My name is Benny Kharismana, but most of my friends just call me ‘Bey’ (follow me on Instagram!). I am originally from Bogor, Indonesia but I’m currently working in Changchun, way up in the north east of Jilin Province, People’s Republic of China. I am staying here with my beautiful wife and 2 daughters (6 and 1 years old).
I’ve loved drawing since I was a little kid, thanks to those 80-90’s TV cartoons and comic books (Tintin, Asterix, Steven Sterk, Superman, Batman, X-men, Spawn, Kungfu Boy, and Dragon Ball). Back then, my dream was to be a comic book artist but then reality, of course, happened. I studied landscape architecture, but built my portfolio as a graphic designer until 2007 when I started teaching visual arts.
Working as an art teacher in an international school, it was very difficult at the first couple of years to spend time to create a piece of art amidst those marking, planner, and other paper works. It wasn’t until mid 2013 that I made up my mind. I convinced myself to start drawing and watercolor painting again. These 2 art forms are convenient due to its short time, portability, and small scale. You could see the finished result directly. These really fit in my daily schedule and commute. I could sketch in a public bus, or while waiting for our pediatric. I had known urban sketching for a while but I was really eager to explore it personally.
Most of the time I will try to do my sketching on location. Plein air helps you to observe little details and to be spontaneous. This is something I’ve grown personally. However due to the weather or time, this is often not possible. That’s why I also kept pictures in my iPad. I always try to bring my A5 sketchbook, portable watercolor pan box, pencil, fountain pen, and a water brush everywhere. I don’t always use all of them every time but it’s nice to be prepared. Commonly, I will start with very light pencil lines to place out the composition, then I will decide whether to use pen or directly with watercolor. When I have more time, I will do several washes with drying time in between to achieve richness in tonal values and hues. Recently, I like to use just non-water proof fountain pen and create a monochrome wash by smudging the ink with a water brush. I love the simplicity but they still show the three-dimensional impression.
For consistency and growth, you really have to commit a certain time to do this. If you’re a family man like me, then you know how difficult this can be. What I did was gathering with fellow sketchers at a regular time to do a sketch walk session, whether biweekly or monthly. This kind of group will give you more encouragement, energy and passion. I was very fortunate to had an opportunity to manage a local urban sketching group called Bogor Sketchers, and they are still growing now.
I moved to China in mid 2015 to work. I met several fellow sketchers in Beijing and excited to meet more. Even though language can be a challenge most of the time and you can be like an alien here, there is so much culture waiting to be drawn in my sketchbook. It is the 4th largest country in the world. There are endless opportunities and subject matter to inspire me. Can’t wait to see what I will draw next.
In the future, I would like to travel throughout European countries and capture those famous architectures and landscapes in my sketchbooks. This has been one of my life goals. The other would be, of course, having my solo art exhibition. I never thought I would have these opportunities in my life so right now I am just really grateful for what I have in front of me.