Sketching The Subcontinent

Candace Rose Rardon

[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hen Charli first approached me about putting together a series of my watercolor sketches from India to share here, I realized that despite leaving the country a year ago this month, that was something I had still yet to do.

Although I did a sketch in nearly every city I visited during my nine months in India, I hadn’t taken the time to assemble them all in the same place online. Charli’s idea was thus a mission I happily accepted.

The process of tracking down these sketches from the Subcontinent showed me a couple of things. The first thing was just how much my sketching style has changed. I hope you’ll forgive the rough nature of some of them, as a few were done during my very first year of sketching.

Sketching The Subcontinent sketch_delhi

Sketching The Subcontinent sketch_dharamsala

I wouldn’t say practice has led to perfect in my case (not in the least!), but it has definitely helped define and refine my style. And so as much as I hesitate to share some of these images, I also believe there’s room for honouring our humble beginnings in life.

The other thing this process revealed is what my sketches from India have in common – they all represent an attempt to understand the country. India is a force to be reckoned with – with its cacophony of tuk tuks and scooters and bicycle rickshaws all jostling for space on the streets, and with the air a constant heady mix of incense and rubbish, jasmine blossoms and frying sweets, it can be hard to find your way through it.

It can be hard to make it your own.

Sketching The Subcontinent sketch_mumbai

Sketching The Subcontinent sketch_delhi2

While in their subjects, these sketches couldn’t be more different – ranging from a maharaja’s palace to a flower market to a prayer-flag draped vista of the Himalaya – they all began with the desire of wanting to create at least one memory in that place that would be indelible, a moment that would be forever mine.

I would choose a view, order a drink – be it a fresh lime soda in Jaisalmer, a papaya shake in Hyderabad, or a cup of chai in Fort Cochin – and then open my senses to that particular place and the people I would meet there.

I will never forget sketching one Saturday afternoon in Old Delhi, when I headed to the Jama Masjid, a stirring, red sandstone mosque built by the emperor Shah Jahan between 1650 and 1656 AD. Soon after I sat down in a back corner and opened my sketchbook on my lap, a couple of kids wandered over, then their fathers, then some teenage guys, until there was a crowd of about twenty people hovered over my shoulders as I sketched.


One person in particular, a young guy named Sajan, took it upon himself that no one got in my line of sight of the mosque – and if so, he’d shoo them away and point to my drawing. Through sketching the Jama Masjid, I found I was forming an unlikely bond with these people, as curious about me as I was of them.

When a guard told me it was time to leave before the evening prayers, I packed up and waved goodbye to Sajan and his friends, feeling connected to Delhi in a new way – and to India herself as a whole.

Sketching The Subcontinent sketch_hyderabad

Sketching The Subcontinent sketch_jaisalmer

Although my love for sketching has now taken me to other corners of the world – from Southeast Asia and Japan to Eastern Europe and Turkey – I believe I can trace that love back to India.

It was there that I first got the idea to do sketching trips in other regions, where I first began planning my book of sketches, Beneath the Lantern’s Glow, and ultimately, where I became the sketch artist that I am today.

And for that, I have only India herself to thank.

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Has a location offered you the opportunity to evolve, to follow your passions and to dream? Share your comments with me below.

Sketch Artist
  1. Candace and Charli…great idea! Candace, I’m such a fan. I so wish I had your talent. I love seeing how you have captured the places I’ve been, and especially love reading your thoughts on them…kudos!

    1. Thank you so much, Corinne! I too loved the idea as soon as Charli mentioned it — even if it did mean dusting off a few of my older, less polished sketches 🙂 But I really appreciate you taking the time to check this post out, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Thank you, George and Janice! That means a lot. And I know what you mean about how sketches are a different way of experiencing and engaging with a story…I’m so glad you enjoyed the visual journey through India!

  2. Wow great sketches! Very unique for travel blogs. Though it is just sketches but it does reflects the beauty of India. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Ben! India is a fascinating place, especially on a visual level, so it was always a fun challenge trying to do it justice through a sketch 🙂

  3. Really interesting to see “a few years of memories in sketches” at a glance, quite some creative progress indeed! Not meant to say the earlier works lack charm or something. I sense that the lines and strokes appear more “fragile” in them while the recent works seem more vivid and “bold”. And I really like those fragments of thoughts and observation that come in writing which create a wee dialogue between words and visuals… 🙂

    1. Oliver, my friend, it was such a lovely surprise to hear from you here! Thank you for taking the time to look through these early sketches from one of my favorite countries 🙂 And as always, your insights have got me thinking…I wonder if it took as vibrant and bold a place as India to teach me how to be the same in my sketches. I’d also never thought of the little annotations as creating a dialogue before, but I love that idea — that they serve as a bridge between the image and the story. Thank you for that!

      1. Hey Candace, always a pleasure our little “inspiration swirls”! We must be conductors for our mutual trains of thought it seems… 🙂 Take care and speak very soon!

  4. I literally don’t know what else to say Candace apart from; breathtaking! Everything from the sketch design to the colours and paint used even down to the font seems to perfectly fit with the continent you’re trying to express – magical!

    1. Thank you so much, Toni! I can’t tell you how much your kind words mean – I’m thrilled the sketches resonated with you, and more importantly, that they evoked as colorful and complicated a place as India for you 🙂

  5. These delightful sketches brought back lots of memories of India for me. If they were in a book I would buy it!

    1. That is wonderful to hear, Sue! Whereabouts in India did you travel while you were there? And I would definitely love to put together a full book of India sketches one day, so watch this space 🙂

      1. We went to northern India, mainly Rajasthan early last year. Loved it so much we went back to southern India in November. Now I want to go back again. India is addictive.

  6. I was just saying to someone the other day how much I’d love to sit down and sketch places.
    It’s just hard to find the time :\

    These are beautiful though!

    1. You totally should, Beth! You’re right in that sketching does indeed take a bit of extra time, but in my own experience, the extra hours you spend sketching are always worth it – especially the richer memories you walk away with 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mary! They mean a great deal. I too feel a sketch offers a different visual experience than a photograph – in a way, it holds the eye just a bit longer and invites the viewer to really journey into the picture. But at the same time, I still always travel with my camera – I love using both sketches and photos to capture a place 🙂

  7. What an amazing talent to have! I love these sketches–they are beautiful and it’s always fun to see work progress and change. Sketching while traveling is such a great concept–it shows a destination in an entirely different light. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love what you wrote, Ron! And I couldn’t agree more – for me, what I love most about sketching is just the awareness it creates in me when I’m in a new place…but I think we can create that same awareness in all sorts of ways, be it through music, dance, or as you said, keeping your notebook open and documenting a place through words 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to say hello and share your insights!

  9. Wow, thanks Wanderlusters for introducing me to such a wonderful person! Candace, I am really really inspired by your work! Your art portrays India as lively as it is!! Next time when you are here in South India, hope we can meet! 🙂

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