Food, Glorious Food

I love food!

I love thinking about what I’m going to eat. I love looking at food; in shop windows – especially cake shops – but also on Instagram and the telly. Eating it is my absolute favourite thing (expanding middle years waistline attests to that) and painting food was, for a while, an irresistible urge. It’s like the super slow version of an Insta lunch snap.

I’ve collected my best watercolour food paintings and posted them here as a sort of portfolio. Some are simple representations of pretty edibles and others have more of a narrative. Some were quick sketches done on the spot while for others I worked more slowly from photos I took before eating the subject. 

These food illustrations also form a  travel journal of sorts so I’ve divided them by region – London, West Bengal, Cape Verde and Andalusia – and put them in loose reverse chronological order. 

London

afternoon tea, goring hotel, cream tea, cakes, scones, jam, clotted cream, sandwiches, tea, tea pot, watercolour, painting, sketchbook art, sketchbook, food illustration, pen and wash, watercolor, drawing, sketching, london, tea strainer

The combination of the cake stand loaded with colourful, tasty morsels; the striped crockery and the reflective tea pots in the late winter sunshine was quite spectacular. Smitten, I took some photos in preparation for future painting sessions. Then I tucked right in. Afternoon tea at The Goring Hotel – a lovely way to celebrate a birthday with special friends.

Click here to see my original Afternoon Tea post.

yen burger, london, burger, chips, fries, stripes, watercolour, watercolor, painting, drawing, sketch, sketchbook, food, food illustration, illustration, pen and wash

As soon as I saw this Yen Burger nestled in its little bamboo steamer lined with festive stripy paper my painter’s urge was tweaked. I was on my way to an appointment with no time to paint on the spot so I took a few quick snaps for reference and tucked right in. Yummy Japanese take on the fast food classic. 

Click here to see my original Yen Burger post.

mushrooms, watercolor, puntarelle, bermondsey, london, watercolour, painting, sketchbook, pen and wash, food illustration, illustration, drawing, paint it then eat it

These gorgeous mushrooms are from the Puntarelle & Co Saturday morning fruit and veg market under the Spa Road railway arches. All their produce is lush and carefully laid out in traditional wooden boxes – the antithesis of supermarket shopping. The fungi had a certain sinister drama about them and proved to be delicious.

Click here to see my original Mushrooms post.

Too Good To Go:

Returning to London after a long absence gave me a ‘kid in a sweet shop’ feeling. All those cultural and culinary delights on offer. But the foodie indulgence comes at more than a calorific price.

A friend told me about the Too Good To Go app. It lets you know which local outlets are offering discounts on good food which would otherwise be thrown away at the end of a shift.

It perfectly combines my ‘thinking about what I’m going to eat’ and ‘looking at food’ loves with the bonuses of getting delicious food at bargain prices and combating food waste.

There’s also the surprise element; you’re not sure what you’ll get in your magic bag of rescued goodies until you pitch up at collection time with your online receipt.

These next three are all ‘paint it then eat it’ exercises of Too Good To Go swag.

lolas cup cakes, cup cakes, cake, watercolor, too good to go, fight food waste, watercolour, painting, sketchbook, pen and wash, food illustration, illustration, drawing

Lola’s cupcakes…mmm…yes, I shared them, they were mini but mighty at the same time. Pretty, cheap and exceptionally tasty!

Click here to see my original Cupcake post.

sushi, sushi shop, healthy eating, too good to go, fight food waste, watercolour, painting, sketchbook, pen and wash, food illustration, illustration, drawing

Sushi Shop …well sushi is a work of art in every sense. The high fish and soy content of Japanese food also makes regular eaters less likely to suffer from some classic menopause symptoms. What’s not to like? My rescued sushi was actually one box (at less than half the retail price) but I liked the way it looked as a triptych and it made for an Insta friendly square image.

Click here to see my original Sushi post.

cake, konditor, too good to go, fight food waste, red velvet, chocolate, watercolour, painting, sketchbook, pen and wash, food illustration, illustration, drawing

At the end of the last century I worked for a few months at the Konditor branch near Borough Market. I knew from that experience that the magic bag (box in reality) contents would be divine. Inspired by the promise of eating I worked really fast when I painted these fat wedges of carrot, red velvet and chocolate cake – which I did share with my flatmates.

Click here to see my original Cake post.

West Bengal 

I was lucky enough to spend six months traveling in India. It was an amazing experience and a huge culture shock.

In West Bengal the atmosphere tended to be cooler and calmer and the food was fabulous.
banana, banana split, banana plant, ice-cream, watercolour, watercolor, pen and wash, watercolour portrait, portrait, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, illustration, travel blog, travel illustration

A banana split is not an inherently Indian dish, but to eat one in close proximity to actual banana trees is an exotic experience. I tried to capture my travel companion’s ‘joy through dessert’ moment in this portrait cum food cum botanical illustration.

portrait, watercolor, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, travel blog, illustration, watercolour, pen and wash, tattoos, tattooed man, true love, lassi, orchids, flowers, leaves, glasses, bald head, clouds, pink drink

Here I’ve used the repeated orchid motif to represent the horticulture of Kalimpong and the background is inspired by the glorious decoration in the many Buddhist Monasteries there.

thali, watercolor, watercolour, painting, pen and wash, drawing, sketchbook, travel blog, illustration, food illustration, darjeeling, west bengal, dal fry, papad, saag paneer, spinach, cottage cheese, eggplant fritters, beguni, patta gobhi sabji, sabji, aloo sabji, homestay, little singamari, eat like a local, indian food, vegetarian food, home cooking

We boarded in a few home-stays where we were fed delectable, hearty and healthy home-cooked meals several times a day for very little money. We could really taste the love in this food – it was phenomenally satisfying.

puri sabji, indian food, indian breakfast, vegetarian food, aloo gobi matar, potato, cauliflower, peas, watercolour, watercolor, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, travel blog, travel illustration, eat like a local, food art, watercolour food, pen and wash

Darjeeling was bitterly cold and very damp for our first few days which made venturing outside quite an undertaking. Since I caught a cold as soon as we arrived I was happy to spend hours in front of the heater inside paying pen and watercolour homage to the culinary delights we were experiencing.

kunga restaurant darjeeling, tibetan food, wanton soup, momo, vegetarian food, vegetable spring roll, steamed momo, watercolor, watercolour, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, travel blog, travel illustration, watercolour food

When we did go out there was usually a visit to Kunga Restaurant involved. My interest in the wanton soup was verging on the hysterical. Momo (small steamed dumplings filled with chicken or vegetables) were ubiquitous in West Bengal and Sikkim – that made me very happy.

Click here to see my original West Bengal post.

Cape Verde

In 2017 I went to see a friend in Cape Verde. She was staying on Sal, the most touristic and least beautiful and interesting of the islands I visited. 

cape fruit, santa maria, sal, cape verde, cabo verde, breakfast, brunch, lunch, smoothies, natural bar, fresh fruit, healthy eating, smoothie, banana, strawberry, coconut, pen and watercolour, sketch, food, illustration, vegan

Cape Fruit restaurant was a great consolation – a beautiful oasis of rustic charm where an expert team of local women made and served healthy, tasty food and drinks. What a joy to order something lovely, paint it at leisure while sitting in the shade and then eat it.

cape fruit, santa maria, sal, cape verde, cabo verde, breakfast, brunch, lunch, smoothies, natural bar, fresh fruit, healthy eating, pancake, banana, grape, papaya, kiwi fruit, honey, water color. pen and watercolour, sketch, food, illustration, vegan

Click here to see my original Cape Verde blog.

Andalusia

At the end of 2014 I was invited to join the Vejer Sketchers, a small but enthusiastic group of artists who met on Saturday mornings in the southern Spanish town where I’d been living for a while. So that following year I finally undertook the regular sketch practice I’d been intending to start for ages.

There can be a ‘safety in numbers’ aspect to ‘urban sketching’ in a group. OK, so you still look like weirdos but you’re a band of weirdos and the inevitable attention of passersby is divided and therefore less intimidating. 

Sometimes we joined or were joined by groups of sketchers from other towns, like Cadiz and Jerez. There is always something new to learn from the methods and materials of other practitioners, and their passion for their craft is infectious. I also found that working in a sketchbook freed me up. There was no way I was going to tear a sheet out of that book so the paintings were for just for me. With no pressure to paint something saleable I started to draw and paint in a quicker, rougher, looser way than before, which made it more fun and more relaxing.

I didn’t often paint food with the group but I did apply my new, looser skills to my depictions of food.

green tea, té verde, book cover, portada, play, comedy, tragicomedy, marcel snyders, playwright, hospice, mother, daughter, illustration, cover design, art, drawing, watercolour, watercolor, acuarela, painting, pintura, ilustración, tea bag, cup, saucer

Marcel commissioned me to paint the cover for his play “Green Tea” (Té Verde) in the sketchy style he liked. He stipulated this complimentary colour combination and left the rest to me. There’s a sinister aspect to the play which is why some of those red splatters look like blood.

Click here to see my original Te Verde blog.

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

Annie B is a force of good nature; her food and wine tours and cooking courses are ranked amongst the best on offer in Spain. I was delighted to complete these two commissions from her: to create an Andalusian food and drink map (above) and a food and drink themed Christmas card (below).

annie b, spanish kitchen, spanish cooking, andalucia, cooking courses, sherry, jerez, xerez, tours, lemon, pomegrante, orange, peppers, salmonete, red snapper, mussel, octopus, pulpo, pine, christmas, card, chorizo, pimenton, paprika, sketch, watercolour, pen and watercolour, pine cones, umbrella pine, paella pan, card, christmas card, drawing

Click here to see my original Food Map blog.

Click here to see my original Christmas Card blog.

One of the best aspects of living in a small rural town in southern Spain is the seasonality of the fruit and veg.The seasons for local produce may be very short but the produce itself is perfect while it’s in the green grocer’s.

asparagus, esparrago, spring, vegetables, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, acuarela, sketch, food, illustration

The subtle combination of mauve and green on these tender asparagus stems was utterly beguiling. 

asparagus, esparrago, spring, vegetables, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, acuarela, sketch, food, illustrationClick here to see my original Asparagus post.

strawberries, strawberry, fruit, fresa, fresas, conil, fruta, pen and watercolour, watercolour, water color, sketch, food, illustration, ilustracion, primavera, spring

Strawberries from Conil taste and smell like those from my pick-your-own childhood. They’re so perfectly ripe that you must eat them on the same day you buy them; resistance is futile.

Here’s my original Strawberries post.

fruit, food, drawing, water colour, sketch, pen and watercolour, juicy, cherries, cherry

I was never aware before Vejer that cherries were graded so fastidiously in Spain. The size of the fruit and presence or absence of a stalk will dictate how much you pay per kilo of these juicy explosions. I never learnt to tell the varieties apart by taste though.

Here’s my original Cherries post.

Tiny, sweet, tender and so, so pretty. I adore peas – and the additional meditative pleasure of popping the pods.

Here’s my original Peas post.

berenjena, aubergine, eggplant, vegetable, food, drawing, water colour, sketch, pen and watercolour, watercolor, illustration

To be honest I’m rarely up for the faff involved in making aubergines edible but that jewel-like burgundy-mauve shade is beguiling.

Here’s my original Aubergine post.

pear, pera, pears, fruit, food, drawing, water colour, sketch, pen and watercolour, juicy

The pear – emblem of feminine strength and creativity, sweet of the autumn. That lichen-like mottling on a pear skin really is splendid.

Here’s my original Pears post.

lemon, ginger, cold cure, fruit, food, drawing, water colour, sketch, pen and watercolour, juicy

And so on to winter, here’s an actual cold cure that I used to treat an actual cold.

Here’s my original Lemon and Ginger post.

A massive and famous advantage of living in Spain is the culture of tapas. A bite or two of a tasty something – usually home-made, with a glass or two of a tasty something – usually alcoholic. 

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In Vejer (as in other places) there are a couple of special weekends a year when tapas competitions are staged. Maps of the Tapas Trail or ‘Ruta de Tapas’ show the locations of the establishments taking part and what they’re serving. Those restaurants work flat out to put their best tapas forward for the delectation of the hundreds of people who work their way around the trail before voting for their favourite dish. 

tapas, ruta de tapas, tapas por vejer, vejer, vejer de la frontera, vejer sketchers, pen and wash, pen and watercolour, watercolor, sketch, illustration, food, pueblos mas bonitos de espana, drawing, painting, sketchbook, pasta, ricotta, spinach, red onion sauce, la posta, italian restaurant

This particular weekend I decided to record as many Ruta de Tapas dishes as I could in a ‘paint it then eat it’ way. So I had to work fast and loose…

tapas, ruta de tapas, tapas por vejer, vejer, vejer de la frontera, vejer sketchers, pen and wash, pen and watercolour, watercolor, sketch, illustration, food, pueblos mas bonitos de espana, drawing, painting, sketchbook, gamba, langostino, mercado de abastos, market, street food, fish, roe, mercado de san francisco

Three turned out to be my limit. My best advice for making the most of a Ruta de Tapas? Skip breakfast and start early to beat the crowds.

Here’s my original Tapas post.

corredera 55, restaurant, califa vejer, vejer de la frontera, andalusia, pen and watercolour, pen and wash, pen and watercolor, sketch, drawing, painting, facade, comer amar vivir, life without cake, vitamins abc

This painting of the facade of Vejer’s Corredera 55 Restaurant is a lovely one to end on. It features food in the bike basket, food in the orange trees, food on the facade and drink on the inside. Ellie the owner commissioned me to make this piece; the original is hanging in the restaurant alongside mini reproductions on the business cards. As it says on the flipside: Eat – Love – Live

business card, corredera 55, restaurant, califa vejer, vejer de la frontera, andalusia, pen and watercolour, pen and wash, pen and watercolor, sketch, drawing, painting, facade, comer amar vivir, life without cake, vitamins abc

Here’s my original Corredera 55 post.

A note on method and materials:

My sketchbook is a Moleskine Watercolour Album, with 200g/sqm paper – that’s the minimum weight of paper that will take good watercolour washes without too much buckling. It’s 21x13cm; small enough to be portable but the double page length of 42cm allows for a nice big span. If I’m working on a pen and wash commission I’ll use 300g/sqm paper and cut it to size myself.

I always start with a 2B pencil drawing; when I’m happy with the layout I go over the outline with water resistant pens. Adding squiggly lines to the main outline makes it more lively.

I erase most of the the pencil before layering watercolour washes; when I’m happy with the intensity of the colours I’ll add shadows. The finishing touch is a bit of coloured splatter which unifies the image and adds a bit more energy.

By preference I’ll scan the finished painting at a fairly high resolution and slightly tweak the image in Photoshop with a soft light filter before posting a lower resolution version  to my ‘Latest Work’ blog.

For Instagram – @kathrynhockey – I just post photos of the work.

Scanning generally gives ‘truer’ colour reproduction and there’s less distortion of the image.

While I was traveling I didn’t have easy access to a scanner so the original ‘Latest Work’ posts of some sketches feature the same Instagrammed photos.

I recently scanned all of the food travel sketches to improve the quality of the images for this blog. I have added links to the original posts.

Portrait of Haylen

laughing, girl, butterflies, pen and wash, watercolour, watercolor, portrait, cartoon, drawing, painting

I made a few portraits of a Dutch friend of mine over the past few months and when I met his family his nephew asked if I’d make a portrait of his daughter Haylen in a similar style.

Haylen’s a really animated and sweet little girl who laughs a lot and has fantastic teeth; we were all keen that she should show them off in the portrait. Her mum and dad sent me a few recent photos (none with the teeth, however) and one of her laughing when she was two. 

I drew the portrait as an amalgamation of several of the photos and checked with the family that I’d caught Haylen’s ‘essence’ once the linework (below) was finished.

Finally I painted Haylen with watercolours.

portrait, cartoon, girl, outline, drawing, black and white

Portrait of Mike and His Friend

illustration, double portrait, pen and wash, watercolour, watercolor, portrait, cartoon, man, pinkpop, festival, drawing, painting

I was commissioned to make this double portrait while I was staying in Holland. I worked from a photo and made a linework likeness in pencil, drew over it in waterproof pen and then coloured it in with watercolour paints.

pen and wash, watercolour, watercolor,portrait, cartoon, man, pinkpop, festival, drawing, painting

This was a time consuming lesson in getting the brief clear from the get go.

Initially I understood that Mike only wanted a portrait of his buddy, not a double portrait and I went ahead and finished it (below) without double checking. We were both disappointed at the mix up but very happy with the final outcome.

 

Wedding Card

love, portrait, wedding, card, bride and groom, wedding portrait, happy couple, marriage, double portrait, black and white, drawing, digital art, illustration

I went to the beautiful wedding of this  delightful couple recently. It was a gorgeous day – really fun and moving.

This is the card I made them, adapted from photos I found on their Instagram feed. 

I drew the portrait in pencil, scanned it into Photoshop where I tinkered with it, then printed it onto card.

Wishing them all the love and luck in the world for a long and happy marriage.

Merman – Do Not Resuscitate

merman, fish tail, portrait, watercolor, watercolour, painting, sketchbook, tattoos, tattooed man, do not resuscitate

Here’s a photo collage of a recent pen and watercolour portrait I made of Rob (who likes to think of himself as my muse…he might be right!)

I worked from a photo I took of him lounging, the perspective was such that his enormous feet on the end of his crossed long legs reminded me of a fish tail so I drew him as a merman.

I took the liberty of editing his tattoos, which in reality cover his whole torso, because I wanted the focus to fall on the “Do Not Resuscitate” text on his chest. That’s my favourite.

Artwork in India (11) – Sikkim

banana, banana split, banana plant, ice-cream, watercolour, watercolor, pen and wash, watercolour portrait, portrait, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, illustration, travel blog, travel illustration

The inspiration for this watercolour portrait / food illustration actually originated in Kalimpong, West Bengal but since I completed the painting in Sikkim here it sits.

Of course our travel plans for Sikkim originated in Kalimpong too. While we were waiting for the unusually long winter to turn to spring we’d both finished reading PG Tenzing’s very entertaining account of his Royal Enfield motorcycle trip around India ‘Don’t Ask Any Old Bloke For Directions’. Rob wanted to go and see Gurudongmar Lake, the highest in the world – a sight which had moved Mr Tenzing to tears.

A bit of research into the permits required by foreigners wishing to explore Sikkim revealed that that would not be possible; the farthest north we were allowed, even with a restricted area permit, would be Zero Point – some 15km south of Gurudongmar.

Armed with warm coats, half a dozen passport photos each and the same number of passport and visa photocopies we left Kalimpong in a shared jeep (having purchased two seats apiece for the sake of comfort). We disembarked an hour or so later in Rangpo, the closest Sikkimese border town.

 It took about half an hour to swap some photos and photocopies for an inner line permit which granted us permission to stay in Sikkim for two weeks.

Sikkim was an independent kingdom until 1975 when it became part of India. It is bordered by Nepal to the west and by Tibet to the North and East. China’s invasion of Tibet has made those borders extremely sensitive so access is carefully monitored.

We continued our journey from Rangpo to Gangtok, the Sikkimese capital, in another shared jeep; the vehicles were lined up and waiting for passengers in the market square, a short walk from the foreigner’s permit office.

gangtok, sikkim, sky, clouds, mountains

No smoking, no spitting, no cows, no dogs, no littering. Such are the rules in Gangtok and the benefits are palpable. It’s the cleanest and calmest city we visited and seemed very well off too. Of course we disregarded the no smoking rule but only in secluded places.

gangtok, sikkim, travel blog, travel photography, rumtek monastery, buddhist, monastery, chorten monastery, banjhakri waterfall, west sikkim

We took the advice of the guesthouse owner and booked three tours; handing over all the remaining photos and photocopies to get the required permits. We explored the area around Gangtok on our first day, visiting the beautiful Rumtek and Chorten Buddhist monasteries, and the Banjhakri waterfall, which is touristy but lovely nevertheless.

tsomgo lake, frozen lake, west sikkim, sikkim, india, ice, yaks, prayer flags

The following day we took a six hour round trip with a driver and a guide to the frozen lake at Tsomgo. Complete with yaks, snow fall, stunning mountain views, a trip in a cable car and stops for steaming tea and momos – it was a glorious day out. 

lachung, lachung valley, himalayas, mountains, sikkim, north sikkim, india, travel photography, travel blog, wanderlust

Our third tour was only three days and two nights long but it felt like an epic adventure. Again we had a driver and a guide (above centre) who made the six hour journey up to Lachung very comfortable. We made several stops to admire waterfalls, drink chai and make use of roadside toilet facilities – 5 rupees for a pee, 10 for a poo!

We passed through a couple of military checkpoints, each beside big army camps, where our permits were inspected and our details noted. 

The Lanchung Valley is absolutely stunning; with little farm cottages nestled on plateaus between huge mountains above and cliff drop waterfalls down to the Teester River bellow…billowing clouds gave it a timeless, mystical air. Enchanting.

lachung valley, lachung, sikkim, north sikkim, india, travel illustration, pen and wash, watercolour, watercolor, painting, sketchbook, mountains, valley, springtime

We stayed in a little wooden cabin with a balcony overlooking the valley (view above) and were provided with a very efficient heater and plentiful, simple food.

It was dusk and raining when we arrived (a delightful sound on a cabin roof) so the snow capped mountain view that greeted us at dawn was hugely exciting if not totally unexpected.

We were a bit surprised that we had to be supervised if we wanted to leave the property grounds, even for a stroll around the tiny village.

The following morning we took a trip as far up north as the recent avalanche allowed. Nature trumped our Yumthang Valley permit, the road was well and truly blocked and the clearance effort would take several days to open it again. 

A friend looked up our location on Google Earth and sent it by WhatsApp…we may have been way out in the sticks but the telecommunications were 21st century!

We returned to Gangtok elated by the mountain views and took a few days rest before leaving Sikkim by jeep; handing in our permit at the Rangpo office before we re-entered West Bengal.

 

Artwork in India (10) – West Bengal

kolkata, calcutta, city, west bengal, india, travel blog, travel photography, anti-war protest, wanderlust

Next stop Kolkata, West Bengal (3 hour taxi from Khajuraho to Satna then 20 hours on the train to Howrah Station), which we approached with some trepidation.

For a huge city it was, however, a revelation: friendly, fairly relaxed, fairly clean, really beautiful and easy to negotiate on foot.

kolkata, calcutta, city, west bengal, india, travel blog, travel photography, street food, taxi, howrah station, eden gardens, hooghly river, wanderlust

With cheap, delicious street food to boot; Kolkata is famous for kati rolls – egg dipped flat breads which are fried and rolled around the tasty filling of your choice.

We passed a few fun days wandering around the Park Street neighbourhood, exploring the city’s green spaces and crossing the Hooghly River by ferry.

Our next target destination was Darjeeling the famous tea town. I had a romantic idea of Darjeeling – quaint and charming, nestling up there in the Himalayan foothills and the opportunity to arrive there in the heritage ‘toy train’ was irresistible.

darjeeling himalayan railway, heritage train, indian railway, himalayan foothills, narrow gauge, break down

We flew to Bagdogra, spent the night in Siliguri and the next morning promptly arrived at New Jalpaiguri Station for the advertised 8:30am departure of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway service from the narrow gauge platform.

At least an hour late, the tiny engine pulled up with three little carriages in tow. It took at least another half hour for the engineers to prepare the train for the trip up the mountain.

darjeeling himalayan railway, toy train, heritage railway, indian railway, route map

The journey (scheduled to take seven hours in total) was indeed picturesque; the little train pluckily chugged upwards taking several fascinating ‘z reverses’ to accommodate the incline. 

Then, 15km short of Darjeeling a piece of the engine fell off, the train stopped and it became apparent that we would have to make our own arrangements to finish the journey by road.

hitchhikers, darjeeling, west bengal, india, travel blog

Luckily, at dusk, after an hour or so of flagging down vehicles with little or no space for hitchers the lovely man (second right) in the photo above pulled over. He breezily packed us and our new German friends and all our luggage into his warm, comfy car and expertly drove us the hour to town.

himalayas, mountains, kangchenjunga, darjeeling, west bengal, india, travel blog, travel photography, wanderlust

The first first thing that struck me was the cold. A see your breath in the house cold. A wear all your clothes in layers, in bed, cold. Luckily our homestay host provided a heater and hot water bottles and the view of Kangchenjunga from the balcony (at 6am before the clouds rose) was stunning.

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The food was fabulous too, inspiring me to immortalise this delicious and typical Indian breakfast of puri sabji. The puri are fried flat breads which puff up and are chewy and crispy at the same time. Sabji or sabzi is the generic word for cooked vegetables, usually in some sort of gravy.

We met up with our new German friends in a local Tibetan style restaurant to reminisce about our toy train misadventure and feast on momo and wanton (both dumplings)…a meal so delicious I was again inspired to capture it in paint.

kunga restaurant darjeeling, tibetan food, wanton soup, momo, vegetarian food, vegetable spring roll, steamed momo, watercolor, watercolour, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, travel blog, travel illustration, watercolour food

Of course we drank some excellent tea in Darjeeling too and took the obligatory tour around the Happy Valley tea factory. But Darjeeling is not the charming hill station town of my imagination; it has a few pretty parts but is generally damp and dank, congested with traffic which makes the air foul with fumes and suffers from cascades of rubbish dumped down its sprawling labyrinth of terraces.

darjeeling, west bengal, india, travel photography, travel blog, prayer flags, market, hill station

We spent our last Darjeeling days at another homestay, the beautiful Little Singamari and were treated to yet more fantastic home cooking.

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This is a fantasy amalgamation of my favourite dishes cooked by Ramila, our hostess.  

kolbong, west bengal, india, karmi farm, farmstay, orchids, goats, pigs, organic farm, countryside, travel photography, travel blog, prayer flags

We set off for a few days in Kolbong and stayed on an idyllic organic farm. The two hour jeep ride to reach the farm was a bit of a roller coaster ride, one local lady promptly threw up as soon as she exited the jeep at her stop.

Luckily the driver made a slight detour for us so that we didn’t have to drag our luggage up the last kilometre of track to the farm.

The weather was warmer, the air cleaner, all our food was home cooked, mostly homegrown and organic. Our hosts were delightful but could only accommodate us for a few days as they were busy with another project. It was hard to leave.

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We decided to head for Kalimpong, a chilled out town with a similar climate to Kolbong where we could wait for the weather to warm up before we set off to explore higher altitudes without freezing.

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We both succumbed to bugs, one respiratory and one gastrointestinal, nothing major but enough to make us grind to a halt. Luckily we were in safe, comfy accommodation with a nice view…a good place for rest and recuperation.

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I was inspired by the gorgeously bright colours used to paint the murals in the prayer rooms at two of Kalimpong’s Buddhist monasteries when I made this portrait of Rob. I also love the way they include the cloud and flower motifs. Kalimpong is well known for its orchid nurseries hence my choice of flower.

Artwork in India (2) – Udaipur Workaway

 

udaipur, rajasthan, india, guide, guided, walk, old town, market, workaway

This is Rama, I just spent a few days staying with her and her family in Udaipur, a beautiful lakeside city in Rajasthan, India.

I contacted Rama through Workaway, an organisation that puts travelers in touch with a worldwide network of hosts who offer food and accommodation in exchange for a few hours work per day.

Although I’d known about Workaway for many years (having lived in the same Spanish town as its British inventor and many of the support team) this was my first Workaway post.

I was keen to volunteer with Rama because I wanted the opportunity to go off the standard tourist trail, stay with an Indian family and meet some of the overlooked and excluded members of their community.

This is how Rama describes her project:

“I run a project with the goal to spread happiness in local communities in my wonderful city, Udaipur. Everyone wants to be happy but unfortunately not everybody is. That’s why I’m trying to find different ways to help and spread happiness across the towns and villages in India.

Everytime I talk to the poor children, the homeless and elderly and those of ill health, I feel that they have so little in the way of possessions or wealth or status or perhaps even physical strength, and yet they have so much love to give. I started to spend more time with different local communities, I began to share with them, and they too, began to share with me. 

I work with a great variety of individuals and larger communities – with orphaned and homeless children, with rag-pickers, with tribal girls, women who suffer domestic abuse, children with physical and emotional difficulties, and with the elderly.

I feel that elderly people have so much life experience and so much to give, but sadly once they become old, nobody wants to interact with them or give them attention. They are pushed aside and forgotten. But I believe these people deserve our love and compassion, and I would like to bring happiness to them, through creativity and positive engagement. 

In the early morning the rag pickers collect garbage from the streets. They work long hours and in poor conditions but they are not respected or acknowledged for their work. They live together, in communities, and I visit their homes, or community halls, and play games with the children.
We talk and listen to each other, laugh together, we share our life experiences and we help one another. 

hopscotch, ragpickers, children, udaipur, happiness project, community, workaway, volunteer

I believe this is a two way process. We have much to bring to these communities, just as they too have much to offer us in the way of learning and compassion. I think its important to create an atmosphere of positive energy, of laughter, of sharing and of happiness. Because creativity, support and love are so good for healing any sadness, pain or frustration we can experience in life. Some scientific research shows that the level of creativity in children is much lower than what it was before. There is a lot of reasons for that, but there are also solutions. 

Through this project, I want to provide some kind of simple service in the way that I want to share every kind of knowledge or skills I have. I also invite you to come and work alongside me, sharing (whatever) skills you have – whether you are an artist, a musician, a crafts person, a teacher, a film maker or even a web designer. Any creative skills, circus skills, food skills, teaching skills, story telling skills, farming skills, listening skills, or simply a good open heart! 
I am grateful and open to all types of ideas and contributions!

I really look forward to hearing from you and finding news ways in which, together, we can create and share a little bit of happiness around the world!”

Here’s the link to Rama’s Udaipur Happiness Project on Facebook.

I went twice with Rama to visit the children – they’re delightful; lively, funny, friendly, cheeky and clever. They were really into hopscotch and the hokey-cokey (which they learnt from another English volunteer).

hopscotch, ragpickers, children, udaipur, happiness project, community, workaway, volunteer

The love and respect that the children and their families have for Rama was palpable – it was a privilege to be included in that warmth.

ragpickers, children, udaipur, happiness project, community, workaway, volunteer

We also went to visit a group of women who had suffered domestic abuse; they live in secure accommodation with their children, one little boy was born on a train.

Once again we were made very welcome although a couple of them were too shy to share their names. We did some stretching exercises on the lawn after another enthusiastic hokey-cokey session.

Rama and her family gave me such a warm welcome despite their profound grief at the recent loss of their beloved father, known as Papa, by all accounts a peaceful, dignified, happy and generous man.

Papa was enormously impressed by his middle daughter’s hard work and community spirit. Despite his initial misgivings when Rama, as a teenager, insisted on being treated the same as her two younger brothers – she identified with them equally if not more than with her two older sisters – he came to regard her as his teacher with respect to women’s rights.

My domestic duties involved washing up (no hot water let alone a dishwasher) and chopping vegetables (lots of onions and green chillies) which Rama or her older sister (and occaisionally their mother and younger brother) expertly turned into delicious spiced up dishes while creating huge piles of chapattis on the side. 

I was told more than once how lucky I am to have been born a woman in the UK. 

workaway, father, papa, pencil, drawing, portrait, gift, remember

I drew this pencil portrait of Rama’s Papa from a photo and it’s now framed in Papa’s room; Rama says seeing his smile every day gives her consolation and inspiration.

One of Papa’s mottos was “always be big-hearted”. Rama, a brave, strong pioneer of equal rights in a country where most people abide by rigid patriarchal and class rules is certainly a living embodiment of that.

sugar cane juice, rama, guided walk, udaipur, market, rajasthan, india

Rama used to visit the old city market with her Papa, preferring to support the local economy by buying fresh goods directly from the producers rather than shopping in supermarkets.

repair man, rama, guided walk, udaipur, market, rajasthan, India

Rama developed the route into a guided walk which I took with her one hot afternoon.

This is the link to Rama’s guided Udaipur city walk on Facebook

vegetables, guided walk, udaipur, market, rajasthan, India

We went there and back in a packed shared auto, an adventure in itself – I counted 12 passengers in the little rickshaw van at one point.

spices, rama, guided walk, udaipur, market, rajasthan, India

The market is a beautiful labyrinth of tiny colourful shops divided into categories: sweets, snacks, kitchenware, fruit and veg, grains and spices. So much to see, smell and taste.

haveli, rama, guided walk, udaipur, market, rajasthan, india

We also stepped back in time through the doors of a delightfully disheveled 300 year old haveli.

haveli, rama, guided walk, udaipur, market, rajasthan, india

All in all a wonderful, eye-opening and unforgettable experience and a reminder never to take white privilege and western women’s relative emancipation for granted.

Thank you Rama, you are so big-hearted, keep up your good works.

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

Wedding Card Portraits

Two of my lovliest friends tied the knot in London earlier this summer, so I made them a wedding card featuring a joint portrait.wedding, card, portrait, gay wedding, celebration, heart, rainbow, digital, illsutration

First I trawled through their Facebook albums for a suitable photo from which I drew a simple outline of each of them in pencil (below).

I made two separate drawings so that I could experiment with the joint portrait composition.wedding, card, portrait, couple, gay, marriage, greetings card, congratulations, rainbow, joint portrait, couple, happy couple, wedding day, celebration, nuptuals, digital, illustration, pencil, drawing, outline, photoshop, layers, highlights, sunglasses wedding, card, portrait, couple, gay, marriage, greetings card, congratulations, rainbow, joint portrait, couple, happy couple, wedding day, celebration, nuptuals, digital, illustration, pencil, drawing, outline, photoshop, layers, highlights, sunglasses

Having photographed my pencil outlines and uploaded them into Photoshop there was a space where an ear should’ve been so I went back to the drawing board and invented one.

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wedding, card, portrait, couple, gay, marriage, greetings card, congratulations, rainbow, joint portrait, couple, happy couple, wedding day, celebration, nuptuals, digital, illustration, pencil, drawing, outline, photoshop, layers, highlights, sunglasses

Having settled on the composition I ‘cut out’ and tidied up the line work in Photoshop (above).

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Working in layers I collaged the coloured elements, starting with the rainbow sunglasses (above). I found the generic rainbow and heart images from a google image search.

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I block coloured the skin, hair and background with the paint brush / bucket tool. 

To add a little shaddow and depth I duplicated the line work layer twice, off-setting each new layer very slightly in different directions and setting the blending mode to overlay.

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On separate layers I used the brush tool at 0% hardness to add the skin highlights (white, 100% opacity, blending mode soft light), hair sheen (flesh tone, 100% opacity, blending mode normal) and darker skin tone (pink, 18% opacity, blending mode normal).

I used the star pattern in the brush tool (white, size 600 approx, blending mode screen) to add the glint on the sunglasses in two layers.

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The final touches were the extra heart layer to pep up the background (white, 100% opacity, soft light blending mode); the text (white, 100% opacity, blending mode normal) with an offset layer behind it (white, 70% opacity, blending mode overlay) and the white glints on the text (same as for the glasses).

wedding, card, portrait, couple, gay, marriage, greetings card, congratulations, rainbow, joint portrait, couple, happy couple, wedding day, celebration, nuptuals, digital, illustration, pencil, drawing, outline, photoshop, layers, highlights, sunglasses

I was chuffed to bits when the grooms told me that they loved the image so much that they wanted to use it as their post-wedding thank you card.
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I sent them a couple of alternative colourways and their printer did the honours!

And here they are, the gorgeous couple (above) and surrounded by their friends and family on the glorious day (below).