Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: on Instagram at @stephanieabower & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thinking back to India

Fatehpur Sikri, Near Agra India November 2011, Winner of the 2012 KRob competition for Best Travel Sketch
Floating marigolds, hotel in Jaipur
Quick scenes out the window of the very bumpy car ride in Rajasthan.
Sunrise over the Ganga from the guest house rooftop at breakfast.
Ghats in Varanasi, siting next to young Laltu (in sketch) who was selling flowers.

           As I get ready to embark on another travel adventure, I'm thinking back to what started it all:  a trip to India and Nepal in October/November 2011 with my friend Nancy Haft.  Nancy was going to see Buddhist sights in northern India and into Nepal and realized she also wanted to see things like the Taj Mahal (pronounced Meh-hel in India), so she asked me to come along.  We spent months planning every detail of the trip.  

Then, for over three weeks, we toured Northern India and Kathmandu, Nepal--it was an adventure of a lifetime... Delhi, Allahabad (where my parents lived right before I was born), Varanasi (the holiest city in India), Kathmandu, then Rajasthan to Udaipur, Jodhpur, the Pushkar Camel Fair (now, that was wild...ask me sometime about 5-legged cows), to Jaipur, then ending up at Agra to see the breathtakingly beautiful Taj Mahal.  As an architect, I really expected the Taj to be a Disneyland sort of experience, but in reality, it is utterly sublime. It floats, and I think it's because of the quality of the marble itself--translucent so light passes through it, polished so it is reflective, but the magic is in all the quartz peppered throughout the stone which refracts the light in all directions, making the entire beautifully proportioned  building look ethereal and other-worldly.

Sketching in India is particularly challenging, as I expected it would be.  As soon as people see you open a sketchbook, they come running--literally running--to watch.  Sometimes this would be a crowd of only 5 or 6, and in other places, it grew to be 20 or so.  This made it somewhat hard to take the time to pull out paints and work, so often I resorted to only pencil sketches which were fast.  People were curious, often sitting cheek to cheek, poking my pencil, lifting the corner of the sketchbook pages to try and get a peek.  I got used to it after a while.  The top sketch done at Fatehpur Sikri outside of Agra was the exception, as we found a place up high with no onlookers, and I was able to sit and sketch for a good 45 minutes. That sketch is the one that was awarded the 2012 KRob for best travel sketch (the first time this category has been awarded).

As I look back at these sketches--and many more, as I filled two Moleskine sketch books--I can feel the heat of the sun, hear the din of scooter horns and birds and crowds of people, remember the vivid colors and interesting things at every turn...I'd go back to India or Nepal in a heartbeat.

To get a better look at the sketches, just click on the image.

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