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Arts Art Talk: Season's Greetings From Rob Sketcherman

Art Talk: Season's Greetings From Rob Sketcherman

Art Talk: Season's Greetings From Rob Sketcherman
By Isabel Wong
December 18, 2017
Hong Kong iPad artist Rob Sketcherman sends his festive greetings

If you walk down Hollywood Road towards SOHO’s direction, it is not hard to notice the eye-catching mural that features iconic Hollywood figures like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn. The 11-metre-tall mural outside the Madera Hollywood hotel soon became a colourful focal point in downtown Central Hong Kong. And little does one know, this huge mural was actually created with just an iPad and a stylus by Rob Sketcherman, one of Hong Kong’s first iPad urban sketch pioneers.

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Photo: Madera Hollywood Hotel
Photo: Madera Hollywood Hotel

Having been commissioned by Moleskine to chronicle the entire 39th Hong Kong International Film Festival, Rob has worked on portrait drawing projects with BMW, global workshops with Apple, and some projects that change Hong Kong's cityscape. The Hong Kong-born artist is also a frequenter of Hong Kong Classic Car Show and is enthusiastic about drawing vintage cars despite sketching street scenes being his specialty. We sat down for a chat with Rob to talk about digital art and asked him to send his festive greetings to our audience:

Image: Courtesy of the artist
Image: Courtesy of the artist

Tell us about your iPad urban sketching. How did it all start?

It started five to six years ago when I started dabbling in urban sketching before I knew what it was. I used to draw on large sketch pads and I loved figure drawing on large canvases. But since we live in a cramped city like Hong Kong, space is a luxury and soon I fell for the portability and flexibility iPad can offer.

I was amazed by how easy it was to work with an iPad because I never had to scan in my sketches anymore and colour correction was no longer a concern. Sketching on an iPad also grants me a “super power” – invisibility. In this digital era where everybody has a smart device or tablet, nobody really pays attention at me when I sit in a corner and sketch on my iPad. I love the fact that it’s convenient as I can set up and pack up in a matter of seconds, so I can just start sketching whenever inspiration strikes.

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Image: Courtesy of the artist
Image: Courtesy of the artist

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

My mum said I started drawing at the age of two. Even then, I would try to move my artworks to walls or larger surfaces. I always knew that I was going to do something creative. Urban sketching is something that I’ve been doing for the past four years and I realised this is what I am meant to do.

Tell us about your most unforgettable project you’ve worked on.

I was invited by Turismo de Portugal along with three other urban sketchers from different countries for a collaboration this May. During my time in Fátima, I had to do sketches of the festival that celebrated 100th anniversary of the miracle of Fatima as the Pope was going to attend the celebration too. I was selected because I am known for drawing people and I also represented the Far East and digital medium. We all just spent the whole time in Portugal mingling, interacting with local people, and exploring the town and local delicacies.

Image: Courtesy of the artist
Image: Courtesy of the artist

Do you have any advice for people who would like to create art on smart tablets?

First of all, equipment is very important. It will not be satisfying if you don’t have the right kit. I happen to use an iPad Pro, an Apple pencil and Procreate, the app that I use – altogether it’s a magic combination.

My suggestion for aspiring sketchers will be starting with sketching something you really love. It could be objects, vases, animals, or cars. Pick something you absolutely love that you observe in your daily life, and just draw that. It is the daily practice that counts.

Image: Courtesy of the artist
Image: Courtesy of the artist

What influence do you think digital art will have on contemporary art development?

It’s a growing medium. I tested out iPad sketching with the first generation of iPad and David Hockney made it a legitimate medium. Although I do encounter skeptics nowadays who question where digital art falls into the category of contemporary art, I think there is a niche for everything and this is an upcoming trend that its potential has not been explored to the fullest. With digital art, you are not limited by how large your artwork can be.

A lot of the apps that I use allow me to explore time lapses. So it gives a whole new dimension to my creations as my clients and audience can understand me better as an artist. For exhibitions, digital art certainly can deliver a different art experience as artworks no longer have to be static, and audience will be able to see the creative process including errors made by the artist. Many people want to understand how things are done, and digital art just happens to open that door for us.

Watch the video below to see his season's greetings for Hong Kong Tatler


Video: Isabel Wong/Hong Kong Tatler

Rob Sketcherman is currently working on launching online workshops, exhibitions and a book that will launch in 2018. To see more of his works, visit


Arts Christmas Video Arts Christmas Digital Art Rob Sketcherman Urban Sketching


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