Artwork in India (8) – Hampi

hampi, unesco, heritage site, karnataka, india, travel, blog

So the day I set off for Hampi I see this on Instagram! It’s going to be worth the effort…

An early morning taxi from Varkala to Trivandrum, two domestic flights: Trivandrum – Chennai – Hubli, another taxi from Hubli airport to Hubli Junction railway station, a train to Hospet, a tuk-tuk to my guesthouse, an overnight break and then a local bus from Hospet to Hampi!

hampi, unesco, heritage site, karnataka, india, travel, travel blog, wanderlust, solo travel, rocks, temples

And Hampi (this link can explain the history better than I can) proves to be a delicious and mind bending mix of surreal geological accidents and logic defying Flintstone style construction.

Of course with my meticulous research (not) I was well aware (not) that the day of my arrival coincided with the Makar Sankranti festival so the bus from Hospet was packed to the gills and Hampi was swarming with visitors.

hampi, karnataka, india, hampi rocks, rocks, travel, illustration, pen and wash, watercolor, watercolour, painting, drawing, sketch, sketchbook

hampi, karnataka, india, hampi rocks, rocks, travel, illustration, pen and wash, watercolor, watercolour, painting, drawing, sketch, sketchbook

Here are a couple of pen and wash sketches…impossible to capture the mad grandeur of the landscape but fun trying.

hampi, karnataka, india, UNESCO, heritage, rocks, temples, travel blog, wanderlust

The site is vast and I’m staying in a guest house (Funky Monkey – friendly, nice food and music, bathroom prone to flooding through the ceiling a couple of times a day but no drama), which is in a sort of shantytown in the centre.

I’ve taken to rising just after dawn (6:30ish) and going out for a wander in ever increasing circles then returning for breakfast a few hours later. That way I have the place virtually to myself and it’s fairly cool.

This morning I got up a bit earlier and since I was fully covered decided to visit the imposing Vishna temple next to the guest house. I left my shoes at the entrance and didn’t take any photos inside.

A friendly man showed me around, with the unspoken agreement that I would pay him at the end of the tour. He took me to the inner shrines, demonstrated a 700 year old camera obscura which projects an image of the huge tower (top left and bottom right in the photos above) onto an interior wall at sunrise, pointed out some stone carvings of Vishna in his various animal forms and some others which were frankly pornographic (unexpected, given the sacred nature of the site and the Hindu’s prudish attitude towards sex).

Just inside the entrance, to one side there was an elephant chained by his feet to the floor. His face and ears were painted with the red, yellow and white markings of the blessed. As I went in I noticed him pacing, as far as the chains would allow, in a rhythmic way reminiscent of a depressed person rocking. On my way out I saw two women offering him food, he knocked them to the ground with his enormous trunk. Shaken, they got to their feet with a laugh and left. Another woman sat to the side and spoke to elephant; I think she asked why he was so angry. Aptly he threw rubbish at her. I’d be well pissed off under similar circumstances but in the absence of industrial strength chain cutters and a PETA intervention order I left the sad scene.

hampi, sunrise, mountain, view, temple, wanderlust, solo travel, travel blog, banana plantation

On my first day in Hampi I’d noticed some people on the top of a huge crop of rocks but, tired and disoriented I wasn’t able to find the way up.

This morning, quite by accident I stumbled (not literally, I am quite sure footed for an old bird) upon the stone staircase around the back of the rocky mountain. I scaled it…admittedly not without misgivings, bouts of gentle vertigo and a few rest stops…

kathryn hockey artist illustrator

But the view! And the sense of calm…and achievement…and awe at the vast beauty of the landscape juxtaposed with the crumbling buildings. I’m so happy to share that view with the squirrels, birds and lizards.

hampi, climb, mountain, ruins, temples, rocks

Luckily I found an easier way down, although I did shuffle part of the way on my bum.

hampi, karnataka, india, sunrise, mountain, river

So I’m quite chuffed at this point, imagining the delicious breakfast I’m going to have when I get back to the guesthouse…when a cheeky monkey bounds over and robs me of the bag of bananas I’ve been carrying since I left the first temple. No way I’m arguing with him, ha!

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There are centuries worth of stone carvings at Hampi; some of them crude and some so skillfully intricate it boggles the mind. Obviously the surviving carvings exist in various states of dilapidation and most are fully accessible to examine at close range with eyes and fingers.

I saw many, many examples of the woman above, all unique. I love the way her arms are entwined with the stone archway so I decided to paint a version of her.

stone carvings, hampi, karnataka, india, ancient civilization, ruins

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. 

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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…

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…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).

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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 (6) – Jodhpur

jodhpur, blue, blue city, rajasthan, india, travel blog, scooter, indigo, fort

Jodhpur is huge compared to Jaisalmer but it feels much more relaxed; probably because most of its people seem pretty disinterested in tourists. It’s a relief after the near constant solicitations to ‘let me help you spend your money’. The kids are pretty keen to ask your name and tell you that their hobby is collecting foreign coins…hmmm.

jodhpur, rajasthan, india, travel blog, sunset

I went on a guided walk from the Moustache hostel (friendly staff, nice room, great common areas, lovely rooftop restaurant) to the blue part of the city yesterday afternoon, it was deliciously decrepit. 

ancient, communal, kitchen, jodhpur, market, rajasthan, india

We watched the sun set then headed back through the old market, some parts of which (the old communal kitchen above) outdate the 600 year old fort.

god of sex, hindu, fertility, jodhpur, rajasthan, india

Apparently these gods of sex can be invoked to improve fertility by placing appropriate fruit offerings in their orifices (an apple for the lady and a banana or cucumber for the man).

They’re conveniently situated next to a fruit and veg stall…I bought  bananas but I kept them to myself!

jamie oliver, jodhpur, market, rajasthan, india, chillies

I came across this man posing as a stall holder in the market today!

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Here’s a street sketch I made over a couple of sessions. I attracted much interest from stall holders and passers by alike; especially children making it a little tricky to concentrate at times!

jodhpur, fort, mehrangarh fort, rajasthan, india, travel blog, wanderlust

The steep hike up to the Mehrangarh Fort, which looms over the city is rewarded with stunning views. The huge and beautifully preserved monument boasts an excellent museum, a couple of temples and a garden. Well worth the entry fee (six quid).

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About half a kilometre’s gentle walk from the fort is the serene and beautiful cenotaph, Jaswant Thada – a gorgeous spot to while away the late afternoon.

jodhpur, old town, blue city, architecture, blue, sunbeam

The oldest part of Jodhpur is famous for its blue facades. It was originally inhabited by Brahmins who considered blue a sacred colour. Nowadays the number of indigo buildings is slowly diminishing as people opt to show their wealth and modernity by cladding their houses in tiles or painting them in different hues.

jodhpur, market, architecture, blue, detail

Artwork in India (5) – Jaisalmar Workaway

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I chose to do a Workaway at a hostel in Jaisalmar because I wanted to go on a desert safari and the hostel owner said he wanted some help to decorate the rooftop terrace (along with some basic IT tasks).

When I got here it was apparent that many people had already contributed to the roof terrace decoration…some in a lovely way, some in quite a haphazard way!

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So, my exclusive rights to the wall space scuppered I set about capturing the beautiful view (above) of the fort while planning my strategy for mural painting in limited areas amongst a hotch-potch of other images.

camel, stencil, cutting, drawing, craft knife

I decided on a stencil with the .most obvious theme for a desert safari hostel – the camel.

camel, stencil, cutting, drawing, cardboard

I found a craft knife and the lid of a photocopy paper box in the market by the fort and set about preparing my template.

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Having painted several camels, a bit of red shading and yellow highlighting  I added a border inspired by a Rajasthani folk art design.

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I did go on a camel safari, it was tremendous fun if a little hard on the thighs. Even though we didn’t venture very deep into the Thar desert the peace and vastness of the landscape were still impressive. We had chai on the dunes while watching the sunset, then ate dinner around a campfire before settling down to sleep under the stars. Gorgeous.

camel, camels, desert, dunes, safari, desert safari, Jaisalmar, wonbin safari hostel, rajasthan, India, travel, adventure, camping, sand, trek

While wandering around Jaisalmar old town I was struck by the number of Ganeshes painted on the houses.

jaisalmar, Ganesh, wall painting, elephant, elephants, god, hindu, marriage, rajasthan, india

Then someone told me that since Ganesh is the Hindu god that removes obstacles and blesses new starts the people get him painted on their houses every time there’s a wedding.  In fact the paintings serve as a kind of invitation since they contain the names, date and location of the union. Ah-ha!

I had a go at a Ganesh…

jaisalmar, Ganesh, watercolour, pen and wash, drawing, painting, illustration, elephant, elephants, god, hindu, rajasthan, india

Then I got invited to a wedding! I went up to the fort for a massage, my second in a week since hard beds, overnight travel and painting have taken their toll on my middleaged bones. There’s a team of sisters who offer Ayurvedic loveliness in their home but the house was very busy when I got there so I expected to be turned away. One of the sisters explained that they were preparing for her niece’s nuptials and I got my massage and an invitation to the part of the wedding ceremony which would take place two days later.

hindu, wedding, bride, saris, jaisalmer, rajasthan, india

And it was a delightfully colourful evening – the whole marriage ceremony takes place over several days and nights and costs the bride’s family an absolute fortune. There were saris of every hue, mountains of delicious food being cooked and consumed (the bride’s family aren’t allowed to eat though) and a cocophany of drums and firecrackers when the groom finally arrived at midnight. He strode moodily to the stage at the front of the main room at the ashram and sat on a sofa.

The bride, who was hidden in a back room for most of the evening then walked to the stage under a kind of awning. The groom appeared to ignore her completely for a good long while. I left the party at that point.

I saw the bride’s brother a couple of days later. He said his whole family were exhausted after the extensive marriage ceremony – the final part of which lasted through the night. They were also grieving the loss of the their sister / daughter / niece from the household but grateful that at least she still lived in Jaisalmer. He added that he had already started saving up for the eventual wedding of his eight year old daughter.

Jaisalmer has a frontier town feel – it’s close to the border with Pakistan and there were several days when there were fighter jets roaring overhead (Indian government posturing I was  told). It’s certainly the most ‘male’ place I have stayed in so far. There were a few women with jewelry and vegetable stalls in the market and a few women street cleaners but their presence was mainly domestic and behind closed doors.

There were no female staff at the hostel and while I was mostly treated with kindness and respect there were times when I had to robustly defend my boundaries around personal space. I did it with as much patience and good humour as I could muster.

There is definitely an advantage to sticking around in one place for a bit longer than is usual on the backpacker trail. Taking time to talk with local people and other travelers creates deeper connections and insights.

I met a splendid fellow from Spain who went to the wedding with me, then the following evening I joined him for dinner at the home of a delightful local couple who have a shop. They were all so sweet and generous and the food was the best I’ve had in India.

jaisalmar, rajasthan, fort, India, thar desert, travel blog, workaway, travel blog, travel solo, travel, workaway, jaisalmer fort, haveli, gadisar lake, workshop

To add to the excitement there was an election for the legislative assembly of Rajasthan on the 7th of December. The election takes place every five years and this one was eagerly anticipated because the people were generally bitterly disappointed by the broken promises of Modi and the right wing BJP who won in 2013.

The BJP is India’s largest political party in terms of representation in the national parliament.

Campaigning for the centre left Congress party (INC) which is associated with the Gandhi family was enthusiastically underway while I was still in Bikaner and in Pushkar there were reminders to vote spray painted on the lakeside ghats.

It took four days for the votes to be counted and when Congress was declared the winner on the 11th of December there were fireworks, drumming, chanting and cheering well into the night.

indian national congress, flag, inc, rajasthani, election, political, legislative assembly, india

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.

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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 (3) – Pushkar

Pushkar has been wonderful; a strange and delightful mix of the spiritual and the decadent with a bit of filth and hassle thrown in for good measure.

pushkar, India, camel, temple, travel blog

Don’t touch the flowers that are offered down by the ghats (sacred lakeside bathing areas)- you’ll get dragged into a lakeside blessing ceremony  and charged well for the honour.

fruit, vegetables, greengrocer, market, stall, pushkar, rajasthan, india, pen and wash, drawing, sketch, sketching, painting, watercolour, watercolor, travel, illustration, street painting, travel blog

I sat in the doorway with some kind young musicians while I sketched this little market stall. They insisted that I showed the greengrocer the painting afterwards. He loved it.

saris, devotees, bathing, ghat, lake, pushkar lake, pushkar, rajasthan, india, pen and wash, drawing, sketch, sketching, painting, watercolour, watercolor, travel, illustration, street painting, travel blog

Unknowingly I arrived in Pushkar during the most sacred week of the Hindu calendar, which coincided with the famous camel fair.

The streets were full of pilgrims from all over India and beyond. I met an Argentinian Hindu who was staying at the same hotel and he explained a bit about the bathing rituals and took me to a couple of temples.

Photography is strictly prohibited at the lakeside so I thought I’d sketch the scene instead.

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The photography ban didn’t stop me being asked to pose for a couple of pictures!

camel, pushkar, camel fair, camel decoration, pen and wash, watercolour, drawing, sketchbook, watercolor

In Udaipur I met a lovely young camel expert from New Zealand who spoke so passionately about the camel fair that I decided to visit. When I arrived in Pushkar I met up with her again and spent a very interesting hour or so meeting the camels. They’re surprisingly sweet and dignified.

Inspired, I drew the camel above, the circle is a design based on the ornaments the camels are dressed with.

camel, mural, pushkar, camel fair, wall painting, painting, decoration, decorative painting, acrylic paint, illustration, travel, india

I then painted this version on the hotel wall before I left.

pushkar, moustache competition, moustache, beard, facial hair, rajasthani

The annual moustache competition was a hilarious highlight of the camel fair – Rajasthanis are certainly blessed in the hair department!  

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.

Pre-Loved Fashion Drawings

fashion, high heels, handbag, leather, gloves, head over heels, bags of style, silky inside, mary's living and giving, save the children, charity, shop, designer, sketch, drawing, watercolour, watercolor, painting, illustration, charity, bermondsey, london, ethical, sustainable, reuse, recycle, donate, volunteerI recently moved back to London – a rather unexpected and initially unwanted development – but it’s actually turned out to be quite wonderful…

I was having a wander around my district the other day and saw a sign outside the Mary’s Living & Giving Shop in Bermondsey Street asking for volunteers. The Mary in the title is Mary Portas, ‘Queen of Shops’, and the 23 Living and Giving shops in London all sell donated new and pre-loved fashion in aid of Save The Children. So I signed up…what better way to contribute to a worthy cause, meet new people and hang out in a gorgeous place? Not to mention the beautiful pre-loved designer gear (no staff discounts!).

During my first shop shift I felt inspired to draw some of the delightful items on display so I signed them out in the ‘borrow book’ and took them home.

I started by making some sketches to test colours and layout, taking elements from the shop decoration (by Elno Art) to use as the border.

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I was pleased with the sketches but I wanted to develop them into more polished pieces which I could donate to the shop. I got the sketches enlarged by photocopy so that I could trace the layout onto lovely heavy watercolour paper without having to start the whole design process again from scratch.

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Once the pencil line work was complete I went over it with water resistant pens of various nib sizes

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Then with the pen outline finished I rubbed out the pencil marks and started adding layers of watercolour paint

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Obviously the shoe drawing is my favourite…the actual shoes are my size but those heels are really high and my knees are middle aged!

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Finally I got the completed pictures scanned…

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I will be so proud to have my drawings displayed in the shop and maybe even sell them – all proceeds to Save the Children.

Pre-loved fashion – sustainable, ethical and beautiful; reuse, recycle, donate!

Update: On 21st March 2018 my lovely friend Wendy came by the shop to buy ‘Head over Heels’! Thank you!

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Tapas Time

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There’ve been two public holidays in Spain this week; Wednesday the 6th and Friday 8th December to mark the Spanish constitution and the immaculate conception(!) respectively.

So to celebrate, Vejer went into ‘Pueblo Abierto’ (Open Village) mode, flinging back the doors of her monuments and putting on a Ruta de Tapas (tapas route). 

During the Ruta de Tapas 12 restaurants put up their best little dishes for sale at 3€ (including a drink) and hundreds of people try to taste them all within the 8 hour over 2 days time frame. There’s a tapas route map which you need to get stamped in every establishment you eat at – if you get the full set of stamps you can vote for your favourite dish and enter a competition to win a computer. Tasty and hectic, start early!

The Vejer Sketchers arranged a meeting on Saturday so I popped into town with the intention of sketching (and eating) food in tapas form.

First stop the market (below)…not strictly part of the official tapas route but hey ho, the only place open when I started sketching. I didn’t eat this one, the roe was pretty but not gastronomically appealing so I gave it back unsullied to the fish counter lady once the sketch was finished.

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Next stop, La Posta for some yummy spinach and ricotta pasta in a red onion sauce (below)

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Then on to the 4 Estaciones (4 Seasons) for some delicious beef with Japanese flavours in a crunchy filo pocket (below)

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Confession time: I ran out of steam and didn’t draw the last dish I ate…the establishment was struggling under the weight of the hoard by then so it took a long time to procure said tapas, which although delicious was not pretty!

 

Cover Design – ‘Green Tea’

My lovely and very talented friend, the actor, playwright, voice over artist and photographer Marcel Snyders recently asked me to design the cover for his play ‘Té Verde’ (‘Green Tea’ in English) which will soon be published in Spain.

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Té Verde is a funny and chilling tale dealing with strained family relationships as a mother waits impatiently to die while being attended by her two daughters and two volunteer carers in a hospice.

Having read the play I laughed out loud and immediately agreed to take the project on.

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I roughly sketched out my initial idea of an aerial view of two tea cups a number of times (above) until I’d found the version which ‘clicked’.

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The rough full size layout of the chosen design is shown above.

The closeness of the cups represents the relationship between the two green tea drinking characters in the play; also, the angle between the cup handles and the intersection of the saucers at the edge of the image is intended to create a sense of tension. 

Marcel approved the layout at this stage and I drew the design out more carefully on watercolour paper, first in pencil, then in waterproof pen before adding layers of watercolour paint (below).

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Marcel was keen on an eye catching combination of green and red for the cover; they’re complementary colours which makes them ‘pop’ dramatically when they appear next to each other; an effect that further raises the tension of the composition.

Finally I scanned the painting into Photoshop, added the text and some ‘splatter’ effects to reinforce the violence suggested by the ‘bloody’ background  (below and top).

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