India Summer ’22: Mango Season

Mangoes are like cricket: a national obsession, but with a very short season. And that season is now.

I thought I’d start by describing the experience of walking into a room full of ripening mangoes, but I’m lost for words. Because it’s not just a smell, it’s a full-body experience: the aroma thwacks you, it physically throws you back. But “hot, sweet, and engulfing” is the best I could come up with and it doesn’t start to conjure up the experience.

So here are sketches from our little family farm, in mango season, sans that aroma.

When it’s mango season, every day is harvest day. With nets attached to bamboo sticks, a group of 5 to 7 pickers approaches a tree. All the mangoes look green to me, but an expert eye can spot the start of a blush, however faint, and a slight dip in the flesh where stem meets fruit. And that means the fruit is ready to be picked. A tree takes only a few minutes, but I follow this group around from tree to tree and sketch. The mangoes are neatly arranged in plastic bins and the tempo in the background takes them back to the farmhouse to be sorted and graded.

It was hot. So hot, that I felt I would melt. The mangoes love this heat.
As I spent time following the pickers around and sketching, the whole scene felt so pattern-like: a hatching of dried brown leaves on the ground, and green leaves above, the pickers moving between the trees and the dappled light overlaying it all. That feeling inspired this sketch.

Once picked, crates of mangoes make their way back to the farm house where they are graded, sorted, and packed.

Mangoes come in all shapes and forms. Look at this collection of different varieties of them from nearby farms. (The orange one at the very bottom is an Alphonso, for comparison). And that very colorful meal is my breakfast, of chapatti, dal, yogurt, and mango, eaten under the trees.

Here are previous posts in this series of sketches. Next up are sketches from the village market.

Post #1: Back After a Three year Break

Post #2: Panjim Market

Post #3: Fontainhas

Post #4: More From Goa

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India Summer ’22: More from Goa

More bits from Goa: Sketches from different neighborhoods, mostly in Panjim: Sao Tome, Campal and Miramar. And of course, some food-related sketches and photos.

Day 2 sketching with Darpana and we wander the Sao Tome neighborhood of Panjim. I rarely have the patience for a detailed sketch of a grand building, but I love capturing small vignettes of the bits that catch my attention.

This first piece has a quick sketch of the facade of a home with pullouts of details that interested me: the bright colors, the gothic pillars, the cleverly designed teak shutters and the wood detailing on the balcony. Also, I now see I drew two plants I meant to find out the names of. They’re ixora and spurges, says my INaturalist app.

The page below is a gathering of sketches from wandering the neighborhood. It documents eating my first ros omlette and following it up later in the day with a pastel de nata and some dodol. It also has details from two building facades, sketched while sitting in front of the old post office.

And while we’re talking food, this is a sketch of a hole-in-the-wall thali place my parents love, Sharada Bar.

It’s that distinctive “hand on hip while eating” gesture that made me pull out my sketchbook in spite of the big thali that had arrived before me. See it in the photo below? Also, I’m eating yet another fish thali with a side of kalwa.

This big red vehicle that the lifeguards use on Miramar beach? I assumed it was a Jeep, but friends tell me it’s the Thar. I liked how the red looked against the orange flag and the vast expanse of the beach.

Evening time means it’s time for the kankonn, a ring-shaped bread baked fresh only in the evening specifically for dipping in your evening tea. Little kids who are teething are sometimes given one of these to chew on.

It’s dark by now and Panjim’s main church is all lit up, so I sketch it. Next time, I need to stand under a light source so I can see what I’m sketching!

This house is in the Campal neighborhood of Panjim, on a quiet street with a park in front of it. I sketched it for the plumeria tree and the bougainvillea in the front yard.

Can’t end a set of Goa sketches without these two little pages: on the left, a random bar in Goa with a Kingfisher Beer banner. And on the right, sketches while people-watching.

This might be the last Goa post, but it isn’t the end of my sketches from India. If you missed previous posts, they are here:

Post #1: Back After a Three year Break

Post #2: Panjim Market

Post #3: Fontainhas

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India Summer ’22: Fontainhas

The Fontainhas (and Sao Tome, my next post) neighborhoods of Panjim are a narrow-laned maze with beautiful houses. I sketched in these neighborhoods on two mornings with Darpana from USk Goa. Meeting up with urban sketchers on my trip was one of the highlights of my time there.

This is St. Sebastian’s chapel. History is all around you in India, and a chapel from the 1800s is just another living chapel at the end of a street. As I sat there, the priest in his cassock walked by (you can see him in front of the door) and two ladies selling fish and a streetsweeper past through.

I did a quick little sketch as this fishseller walked by. Bright sari, fish basket on head, she sells fish door to door. You haggle over a price and buy your portion, then she sits by your front door and preps the fish for you: Fish is descaled, deboned and cut up to your requirements. She’ll clean up shrimp too. But don’t let her take away the heads and shells: my mom says it isn’t an authentic shrimp curry if you don’t use broth made from those bits.

Food punctuates sketching, always. Here’s a picture of a cat. And also, Chanya Tonak and pao. And endless little cups of tea before our next sketch.

Of course, I had to sketch this guy reading the newspaper while we ate. Darpana took a video of a part of the process, and you can see it on my Instagram feed.

We moved on to a lovely spot on a quiet and clean street, and settled down to this sketch . The wooden window frames on this house don’t hold glass panes: that’s mother-of-pearl from abalone shells inlaid between the slats. It lets in a softened version of the harsh sun, keeping the inside of the home cool. The tiles are azuejos and the profusion of houseplants is something you see everywhere in Goa.

Someone on the top storey of that house took a photo of us sitting in the street. Isn’t it a gorgeous location?

And here is one more piece that celebrates Goa’s love for gardens and houseplants. One of the rare times I used my neocolor crayons, which literally melted in the heat.

This is post #3 in a series of posts of sketches from India. Missed the first two posts? They’re here:

Post #1: Back After a Three year Break

Post #2: Panjim Market

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India Summer ’22: Panjim Market

I haven’t been to a place until I an in the market. So here I am, back to the markets in Panjim. First, the fish market.

I stood right by Ramesh, in the blue shirt, at Panjim fish market. Each little pile of fish sold for 100 Rupees. Each space occupied by a seller has a number (in yellow circle) that ties to a permit. The permit for all these sellers you see is held by Crystal Madam, seen my sketch and in the photo on the right. Madam Crystal sipped a nimbu pani while keeping an eye on everyone selling in her spaces, reminding them to greet passersby a little more enthusiastically and holler about their fish a wee bit louder. But she didn’t mind my chatting with Ramesh and the other sellers as I sketched.

The fish market is crazy and chaotic with cats running underfoot, eating the fish too little to sell. By contrast, Panjim’s fruit market is modern, clean, and organized. Which made it easy to settle down to a long sketch.

I was offered a plastic stool like the one in the sketch to sit on and a crate for my art supplies.

Next, I went to the top floor of the market, to make photocopies of my sketch for some of the vendors, and I ended up staying and sketching Ayesha Ladies Tailor. Ayesha, in pink and parrot green at the sewing machine, does the main stitching while her three assistants attach a fall to a saree or finish up garments with handwork. All four of them work happily in a space that is 4 feet wide and less than 8 feet deep. These little shops have no air conditioning and it is hot in summer. Ayesha makes sure the fan points directly at the girls who work deepest in this little space and her three assistants banter happily as they work.  I stand just outside the little space and draw them.

Outside the market sit vendors with wicker baskets of produce. These are not the stall owners who stock a range of vegetables. These sellers either buy what they sell by the basket and resell it for a small profit or bring what grows on small family plots to sell. It’s a tough sell when you have only one item to sell and their earnings are meager. Grapes and green mangoes are on sale here, but most people just hurry past today.

I return to this market much later, towards the end of my trip, and sketch these mango sellers in colorful sarees. I think I was actually there just to be engulfed by the heady smell of a room full of mangoes ripening in the summer heat. I wish I could bottle the smell and bring it back with me!

This is post #2 in a series of posts of sketches from India. The first post in the series is here and there will be more to follow.

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India Summer ’22: Going Back After Three Years

I’m back from a three-week trip to India, my first trip back in over three years. And the gist of it? It was wonderful, it was HOT, and it was filled with family. Also, it was at the height of mango season.

Most trip sketchbooks start out with a sketch like this. I think its main purpose is to get me from a blank sketchbook to a not-blank one. This is at San Francisco Airport, before my long flight. When you spend so much time at the airport you start to notice some patterns like this, noted in bottom right sketch: passengers juggling two phones with two SIM cards, still making last calls from their US phone, while charging and setting up their India phone

I landed in Mumbai in the middle of the night and took a 3-hour ride in a taxicab to Pune, to see friends for the day. (If you’re from Pune and are wondering if I stopped for batatawada in the ghats, of course I did, at 4am)

This sketch is from my friend’s front porch. I’m trying to capture the lovely, cool shaded area and all the foliage around it.

A day later, I’m on a flight again, (A bit bummed I missed a USk Pune meetup this time) in the middle of the night, on my way to Goa. Which called for another airport sketch. But a people-filled one this time. One of the things I’ve noticed over my last couple of trips to India is how snazzy men’s haircuts have become.

Fancy haircuts. And my first mango.

This is a typical corner shop. A small dark shop that looks too tiny to hold much, but will surprise you. Snacks, eggs, milk, shampoo, bar soap. You might expect all of these. But also, plastic buckets, mops, hair ties, fountain pens, blotting paper, ink, and much more. You can’t walk in and pick up what you want here. You ask the shopkeeper, and pretty magically, he pulls it out of the dark recesses of the store.

In this sketch, I really enjoyed adding the little stuff that perhaps no one but me will enjoy: there’s a hint of the Amul girl, a barely-visible sign for Society Tea, and a Pepsi and Coke sign sitting right by each other.

Cornershop, gulmohar, and limbu-soda in a Kingfisher glass.

This last one is probably my only not-sketched-on-location sketch from the whole trip. I am testing a sketchbook by an Indian maker (more on that after I’ve used it a bit more) so I sketched it from a photo of my first thali, one I ate too quickly to even think of drawing.

If you’ve eaten a thali before but this one doesn’t look familiar, it’s because thali really just means “plate” and every regional lunch and dinner plate will be different.

This is post #1 in a series of posts of sketches from India. There will probably be a post everyday until I am done. If you don’t already, you can subscribe to this blog to receive posts directly to your email, so you never miss any of them.

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Join me in Drawing the Beauty Around You

I’m really excited to join artist Shilpa Agashe in a challenge next week. But before I talk about the challenge and ask if you will join in, if you don’t know this artist’s work, head over here right now, because you are in for a treat!

Next week, I’m joining Shilpa in a project she works on all year round. I’ll be drawing the flora and fauna I see around me. That could be as simple as sketching what’s growing in my backyard: the trees, the fruit, the flowers, the veggies… any of it. And when I post it online I’ll tag it with the hashtag #2022inbloom.

Here’s my kickoff image, from last week when I was in India. I’m back now, so my images and posts next week will be what I am seeing around me in San Jose, California. And when I post, I’ll perhaps share a little bit about this flowering tree, where I am and anything else I can think of that’s interesting.

These five-petalled blooms are from the tropical gulmohar tree, also known as Flame of the Forest. Most varieties have 4 orange-red petals and a differently colored fifth petal patterned in red, white, and yellow. The flower blooms through the summer, sometimes so densely that you can see no leaves, just a canopy of orange on a tree trunk.

I love the idea behind this challenge in so many ways: It promises to make me be more aware of my surroundings, to stop and notice and draw (or take a photo to draw from, that’s fine too). It’s also the sort of challenge I’d love to keep in my back pocket, to work at over the seasons, so I notice little changes as they happen.

If you’re not inspired to join in yet, here’s an image from Shilpa’s sketchbook.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

So draw what’s blooming around you, share it and tag it #2022inbloom.
I’ll post my sketches on Instagram through the week and here in a blogpost at the end of the week.

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Faces of Recovery: Alicia and Raman

“Faces of Recovery” is an ongoing project with members of Recovery Cafe, San Jose.  

Meet Alicia Prioste, who never gives up. She’s working towards a degree in child development.

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Raman taught a mindfulness class for a while and he now teaches what he found to be a healing practice for himself, and one he hopes helps cafe members: Tai-chi.

When I am sketching a session like this, I never know what’s coming next and what I will want to record. Two things help: Trusting my judgment on what I think is an idea or visual worth capturing. And, being ready to pivot and record the action as it happens, even if that means moving forward from what I am doing at the moment. I was sketching Raman and his students when he began a beautiful demonstration of a movement called “The Wave”, so I switched to recording the demo in words and in small gestural sketches.

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You can read every story recorded so far here. You can read more about and support the amazing work of Recovery Cafe San Jose here.

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Depth, Drama, and Mark-Making

I am just back from a three-week trip to India and will post sketches from my travels soon. But before that, here are two demo sketches from an online workshop I held this weekend that explored mark-making techniques. Chickens are just so much fun to sketch!

And here is the second piece we created, using a mix of watercolor, pen & ink, and water-soluble pencils. (plus a little gouache for those final highlights)

These one-off online workshops are always kinda fun: they’re about 2 hours long and are recorded so if you missed the live version you could always watch the recording and then share your work with me later for feedback. If you missed hearing about this one, it might be because you aren’t signed up for my newsletter where I announce them first? You can remedy that right now here: https://tinyurl.com/5n8nm5tw

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South Bay Views

I live as far south in Silicon Valley as you can go, in South San Jose. And if you drive further south from me, you are minutes away from a vast stretch of land, much of which is preserved open space, with trails crisscrossing it.

I sketch pretty regularly at Fortini Trail, especially when there are as many poppies as there are this year. I used gouache for the base colors on this one, a medium I’m not familiar with.

And these hills are right across the road you see in the distance in the first piece. They’re a part of Calero Park and are green at this time of the year. This sketch is in inks, crayon and watersoluble pencil.

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Marks of all Sorts

The kind of marks you make say so much. These wandering, wiggly marks take you on a bit of a roller coaster ride through the landscape.

While these vertical ones create a still scene.

This one mixes up short and long marks, vertical, horizontal and diagonal ones.

I love using the expressiveness of marks to create a sketch and I’m teaching this introductory online workshop on the power of mark-making on May 7th. Sign up here. (if it hasn’t filled up yet)

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