Stephanie Bower

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Five Years Ago, Today...

This week, I've been posting photos on Facebook of a trip I took with my friend Nancy to India exactly five years ago. I spent November 14, my son's birthday, getting up early to see the sunrise over the utterly exquisite Taj was these days, this trip, only five years ago, that changed my life in so many ways.

Being an architect, I admit I was expecting the Taj to be just another famous building, but boy, was I wrong. It's really a complex of buildings, and you enter the main part of the complex through a small, dark gate house through a big arch that suddenly frames the view of the Taj itself. It is literally breath-taking, and both Nancy and I had tears in our eyes. Something about that building is other-worldly...the proportions, the white marble that refracts/reflects and lets light pass through it, the many factors make this truly a wonder of the world.

Sketching is not allowed in the Taj complex, and our bags were checked for pencils or pens. So I had to do these sketches from outside the building area...the  sketch above was done in the HOT HOT HOT midday heat from a terrace at the Agra Fort, up the river.  It had to be really quick before I melted!!

And this sketch was done at the end of the day, from across the Yamuna River, looking at the backside. Those tiny marks atop the base platform are people...the building is HUGE. 

I talk about making this drawing in my Craftsy class, as it was my lesson on how important it is to measure proportions.  About 5-10 minutes into this sketch, I literally started to panic as it dawned on my I was finally sketching THE Taj Mahal!!!!!!  I had to stop, take a deep breath, and make sure I carefully measured the proportions...can you imagine the Taj with the proportions off??

This trip was a life-changing event for me.  I was able to use a generous gift from a dear friend to pay for the trip, and I went with the intent of getting back to sketching, something I hadn't done for 25 years. I filled two large Moleskine sketchbooks.  

Once I got home, another sketcher mentioned the KRob competition--I had never heard of it somehow, but it is an architectural delineation competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Dallas chapter--and it is the longest running global competition of its kind. I took a leap of faith and entered this sketch, done November 15, near Agra at the Fatehpur Sikri complex...and it WON for Best Professional Travel Sketch!!!!  Shocked and amazed, it was that win that has launched so many wonderful sketching adventures and opportunities.  

Looking back at these sketches, I realized how much I've improved since this trip!! At a time in life when others are thinking about retiring, I have been picking up speed and finally pursuing what I love, sketching and teaching. I am humbled and so very grateful. What an AMAZING five years it's been!!!!!


  1. And how lucky we are that you started this journey. I was looking at the sketch and thinking about how much your work has changed in five years. So much looser and more confident, less academic in a way, and yet still accurate. With lots more personality, I would say. It's a great journey to witness.

    1. A belated THANK YOU to you, Shari Blaukopf! This means so much coming from you, my sketching and painting hero! And you are right, it is such a good feeling to see improvement over the past five years...thank you so much for this wonderful, inspiring comment...