Travel: why write when you can illustrate?

Travel writers who have put their plans on hold now use watercolours, Madhubani art and more to satisfy their wanderlust

In a Covid-free world, Shikha Chitrak Desai might have been sitting on the sundeck of a cruise ship on the River Nile. Now forced to stay indoors, she feeds her wanderlust by sketching and painting select travel experiences from around the world. 2020 has been no ordinary year for the travel writer. Art, it appears, has come to the rescue. For some, it was discovering a latent talent and for others, it was rekindling a passion that had taken a backseat. Social media has allowed these freshly-minted artists to find appreciation for their work, with opportunities to sell their original work and create customised pieces on request.Shikha Chitrak Desai, @soulsearchingjourneysA travel writer by profession, Desai’s Instagram page focuses on stories around local food and culture from places like Peru and South Africa. “When I pick a destination, I take some time to sit and ponder about an experience or encounter that will always stay with me. When I find my answer, I start bringing that memory to life on paper,” she explains. All her paintings are a mix of pen and watercolours. From fiery red trees during fall in Japan to more muted browns and dull greys in a scene from Hampi, her work is varied ad detailed.

Akanksha Dureja, @madhubaniandmore The lockdown gave travel blogger Dureja the opportunity to sharpen her Madhubani painting skills through online tutorials. Her drawings are a quirky take on the traditional art form from the Mithila region of Bihar, which she hopes to visit one day. Using acrylic and gouache colours, she depicts scenes from the Alappuzha snake boat races (which she was scheduled to attend this year), the Eiffel Tower, the coracle boats of Hampi, colourful bangle shops around Charminar and the tulip fields of Netherlands.

Ritu Saini, @ruhstudio_rs“Getting back to painting was a productive way of revisiting places rather than just looking at slideshows and getting nostalgic,” says the Singapore-based graphic designer and blogger, adding, “I use Adobe Fresco and Canvas, which give a similar outcome as painting on paper and watercolours, oils and dry media brushes to paint. Even lettering is easier in the digital format.” Her latest is a series showcasing Tibetan prayer flags from across the Himalayas.

Kalpana Sunder, @kalpanasunder This independent journalist, has been writing on travel, architecture, gender and development for over two decades now, and has travelled to 60 countries at last count. As a student, she had dabbled in art and even considered pursuing it as a career. Instead, she chose to do company law. When a scheduled trip to California in March was cancelled, she went back to the drawing board and started a 100 days of lockdown project that she shares on Instagram using #PaintingMyTravels. “It has allowed me to travel virtually and given me a sense of achievement,” says Sunder, who has created a series of watercolour paintings inspired by her collection of travel images. Particularly fond of Van Gogh’s style, her bright watercolours feature everything from the candy-coloured buildings in Nyvahn, Copenhagen, to the portrait of a man from Nagaland wearing traditional finery. Available on Etsy.

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