Art Tools of Ch'ng Kiah Kiean

In this installment of the Art Tools and Gears interview series, we have with us Penang sketcher Ch'ng Kiah Kiean, 莊 嘉強 (website | Flickr).

He has a unique and expressive painting style with influence from Chinese paintings. Oftentimes he can be seen paintings with twigs especially when using blacks.

Let's take a look at his tools of trade.

Qn: Wow, you've a lot of brushes. Can you give our readers a rundown of the brushes you use?

From left to right:

  • #2 Van Gogh 130 Fine Hair
  • #10 Van Gogh 130 Fine Hair
  • #14 Pebeo petit gris-pure squirrel
  • #1/2 650 Goldie fine ox
  • #3/4 650 Goldie fine ox
  • #10 2210 Goldie red sable
  • #6 Rembrandt 136 petit gris pur
  • #10 daVinci 5519
  • #28 Van Gogh 130 Fine Hair (I forgot the number)
  • #22 daVinci Maestro tobolsky-kolinsky
  • #16 daVinci Harbin kolinsky
  • #6 daVinci Harbin kolinsky

Qn: Which one is your favourite brush? Or the one you use most often? Why?

#1/2 650 Goldie fine ox and #3/4 650 Goldie fine ox. I like to use flat head brushes.

Qn. You use a lot of blacks for your paintings. Do you use these brushes for that?

Normally I will use #2 Van Gogh 130 Fine Hair and #10 Van Gogh 130 Fine Hair to apply Chinese ink.

Qn: What's this black ink that you're using? How is it different from other brands?

The brand is Saintograph. It is a waterproof ink.

Qn: I remember you put something into the small bottle. What is it and what's the purpose?

I will insert crumpled gauze into the bottle, the purpose is to hold keep the Chinese ink. It also prevent dipping directly into the ink, especially when using twigs.

If I dip the twig into ink without the gauze, it will be soaked wet with ink and difficult to control. With the gauze, the twig will have sufficient ink but not too wet.

Qn. You seem to like drawing with twigs. What is it that you like about them?

The line works created with the twigs are full of energy, I like the natural touch of them. I will sharpen them when the nip become blunt. I will sharpen it to draw thinner lines.

Qn: Are there any difference between twigs of different trees or plants?

The major different is between soft and hard wood twigs. Hard wood twigs will produce thinner and harder lines.

Qn: Are there any special considerations when you're using twigs? For example do you have to use a totally dry twig?

Basically I use the dry twig for the outline sketch. If I have decided to work on only black & white sketch, I will use a totally dry twig method.

Qn: Beside twigs, have you used other non-traditional drawing tools.

Not at the moment.

Qn: I see that you have watercolor pans and tubes. Which do you prefer?

Pans are for travelling and tubes for larger watercolour paintings.

Qn: What brands of watercolour do you prefer? How do you choose your watercolours? What do you think about their characteristics?

Winsor & Newton, I used this brand since high school and familiar with the colour characteristics. I prefer transparent colours than semi transparent colours.

Qn: Which are your favourite colours? From which brand?

  • Charcoal Grey
  • Indigo
  • Cobalt Blue
  • French Ultramarine
  • Vandyke Brown
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Brown Ochre
  • Indian Yellow
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Winsor Red
  • Brown Madder

All from Winsor & Newton (US | UK).

Qn: What graphite pencils are you using? What's the difference between them?

The 3 left-hand one are clutch pencils. I also use Creatacolor graphite sticks of 4B, 6B & 9B.

Qn: Graphite comes off the paper easily. How do you preserve it, or prevent it from making other pages dirty?

I will fix my complete sketch with Schmincke fixative spray.

Qn: What are those graphite sticks? Why do you keep these pencils and graphite so short? How do you use them?

Those are used short graphite sticks, I keep them as a record of usage.

Qn: What are the sketchbooks you have tried? Which ones do you prefer? Why?

Daler-Rowney, Moleskine and Sennelier. I prefer Moleskine watercolour notebook (US | UK). I like the paper quality which can hold light watercolour wash well. The binding of the book is also very good.

Qn: Besides using these sketchbooks, what watercolour paper do you use when you're painting larger pieces?

Saunders Waterford (US | UK) cold pressed and hot pressed, 300gsm. Currently Waterford is the easiest paper brand I can get in Penang. I also like the off white paper colour.

Qn: Have you bought any art supplies that you were excited about, only to try it and find out you don't like it as much as you expected? What are they?

Not yet. I will try to find out the unique characteristic of each brand, I believe nothing is perfect.

Qn: Say you have US$150 budget to buy some art materials. How would you spend it?

I will buy some Escoda travel brushes and Winsor & Newton tubes for colour refill. Also 1 or 2 Moleskine A4 folio albums.

That's Ch'ng Kiah Kiean sketching at the start of the video.

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