Photo Essays

Artists Mobilize to Capture Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in Pen and Ink

A drawing of Causeway Bay by Alvin Wong (Image via Facebook)
A drawing of Causeway Bay by Alvin Wong (Image via Facebook)

Art has played a role in the Umbrella Movement since day one, from public art installations like Stand By You: ‘Add Oil’ Machine to a Facebook competition to design the movement’s logo. Less well-known are two urban sketching groups which, armed with pen and paper, have been doing their best to document the protests.

Both Urban Sketchers Hong Kong (USHK) and Sketcher-Kee were formed in 2013 with the goal of preserving in ink the city’s ever-evolving urban environment. Today its members are camped out in the Causeway Bay, Admiralty, and Mong Kok areas of Hong Kong, posting expressive drawings of that same landscape over-run by umbrellas, yellow ribbons, and students demanding political freedom. Their work is risky; a recent post by USHK co-founder Alvin Wong on the group’s Facebook page advised members to “get a sketch buddy” and to sit near a wall so “no one can surprise you from behind.”

A drawing by Helen Chan ‎of a "mobile democracy classroom" (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Helen Chan ‎of a “mobile democracy classroom” (Image via Facebook)

For Wong, the risk is well worth it if it means witnessing what he described in an email to Hyperallergic as “the biggest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong history.” He said the reason he sketches is because taking a snapshot simply doesn’t allow for the same understanding of his subject. “To me, [sketching] is a form of meditation, and [it] also allows me to observe carefully in details what the people are trying achieve in this movement.”

While photographs of the demonstrations are extremely valuable, there’s something indispensable about these drawings. The sheer dedication involved in sketching a scene in lieu of taking a picture suggests the artists themselves have a stake in what they’re depicting. Their images are rich with human warmth, offering not just a close-up of history-in-the-making, but also an invitation to understand the hopes and fears that first drove the demonstrators to central Hong Kong.

“We want to use our ability to make awareness for the public, to share our observations, experiences, and thoughts via the Internet to the world,” explained Wong Suede of Sketcher-Kee. “We hope we can support and encourage the protesters who are fighting for Hong Kong … since we are also protestors, we hope it may [achieve something] for the whole movement.

Here’s a selection of their sketches.

A drawing by Alvin Wong (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Alvin Wong (Image via Facebook)
A drawing of the Hong Kong protests by Rob Sketcherman (image via Facebook)
A drawing of the Hong Kong protests by Rob Sketcherman (image via Facebook)
A drawing by Hui Hui (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Hui Hui (Image via Facebook)
Umbrella movement_Alvin Wong
A drawing by Alvin Wong (Image via Facebook)
Tensions mount in Causeway Bay_Rob Sketcherman
A drawing by Rob Sketcherman (Image via Facebook)
Umbrellas blooming in Admiralty by Christine Bruce (Image via Facebook)
Umbrellas blooming in Admiralty by Christine Bruce (Image via Facebook)
A drawing of the Hong Kong protests by Luis Simoes (image via Facebook)
A drawing of the Hong Kong protests by Luis Simoes (image via Urban Sketchers)
A drawing by Jamaika Wong‎ of protesters preparing to occupy Mong Kok (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Jamaika Wong‎ of protesters preparing to occupy Mong Kok (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Wu Romy of Civic Plaza, the birthplace of the Umbrella Revolution (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Wu Romy of Civic Plaza, the birthplace of the Umbrella Revolution (Image via Facebook)
A drawing of the Hong Kong protests by Luis Simoes (image via Facebook)
A drawing of the Hong Kong protests by Luis Simoes (image via Urban Sketchers)
A drawing of student volunteers by Wink Au‎ (Image via Facebook)
A drawing of student volunteers by Wink Au‎ (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Pei Sea (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Pei Sea (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Tyler Terry (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Tyler Terry (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Wu Romy depicting students declaring strike reasons (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Wu Romy depicting students declaring strike reasons (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Pang Bear (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Pang Bear (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Gary Yeung of the "Bus for Democracy" set up on Nathan Road (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Gary Yeung of the “Bus for Democracy” set up on Nathan Road (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Hui Hui (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Hui Hui (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Billy Tam (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Billy Tam (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Wu Romy (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Wu Romy (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Ming Lee of an umbrella art installation (Image via Facebook)
A drawing by Ming Lee of an umbrella art installation (Image via Facebook)
2014-10-01 @ 旺角彌敦道 Nathan Kay
A drawing by a member of Sketcher-Kee (Image via Facebook)

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A drawing made by a member of Sketcher-Kee (Image via Facebook)
A drawing made by a member of Sketcher-Kee (Image via Facebook)
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