Here’s something new and fun and (for me) very exciting. A few days ago I received an email from Leslie Parsons (@montrealsketcher), an artist from Montreal. “I have a strange request for you,” he said. “A popular urban sketcher from Malaysia found an image on Pinterest that he wanted all the other urban sketchers (everywhere, worldwide) to try drawing in their style.” That caught my attention.

Penang Shophouse Row in George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Penang Shophouse Row in George Town, Penang, Malaysia

I subsequently learned that the organizer was a tattoo artist from Penang named Alvin (@artofalvin, @studioartofalvin). The photo in question is the above shot of a Penang shophouse row, built in the Early Straits eclectic style between 1890 and 1910. I took it some years ago during a visit to Malaysia and published it on my blog. Using a reverse image search in Google, Les was able to track the image back to me. He asked for my permission to use it in a “sketch-along” being hosted by Alvin, which will take place on Instagram Live this coming Sunday, March 28th. Of course, I happily agreed to allow the use of my image.

Instagram Live lets users stream live videos to their followers. Initially, a maximum of two people were allowed to share a split screen during an Instagram Live event, but earlier this month Instagram introduced Live Rooms, a new feature that allows users to go live with up to three other people. Alvin has invited three other urban sketchers to join him live, as all four create their personal interpretations of my photo.

Les explained that this is the first time four artists will be live on the screen at the same time. “Not sure how impressive that will be, an iPhone screen divided in 4, we will all be very, very tiny.” But all the artists involved (not just the four in the live stream) will be reposting finished sketches on their individual channels. Participants will also be using the hashtag #alvinsaysdrawpenang, which is an easy way to search for all the artists and their sketches.

I checked out the hashtag and discovered that some artists have already finished their sketches. I’m just blown away, not only by the quality of the work, but also by the unique interpretations of my photo. The following is a montage of the finished images, or you can see them full size by searching for the #alvinsaysdrawpenang hashtag in Instagram.

Montage of sketches by artists around the world who interpret my photo of a Chinese Shophouse Row in George Town, Penang, Malaysia

If you’d like to watch the live stream, visit on Sunday, March 28, at 9 a.m. New York/Toronto/Montreal time. That’s 8 a.m. in Chicago, 6 a.m. in Los Angeles, 2 p.m. in London, and 8 p.m. in Thailand.

Artists from Around the World Sketch my Photo of a Traditional Penang Shophouse in Malaysia