Sketching Climate Stories

Yesterday was a pretty amazing day. I got to sketch at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, capturing stories of people from around the world, sharing why they were there, what they march for and what their hopes, dreams (and sometimes tears) are about.

So here, without more said, (for now) are those portraits.






For those of you interested in how this reportage was done, here goes: (for the rest, skip to the next paragraph) Each of these portraits is done on an 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper. I asked people if they were interested in talking to be for about 10 minutes and having their portrait sketched for the project (more details on that at the end of this post). I started drawing with pen (brushpen for most of these) and as they spoke, I wrote the most fascinating bits of what they said in pencil around my sketch. I switched back and forth between drawing/painting and writing. It’s a bit of a juggle: not so much the physical bit of pencil and pen, but of listening, asking questions, drawing and painting them and recording what they say!  When I was done with the sketch and they were done telling me their story, I thanked them, they left, and then I immediately inked in what I wrote around my sketch. You can see bits of pencil handwriting under the sketch in many of these pieces.

People spoke of the effects of climate change on their own lives and how those effects are magnified by poverty, racism, and discrimination. So many people told me they came not just for themselves, but they came to speak for the invisible, those without voices. The process of recording these stories was awe-inspiring, humbling and truly moving.

This piece was performed on the pavement outside Moscone Center as delegates to the conference walked by. Ghosts of Gasoline was a dramatic, silent performance, one that you could not hep stop and watch. Coltura focusses on transitioning to clean cars.



Later that evening, I sat in at the Youth Forum held at Yerba Buena Gardens. The speakers spoke of inclusiveness and joining together to make a difference.


The evening ended with a wonderful pop-up show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum of over 200 stories, sketched over this last week by dozens of sketchers. So, so many wonderful people at SF Sketchers ( look them up on and SF Urban Sketchers (our local urban sketching group) came together to make this whole week happen. But none of it would have been possible without the vision (and mad amount of work) of Laurie Wigham.

You can see more work ( as it slowly gets scanned and posted) on
Instagram at
The web at


About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in Activism, california, people, Portrait, reportage, san franciso and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Sketching Climate Stories

  1. Lee Kline says:

    Such a great event. And your sketchbook really tells a lot. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. NT Near says:

    Fantastic! I used to be a graphic facilitator for big business meetings, so I understand the challenge in capturing both images and words simultaneously. And for such an important topic, too. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bernadette says:

    Wonderful sketches, so full of emotion! They show much courage as you raise your voice with theirs through word and images.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am in awe of how you were able to capture not only sketched portraits but reports of personal experiences as well in such a short period of time. . Good to read what your process was too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So inspiring and some stories very sad. Your portraiture is amazing – you work so quickly, with the assured hand of a talented and experienced artist.

    Liked by 1 person

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