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:

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. 

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