What if the Old General Post Office still stood in Hong Kong today?

When discussing Hong Kong’s architectural history, the name of one building pops up again and again; the General Post Office built in 1911 on the corner of Pedder Street and Des Voeux Road Central. When I first saw photos of those soaring porticos topped by proud jutting balconies, I was smitten, and fervently wished I could have seen this beauty before she met the business end of a wrecking ball in 1976. 

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by the Hong Kong Economic Times, along with Gary Yeung, founder of Urban Sketchers Hong Kong. In the shadows of the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Science, an Edwardian gem tucked on the slopes of Mid-Levels, Hong Kong island, we chatted about the passions of Urban Sketchers and the role the group plays in society. 

Declared a Monument in 1990, the Old Pathological Institute was revitalized and repurposed as The Hong Kong Museum of Medical Science in 1996.

Among the questions asked of us was our opinion on the way Hong Kong has preserved old buildings. That really got me thinking. I had just returned from the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore, and must say that I was generally impressed by how the city state had managed to strike a balance between retaining some of their beautiful heritage buildings amidst the construction of shiny, futuristic towers of steel and glass. 

Ask citizens in any country, and I’m pretty sure some will vociferously declare that precious few old buildings have been saved, while an equally vocal lot will pronounce the opposite. I’m sure it’s impossible to please everyone, and that every country walks the tightrope between conservation and change in the name of progress. 

I’m not naive. Both are necessary, and every situation needs careful consideration. I just really wish that more of these truly wonderful, iconic buildings had been preserved here in Hong Kong.

I've always wondered what the Old General Post Office would look like if it still stood today.

Every time I pass the bustling street corner that once boasted the old GPO, I still wonder what it would be like if she was still around. I bet Hong Kong would be so proud of her, which inspired me to create this mashup of urban sketching and fantasy, based on the location today and historic photographs. Hopefully, any old beauties still remaining in the city will meet better fates.

Themed Life Drawing in Hong Kong

Whenever time allows, I like to get some life drawing in. Nothing like it to hone the study of fascinating human forms. 110 Studio in Sheung Wan Hong Kong is run by a good friend of mine, and this video is a compilation of a few sessions I did there recently.

I haven’t been attending life drawing sessions as much as I’d like of late, but do whenever time allows. In addition to attending 'regular’ life drawing sessions where the model is nude, I also occasionally have fun at themed figure drawing sessions, and a new favorite is at 110 Studio Sheung Wan, run by Pei Sea, a very good friend of mine. The video above are some of my favorite sketches from a few sessions at her place. 

Advantages of using an iPad for Life Drawing

Using an iPad for life drawing is perfect for me as I like to work fast. It's also a huge plus that I don't have to worry about paint drying and where to put yet another dripping sheet of watercolor/smeary charcoal etc. And of course, it’s quite fun to watch the video playback afterwards, thanks to Procreate! I'm a fan of quick poses, and not needing space for lots of different media or dealing with the threat of spilling liquids, allows me the flexibility to change positions rapidly if I feel like it.

In a future post, I'll go into detail about my digital process for life drawing.

Life Drawing in Hong Kong

The life drawing scene in Hong Kong is cosy (spaces are small) and lively (we have some truly amazing models) and there are 3 studios I’ve been to that I can highly recommend for those interested. I’ll add links at the end of this post. Right now, 110 Studio is the only one I know that focuses on a theme at every session.

Both themed and ‘regular’ life drawing present different challenges. I really love the human form sans attire so I can draw torsos in glorious twists, but also delight in studying light on fabric drawn tight or loosely draped. A theme also gives the model expressions to draw from, adding an additional layer of life to poses. And if the model is good, WOW!

If you’re a newbie, themed figure/life drawing is when the model takes inspiration from a very specific topic. He or she is usually clothed, at least to some degree, depending on the purpose of the session. I’ve attended some where the model is nude but holds poses so animators can study the human form, inspiring characters in film. Often, it’s just for practice, but every bit helps, and the hours put in can add up to make a huge difference in skill level.

Themed Life Drawing at the Drawing Club, LA

I can’t talk about themed life drawing without mentioning where I first got into it: Bob Kato’s Drawing Club (then in Glendale) which I loved attending when I was living in LA. The man took great pains to set the stage, arranging lighting, props and even a movie and accompanying musical soundtrack! Providing an immersive experience made it so much more inspiring, and looking around, I could see many industry pros who obviously felt the same, returning time and again to Bob's in order to hone their craft.

Peggy Moore channelling Norma Desmond at The Drawing Club, Los Angeles, July 2015 

Peggy Moore channelling Norma Desmond at The Drawing Club, Los Angeles, July 2015 

I had a chance to catch a session in July at the Drawing Club's new location, Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, where the theme was Sunset Boulevard. As always, the film inspiring the session was being projected onto a screen. Modeling for us that evening was Peggy Moore, who took great pains with her costume. As you can see from a selection of my sketches, she had Norma Desmond down to a 't', and I had a ball, especially with her expressions.

Here in HK, space is more of a challenge, so we make do and stretch our imaginations a little more. But hey, all you need is a great model embodying the feel of a character, a great playlist, and off you go.

Figure Drawing Sessions in Hong Kong

If you’re in Hong Kong and want to give themed life drawing a go, connect with Pei Sea here. If you’re in LA and haven’t yet been to The Drawing Club, you can find more info at http://www.thedrawingclub.com/

For those in HK, here’s a map so you can also find a life drawing spot close to you. (I’m only recommending places I’ve personally been to.)

110 Studio Shueng Wan (Themed Life Drawing)

You’ll need to hit the 5th floor button at the gate downstairs in order to buzzed in. Take the elevator to the 5th floor and the entrance is on your left.

Run by: Pei Sea. 


Cost: HK$200 per 2-hour session

When: Thursday 7:30-9:30pm (check the Facebook pages for latest details)

Where: 5th floor, 110 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan

Format: Short poses, starting with 30secs/slow motion, 1, 5,10,15 and 20 min poses.

Instruction: None, but friendly advice is always available after if you want it.

Equipment provided: Seating and plywood drawing boards. BYO sketching materials


Life Drawing in Hong Kong (nude)

Life Drawing Hong Kong

Philippe runs life drawing sessions in a few places in town. This is the main spot. (Email him to check)

Take the stairs up to the little elevator lobby and read the many notices as you head up the 8th floor. The studio is the door on your left.

Run by: Philippe Charmes. Hailing from France, Philippe is a great guy, an artist who also teaches, and is ever-ready with helpful advice.

Email:  lifedrawinghongkong@gmail.com

Cost: HK$150 per 2-hour session (single model. HK$200 if there are 2 models)

When: Tuesday 7:30-9:30pm (check the Facebook page for latest details)

Where: 8/F, Foo Tak Building, 367 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

Format: Short poses, 2 - 20 min poses.

Instruction: None, but friendly advice is always available after if you want it.

Equipment provided: Seating and plywood drawing boards. BYO sketching materials


Spitting Gecko

Jockey Club Creative Art Centre, 601, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, Hong Kong

Run by: John McArthur is another great guy. A teacher in a local school & dedicated artist, he also runs life drawing sessions from his studio in JCCAC.


Cost: HK$135-$200 (depends on session) BYO materials

When: Thursday 6-8pm, Saturday 2-5pm (check the Facebook pages for latest details)

Format: Short poses, starting with 30secs/slow motion, 1, 2,5,10,15 and 20 min poses.

Instruction: None, but friendly advice is always available after if you want it.

Equipment provided: Chairs, stools, desks, plywood drawing boards, 2-3 easels if you’re early. BYO sketching materials

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/John-McArthur-Spitting-Gecko-Studio/46462181010