Artwork in India (7) – Kerala

Fort Cochin, Kerala, Kochi, India, biennale, art festival, street art, murals

I headed south to Kerala from Rajasthan on 23rd December via three connecting Jet Airways flights: Jodhpur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Cochin then I got a bus from Cochin airport to Fort Kochi. The whole trip took about 16 hours and was pretty smooth but also pretty exhausting. In retrospect I could have perhaps split it up.

I had been hoping to avoid Christmas as I thought that the only Christian stronghold in India was Goa. It turns out that a significant number of Keralans are Christians (a leftover from the Portuguese, Dutch and British invasions) so I was greeted by plenty of Santas, Christmas decorations and nativity scenes.

I lodged at Casa Feliz homestay with a very sweet family and enjoyed a huge and delicious homecooked Kerala style breakfast every morning. 

I met up with some lovely friends in Fort Kochi on Boxing Day and we spent a few days and evenings exploring the impressive exhibitions of the biennale art festival and eating well. (It was strange to see so much meat and fish on the menus after largely vegetarian Rajasthan and I didn’t fancy it at all).

kerala, food, cooking, class, flavour, fort kochi, chapati, dal fry, masala, coconut, rice, travel, cookery course, keralan, indian, food, india

We even took a cookery class! Delicious, fun and interesting…it really took the mystery out of Indian cooking.

We learned how to make tomato masala curry, carrot and beetroot thoran (spiced, no sauce), dal fry (my personal favourite), coconut rice with dried fruit and nuts, and chapati – the dough is simple enough but getting them rolled out round is a different matter!

The humidity and  sultry nights were a bit of a shock to my system after the dry heat and cool nights of Rajasthan so I was relieved to take a tour to the hill station of Munnar to look at the glorious tea plantations.

Munnar, Kerala, hill station, tea plantation, tea bush, travel blog, India, mountain

I found a room with a mountain view (lower right) in which to sleep deeply and wake refreshed on New Years Day.

The scenery was absolutely stunning and I regretted slightly not taking more time to explore on foot.

alleppey, kerala, india, backwaters, canal, boats, general strike, communist

My next stop was Alleppey (two hours by bus) where I stayed in the lovely Kalappura Homestay and planned to take a boat trip along the famed Keralan backwaters.

But that day a general strike was called in Kerala by Hindus insulted at the supreme court decision to allow women entry to the temple of a ‘virgin’ male god as part of gender equality laws.

sabimara, temple, supreme court, women's rights, equality law, india

Alleppey was deserted…no tuk-tuks, no buses, no boat trips, no shops, stalls or restaurants. The Kalappura Homestay people made us a delicious breakfast and then I took advantage of the lull and made a sketch by the canal. 

Kerala, India, Alleppey, canals, backwaters, boats, general strike, new year, pen and wash, watercolor, watercolour, sketch, sketchbook, drawing, painting, illustration

It was later explained to me that the right wing BJP, who have an overall majority in the national parliament of India, want to undermine the  Communist party which has a majority in the state of Kerala. The BJP is escalating unrest in the Hindu community over the supreme court decision and inciting the Hindus to protest more aggressively. During protests about 150km from Alleppey one man died and 45 buses were destroyed.

They do say thay you should never discuss religion and politics and in India (and almost every where else) the two are entwined with a deeply patriarchal class system but I do wonder if tradition is the enemy of evolution.

I recently saw this on a tee shirt: “God has no religion” – Mahatma Gandhi.

The following day dawned peacefully…

kalappura, alleppey, kerala, india, backwaters, boat, tour, trip, ferry, canoe, kayak, canal, flood, palm trees, house boat, travel

…and the backwaters tour was on!

We caught the ferry from the main canal in Alleppey (about 5 minutes walk from the Homestay) and headed out to a village about 40 minutes away where a lovely family fed us a traditional Keralan breakfast of creamy potato curry and coconut. Then we boarded a kayak and explored the beautiful, peaceful side canals…watching the daily life of the locals play out on the banks.

One of the kayak boatmen told me that his house had been completely destroyed in the floods of 2018 and that it would be about 10 years before he could afford to rebuild it. In the meantime he was staying in one room at his family’s home.

We saw men repairing the flood damaged walls of the canals and the wreckage of ruined houses just beyond. The main industry in the backwaters villages is agriculture; there are huge rice paddies, fishing and tourism are secondary.

After four hours of gentle paddling (hard work for the oarsman nevertheless) we ate a fine thali lunch where we’d had breakfast and caught the ferry back to Alleppey.

Jose the Kalappura Homestay host met us and whisked me off to the railway station on the back of his Royal Enfield in good time to catch the train to Varkala (a 2+ hour trip which cost less than 60p).

royal enfield, bullet 350, royal enfield india, motorcycle, motorbike, drawing, pen, fine liner, kerala, india

The Royal Enfield 350 Bullet motorcycle is a design classic, a truly beautiful machine with a distinctive rumbling ‘dugger-dugger-dug’ engine sound. It has the longest unchanged production run (in IndiaI since 1948) of any motorcycle and was originally made in Redditch Worcestershire from 1931. The bikes are now manufactured in Chennai (previously known as Madras) and particularly ubiquitous in Kerala.

varkala, beach, kerala, india, sun, sand, surf, palm trees, cliff

Bathing in the Arabian Sea at Papanasam beach Varkala is said to wash away the sins. It certainly feels like a blessing to be here – so relaxed – I extended my stay by a week.

Artwork in India (4) – Bikaner

bikaner, karni mata, rat temple, rat, rajasthan, india, travel blog, signwriting, wall painting, market, antiques, tins, cow, goat, jain temple, door, decorative painting

I only intended to stay in Bikaner for two days, just to visit the famous Karni Mata rat temple in nearby Deshnoke (weird I know, but I’m a rodent fan).

I painted the little pen and wash study below from a photo I took at the temple.

rat, rat temple, temple, deshnoke, rajasthan, karni mata, rodent, hindu, pen, watercolour, watercolor, study, drawing, painting, travel blog, travel illustration, illustration, rodent, art

Then I met a guy who offered me free bed and board in exchange for some painting work at the hostel he’s renovating so I stayed an extra three days, and had a lot of fun.

bikaner, hostel, rajasthan, india, travel blog, wall painting, door, window, frames, decorative painting

I painted the frames around the doorways and windows behind my hostel buddies in the photo above, and below here’s me finishing off the stripes.

wall painting, acrylic paint, decoration, decorative painting, bikaner, rajasthan, india

That’s Auntie Gee in the background, she owns the place, directs the workers and delivers chai. 

Bikaner is beautiful in a dusty way and largely unspoilt by tourism. There are a number of guesthouses in huge hawelis in the old town which is where I stayed at the start of my visit. Then I moved downtown and took a lovely walk to the market most nights to eat street food near the stunning Bhandasar Jain Temple.

 

Artwork in India (1) – Udaipur

new delhi, railway, station, train, overnight, journey, sketch, sketching, sketchbook, illustration, travel, figures, platform

I got to the train station in New Delhi early with the intention to draw. It was a little overwhelming but a kind man insisted that I sit on his blanket with him and his son which made drawing more comfortable. My train to Udaipur left bang on time at 7pm and I had a good 12 hour journey in a bunked sleeping compartment.

udaipur, lakeside, lake pichola, rajasthan, India, pen and watercolour, painting, sketching, sketch, sketchbook, rooftop, moustache hostel, hanuman gat

This is the view across Lake Pichola from the roof of the Moustache Hostel in Udaipur. Rajasthanis have famously luxurious facial hair, hence the name of the hostel. 

wall painting, artist at work, stencil, cockerel, rooster, mural, acrylic paint, surface decoration, illustration, decoration, birds

The hostel had lots of wallpaintings left by many guests so I offered them some cockerels…

wall painting, artist at work, stencil, cockerel, rooster, mural, acrylic paint, surface decoration, illustration, decoration, birds

They then asked me to paint something in the space above the birds so I drew a design in my sketchbook inspired by a beautiful cow I’d seen on my first morning walk through the city.

holy, cow, sacred cow, holy cow, pen, watercolour, drawing, painting, watercolor, sketchbook, travel, India, rajasthan, udaipur, marigoldsAnd then transferred it to the wall (below) 

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Painting in the reception area was a great way to meet people, and the cow and cockerels got a very warm welcome.

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Here’s a pen and watercolour sketch I made at a little Hanuman temple in the street. The lady selling flowers next door kindly lent me a stool to sit on while I drew.

portrait, pencil, graphite, drawing, Indian, man, moustache, beard, rajasthani, moustache hostel, udaipur, India, travel, illustration

This is Yogesh, one of the Moustache Hostel team. He asked me to draw his portrait so I worked in pencil from a photo.

udaipur, rajasthan, india, pen, sketch, lady, sari, cafe, illustration, travel

And here’s a quick pen sketch I made of a lady wearing a sari while she sat in a lakeside café. I’m sure she twigged that I was drawing her, she didn’t seem to mind but she did leave before I had a chance to add colour.

All in all a very enjoyable and creative first week here in India. I’m leaving the Moustache Hostel today to go and spend a few days with an Indian family here in Udaipur. 

udaipur, lake, rajasthan, India

View from the Castle – Sketch

vejer, castle, castillo, ramparts, view, sketch, vejer sketchers, pen, watercolour, watercolor, painting, drawing, sketchbook, illustration, cadiz, andalusia, spain, church, bell

I made this little pen and watercolour sketch of the view through the castle ramparts at a recent meeting of the Vejer Sketchers.

Annie B’s Food Map

pen, watercolour, water color, drawing, painting, illustration, food, map, andalucia, andalusia, annie b, spanish kitchen, vejer, cadiz, jerez, sherry, cerdo iberico, queso de cabra, goats cheese, iberian pork, retinto, beef, tuna, atun, octopus, pulpo, flamenco, squid, calamari, lemon, limon, anchovies, anchoas, prawns, gambas, atlantic ocean, oceano atlantico, mediterranean sea, mar mediterraneo, solera, spices, vineyard, bodega, chorizo, olive oil, acete de oliva

The delightful Annie B of Spanish Kitchen fame recently asked me to paint her a map showing the eating and drinking delights of the area around Vejer de la Frontera, where we are both based.

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Annie runs sherry tasting classes and cookery courses as well as tapas and wine tasting tours in Andalusia and Morocco. I made a food and drink themed sketch style painting for her a couple of years ago which she used as a Christmas card (right) and she had the idea to turn the food map into her Christmas card this year.

sketch, layout, illustration, food, map, andalucia, andalusia, annie b, spanish kitchen, vejer, cadiz, jerez, sherry, cerdo iberico, queso de cabra, goats cheese, iberian pork, retinto, beef, tuna, atun, octopus, pulpo, flamenco, squid, calamari, lemon, limon, anchovies, anchoas, prawns, gambas, atlantic ocean, oceano atlantico, mediterranean sea, mar mediterraneo, solera, spices, vineyard, bodega, chorizo, olive oil, acete de oliva

So the first stage of the map design was to work out the extent of the area which could be comfortably accommodated in the same card format.

I roughly sketched the map in coloured pencil (above) and then cropped it until Annie was happy with the layout; then we decided which food and drink elements would be represented and Annie gave me specific tips on how they should be shown. For instance the tuna fish needed yellow spines on their backs, the Retinto cow should be sitting on the beach and the Osborne sherry bull needed well defined ‘cojones’ (I’ll leave you to google that if you’re unsure of the meaning!).

pencil, outline, illustration, food, map, andalucia, andalusia, annie b, spanish kitchen, vejer, cadiz, jerez, sherry, cerdo iberico, queso de cabra, goats cheese, iberian pork, retinto, beef, tuna, atun, octopus, pulpo, flamenco, squid, calamari, lemon, limon, anchovies, anchoas, prawns, gambas, atlantic ocean, oceano atlantico, mediterranean sea, mar mediterraneo, solera, spices, vineyard, bodega, chorizo, olive oil, acete de oliva

At this stage I got the posh paper out (Arches 300g cold pressed watercolour), tore it to the correct size and taped it to a board before drawing the finalised map carefully in pencil (above).

Once I was happy with the outline I drew over it in water resistant pen (above) and added colour in layers of watercolour paint (below).

The final stage was to add a bit of multicoloured ‘magic splatter’ by tapping my loaded paintbrush all over the map which I find makes the texture more interesting as well as unifying the image (below and top).

pen, watercolour, water color, drawing, painting, illustration, food, map, andalucia, andalusia, annie b, spanish kitchen, vejer, cadiz, jerez, sherry, cerdo iberico, queso de cabra, goats cheese, iberian pork, retinto, beef, tuna, atun, octopus, pulpo, flamenco, squid, calamari, lemon, limon, anchovies, anchoas, prawns, gambas, atlantic ocean, oceano atlantico, mediterranean sea, mar mediterraneo, solera, spices, vineyard, bodega, chorizo, olive oil, acete de oliva

The cards should be delivered next week, I’m really looking forward to popping in to Annie’s to collect mine with a nice drop of sherry on the side! 

Vintage Telefunken Radio

vintage, telefunken, capricho, radio, sketch, 1950s, pen, watercolour, water color, sketchbook, illustration

I finally made time to return to Señor Angel’s vintage radio museum in Vejer this week…it had been a year since I made my last radio sketch.

The German company Telefunken manufactured this Capricho model in Spain in the mid to late 1950s. Angel told me that red radios were the most popular choice in Spain at that time….pretty! 

 

Waiting

self portrait, foot, toes, sandal, leg, chair, waiting, pen, outline, line work, drawing, sketch, illustration

 

 

This is a self portrait of sorts.

I sketched my own foot in pencil to while away some waiting time, then inked in the outline later.

 

 

 

self portrait, foot, toes, sandal, leg, chair, waiting, pen, outline, line work, drawing, sketch, illustration

 

 

 

 

Anthurium

red, anthurium, plant, flower, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, acuarela, sketch, illustration

 

I drew this beautiful anthurium while I was staying with friends in London this month.

I love the contrast between the red of the flowers and the green of the leaves and the elegant sweep of the stems.

I started with a pencil outline which I went over in waterproof ink (below) before adding the watercolour layers.

anthurium, plant, flower, pen, outline, line work, drawing, sketch, illustration

red, anthurium, plant, flower, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, acuarela, sketch, illustration

Bar Día – A Love Story

bar dia, palma de mallorca, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, acuarela, sketch, illustration, wedding gift, love story, meeting place

I was asked by José to make this pen and watercolour drawing as a wedding present for Blaise and Letitia, to celebrate their first ever meeting.

José wrote this poem to go with the drawing

Se dice que fue como un relámpago,
en cosa de un segundo,
segundo y medio a lo sumo,
un estallido de rosas cayendo de su pecho
al albur de unos ojos,
un traqueteo de piernas,
el suspiro de un miedo
y un miedo vencido con solo una palabra.
 
Se dice que alguien se enamoró aquel día
como tantas otras veces otras gentes
pero yo que he visto conozco esta historia
puedo dejarla escrita en estos versos
puedo decir seguro 
que mereció la pena.
 
Which translates as
 
It is said that it was like a lightning bolt, 
a matter of a second, 
a second and a half at most, 
an explosion of roses falling from his chest 
to the fate of eyes, 
a quiver of legs, 
the sigh of fear
and fear overcome with only one word. 
 

It is said that someone fell in love that day 
like so many other people at other times 
but I’ve seen, I know this story 
I can leave it written in these verses 
I can say for sure 
that it was worth it.

 

It’s a beautifully romantic project for a very lovely couple, I wish them all the best for their wedding today (11th August 2017) in Taiwan and their long and happy future together. 
 
bar dia, palma de mallorca, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, acuarela, sketch, illustration, wedding gift, love story, meeting placebar dia, palma de mallorca, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, acuarela, sketch, illustration, wedding gift, love story, meeting place
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Obviously it was impractical for me to travel to Mallorca to draw the bar so I worked from a photo that José found on the internet, rendering the outline first in pencil then in pen (above left and right) before applying the watercolour (top).

Strawberries from Conil

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It’s strawberry season! And you can’t do better than eat the crop from Conil….yum!

It took some discipline to sketch mine in pen and watercolour before wolfing them down.