Kite Flying in Gujarat

It was incredible to be in Surat for the two days of Uttarayan, the kite flying festival. Surat’s kite flying fame is rivaled only by the fame of its superb cuisine (which I ate non-stop on my visit thanks to my wonderful family, but that’s a different story).

If you want a full set of kites to fly through both days, you would probably visit one of the vendors in Patang Galli in the old city to buy kites in bulk (I was told 10-15 kites per person per day is the norm). But every street corner in the city has a kite vendor, for any last-minute purchases.

This vendor in the Adajan neighborhood carries kite, reels of manja or kite string and noisemakers that you can blow on every time your kite cuts down another kite. This little girl arrived with her dad and took her time picking a kite to go with her pink reel of manja.

Part of the drama of the kite flying festival is that you don’t just fly kites. Your kite string is coated with powdered glass, so you can cut down a rival kite as you battle on in the skies.

This glass-coated string is produced in the old part of the city where men wearing face masks to keep glass dust out take huge reels of string and run it through a mixture of water, glue, and finely powdered glass. The coated string is allowed to dry on large spindles made with bicycle wheels and then transferred to smaller handheld spindles that you can buy.

I spent an Uttarayan evening on the terrace of an apartment. The rooftops of apartments all around us were filled with kite flyers. And where there’s a group of people, there’s a party with music and food. Our rooftop had a stall serving 165 different egg-centric dishes, all made to order while you waited. Most involved green garlic, and tons of Amul butter and cheese.

You can tell a kite flyer by their fingers that are taped up to prevent cuts from the manja. Every kite flyer needs an assistant who holds and unravels their spool of manja as they need it. There was lots of talk of kite-tying techniques as kites got cut down and replaced wiht new ones. Some styles of tying give you more control over the flight path, and others let you dodge and dance more freely in the sky. If you want to seem totally in the know, ask a kite-flyer “What’s your patang (kite) tying style? Are you a 0-0 or a 1-0?”

I was hoping to see the famed kites lit by lanterns that are traditionally flown at the end of the day as darkness descends. But sadly, they have been replaced by giant LED kites. Still, my Uttarayan experience was every bit as magical as I imagined it to be.

Posted in India, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Winter Break in Oahu: II

My favorite part of Hawaii is always the dense and humid very tropical bits of the islands that lie inland.

Since everything in these tropical forests is one singule green, I figured I left the color out, and just worked with shape and texture.

This next one was done over 20 minutes while watching the sun set. The scene before me changed every few seconds, but it was fun to draw through it all.

This is the view from one of the places we stayed. Even with high-rises everywhere in Honolulu, the vegetation seems to push through wherever it can.

This is probably the only hour-long piece I did over my trip. I skipped seeing the inside of
Iolani Palace and sketched the little bandstand on the grounds instead. This one is all about those giant monkeypod trees that I love.

Another sketch of the jungle, again in monochrome with color added later.

Part 1 of this series of sketches from Oahu is here.

Posted in people, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter Break in Oahu: I

I spent a lot of time at the beach this winter. The kids enjoy it, and we’re there for short bits in the day, so I settle down, and get out my sketchbook. ( I don’t mind the occasional dip, but the water in winter is a bit cold for my liking)

Here are all my sketches of beaches and, in no particular order, some general observations.

Oahu by far is the most “people-filled beaches” island I’ve been to.

Beaches make people really happy.

Over the last few years, I see lots of people religiously applying sunblock and far fewer sunburnt people at the beach. Yay!

Lots of people at the beach seem to stand around with their hands on their hips.

Phones are everywhere: isn’t it hard to read on a phone in the bright sun?

More sketches from Oahu coming soon.

Posted in people, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments


Thank you for your input on my question in yesterday’s post:
If I add a new online workshop this year, what would you like it to be about?

To wrap up this year, here are a couple of sketches from the last week of the year. The first one at my local coffee shop, the second in Hawaii.

As one part of my sketching practice seems to embrace a maximalist approach with layered mixed media, another part gets minimalist (in its use of media at least).

I like having the ability to respond in different ways, depending on the subject and the time I have.

But most of all, I’m thankful that I still so love the act of sketching that the result counts less than the process.

As another year of this higgeldy-piggeldy journey concludes, thank you for following along. I enjoy sharing this adventure with you. Wishing you a happy, healthy and creative 2023.

Posted in Close to home, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A Wrap Up and a Question

This image is a combination of a bunch of my posts on Instagram this year that got the most likes.

They’re culled through an app called “Top Nine” and while it’s just one way to look at my year, I’m intrigued that it brings together a mix of subjects and styles that reflect this year.
Some really tough times, (with my dad in hospital) some fun experiments, tools, and media, (the kakimori nib, colored inks, neocolor pastels: it will be interesting to see which of these stay and which were passing obsessions) and some super exciting partnerships last year that I am looking forward to repeating in 2023 (Sketching PlayLab with Paul Wang, a weekend at Asilomar with Nina Khashschina and Uma Kelkar, teaching with Maru Godas and Santi Salles and and Sketching workshops in India with Zainab Tambawalla)

Overall, I’m just glad I sketched it all: the tough times, the little stuff, the people, places, and roosters…

I don’t make New Year resolutions and I’m not much of a planner but one of the things that’s been on my mind is that it’s time to teach a new online workshop in 2023. I teach a 4-week long People Sketching workshop a couple of times in the year. And that will stay.

Here’s a question I’d love your input on:
If I add a new online workshop this year, what would you like it to be about?

Leave me a comment with your reply, or drop me an email. And thank you in advance for your input.

Posted in teaching | 15 Comments

San Jose Landmarks

I rarely share the work I do as an illustrator on this blog. But every once, there’s a project that aligns with the sort of content I post here and allows for sharing. This one is a celebration of the City of San Jose through some of its landmarks. I didn’t sketch these on location but I’ve drawn at most of these locations in the past and that really helped keep the pieces fresh and alive for me.

To keep these sketchy, I work on each of them at a pace close to how I’d work on location, and at a size I’m familiar with. In fact, I worked in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbooks I usually use and tore out and pinned the pieces on my wall as I worked through them.

They’re then stitched together in photoshop and blown up to where each sketch is 3 to 5 feet tall. This small bit below is how you might see a part of a sketch.

While there’s no pixelation because they’re scanned in high resolution, you can see every mark made by the line and the paint, magnified. I really enjoy this effect: the wobbles, drags, and skips of the pen line and the cracks in the paint all show up: It’s work done by hand that doesn’t hide the hand-drawn part.

The project is done now, and my wall is empty again. It felt right to take it all down as the year ends and open the space up to new possibilities.

Posted in california, Close to home, san jose, Silicon Valley, Vintage Signs | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Holiday Concert Sketches

If you have kids that play a musical instrument at school, it’s Holiday Concert Season. This time, I played with markers, fountain pens, colored pencils, and brush pens in a small sketchbook.

Holiday Concert week means it’s finals week next and then it’s the end of the school year!

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drawing at the DMV

I have a complaint about the California DMV, the Los Gatos branch, specifically: they’ve gotten too efficient for me to get in a good, long sketching session!

This first sketch was when I took my sister to renew her license. I got a whole 15 minutes of drawing while she moved through the entire process, from walking in, being assigned a person to help her, taking an eye test, getting a photo taken, and paying for her new license.

But all the other sketches are from my own appointment a few weeks ago and I had literally a couple minutes wait at each station and then I had to move on. So I resorted to continuous line drawing, which is always fun.

I posted these sketches on my Instagram account yesterday and your stories are pouring in: Cathy reports that you can still get in a long sketch if you renew your license at the El Cerrito DMV. And Steve remembers when he drew 100 people, all while waiting for his appointment. Nina visited her DMV recently, with her art supplies all packed, hoping to get in some quality time sketching, but she hit the same wall I did…

Slow down, DMV, you’re moving too fast!

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

An Evening Among Art Lovers

A couple of week ago, I sketched live at an event held by the Boy Scouts honoring Diane Brandenburg, one of the Bay Area’s most prominent philanthropists. It was an open-ended assignment from a client I’ve had a super time working for before: All I was told was to turn up and sketch.

My first sketch of the evening was of the jazz musicians, who arrived first to the party, Duo Gadjo.

Diane Brandenburg is also an artist and a patron of the arts, so some people came dressed as their favorite artist. In the foreground is Bob Ross and two Fridas in conversation.

A nice guest took a few pictures of me as I sketched that evening.

These two sketches are the presenting of colors by the scouts and the media crew filming the event. As a part of the group working that night (I was here on assignment) I got to see how hard everyone works behind the scenes to make events like this a success.

Back after the presentations, I found a quiet corner and sketched the pianist, Samer Fanek.

I thought I was done for the night and was packing up as the guests said their goodbyes and left. But I just had to pull out my sketchbook when this lady came over to say goodbye to Diane and they held hands and chatted like long lost friends.Turns out that she is Diane’s friend from more than 70 years ago!

Posted in california, Close to home, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Try this: a step-by-step demo

Drawing Attention is a monthly online zine produced by Urban Sketchers International and this month’s issue has this little demo from me ( and a host of super interesting profiles and stories, so if you have never read the magazine or subscribed to it, do it now!)

Here is the article as a small image and here’s a link to the magazine so you can view it there at a comfortable size.

I did two sketches using the same technique that day and submitted this one. Here’s the shot from where I sat. (And my finished Mexican Mocha. )

And here is the other piece using the same technique.

If you do a sketch using the technique, share it and tag me, I’d love to see it.

Posted in california, Drink | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments