sketchbook, travels

Daytripping

A few months ago when the weather was cooler, we went on a day trip to Bidar Fort and the Bahmani Tombs.

Bidar is a formidable 15th century fort. According to history there was an old fort at the site, which was captured by Prince Ulugh Khan in the 14th century, who later became Muhammad bin Tughlaq of Delhi (who we are of course familiar with). Later the fort became the capital of the Bahmani dynasty when they moved to Bidar from Gulbarga. The fort as we see it today, was built by the ruler of the Bahmanid dynasty Ahmad Shah Wali Bahman. Eventually Aurangzeb annexed it in the 17th century.

For us it was our first sojourn into the Deccan (as adults) and I was curious to see the color palettes and the foliage and the red stone of the Deccan. Here are some quick sketches made from memory.

One of the things I love about living in India is how we rub shoulders with centuries past. That was the charm of Delhi too, living in close quarters with everything that that had gone before at that very same place. Puts our lives in perspective I often think.

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People, sketchbook, travels

More people watching

Here’s another trip from last year. I’m one of those people who always reaches early for flights, and now you know why…

Traveling is such a great time to draw. So many people of different kinds and origins in one place.

Also random thoughts: How much does the mouth extend when you yawn? I can feel it but not really observe it.

On this particular day I may have been feeling quite charitable:

Drawing is a way to observe, Watch without judgement. I think you can see the empathy in the lines when you have drawn without prejudice…”

More people watching in airports: Travelers (Del-Mun 2013), Airport people (CPH 2010), More airport people (Del-Hel 2010), Flying (Del-SFO 2017), and the more recent People watching in Kolkata and Own your presence Bengali 2020.

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art, People, travels

Deez’s Evil Eye birthday

One evening in San Fransisco from a couple of years ago has been on my mind for the past few days. Deez was celebrating her birthday with some friends, and I joined in, glad to have caught up with her on this the trip. Here are my journal pages from that day.

“How many times in your life do you meet strangers and they have read your blog? Nothing like a surprise burst of celebrity-dom to bolster my ego!”

“In full entertainer mode I regaled everyone with stories of how the brown boy and I got together, and how did our little tornado come into our life.”

“We went for a long moonlight walk through the streets of Mission, took in the street art and curiosities peculiar to the culture. Arati told us stories of how the Mission came to be, and Deez her past selves that had moved through the area. We had awesome Mexican food and laughed so much.”

“There was happy birthday flan and we remembered all the stories of a dragonfly childhood. Remembered all the missing friends and how important they are.”

Here are some of the street art I saw:

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Life, sketchbook, travels

Istanbul in 5 days

Last week we went on a holiday to Istanbul. It was only five days so we only stayed in Istanbul, exploring the city and so on. Unlike other holidays, the brown boy didn’t have to feed Orin this time!

Istanbul is such a beautiful, picturesque city with so much character.

Skyline with minarets, narrow lanes with cobbled streets…

We loved the food, starting with the street food, Simit, roasted chestnuts and Turkish coffee.

We learnt some Turkish words to get by:

In 1928, Ataturk changed the Turkish alphabet from the previous Ottoman (Arabic) script to Roman letters/Latin alphabet to improve the literacy of the new republic of Turkey. More here.

We were also really interested in seeing the Byzantium remains around the city, but we mainly saw the outstanding Hagia Sophia, the moody Basilica Cistern and the Stone of Million.

We couldn’t manage to fit in the Camlica tower and other newer architecture on this trip, but worth a visit later on!

We went shopping in the Grand Bazar or Mısır Çarşısı as it’s called in Turkish:

On one of the days we took a cruise down the Bosporus, starting from the Golden Horn and going all the way up to the Black Sea.

We also visited the neighbourhoods of Balat-Fatih, Beyoğlu and around.

Overall the trip was fabulous. We caught up on much needed rest, drawing and reading, and even managed a trip to the local Legoland!

Our links:

Street food: https://www.timeout.com/istanbul/restaurants/the-best-turkish-street-foods and https://www.nomadepicureans.com/europe/turkey/street-food-istanbul/
Sulemani Cheesecake from Viyana Kahvesi
Cook Life Balat http://cooklife.com/ in Balat https://www.goturkey.com/en/blog/hidden-istanbul-a-day-in-balat

Art: Istanbul Modern https://www.istanbulmodern.org/en and Salt Galata https://saltonline.org/en/42/salt-galata

Here are some pages from my journal.

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Life, parenthood, People, sketchbook, travels

Holiday envy

On holidays, while traveling, as soon as we reach a place where we can sit still for a few minutes I take out my sketchbook and start drawing.

Here we are in Palolem last year. For the last few years every holiday has begun with a drawing of the brown boy feeding Orin.

Soo: Ah-ha! Our holiday will beat everyone else’s holiday! Hahaha!

The brown boy: Ulp. Why?

Soo: Because I’m drawing! Everyone just takes pictures {smug}

The brown boy: Umm. Ok. (So competitive!)

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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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