com/alfdoodles/

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Alvin Mark Tan is a traditional oil painter residing in Singapore.  He also illustrates in ink and watercolour.  

A graphic design graduate from Woodbury University in Burbank, California, Alvin began his graphic design career with the Ministry of Defence in Singapore.  Later, at the Singapore Press Holdings, he branched out into advertising, environmental design and documentary-making.  He also has an Animation diploma, with a focus in concept art.  

After walking the Camino de Santiago in 2012, Alvin made a bold decision to sell and leave everything to study what he was always called to do - traditional oil painting.  He graduated from Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, where he studied Natural Realism under Maestro Michael John Angel for three years.

Apart from doing commissioned art works ranging from still lifes to portraits to ink sketches to wall murals, Alvin loves drawing directly from nature.  So he is often outdoors doing plein air paintings, on the streets urban-sketching, or commute sketching in his travels.  His goal by being a full-time artist, is to encourage people to live out their vocations in life.