Friday, 28 February 2014

Kerala Trip - Part 3

Thankfully the entire week did not involve camp-fire cooking and instant noodles. Since we weren't too far from a small village we started walking the short distance mainly for meals. The closest place for tea and breakfast was Pushpa Chechi's hut. We were there before the idlis were ready and mostly amused ourselves each day watching a mother hen and her brood clucking about busily. Some of those chicks were really feather-brained! If they had disappeared a family of goats entertained us with two frisky young ones and a bunch of beligerent billies.
Sleeping in the outdoors we were waking up pretty early and we were starving by seven. Idlis got ready around 8 and we were all there, ready and waiting each day to gobble them up. Workers from the fields and quarries near-by would steadily come in ones and twos and it was a busy place. Idlis were served with a delicious idli-podi and a watery coconut chutney.

A short walk from the tea shop - probably a kilometer from the farm in total - was the chuliyar dam. This became our favourite sunset hang-out spot once we discovered it on the second day. You could see only the edge of the waterbody if you sat on the doorstep of Pushpa Chechi's hut but if you walked to the dam and went down to the water it was quite a large serene expanse of fresh-water with a lot of birds. Some villagers would fish in coracles in the evening and some people would come to bathe and wash their clothes. This sketch done now is the low water line. All this and the rock I sat on would be under water in the monsoon.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Kerala Trip - Part 2

We reached Palakkad Junction before 5 am and it was still dark outside. The auto rikshaws in the town are large and roomy which was a good thing as Tarun was already waiting for us. The 3 of us with all our luggage, squeezed into one. We were off for the municipal bus stand to catch the first bus to Kollengode which left at, and it hadn't arrived yet when we got there. Ever so gradually the sky filled with light. I managed to dash off this sketch as the bus pulled in. I'm sure the place would have been far more bustling and crowded in another hour but by 6.15 we were off.
Palakkad to Kollengode is only 30 km, but it took an hour. Mainly because the bus stops for every man, woman, child, goat and chicken standing on the side of the road. At Kollengode we bundled ourselves back into an auto and set off towards the Chuliyar dam armed with a long and complicated set of sms directions. Our destination was Suman's farm.

The road to Suman's farm was deserted at 7.30 in the morning. Already it was getting hot and in peak dry season the landscape was golden brown. On the left was the farm - our base for the week and on the right some dense undergrowth full of peacocks that were heard a LOT but rarely seen, and beyond that, a stone quarry. If you continued further down this road you eventually leave the hamlet of Mechira behind and reach the hills. We hoped to camp there but permissions needed to be sorted out and eventually we sadly resigned to staying on the farm instead of camping in the wilderness.
The farm was quite a wilderness too. In our enthusiasm to do everything camping style we prepared our lunch outdoors. Parvez built a nifty little brick stove and everyone set about pealing and chopping vegetables.
There were now nine of us and in the mid-day heat preparing a meal for nine out in the open is a very hot and sweaty affair.

The others who had come by car had carted many large vessels and buckets along. They had bought vegetables and provisions already. In the blazing heat we ate instant maggi noodles with veggies thrown in. Back in Madras I never buy maggi. I scoff at it . It's for people who don't know how to cook. I cook real food... etc. But after the long journey, hungry and tired,  sitting out there with friends on a shared adventure, and thanks to a generous daub of lime pickle it was a delicious meal. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Kerala Trip - Part 1

Saturday evening. We are packed and all set for a much awaited camping trip. John and I will be joining a bunch of close friends in heartland Kerala - away from the big crowded cities and all the creature comforts that we get unnecessarily used to. The idea is to try and rough it out as much as we can - possibly camp away from human habitation, electricity and a host of other things we take for granted. We charged our phones and cameras, disabled data and packed with great care crossing off everything on our lists.

3 sets of clothing in total - hand washing the ones on your back each time you bathe. Basic medical and toilet kit. All kinds of protection from the sun and bug bites. Some handy survival tools and camping gear. We bought a 3 person tent specially for the trip and  when all the packing was done, we were quite proud to find that everything for 2 people fit into one big rucksack and 2 knapsacks. Everything except the groundsheets, that is.
I love my sleep dearly, and no matter how much I'm prepared to rough it out, I need a good night's rest to be functional the next day. While browsing online for the tent, we found that the sites kept suggesting "ground sheets" to us. Firm foam sheets that you lay on the floor below your sleeping bag to cushion you from the rough terrain. These were quite expensive, but their specs were not so high end. And I decided I had to have it. So the evening we were to leave we went hunting in Royapettah, in the narrow lanes full of car upholstery shops.
We found exactly what we needed at a tenth of the price and ended up buying 2 extra sheets for friends that we had to cart with us.

Rolled up, the ground sheets were quite light but very voluminous. Thankfully we had upper-berths on the train and we bridged them between our berths. Hats and shoes went on top of that and with all the luggage stowed away I began sketching on the journey. I had a brand new sketchbook for this week-long adventure and was determined to sketch right from the start and keep it loose and quick. We would be reaching Palakkad Junction at 4.45 am the next morning so after a quick sketch I called it a night. 

Coming up in the next post - The next day and all its sketches!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lots of CWA action!

2014 has started out with lots of sketching action and oppurtunity for me. Most of it is thanks to the CWA. A wonderful group that I am a part of that makes sure that no matter what happens there's a reason to sketch outdoors each sunday. Soon after I was back from Goa, our group displayed our sketches during the Mylapore fest and next to our stall was a busy street full of banana vendors. Below you see the general crowd and mayhem of Art Street where we camped with our artwork, making live portraits and sketches.
More recently, we took a day trip to Senji which was hot, tiring but totally worth it. The old fort and the ruins have tons of sketchworthy subjects to offer. My first painting is of Rajagiri or King's Fort. I tried to do a watercolour directly without doing outlines in pen. Something I'm very afraid of and in the end I succumbed and added a bit of ink work for definition . But at least its a start. At least I did the brushwork first.
And this one below is an attempt at a panoramic capture of Senji. I climbed up Rajagiri (my first painting) but only a fifth of the way and already the view was so... Epic... as a friend put it, that I gave up on the climb and decided to record instead.
Those monkeys crept into the frame. Look adorable. Most annoying and when they single you out (one female did) it can be quite terrifying.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Houses of Goa

Towards the end of my week in Goa, I visited this place in the sketch above. Known as Houses of Goa it is a 3 storey museum of ...well.... houses, in Goa. Some of the very wealthy mansions as well as the typical village houses are documented through measure drawings and photographs and presented with a lot of detailed and descriptive writing about the lifestyle. I was also happy to see sketches and paintings of the houses done more recently added in as part of the collection on view.

Apart from plans and models, the collection also includes sign boards, architectural detail elements,  ornamental pieces and all kinds of household articles that are a reminder of a past lifestyle. Goan architecture is heavily portugese influenced and this is evident in the smallest of details.
 I tried to capture some of them, the ones that caught my eye the most. After wandering slowly through the 3 floors I came back out and sketched the building when a tall gentleman passing by on the road came up to me and asked if I wouldn't mind if he watched while I sketch. I said I wouldn't and he stood behind me for some time. It was only as he left and entered his house next door that I realised it was Gerard DaCunha, the architect of the Museum!

Houses of Goa is an island surrounded by road and on one side, Gerard's house faces the museum. On the other is Gerard's office - his architectural practice. The office also houses the official Mario Miranda Gallery. So after the sketching was over that's where I went next. I'm a huge fan of Miranda's work and was so absorbed in studying his sketches that I didnt produce any of my own in the gallery.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Approaching the Koothambalam

I chanced upon the Koothambalam while walking through Kalakshetra campus from the other side. Approaching from the office and going past the newly built lotus pond area I followed a group of dance students as they walked purposefully towards their practice cottages. So as not to disturb them while they rehearse, I turned away and was suddenly stopped in my tracks by this scene. The majestic structure loomed out from amidst the trees. I had approached it from the back.
With my usual fascination for performance spaces I began sketching, standing up. The Koothambalam is undergoing extensive renovation and the main entrance area is quite un-approachable at the moment. They are planning to air-condition the space and the inside of the  auditorium was covered in scaffolding.

As I sketched I thought of groups and repertories with their own performance spaces. How important it is. As vital as the work itself. I thought of the koothambalam as an inspiration for the young students who would work towards performing there and then, as I stood, in the shadow of the old trees, sketching from "behind the scenes" , I thought of a weekend, a few years ago when we had staged two plays inside the same space. I remembered carrying the set through those large doors and the frenetic activity ahead of the shows. Its funny how the sketch turned into such a nostalgic experience.