I wanted to try to produce a painting from one of my travel sketches, to see what I could do, long after the event.
I chose this very simple and atmospheric landscape I sketched at the Pakke Jungle Camp in Arunachal Pradesh, where we stayed for three nights.
It was sketched from up in a tree house outlook point, jutting over the valley below. We were being eaten by insects, so couldn’t stay more than a few minutes. That was two years ago.
I thought the vertical format was good, so bought a very narrow canvas and crammed it all in. I meant this to be the acrylic under painting, but I don’t think I can improve on it, so will leave it as it is. Some of the mid -distance yellow looks a bit fierce, so I may tone that down after I have looked at it for a while.
I added a great hornbill in the dead tree as we saw them every day and I love them.
A very good friend who shares our love of India has a big birthday shortly. I painted her this card, which is loosely based on a photograph I took at Ranakpur Jain temple in Rajasthan several years ago. Getting the feel of heat and brightness is always difficult.
I have always had a soft spot for camels. No animal makes you feel quite so unimportant. I always feel that they are the one domesticated animal which one day will say “We’re just not going to do this any more”. These were the ones we rode into the Thar desert in Rajasthan to view the sunset over the dunes. Along with 50,000 other tourists. The sunset was not good, but the camels were worth it.
I have done many paintings based on photographs, but on the whole I am not pleased with them. This one is an exception, because it is actually based on a collage of several photos. We were wedged into a crowd to watch a temple ceremony in Kerela in late 2003, and there was no way I could draw. The camera could only pick out bits and pieces, which I used to try to reassemble the scene many days later. I was pleased with the result as it did give a feel for what the event was like.
Just three more photos from our visit to North East India last April. These are from Calcutta, or Kolkata, however you want to write it. I do like it as a city, but it can be challenging by its sheer size and contrasts.
This was taken in the district where they build the extraordinary dried clay sculptures of goddesses and gods, for submersion in the Hoogly River. This artist was painting exquisite cobras. I assume they were just air dried clay as well, as I could see no kilns. The quality is excellent. Most figures were life sized or larger.
These figures are dry and ready for painting and dressing. I thought they were of Durga, but I also thought she always rode on a lion or tiger, so I may be wrong. The small one on the right in the moulded sari is not typical. Most of them are modelled nude and then dressed in real silks after painting.
They are spectacular when complete, and will eventually end up in the river, and the whole cycle of digging clay from the river and returning the gods runs again. Essentially Hindu.
This is an acrylic ink painting I made of the Keralan Theyam dancers, made back home and based on photographs I took. Whilst I quite like it, it lacks the vitality of the scribbled sketches done on the spot. Like many people, I often find an artists preliminary sketches far more rewarding than their completed paintings.
These two sketchbook entries were at an extraordinary Theyam festival near Tellicherry in North Kerala in December 2006. A group of dancers perform at a local temple (which are generally open air in balmy Kerala) They dance for up to three days… The one in the very top left sketch is sitting on a huge bed of roasting wood embers. His skirt is fresh bamboo strips which must give enough protection to survive. He had to be pulled off the fire by helpers as he is nearly unconscious. Some costumes are nearly 20ft high, carried on a dancers shoulders. Crashing drums, blaring shaums and bomb like fireworks going off all the time. Makes Christmas carol services seem a bit tame.
The pictures were scribbled in my sketchbook and then coloured crouching behind a wall. Atmosphere very friendly and party like..