This construction site was opposite our hotel. I painted it in gouache to capture the early morning smog.
The workers slept in an on-site trailer-dorm and got to work early, using mostly hand tools. They are building clusters of high rise residences, fairly dense urban housing. The government is energetically meeting the needs of the rural people who stream steadily into Shanghai, where they have the opportunity to make a fortune, or at least a living.
Shanghai's leap into modernism is rapid and stunning. The famous buildings across the Huangpu River from the Bund have almost all gone up in the last 20 years. A whole highway system of raised four-lane expressways flies through the city at rooftop height. At some intersections they cross seven levels deep. Many of those motorways were built for the 2010 Expo held in Shanghai.
On a fine Saturday downtown, the crowds all come out to promenade amid the mad juxtapositions of neon signs, crazy wiring, and urbane sophistication. For us, not being able to read the signs turned out to be liberating in a way, making us feel like little children. It freed up the left half of our brains, so that we could enjoy the visual cavalcade all the more.
Shanghai has a modern subway system, too, but a lot of people get around on two- and three wheeled motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, and electric scooters. On most wider boulevards, these vehicles have their own dedicated lane. Tradespeople pile them high with vegetables or building materials.
Those two-wheelers were a terrific spectacle that I enjoyed sketching, but of course when I pulled out the sketchbook and the paintbrush, I became the spectacle for the locals, who watched quietly and with great interest.
Shanghai Diary Series:
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: American School
Part 3: Old Town
Part 4: Jujiajiao
Part 5: Goat Man
Part 6: Sketching in Restaurants
Part 7: China Rising
Part 8: Chinese/Russian Drawing
Part 9: Sketching in Shanghai (Video)