Needless to say, my favourite medium has been pen and ink. Almost five years ago, that whimsical morning led to a handmade paper and a fountain pen. And I have been trying to experiment with various styles- few successfully and others not. One of the first was this hatching and cross hatching rendered still life study. I didn’t do it from real life but from a photo reference in a book that I was referring at that point to learn the basics of drawing. Clearly, I have a long way to go.
A couple of years gone by and I started attending an illustration course during which I again gravitated towards pen and ink. I started looking up reference images and came across an artist’s work that I thought I could copy and learn the basics from. And I did learn a lot about finer detailing by copying her style and her work.
This drawing of a boat was done on one of the days when I was over stressed with work and an upcoming conference and pretty much sleep deprived. I woke up few hours earlier than my usual time and ended up drawing this. Lines, hatching, crosshatching and scribbles…. I experimented pretty much everything in this piece.
After lines and scribbles, the obvious one to try was dots and that led to stippling. I started the weaver bird with lines and finished it with dots. Weaver bird because they take me back to my childhood. At my grandparents’ house, there were enough of them building nests and breeding in the garden. Surprisingly I never thought of drawing anything then despite the variety of birds visiting the house but now – 20 years later I want to ink all of them.
Hoping to go back to pen and ink for more and more drawings and exploring more styles than just stippling.
“Please stand in the queue here for your turn to take a picture with the CAPE OF GOOD HOPE board”, said Marcon. I was thrilled to know that we have reached the southernmost point of the African continent… Until our turn came and the board came into view.
Most southwestern point??? There has to be a mistake. Isn’t this supposed to be the southern most point? I gave a confused look to Marcon and before I could ask, he smiled and said the southernmost point of the dark continent is about three hours drive from here. And where would that be? Cape L’Agulhas! Where on earth is this? Why did I not know this earlier?
Marcon clarified later most people have this assumption that Cape of Good Hope is the southern most point but it’s just a popular place because it lies within Cape Town limits. Tourists flock this town and Cape Point is a half day tour. This Cape was first named as Cape of storms because ships sailing all across the world were never able to dock due to severe damages suffered in storms. But because it opened up the pathway from the Western Hemisphere to the eastern world for trade, it was renamed the Cape of Good Hope.
At this point I had decided we have to go to this ‘Cape whatever’ that marks the tip of the continent. So couple of days later when we head out towards Mossel Bay on the Garden Route we took the 80 kms diversion to go see this place. Overlooked by a typical lighthouse, this unassuming place was very significant in terms of geography of the continent.
The Indian ocean and the Atlantic ocean meet here. The warm Agulhas current for the Indian Ocean clashes with the cold current from the west resulting in strong winds and storms. Historically known as the Cape of Needles, it has been known to have sunk big ships in the early days due to the weather conditions and the rocky outcrops.
With only a bunch of tourists, and may be a few locals idling around on rocks, there was no queue here for a photograph with the plaque. One would probably see more sea gulls than people along the coastline of the town. A quaint little town, L’Agulhas, serving as it’s approach, the cape continues to maintain its importance in a quiet and a sombre way.
Elephants are known for their intelligence, their comfortable gait and their lovely tusks. There is one unusual elephant image that caught my eye. One with the tusks so long and curved that it crossed in front. And that made for a very good reference image for a 13+ hours stippling work.
Done on A4 size bristol 180gsm sheet with rotring 0.1mm isograph and 0.03mm copic multiliner pen.
The link between mammals and birds are the only flying mammals, Bats. Not the usual choice for a subject to sketch but the combination of the black sketchbook and a crazy friend doing PhD on bat evolution helped in choosing this subject.
I realised there is no dearth of things to draw or write about. It’s the motivation that fails us at keeping up with the new year resolutions until they become habits. I have finished more pieces in the last four months than I have done in the last two years dominated by work and travel. One of the travel destinations was Rajasthan and my first stop was Ranthambore national park. Known for its tigers, we witnessed one lying on the tracks, lazing on a warm October morning. This adorable image of an otherwise ferocious predator stuck to my mind.
I started working on it early in the evening while the sun was still around. As it got darker, the distant rumbling skies threatened to rain. The unpredictable summer evening showers always lead to power issues in the jungle. The pitter patter on the roof eventually started and I prayed desperately to any and every electricity god not to throw us into darkness now. As the hours passed by, my sleepy state crawled into my consciousness nudging it to call it a day and I kept delaying it. I was almost done with this piece and finishing touches were due. As I wrapped up this sketch, I could hear the tiger roar in the distance in the dead of the night.
I haven’t seen very many owls considering they dwell in the dark. In the last two years, I have probably seen them a total of four times. The love of birds also extends to these night dwellers and seeing them is a rarity. This happens to be a juvenile Spot-bellied Eagle Owl (Forest Eagle Owl) sitting in a heavily shaded tree in the late afternoon waiting for the sun to set before it starts taking plunges into the dark.
Anybody who has ever had to stare at a blank sketchbook wondering how and what to start it with, knows what I am talking about. I was visiting a friend in another city and we decided to go to the art store. Needless to stay, I was broke by the time I left the store.
The recently acquired sketchbook was left untouched as I sat for months dissatisfied with all the proposed beginnings. And one fine day, a picture of this gentle giant heading straight on, gave me the push I needed. Though I messed up this piece using a combination of different nibs with varying thickness, I reached this satisfactory result.
Ten days ago, the world was informed of the sad loss of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the wild. The lure of the horn to the poachers has wiped out this species from the wild. The story isn’t very different for the rhinocerous species living in Asia. The greater Indian rhino once spread across the northern half of the Indian subcontinent is now restricted only to the northeastern parts. A trip to the Kaziranga national park in Assam got me up close to these giant herbivores. Thanks to sport hunting, this species was near extinction. The population bounced back eventually, until poachers came into the picture and the numbers dwindled again.
The one horned rhinos are still vulnerable but hopefully they wouldn’t face the same fate as their distant relatives in the African continent.
For the sights one craves… Equipped with a pen, I drew as if the bird will come alive out of the paper. The great hornbill is one of the birds that I have always wanted to see and a trip to the northeast part of India around the hornbill festival reinforced that desire. Success stories from the conservation world related to hornbills had been the highlight of the conference I attended at Nagaland. But I didn’t see any of these majestic birds.
I have been told that one gets to see the great Indian hornbill in parts of southern India also. I hope to see this bird in the wild soon.