My name is McCollin Dulay Delos Santos, You can call me “Mel” for short. I am from the province of Baguio City, Summer Capital, a mountainous area called Cordillera Region, and one of the coolest parts in the Northern Philippines.
I’m currently in Singapore and working as an architectural associate designer. There, I do most of my work on a computer, design of buildings and (3D) 3-dimensional modeling of architectural building facades and interior layouts and a little knowledge in graphics.
I am also a photographer as part of my hobby. My genre is more on street photography, portraiture, architecture and interior photography and I love to collect vintage lenses. Some of my selected works are on Facebook and you can follow me on Instagram.
How I Started Sketching And Discovering Watercolour
For that reason, I don’t want my career in architecture to be locked up in the digital world. Instead, it should be a balance using a conventional freehand or manual sketch method, which is what I love and what I have learned in school during my college days.
So that’s one reason why I started sketching again. I don’t want to forget freehand sketching, because that is what architecture is all about. I want to incorporate my sketches and watercolour in my daily design work.
And due to my work load and tight deadlines, photography and urban sketching becomes part and my way to escape and get out from this digital computer environment. Being away from a computer at least one day of the week, and looking forward to relaxing and refreshing my eyes and mind.
So one day, one of my friends, Alfonso, also member of Urban Sketchers Singapore invited me/introduced me to this urban sketch group way back in 2016.
Since I also like photography, I asked myself, why not combine the two (sketching and photography) so I did bring my camera, paper, and a sketch pen. And so I followed them and I took a couple of street photographs. Then, after that, I tried to sketch what is on the site. That was my first urban sketch and from then on I get to join the group whenever I get free time.
But then mostly, I practice at home, experimenting with newly learned techniques in watercolour from what I have seen from the group and from YouTube references.
Months passed by and I continued to practice and learned how to used watercolour as my main medium. I tried painting some of my photographs taken from my previous sketch walks or from vacation photos.
At first, it was a struggle and chaos, because I wanted to paint the blurriness, fuzziness, mixed with focus, sharpness etc. Like what you see in camera lens settings. So with constant trial and error and more practice, I learned and produced my first painting from my photo reference.
From then onwards, I paint photographs with permission and credits to the owner, but not copying the same. I put a little twist of art in it by adding and subtracting colours, shadows, highlights etc. I want my photo or that other photo to transform into a more artistic style, in a more expressive and convincing way with a story. An example is my fisherman painting at the beginning of this post and “Solitude” at the end of the post.
My Technique Process/ Method Used
Having a background in architecture and in photography, plus years of constant practice, plays a great and important role in my journey to urban sketching. Especially in doing an angled complicated perspective and mainly proportion. I believe that having these elements are the main ingredients in a very good urban sketch.
In the office, I sketch in an architecture way meaning very ‘detailed’. But, in my urban sketching, or in my painting, I wanted to loosen up a bit by trying to simplify it, using just the main shape, form, and minimal detail.
My Technique And Tips
Before doing an urban sketch, I always do my initial sketch trying to study the location of the focal point of the main subject, best angle view, location of shadows, and study the light, medium, and hard tones.
I also integrate in my sketch the so-called “rule of thirds” in photography, where you locate your main subject, focal point of interest 1/3 in the frame of the paper composition. Sometimes at the center, depending on the subject you’re sketching.
As a sketcher and a photographer, sometimes I challenge myself to sketch a scene or take a lonely dull photo and try to transform it into a more lively, colourful sketch. I create my own version using some additional effects and highlights, the addition or subtraction of shape, a new location for shadows and, most importantly, with meaning and leaving a story behind. Whenever a viewer sees my sketch and painting, this lets the painting speak for itself.
1. I’m using a bamboo stick or a bar-b-que stick as my “brush”… Yes, a bamboo stick combined with black ink serves as my outline to give emphasis in a shape or object and produce texture when applied in a proper angled stroke like a dry brush in my sketch and painting. Equivalent to what they call “twig” or wood. I used this stick also in creating a thin wire cable in my urban streetscape sketch instead of a rigger brush whenever possible.
2. I am using a correction fluid Pen or white liquid eraser as my highlighter instead of white watercolour pigment, I find it more impressive and more opaque and bright. I usually apply it in people, cars, light posts, cables …etc., bright highlight areas where the sun is coming from, and also my signature (or my white ink pen most of the time).
3. My main type of works are watercolour plus on-site location for urban sketching, watercolour sketch from a reference photo, composition sketch in black and white using ink and twig or bamboo stick.
- For my sketch book I use A4 and A5. I used Daler Rowney 250g paper, A3 sized, for my bigger paper size work.
- Mop brush no 07 and no 10 and one 2” wash brush. The rest is bamboo stick or bar-b-que stick.
- Beginner watercolour and waterproof black ink and Chinese ink for sketching.
My main inspiration is my family, and my wife and only daughter Nicole. Also, I am inspired by what is happening in my surroundings, events, etc. Sometimes, I sketch a base from what I see and observe. And sometimes as a designer/artist, I sketch what is on my mind right away in that moment – any paper, small paper receipt, or any blank paper will do. Just to sketch that idea before it fades away in my mind along with that eagerness to see what you have visualized.
As an artist, don’t be afraid to try and experiment because every frame you sketch has its own meaning and story and in photography every frame you click is history.
Thank you very much Mr. Charlie O’Shields for inviting me to be featured on your blog. More power to you and Doodlewash and all fellow artists.