Hockney: Ode to Invisible Blue

art, art notes, drawing, Exhibition, Painting, philosophy, Sketchnotes, text and image

 

Hockney’s Retrospective at the Tate Britain.

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I used to draw when I visited galleries, but these days I tend to lean less on the pencil, and more on the pen, making word impressions where sketches will not suffice. With notebooks overflowing and piling up around me I’ve decided now to share these reflections, not posing as a critic, but sharing and exploring experiences of art as I have encountered them and felt compelled to pen them from time to time.  

Hockney’s exhibition at the Tate Britain was the first thing I went to see back in London when I got home. I had so many notes that I planned to write a walk-through of the exhibition, a fascinating journey through the work of an ever changing artist. But in the end I found I had enough to say about a single painting for one post. What was surprising was that it was a painting I had seen reproduced, and did not expect to find fascinating. This reminds me that a large part of the ‘work’ that makes an artwork work is that it takes time, attention, and presence. It is the work of the viewer, as well as of the artist that creates an experience. After a long while of looking I felt very attached to this painting, not it’s miniature reproduction on screen, but the vibrating body of the canvas itself. 

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Scale

First of all I need to note that although I have put the image here for reference, it is inevitably limited in in capturing the impression of the real piece which I would estimate to be around three meters wide and two high. The colours also are different in real life, some are brighter, some deeper, some subtler. I’m including a black and white image because I think it leaves room for the imagination to project the impressions described.

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Summer Skirt Mountain

The use of colour in this picture edges on an impressionist realism, using the standard optical tricks to create spatial illusion, purple mountains, receding objects becoming opaque, tending towards blue and contrasting with the bold, bright, warm colours of the pool and the figures, pitching them to the front of the canvas. The stones around the pool are subtly coloured, and there are remarkable white lines with flashes of yellow in the water that truly seem to dance. These things are not just symbols – they evoke the scene through an artful illusion. And yet the whole effect side-steps realism. Two things stand out to me, the intensely saturated blocks of colour in the water, skin tone and salmon jacket, and the stylized patternation of the middle distance mountain, in floral pastel hues that put me in mind of an old fashioned tablecloth, or a faded summer skirt. These things flatten the spacial illusion. I found this over and over again in Hockney’s work, the play between depth and flatness that makes his pictures self aware, breaking their fourth (or only) wall sometimes harshly, sometimes, as here, with a gentle whisper.

Draft Line, “I drew this…”

Although the foliage of the mountains to the fore is more detailed, varied and realistic, the initial sketch lines of their gradients show through the trees that have been painted on top. In an image so consummately painted, controlled and detailed, leaving evidence of the drafting process can only be intentional. And so with this, and the domestic patterned mountain the painting becomes self aware, self conscious of its draftsmanship and decorative potential. The painting says “See this scene.” it also says, “I drew this scene, and then I painted it.”

We, The Watchers

The draft line of the ridge on the right passes behind the head of the standing man, tracking his gaze and drawing our eyes down to follow his view of the swimmer. It is a line of tension. We watch the swimmer with the man in the pink jacket at the pool edge. The sense of watching, and waiting, is static in a way that might be broken at any moment, like the surface of the pool. We are drawn into the scene as participants, sharing a view, “Look”, says the picture, “Let’s watch and see…”

Invisible Blue

I am most impressed by the heavy, soft blue of the body of water that hangs in shadow above the swimmer. It functions so well that it took me a long time of observing the painting to really notice it, despite being a potentially dominating colour and hue, and so boldly placed right across the middle of the canvas. It is a quarter of the painting’s height and two thirds of its length. And it’s almost empty, courageously so. There is some colour shift but no detail, nothing happening. It is painted quite roughly in comparison to other parts of the picture, and it is that emptiness and vagueness lets the eye pass over it without catching. Like meeting the pole of an opposing magnet, your eye rolls over the thick blue mass and lands instead on the bright colours and stark shapes that surround it. The deep hue, the soft and solid nature of this block of water in shadow throws the ephemeral swimmer and streaks of living light out towards the viewer. This blue is the drummer in the band, the broad base line off which the colourful melody plays. Or perhaps it is the silence, the space between notes that allows them to strike out with such clarity. Although as a portion of paint in itself, gloriously and deeply blue, it does not display the finest of Hockney’s talents, it is used in exquisite harmony with its surroundings and demonstrates his deftness with both colour and composition. So I make this short stock of observations an ode, to the invisible blue.

By happy chance today I came across a history of blue pigments

I cannot find a digital reproduction of this image that satisfies my memory of this blue. In the picture at the top of this blog it is far too light. Screen reproductions, besides being flat and small, also play with colour and tend towards brightening everything. The more I learn about colour theory the more I realize that the mixing of colour through light (screen) and pigment (paint) are fundamentally different. The picture below has a better sense of the blue, though all else is much too dark, you get a better impression of the light and shadow in the water.

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If you have a chance to go and see the actual painting, (and get your own impressions!) and the whole exhibition then please do go. It’s on at the Tate Britain until May 29th. And besides this picture there is a wealth of artwork from Mr. Hockney’s varied and fascinating works.

I would very much like to write about Hockney’s in terms of his relationship with photography but…. He has written and spoken so eloquently about this that first and foremost I suggest anyone who is interested see his documentary on the historical use of camera obscura and camera lucida by many of the revered artists of the past, “Secret Knowledge”. I honestly couldn’t recommend this more if you have an interest in the history of western art and the ways we have learned to see, understand, and construct the world around us as a culture.

 

Thanks for reading my first ArtNotes post.

More soon from BlancheEllisArtNotes  

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Ongoing CALL OUT to Authors and Poets – Textual Illustration for The Image.

art, Design, drawing, metamorphosis, Painting, poetry, press, Prints, Quotes, short story, text and image

In reverse of the usual order…illustrating drawings with text… to be combined into a book, and exhibition.

I’m still looking for contributors/collaborators for this project.

There are over 40 artworks to be illustrated and I’ll be publishing them gradually here and on my social media @BlancheEllisArt as the project progresses… so keep an eye out here. I may also be putting up snippets of the writing I’ve received… with permission of the authors.

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Changing shape…

Even since I posted about this last week the idea has developed, mostly because of the amazing responses I’ve had already from friends, strangers, other artists, an art-book maker and poets and authors from different backgrounds, and languages. And have found many secret authors in my acquaintances.

I’m so happy to be receiving this fount of creativity!   

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Words lead words… 

It’s even leading me to write myself, in an attempt to track what I am looking for. Other people draw out my words with their own wonderful phrases and I feel the pitch, the roll and magnetism of the word collaboration, a force all of it’s own… changing the shape of my intension as it unfolds. Perhaps a preface…

“Word-turns apt in riddle and rhythm to trip and roll the mind causing backtrack, retrace, and circled in so turning, the sentence sense embraced. The way a picture leads the eye, not forward to finality but, with concentric in-conclusions, as a dance that makes sense-of-a-step does so by leading you both too-and-fro and leaving you, not locked, but poised by punctuation.”

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Drink Me –

The Story-World…

The initial idea was that each piece of text be another ‘moment’ from the images story-world, a suggestion or clue that opens up the narrative to further interpretation rather than attempting to complete, or explain the picture itself. Instead of finished stories I’m looking for writing that echoes or extends the sense of mystery and magical-realism, and may do so without obvious reference to the image itself. It could be specific, detailed, atmospheric or impressionistic. All and any ideas appreciated!

As the project opens up I think the writing could be in anthropological, an impossible recipe, a critique of a non-existant novel (think J. L. Borges), a short letter, a completely brazen critique of a character, or of the picture itself .

Ideas abound

Please share any ideas here or by email at blancheellis@gmail.com

See more of the images on Instagram and in the previous post and call out

Thank you for stopping by!

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CALL OUT to Authors and Poets – Textual Illustration for The Image.

art, Design, drawing, Exhibition, exhibiton, folktale, Illustration, metamorphosis, Painting, portrait, press, Prints, short story

‘Cubs’ Another from the series – Mythologies.

CALL OUT: I have plans for a book and am looking for a writer.

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This series has over 40 pieces and most of them emerge as if from some old myth, folk tale or strange internal narrative. This is why I call them ‘Mythologies’.

But… the tales they tell have never been written. 

In the reverse to the usual relationship of text and image I am looking to collaborate with someone (or several people) to write text to accompany each picture, to illustrate the images, if you will.  The idea is to combine these into a book. This writing, be it a paragraph of prose or a few lines of poetry, will sit opposite the artwork on each page and make a pair to be ‘read’ together. 

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The Story-World…

The idea is that each piece of text be another ‘moment’ from the images story-world, a suggestion or clue that opens up the narrative to further interpretation rather than attempting to complete, or explain the picture itself. Instead of finished stories I’m looking for writing that echoes or extends the sense of mystery and magical-realism, and may do so without obvious reference to the image itself. It could be specific, detailed, atmospheric or impressionistic. 

I’m very excited to see what emerges from the birth of this project…..

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If you are interested….

I’d love to see any snatches of writing inspired by this as starting points and inspiration for the project which is just beginning and is a brand new idea, so do share this with anyone who might be interested, and email blancheellis@gmail.com for more images if you’d like to try writing something, or to discuss ideas for the project.

More images from the work can be seen on my Instagram @BlancheEllisArt

I also plan to have an exhibition of these artworks with the text in the future.

Thanks for stopping by!

Blanche

New Etsy Shop Open @BlancheEllisArt !

art, Design, drawing, Illustration, natural observation, Painting, press, Prints, Sales

Finally…

after years of techno-phobia, I have got around to opening my Etsy shop with prints and original artwork from the last few years, as well as freshly created work that I will soon be adding. Although I prefer face-to-face sales, not everyone is that close by so it’s nice to open up shop to a wider range of people…

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All the frames in the shop are hand-made by me to suit the artwork.

Something that I take great joy in getting just-right.

Listings will be going up over the coming weeks so keep an eye out for new work. 

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Find the shop at BlancheEllisArt

Lots of work from my Instagram account will be going up

so if you see anything you like there… let me know.

Thanks for stopping by !

Blanche

New work… Strange Friends….

art, drawing, Exhibition, folktale, Illustration, Painting, poetry, portrait, Prints, sketchbook

A new body of work has been growing… always bodies, always metamorphosing, always emerging from I’m not sure where, and becoming strangely familiar by the time they’re finished, as if I’d seen them a long time ago, and only just remembered them.

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As usual I don’t know their story before hand, but after I’ve seen them I can guess, and these guesses go into the titles.

The series is growing quite fast, the question really, is whether the pages of this sketchbook, or this particular 8B pencil, will run out first and mark the limit.

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I would like to exhibit them all together, as a community, but for now the community is still growing… you can see them emerging here

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There is a narrative stream working its way through these figures, like a collection of short stories, myths or folktales. I’m not sure of the theme, but the work reveals itself, and answers are dead ends.

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So, many minds, the crown hands, tea, and more to come.

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Jagriti Yatra Artwork In Full

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Exhibition, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, Painting, Quotes, reportage, sketchbook, Sketchnotes

At last I have managed to turn the 15 meter concertina sketchbook that recorded the last Jagriti Yatra journey around India into a digital format!

Jagriti Yatra detail blancheeellis.com 3

“Jagriti Yatra is an ambitious train journey of discovery and transformation that takes hundreds of India’s highly motivated youth, especially those who are from small towns and villages of India on a 15 day, 8000 km national odyssey to meet the role models – social and business entrepreneurs – of the country.

The vision of the Jagriti is ‘Building India Through Enterprise'”

Such an intense journey, living on a train with amazing people and experiences and transformed into this artwork by myself and Temujen Gunawardena

working in all sort of places and situations over a mad 15 days..

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You can see the epic size of our art odessy here…

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So, to make it visible in the world of on-screen formatting I’ve divided it up in the gallery below for you to browse in detail… or…

Click here to see a video of the artwork in motion under the hands of myself and Temujen Gunawardena…

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Click the pictures to browse through the gallery…

Exhibition of the full artwork coming soon….

see previous posts for more drawings from my personal travel sketchbook

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Portraits: Live Friday at the Ashmolean Museum

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Exhibition, Illustration, location drawing, press

Last Friday night I took a suitcase of hats and picture frames to the

LIVE FRIDAY: FRAMED at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford…

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The event was themed around Andy Warhol and having equipped myself with appropriate colours, and dressed up for the museums historical element…

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I settled down beneath some 15th Century Dutch paintings (including a rather scary portrait of Rembrandt’s mother), put out my hats for public perusal and invited the evenings visitors to sit for their portrait wearing the headdress of their choice…

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Photo credit to Ian Wallman / IWPhotographic & The Ashmolean

All together they create a multi-coloured portrait patchwork..

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I was even lucky enough to have my own portrait done at the end of the evening by the wonderful Dot and Maya….

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It was a really great night so thanks to the Ashmolean, the Live Friday team and to all the excellent models that passed my way on Friday! Especially 10 year old Max who stood in as both model and critic…

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If you would like the original of your portrait from the event please email me at blancheelllis@gmail.com

Portrait - 8

Photo credit to Jessica Harvey

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India: Travels and Drawings – Part IV

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Drawing in Public, Exhibition, folktale, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, Painting, reportage, sketchbook, Sketchnotes

Well, It was a while ago now and London has me swept up in all it’s fever again so this latest instalment of the India trip has taken a little while to come through but here it is.

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With the last few pages of my sketchbook and some of the work I did with Tem and the Jagriti Yatra and the last two weeks of our journey in the wake of the train ride, reeling from the intensity of our experience on the rails we made our way back up north…. to Rajasthan.. on one more long train.

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This was on the train North from Mumbai towards Pushkar. Tem made friends with family sharing our overnight compartment and taught the father origami. I painted his wife who was perpetually amused and always bursting into laughter. They bought some fruit from a lady with a basket on the platform at a station and offered us some. They were good. At each station people got off to wander, stretch their legs and buy stuff, only getting back on again once the train had started to grind lazily out of the station, walking or running alongside and jumping back in the doors.

Pushkar – Kite Festival

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This was undoubtedly one of the most joyful things I saw in India, and perhaps have ever seen – every man woman and child standing on their roofs in beautiful pushkar flying colourful paper kites that hung in proud tatters from trees and buildings and telephone wires for a long time afterwards.

You could get kites from 3 rupees and they were flown from dawn till dusk for days.

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Tem and I also met up with Anna who, marvellously, had a banjo with her. We spent some time together.

The Blue City…
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In Jodphur the streets are narrow and the buildings blue, and found ourselves a wonderful guesthouse that felt like an Indian Fawlty Towers. Highlights were Sunni, the father of the family coming into our room to sweep a dead pigeon out from under the old wooden sofa on the second morning – he had just remembered it was there – and finding the newspaper clippings of the cast of Darjeeling LTD who seem to have stayed there during filming.

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At the fort we found this couple with their baby singing songs, all of which were beautiful and apparently meant, roughly translated, ‘Welcome to Rajasthan’. We sang them ‘How am I doing’ or ‘Twee Twa Twoo’, the Mountain Man version in return.

Next – to Bagru… The Home of Block Printing

We took up the invitation of a fellow Yatri and visited Davis Cutter in Bagru where we saw the amazing production of the block printing techniques that are rooted there.

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The long fabrics are laid out in the ‘Fields of Colour’ throughout the village, it’s an exceptionally strange and beautiful sight at sunset, especially when the fabric is collected and the earth where they were laid is stained strange tints and colours.

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I had meant this to be the final post but must leave now so i will save the last of the trip for one final post!

Find previous posts on my sketchbook travels in India:

Here – Part I

Here – Part II

And Here! – Part III

Jagriti Yatra & India travels 2015-16

India: Travels and Drawings – Part II

art, drawing, Exhibition, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, metamorphosis, Painting, portrait, sketchbook, Sketchnotes

For the first 15 days in India this was our mad itinerary,

 travel by night…

new place each day….

except for when we travelled for up to 42 hours without stopping.

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In all the different places Tem and I met projects and role models for social entrepreneurship and took graphic notes, on walls, and floors, and trains…. all over India

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And in the meantime I kept my personal sketchbook going…

Instalment II of India Sketchbook follows:

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We visited Gram Vikas and heard about their work in community health particularly their surrounding water and sanitation in rural areas. We visited the village pictured above. It was beautiful, particularly the amount of care that went into decorating each home and the hand-painted entrances and doors… but also very strange to be 450+ outsiders walking through a small village, looking at peoples homes.

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Mohit from the School of Social Entrepreneurs  – on the left was our bunk mate and a great host (despite being a guest himself on the train.) He never looked that glum in reality.

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At the amazing stone carved and brightly coloured temple in Madurai I experienced a ‘blessing’ form a ‘boff’ on the head from an elephants trunk.  It felt a bit like a head hug.

We ran drawing workshops in our compartment on the train some evenings and the lovely Kinjal was a great model! Amazing bone structure and poise. It was great to facilitate other peoples artwork, come up with games and do a little teaching along the way. It’s something I really enjoy.

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I occasionally had a moment in my own mind and came out with the strangenesses therein… and drew the cities flying by the train window.

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More strangeness from my head, after having an allergic reaction to UV light (which is a problem I have with sunny places). I thought about how even when bodies are broken, failing, somehow undermining their own purpose… still they’re strangely fascinating and beautiful things. Maybe this is one reason I’m so drawn to the image of the twisted body. I doubt anyone does, but I certainly don’t know what it is to have a ‘perfect’ body. The imagery that I relate to, internally, that comforts me, and that which fascinates me, is not the ‘ideal’ but the fragile, twisted Egon-Shiele-like bodies. They are so alive, not in spite of their defects and distortions, but because of them.

Their tension is their life.

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In contrast to this, is the watercolour on the right hand page above.

On new years day, for the first time, I used the UV filter film that I have recently discovered. I put it on a window, and sitting at my train seat, with my sketchbook, curtained off from the rest of the world I sat with the sun on my face for the first time in some years. It was beautiful. And I watched the sun come up through the haze, a blood-orange rag in a haze-cotton sky, and watched it sink, grey and purple into the black.

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Sunlight Spills From My Window Sill 01/16

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India travels 2015-16.

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More artwork from this and other projects:

@blancheellisart

INDIA: Travels and Drawings

art, Drawing in Public, exhibiton, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, Painting, reportage, Sketchnotes

The Jagriti Yatra.

 Jagriti = Awareness
Yatra = Journey

jagritiyatrabanner copy

This charity runs a yearly train journey around India. It is inspired by the journey Gandhi took after returning from South Africa 100 years ago. It takes over 400 young Indian social entrepreneurs to meet role models and experience the diversity of their own country from the biggest cities to its most rural outposts. They examine the strengths, weaknesses and challenges their country faces, and explore and discuss avenues for positive social change through entrepreneurship. Working in partnership with Temujen Gunawardena I lived on the train will the Yatri’s and created a 10 metre long illustration capturing the content and experience of the journey. We plan to exhibit the piece in London in 2016 before returning it to the Jagriti Yatra team in Mumbai.

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Working on the JY train…..

More images will follow but below is one detail of the 10 metre long drawing that Tem and I made to document the journey, life on the train and the sights we saw, the experiences we shared and the talks and ideas discussed along the way.

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During the travels I naturally kept my own sketchbook journal. The first book I have bound from scratch and the orange cover of which is now scratched, scuffed, stained and filthy, the binding knocked out of all shape. And it is full of colour on the inside too. Here are some experiences from the book…….. It is so long I may have to put it up in instalments.

India Sketchbook: Episode 1:

The book begins:

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A book I newly bound.

Now a worn and frayed old friend.

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A portrait of myself by the lost and found artist Sharath Koona.

The start of a new journey.

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The opening ceremony for the Jagriti Yatra – Gauri Sharma Tripathi teaches us all how to do the Jagriti Yatra dance that we will perform almost every one of the next 15 days, often multiple times! I see an explosion of colour and fabrics. Over the travels, glancing out of train windows, I see the people of India pass as we whirl 8000km around the country from Mumbai to the South, to the East, North and then back down to Mumbai. I capture the impressions and moments of the people, I would say passers by, but being on the train, I was the passer by. They are waiting on platforms, heaving luggage and walking alongside the track.

In the city, Mumbai, on arrival one of my first thoughts, rushing through the city in a taxi, seeing the shops, the cards, bikes, buildings and millions of wares for sale:

Everything is leaning… there are no ‘right’ angles here.

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My traveling companion and partner in line and colour – Tem – experiencing jet-lag in the restaurant we ate our first dinner in. Oh delicious dosa with coconut yum. You are the best.

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The Yatra begins. It involves talking, listening, learning, dancing, good food, exploration and glances out of train windows at fleeting figures on train platforms… This old lady’s dress was a magnetic magenta shade above the yellow dust and blue shadow.

More to come in…

Sketchbook-Journey-Part-II

India travels 2015-16.

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More artwork from this and other projects on Instagram and Twitter @blancheellisart

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Next sketchbook is under construction.

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