Looking back. Looking forward.

Another year of sketching and blogging. Of symposiums, workshops, and of illustrating.

I’ve drawn since I was a kid, but drawing got relegated to doodling in the margins of my notebooks until a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2009. It’s interesting to look back and see how different my sketches looked then. It took a place as magical as Oaxaca to make me want to go back to drawing. The color, the marketplaces, the pageants that pass through the cobbled streets daily…

Pages from my Oaxaca Moleskine, 2009. Felt-tipped pen and colored pencil.

It’s been a fun 7 years of adventures with my sketchbooks: Things really got exciting after I discovered  Urban Sketchers  and it’s never been the same since. At Symposiums in Barcelona, Brazil, Singapore and Manchester, and online all year round, I’ve been inspired by, shared ideas with and asked questions of this super-generous and sharing community. What started out as kindred spirits that share a common interest now feels like a great big family.sketchers

There’s projects I meant to work on in 2016 that I didn’t get to. Like putting together a book of my sketches from India. I have 300-ish sketches from all my trips, which makes for an overwhelming project. But maybe it will happen in 2017? (Did I mention I’m in India just now which only means more sketches to add to the project?)


And then there was this other book I wanted to illustrate for a dear friend but just couldn’t commit the time for. This one I’m sad I couldn’t fit in, (my initial explorations for the illustrations and characters is below) but I’m hoping she found a fabulous illustrator and the book will be out soon.


But for all the ones that got away, some things I never thought I’d do, I did this year.

Like a whole month of #inktober! I’ve tried doing it before and never got beyond day 3 or 4. A whole month was tough.But I learnt a lot (and wrote about it here). This below is a snapshot from my instagram account (I’m @suhitasketch) in the middle of October.

This year, I received  a generous grant to work on a project documenting vintage signs around the city of San Jose. Through urban sketches, of course. Many thanks to the Knight Foundation and History San Jose. You’ll see me documenting those sketches and the bits of history I can dig up on vintagesignsanjose.com.


And, I finished work on a project: I started working on this drawing and coloring book based on Indian Arts and Crafts years ago (with my sister, a history buff who wrote this book on Indian Miniature Painting) and only finished it this year. It will be out in print in early 2017, and I’ll share more from it then. For now, here’s a sneak peek of some behind-the-scenes shots of me working on the spreads.

This blog has been a big part of my sketching journey, and continues to be. To write and share what I learn not only connects me to you, but also helps me articulate and think about what I do. Your candid feedback and comments are so welcome and very useful.

And my plans for 2017? To draw more. Paint more. Teach more. And who knows what else.

For a wonderful 2016, thank you. I will take a break from blogging for a good part of January and be back towards the end of the month.

Here’s to a fabulous 2017. May your year be filled with exciting and creative adventures.


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Sketching with (almost) nothing

I pulled out my kit at home to sketch when my friend and fellow sketcher Uma visited. And (I’m blaming it on the wine, see empty glass on left?) then I forgot to put it back in my bag.

So the next morning I headed out for my day with my sketchkit still on my work table at home. All I had in my bag is one tan paper sketchbook and nothing else: no pencil, no pen, nothing. That meant drawing with whatever I found where I went. Maybe that’s a good thing, because I was forced to use stuff I would normally never use.

Like a ballpoint pen for this little sketch. Not that a ballpoint isn’t a valid sketching tool, ( Don’t believe me? Check out Richard Johnson‘s incredible work, all in ballpoint pen) it’s just one I don’t usually think of using.ballpoint_woman.jpg

Next up was the hairdresser and all they had on hand was a mechanical pencil. I never use mechanical pencils: I find the squared off point makes too neat and rigid a line for my liking. But since I didn’t have a choice I worked with it, on these quick sketches below.

And I kinda like how they turned out. Just goes to show that I should switch up my toolkit once in a while. And experiment more.

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Winter Concerts

End of year is also concert season for the kids. These first sketches are from a recital that my daughter’s violin teacher holds every holiday season. It was a small, intimate setting, so I didn’t pull out my watercolors. A pen, a rainbow pencil and my small sketchbook were all I had with me.
k_concert4But these next few sketches are from the big school recital where the stage held atleast 150 students at any point.  I had front-row seats because I was (for once!) early. So I pulled out my watercolors and sketched. Not my usual ink, this one is watersoluble. And when you spill your little container of water across the page ( like I did in sketch #3), it makes a big mess.


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End of the Year stuff

It’s that time of the year again. Time to go back to Petroglyph in Willow Glen. The kids look forward to going back every year to paint a new piece of pottery that they bring home just in time for Christmas. What gets them every time is how shiny and bright their pieces look after they’ve been fired. They paint. I sketch. The studio is usually super-busy at this time of the year.
Above, before I added color. Below, after.


One more sketch from the paint session. These are both done without much thinking and planning and in little fits and starts between helping my kids with their pieces. Below are my kids in the foreground and a couple dressed for the holidays at the table behind them.

One more holiday-ish sketch. Finger painting. From a very chaotic White Elephant party.

I’m currently using (and loving) the Stillman and Birn softcover books. These are the Beta (blue cover, white paper) and the Delta ( green cover, cream paper) both of which have a nice heavy paper. The best prices I’ve found are at Blick. At 8×10 inches the size is big enough for my loose line and the softcovers mean I carry around a little less weight in my bag (and they’re easier on my wrists when I stand and sketch).

As the year draws to a close, I continue to sketch vintage signs around my city. Last week I did a post about Mel Cotton’s, yet another store that is shutting down for good.


And right by it is an old flowers shop from the 1920, Hill’s Flowers. Finding and sketching signs around the city is the fun and easy part. Finding the stories and history behind them, not so simple. So if you know of a longtime resident of San Jose, someone who might know more about the historic businesses in the city, point them in the direction of Vintage Signs of San Jose, I’d love to hear from them.

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Nutcracker in the Dark

Last weekend I went to my very first Nutcracker performance. Sketching anything moving is challenging. Add in the fact that it is so dark you can’t really tell what colored pencil you’re using and can barely see your pen lines on paper. And you get little scratchy figures that you hope capture the spirit of a really grand performance.






I wish I’d captured the 52-piece orchestra in action, but they were in the pit below. Next time, I’d love to sketch them and  the performers backstage as they prepare for the show.


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Plugging On

A recent post from John Muir Laws titled The Enemy of the Good: moving beyond perfectionism has been an open tab in my browser for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve re-read it a few times. It couldn’t be more well timed. It’s been a crazy few weeks and promises to get crazier. And as I work through the last few commissions of the year and ship them out in time for the holidays, sketching takes a back seat.

Looking back at last week, there’s not much of note that got sketched. Still, I did put pen to paper. So here is last week, in sketches.

Last week’s figure drawing session.

And a few little sketches of my son. Yes, he did need a haircut. And he got one. Well, a trim, anyways.

I like pen and paper better than digital media. And conversation is a lot nicer than smartphone and screens.

Some days days, I’m too tired to think of something to draw, but I still miss putting pen to paper. This spread of random figures from a magazine belonged to a day like that.

It wasn’t all work this week, though. This is Jeffrey Halford and the Healers singing the Blues at Poor House Bistro in San Jose on Saturday night.

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Urban sketches, figure studies and little still lifes are what I mostly post here. But every once in a while I’ll do a piece that doesn’t fit those categories.

The biggest difference between urban sketching and working on these pieces is that in the former I watch my subject more than the page I’m drawing on. And with these pieces, I might use a reference as a jumping off point, but after using it loosely I’m working towards a rather fuzzy vision in my head. Quite a different way to work.

Here’s one called “In the Shadow”. It’s only partially done, but I might want to start over with it, since it didn’t go where I wanted it to. Watercolor and ink on coldpress paper.the_shadow

Here’s a study for a series based on  my sketches at museums. Gouache on black paper.the_museum_guard

For this one, I used a photograph I took of a manzanita tree as a jumping off point. I really enjoyed the mark making process on this one. Pastel and gouache on black paper.manzilla

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