Thursday, August 6

Doctor with a passion for urban sketching


 Doctor with a passion for urban sketching

KOTA KINABALU: If you happen to see a petite young woman with dark shoulder-length hair sitting on a canvas stool busily sketching the urban sights in the city, you may have just seen Dr Ru Hui Lim in action.

Dr Lim hails from Ipoh, Perak, but now resides in Sabah due to her medical profession – she is presently a trainee doctor at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, but when she is not busy treating patients, she is busy sketching sites.

Armed with a sketch book, inks, pens and water colours as well as her faithful canvas stool, she is constantly on the lookout for subjects that will end up on one of the pages of her sketch book.

“I like sketching on-the-spot. I like to sit down, just anywhere, and start sketching. I sometimes spend up to two hours sketching something, and I get so engrossed I forget everything and am lost in my own world – in a way, into a meditative state,” she said.

She has been sketching urban sites for the last four years, having been introduced to the art by a group of urban sketchers from Seattle, Washington led by Gabriel Campanano.

“I like the style incorporated (in urban sketching) due to its spontaneity. It is not intimidating. It encourages you to draw your own style,” she said.

She uses a lot of ink and water colours for her work – her trademark colours being red and yellow.

“My selection of colours, I guess, is due to where I came from. Ipoh is a vibrant place, and I also consider myself a happy person, so the colours also depict me, in a way,” she said.

An introvert by nature, there is nothing Dr Lim likes better than to stay away from the public limelight. However, her passion in urban sketching is changing all that.

“The hobby has allowed me the medium of interacting with others. I am a very quiet person, and I don’t like public speaking, crowded places, yet when I start to draw, I feel encouraged when I see people looking at me drawing and at my work. Because of this passion, I have made a lot of friends and I am not as shy as I used to be,” she said.

Aside from making more friends, the love for urban sketching has also allowed her to build up her own library of sketches.

She now has a whole sketch book containing 72 sketches on New Zealand, where she travelled to and stayed for three months after completing her studies. She also has another book containing sketches of her hometown, one on Sabah and two that contain her sketches from her travels to Thailand and Penang.

She described her sketches as similar to that of a traveler’s journal – some people write about their travels, jotting words to describe it; Dr Lim, on the other hand, sketches the sights that interest her, and jots down short descriptions of each picture she sketched.

“Some of my sketches are a few years old. But I can still remember vividly every detail when I look at each one – the smell from that particular site, the people, the noise,” she said.

“I hope these will get published one day. My aim is to show my work in galleries and group exhibitions,” she said.

Like many who are passionate about their art, Dr Lim aspires to someday retire and concentrate mainly on sketching.

“But the people I have met in the industry warned me against depending on art as a means to my life’s sustenance. They say that if I have to depend on it for a living, then I would have to conform to the demands of my customers. And that is not where I want to go. I am happy that my passion is not my career,” she said.

She added that her aspiration in the future would be to sketch for the love of the art and not as a means to support herself.

“It will remain as a passion.”

As one passionate about urban sketching, Dr Lim also hoped she would soon infect others with love for the art.

“I am persuading my fellow doctors, but they say they cannot draw. I hope KK (Kota Kinabalu) will become like KL (Kuala Lumpur) where the focus is not just about eating or visiting popular places. I hope it will be also famous for its art and cultural aspects. Presently though, the focus for travelers coming into Sabah is her rich flora and fauna. There is so little focus on the ‘artistic’ aspects,” she said.

She added that to promote urban sketching in Sabah, she has started a Facebook page dubbed, ‘Urban Sketchers Sabah’ with a fellow artist.

“It is an open group. We’re hoping more people will join us and sketch Sabah,” she said.

She encouraged Sabahans to embark in sketching Sabah, and in particular, the capital city. In her parting words, she again echoed this call.

“It doesn’t matter if you are 90 or nine years old. Age does not matter. What matters is you pick up that brush and join us to discover this beautiful city of KK.”

Dr Lim’s latest work can also be seen at her blog,