Thursday, 19 June 2014

Sketches from Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia

Sketches from 
Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia

In April's The Kindness of Strangers post I mentioned drawing two children in their hut on the Andaman Islands. Their parents shared their home with me in a storm and I thought I had forgotten their names until I sorted through old travel journals and sketchpads recently. Here are Nisha, Manooj, and their elephants!

Now that my editing days are over for a while and I take my Ghostwriting freelance, I'm looking forward to having time to sketch and paint again. The first task is to pull together the chapters of my children's book, The Rice Boy, ready for illustration, and start work on another, The Giant's Umbrella, for a publishing house in Bulgaria this summer. 

I've been looking back at sketches I made when I was teaching English in Bangladesh, where The Rice Boy is set, and found a great memory from my time there. One afternoon, after school, I was sat under a tree, painting. When I was finished, I looked behind me to discover that over the course of the painting I had attracted quite a curious crowd.  

In Ethiopia I spent a whole month drawing people on buses and in places where language failed and a camera often gave the wrong impression. Drawing became a form of communication. I split my sketchpad between charcoal portraits I asked people to sit for, and ink pen sketches for quickly capturing moments and observations. Sometimes a portrait would take five minutes and sometimes it would last the duration of a five hour bumpy bus ride to wherever we were travelling to. These drawings were never perfect, and rarely finished, but they brought people together to share in a moment of mutual curiosity in a way I'll never forget.

Some moments could only be captured in hindsight, in words or sketch. In the Lower Oo Valley, for example, watching a Hamer tribesman leap stark naked over a line of bulls at sunset in a coming of age ceremony.

Whilst his whole family and tribe (and those of us lucky enough to be invited) watched.

Or chewing on the local legal high, chat, a leaf sold in huge bags, waiting for it's effects to kick in.

But mostly these sketches captured fragments of daily life. 

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