In November 2017, I went on a sponsored trip to Amaravati and Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, India. Several sketchers from Urban Sketchers Singapore were also invited by Tia from Temasek Polytechnic for this trip. The trip was organised and sponsored by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) of Singapore.
The goal of our trip was to sketch and document 29 villages that are located across the Krishna River from Vijayawada. The area taken up by the villages are going to be redeveloped into a new capital city called Amaravati in the next 10-20 years. So MTI came up with this project to sketch and document the villages before they make way for the redevelopment. And that's where we come in.
There was a total of 25 sketchers involved in this project. We were split into two teams to sketch all the villagers. The first team went in November 2017 and the second team a month later.
These sketches below are all that I've drawn during the trip.
On the first day, we traveled to Undavalli Caves which is an iconic landmark in the area. Vijayawada and Amaravati (as it is today) does not have touristy places or many iconic landmarks. And that actually contributed to one of the main challenges of the project. We had difficulty spotting iconic scenes, structures and buildings to draw. In the best case scenario, the places we draw should be able to be identified by locals living there. And because the villages don't have any sort of building plans, and the architecture are quite random, it's not easy to choose what to draw.
This was drawn from the second level of the caves.
If the colours looked weird, it's because I was testing out the MaimeriBlu watercolour starter set that I had bought a few months ago in Tokyo. MaimeriBlu is supposed to be quality paints but I wasn't really feeling that. And after this sketch, I went back to using Daniel Smith watercolor for the other sketches. I had brought my Daniel Smith watercolor set just in case, and it turned out to be a wise decision. The Bee Creative watercolor pad that I had brought along wasn't terrific either. The paper surface is fine grain rather than coldpress, and I've now confirmed that I really hate off-white or cream-coloured paper.
Prior to this trip, I've not used MaimeriBlu and that particular Bee Creative watercolor pad before. I brought them for this trip so that I can use them and review them after the trip. I should have brought the best quality paint and paper instead.
After visiting Undavalli Caves, we went to the Vijayawada Railway Station. The train platforms seemed to be accessible by the public. It's weird. People could just jump onto the train anytime. I wonder if there was anyone checking for tickets onboard.
I wanted to sketch inside the train station because I want to capture the passengers on the platform and the activity. After being disappointed by MaimeriBlu, I decided not to colour this piece. I drew this with a pencil because I forgot to bring my pen that day.
Here's a sketch from outside the railway station.
This was drawn inside the railway station in front of the ticket counters. People there have no problem sitting or sleeping on the floor. There aren't many seats either. This train station scene is so unlike any other train stations that I've been to.
This village is called Kuragallu.
The other challenge I faced was mixing the skin tones for the Indians. It's not easy to mix because Indians have darker skin, but you can't use black because they are not black. There's a warm tone to their skin colour.
Another scene from Kuragallu.
This statue's from the village Neerukonda. There are many statues in India. I was told that statues of those who are living are painting with colours, and those painting in gold means that the person has passed away. But someone else told me that that's not true. Now I'm confused.
This is also Neerukonda. Villages that have iconic structures are easier to draw and identify. When you look at iconic structures you can instantly tell which village this is from.
I was told that these power lines will be moving underground in the new capital city. While I was drawing this, I could hear the buzzing of the cables. Oh, and it's quite common to see buffaloes walking on the road. I wonder how these animals will be affected in the future. Imagine a model city and yet there are buffaloes walking around.
There is no specific architecture style that I identify with the houses and neighborhoods we went to. This is Nowluru. The buildings seem like they were built randomly. It is not uncommon to see concrete buildings beside huts with roofs made from leaves.
This is a typical street side vegetable stall. I wanted to capture all the things that they sell in the stall. There was a kid not wearing any pants and I had to draw that in.
This was drawn at the Andhra Cricket Academy. The stadium was still under construction. We found out about this stadium because the villagers told us about it, and they seem really proud about it. After I saw the stadium, I can understand their pride. It's a huge stadium. I can only imagine what it would be like in the future when actual matches are played in it. The atmosphere would be amazing.
It seems like most Indian temples have names that are very difficult to pronounce. Not just that, it's also difficult to get the name of the temple right because they usually do not have English names, and the names on Google maps may not be accurate.
There was a guy in the temple who invited us to draw there. And he stayed after the temple's closing time so that we could complete our drawings. Such a nice guy.
Before I've been to India, I had this idea that there would be many temples but it's actually the opposite. Temples are not easy to find. But you can see smaller places of worship along the road, and also in the village neighborhood at times.
That's a church in Venkatapalam village. While drawing this, we were told that the Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu would be passing by and we could not stay along the road -- we were sketching by the roadside. So we went into the church to had a look. The increased security was quite visible. People who were holding sticks and standing by the roadside at the additional security personnel.
This was a rather memorable sketch. We were driving around and saw a school in session. When we stopped a car, we were approached by a man who had just alighted from his motorbike. Turns out that he's a teacher at the school and he invited us in to see the school. There were classes going on so I decided to make the best use of time to sketch the students while they were still under supervision of their teacher.
After the students' classes ended, we were swarmed by them. There were like tsunami trying to knock me over while they came over to check out my sketches and ask me questions.
The last sketch of my trip was drawn at Penumaka. This statue was huge! Unfortunately, I did not manage to include a person in to give it a clearer sense of scale.
I really enjoyed this sketching trip. It's really an amazing experience. It's difficult for me to describe India. You really have to experience it yourself. I don't think you'll see this side of India from any tourism related marketing.