Michael Sloan's Sketchbooks

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday August 17, 2017

The 2017 Summer Invitational: Pimp Your Sketchbook, in which artists show their personal work and open a window onto their creative process, continues with Michael Sloan. When he’s not in Hong Kong, Michael lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut, and plays bass guitar with the Halftones, who regularly gig at Sketch Nights at Society of Illustrators.


Thanks to my wife's job, our family of five makes frequent trips to China. Hong Kong is like our second home, and when I'm there I embrace the ways of a flâneur, wandering through neighborhoods in search of scenes that catch my eye. Living in the New Territories rather than the crowded areas around the harbor offers a very different experience of Hong Kong that is focused on local Chinese communities rather than tourism.

I love Hong Kong's thriving outdoor street markets, and for several years I've been sketching small business owners in these markets who work with their hands. They are resourceful in their ability to find creative ways to run their businesses, overcoming difficulties like limited space or resorting to setting up shop on crowded sidewalks because they lack a proper store. 

Hong Kong's outdoor markets are like street theaters robust with life and soul, chaos and smells. The people in my sketches are the characters that breathe life onto that stage. 

Sketching makes me very aware of a location's ambience, and I try to capture this. For instance, I could be surrounded by the pungent scent of raw meat wafting from a butcher's stall as flies buzz and neighboring shopkeepers cry out to their customers in Cantonese under the sweltering July sun. When I’m back home, looking at my sketch of this scene brings back all these memories and helps me stay connected to a place that I love and long to return to.


My sketch process has become quick and mobile, a necessary concession to family life since we often travel together and are always on the go. When sketching on location I ink first and add color later.


Hong Kong isn't the only place where I like to sketch. A recent trip with my son to see a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston offers all the inspiration I need.

Michael Sloan is currently working with the author Jake Halpern on Welcome to the New World, the true story of a Syrian family's journey to America. This series appears in comic strip form in The New York Times / Sunday Review, and can be seen online at:
Sketchbook blog:


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