sketchbook, travels

Listening while flying

During a recent flight I was listening to a couple of my regular podcasts The Knowledge Project and The Tim Ferris Show. These podcasts represent two different aspects of work/life for me: The Knowledge Project is a podcast that usually provides a new perspective to knowledge and learning concepts, and helps me understand different/difficult ideas. The Tim Ferris show is a great mix of tactical and inspirational, and usually themes I go through in my day to day work/life.

This drawing is Shane Parrish talking to Jason Fried of 37 Signals. I’ve used 37signals’ (now called Basecamp) flagship productBasecamp at work and been an avid reader of their blog since my early days as a designer, and usually find them to have a unique perspective on things.

“Always figure out what’s the right thing, even if you don’t do it.”

Personally this attitude to company building and creating sustainable team culture was really eye-opening for me.

And then I listened to Tim Ferris talking to Debbie Millman: Busy is a decision. What really stood out for me was the focus on prioritization, always my weakness.

“Make the time to do the things you want to do, and then follow through and do them.”

This is her advice to young designers starting out:

Am I constantly refining and improving my skills? What can I continue to get better at? Do I believe that I am working hard enough? If not what should I be doing in order to succeed? She says you should have a point of view and share it respectfully.

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travels

A weekend with Lekha

A couple of years ago I had a free weekend on a work trip and I flew up to Seattle to spend it with my friend Lekha. She had planned the most marvellous time for us.

First we had brunch at Pike Place Market and then we walked to the Olympic Sculpture Park. I saw most of the sculptures for the first time so you can imagine what an experience it was. Here’s the biggest Calder I have ever seen, the Eagle.

Here’s me in front of yet another inspiration from my past, Ellsworth Kelley. He had used weathering steel, knowing that a patina of rust would gather over time, and the piece would continue to change visibly over time.

My first Louise Bourgeois “Father and Son” was an experience to behold. Later I got more interested in her work and found she had a complex and troubled relationship with her own parent with a lot of dark metaphors running through her work.

“When you draw, you suddenly see what you’re afraid of.”

Louise Bourgeois

It was such an experience with Lekha – we were meeting after years and there was so much to catch up on. Amidst Richard Serra’s grand and majestic Wake we talked about our deepest feelings.

Later on, I read Frank Gehry talking about Serra:

“Serra went to the shipyard, saw the way the ships were being built, and became entranced with it. It became a power thing for him, to make powerful gutsy statements that fit his personality. “

The sculpture park was so beautiful and perfect it filled the art-shaped hole in my heart.

The next day we had a fabulous brunch at Toulouse Petit and saw some of Lekha’s favorite pieces of “hidden” art at SAM.

In the afternoon we lay on the grass in the park and watched the boats on the waterfront. On the flight back I quickly drew everything before I forgot – it was such a lovely holiday!


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Life, sketchbook, travels

Holiday journal, 2

Like I said, poor Orin had to fall ill within two days of the holiday. Just the usual viral fever. When he was sleeping, I was drawing, reading and moping for the lost holiday.

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Here are some sketchnotes I made while listening to this On Being podcast with Maira Kalman and feeling thankful for small pleasures.

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“To be under a tree with Maira Kalman and her talk on angst and ritual: bliss.”

Brief moments of watching the sea. Nature is such a miracle.

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After Joan Didion, I re-read The Emigrants by WG Sebald. Ever since I discovered them on Rukminee’s bookshelf, I re-read one every year.

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“The seasons and the years came and went…and day by day, hour by hour, with every beat of the pulse one lost more and more of one’s qualities and became less comprehensible to oneself, increasingly abstract.”

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Extended solitude makes me write more: “Drawing is easy and lets me construct my own alternate version of reality. Because doesn’t everyone do that, only I do it in visuals. Sebald apparently started writing his beautiful immersive transporting prose where stories blur the lines between fact and fictions, events and the recounting of them, and the memories of events, because he wasn’t satisfied with academic historical writing or with current biographical prose. Drawing is easy; because like Maira Kalman says,

“Writing is too serious and angst-ridden.”

Like life.

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“Seeing, Hearing, Listening

When we see someone often we only see what we want to see, and what we think should be there. The eye joins the cognitive dots and sends the visual to the brain (??)

But drawing gives us a chance to really look at something, explore it with our eyes, see without bias.

It’s a bit like active listening, being open and then responding. Why do I enjoy drawing from memory? It is after all a reconstruction.”

And did I mention how much I love reading Sebald? His gothic prose saves me from my own melancholy every single time.

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“It seems to me then as if all the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed, and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last.”

So ironic in the context of this holiday.

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Life, sketchbook, travels

Holiday journal, 1

A break from the distant past of 2015 to the last holiday we took a few months ago. We’d gone to Sri Lanka, but as you’ll see from my drawings, events conspired to make the holiday more about the hotel room than the place.

“Here we are, in a neighboring country that looks and feels familiar, but such a different vibe, such a different sense of people.”

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We’d planned to go to all these places that I’d drawn in the map, but I ended up in the hotel at Bentota the whole time, because Orin fell ill and only recovered the day we were leaving for Delhi. These are some drawings done on the road.

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On this trip I started using water-soluble color pencils for the first time, and really enjoyed moving away from lines to shadows. (Forgive the quality of these images, my scanner is broken so there’s a big glare in all the scans.)

These drawings done in Kandy Botanical Gardens were the first ones where I was trying to figure out how to use color pencils.

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Discovered the writing of Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking on this trip.

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“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”

And the same is true of people, I think.

Part 2 coming next.

And by the way, I used a Kaagazi sketchbook and loved it. Will be definitely using more of their books now.

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sketchbook, travels

Flying

When I travel, I usually have two choices: to stress or to philosophize. To counter the effects of the the first, I start drawing, and thus ensues the second without any conscious effort.

Airports: The best places to watch and draw people. The placelessness alleviated by signs of culture in the food and in the washrooms, voices, customs, signage. Rushing about doesn’t help in drawing and got a few new white hairs from Lufthansa’s delayed flights.

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I was reading Reclaiming Conversations by Sherry Turkle and engaging in a lot more conversation with fellow travelers.

“I am on my sabbatical” and negotiations on the cost of holidays.

“I’m going to a conference on the future of printing – not on paper.”

“I like to take a shower between connecting flights.”

“Hey! You can’t break the line because you’re going to miss your flight!” said a spiffy but rude first class traveler going to Chicago and Atlanta.

“I go to Gymnasium” said a seven year old Nicolas from Germany, who was traveling all by himself.

I was thankful to get some peace and time to sit and draw and be at one with myself.

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In Munich I had currywurst and coffee and thought about judgement:

“Judgement is an escalator. Easy but avoidable.”

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After a point, the drawing, the relative imprisonment, and the food and drink always forces me to take some well-earned rest.

This time however I was looking forward to some cheese that did not materialize.

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On the way back I was lucky enough to get an extremely amusing companion who made me laugh the entire journey.

And as always so happy to return home and be reunited with the brown boy and our little tornado.

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Life, sketchbook, travels

5 days in California

Inspired by my ten years of inktales, I decided to religiously draw every day. Here are some drawings from a trip I took last week, flying from New Delhi to San Fransisco for work.

I took an Air India flight for the first time, and it wasn’t impressive. However my travel companions were really interesting to draw.

At the immigration counter in San Fransisco, my employer and the software that I work on, always turn out to be magic names, no credit to me 🙂

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And the most surprising of all, the driver of the shuttle that I took from the airport was a native Aramaic speaker.  It sounded like a beautiful language.

I was lucky enough to meet my friend Lekha – our trips overlapped by a few hours. By the fountains we caught up with our lives. Thank you America.

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sketchbook, Technology, travels

Rishikesh, lord of the senses

There is something special about a midweek holiday. Being the crazy workaholics that we are, we surprised ourselves with this rare treat last week, and drove up to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. The last time we went on holiday, there weren’t any people to sketch, so this time we made sure that we’d get some suitable moments. 001

002[At the ghats we look around for peace, shade and people to draw.]

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[The photographer sits and talks about another two months…and then. I couldn’t keep up with his Hindi.]

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This is not the brown boy, though it looks like him.

And here’s a restless little flower seller.

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[Drawing from life is tough, but it must be done. It’s the only way to get away from the pre-conceived imagery in my head.]

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[Here we are at Triveni Ghat waiting for the arati to start. It was very beautiful when it happened.

Prayer and worship always catch me unawares and I never know what to do.]

At one of the ghats we met Or, a graphic design student from Israel. He wanted to talk about moleskines and pens.

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“Everyone is a hippie here, or a yoga nerd! I don’t want to talk about yoga or music.”

He was rather funny. “But India has karma, I love that concept.”

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Our spiritual quest was punctuated by birthday calls from friends, all recommending their special things to do in Rishikesh, with love. And I kept thinking about all our beloved apps and digital services, which are just isolating us from each other more and more, and that just hearing the voice of a dear one on the phone is all it takes.

When we were not drawing people at the ghats, we spent time on the terrace of the hotel, watched birds, napped in the hammock, and listened to the Vedanta podcast about the price of success.

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At other times we talked about the most human human.

Finally while stirring coffee we identified our purpose of the holiday – do nothing.

It’s much easier to have fun after that.

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[At breakfast one day this girl was sitting so calmly, and waiting for breakfast. Maybe the point of a holiday like this is really to slow down, savour the moment.]

You can see how much I over-analyze. It’s hard to be in the moment sometimes.

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 [We stayed a few hours more for the zently relaxing yoga class. What a perfect holiday. Sigh.]

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People, travels

The children of the village

So, another day we went to Dhordo village in Kutch to meet some of the craftsmen.

While everyone was admiring the crafts, I went to draw the kids sitting outside and making bead necklaces. Each of them make and sell their own handicrafts to earn pocket money. While I was drawing, all of them gathered around and then took turns for me to draw them one by one!

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