122 FRE­QUENT FLYER

Art di­rec­tor and free­lance il­lus­tra­tor, Suhita Shi­rod­kar deftly cap­tures scenes from her trav­els across the globe. She tells Destin Tay how her hand-drawn il­lus­tra­tions evoke nos­tal­gia.

Epicure - - CONTENTS -

Suhita Shi­rod­kar, art di­rec­tor and il­lus­tra­tor

In an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal world, trav­ellers cap­ture their mem­o­ries through selfies and In­sta­gram posts. As an avid il­lus­tra­tor, Suhita Shi­rod­kar prefers to sketch what she sees and ex­pe­ri­ences. “To draw by hand is to slow down, look care­fully and take your time. You may not see as much, but what you see, you see and re­mem­ber deeply,” she says.

A se­nior de­signer of Ar­tic­u­late So­lu­tions, a mar­ket­ing and brand­ing firm based in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, Shi­rod­kar runs her own de­sign com­pany and also teaches ur­ban sketch­ing and draw­ing at Ur­ban Sketch­ers Sym­po­sium, an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion that acts as a com­mu­nity for all sketch­ers.

Your sketches in­clude tran­quil landscapes, bustling city life and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. What in­spires you more: build­ings, peo­ple or na­ture? My favourite in­spi­ra­tions are ur­ban scenes that are full of en­ergy. Cap­tur­ing move­ment in a still im­age is dif­fi­cult, but the jux­ta­po­si­tion in­trigues me. Busy, bustling cities are what I like to sketch most. They re­mind me of my child­hood in Mum­bai and how there was al­ways some­thing hap­pen­ing in the streets, un­like the quiet sub­urbs of San Jose, where I am cur­rently based.

Is there a coun­try that makes you think, “I have to come back and sketch this again”?

Oax­aca, Mex­ico. It was the first Mexican city I’ve vis­ited and I re­ally en­joy the vi­brant streetlife. Oax­aca is still gen­er­ally un­touched by heavy tourism, and re­tains a lot of its indigenous cul­ture; many build­ings are painted in vivid red, pink, emer­ald and turquoise. Once again it harkens back to the sur­round­ings of my child­hood in Mum­bai, a colour­ful city. Also, the fact that it’s only a five-hour flight from San Jose makes it so easy to visit.

What restau­rants have you sketched? Café Mon­de­gar in Mum­bai. It’s an Irani style café, a rapidly dis­ap­pear­ing style of es­tab­lish­ment. This one con­tains beau­ti­ful mu­rals on its walls by fa­mous In­dian artist Mario de Miranda. They serve unique cre­ations that can only come from In­dia and its na­tives, such as a deep­fried cheese toast filled to the brim with freshly cut green chill­ies.

Café de Tacuba in Mex­ico City is an­other. It’s incredibly pop­u­lar with tourists, and it owes that to its am­bi­ence. It’s a throw­back to the past, with or­nate dec­o­ra­tions, wait­staff in starched whites de­liv­er­ing old-school hos­pi­tal­ity, and a rov­ing mari­achi band. Com­bine that with sim­ple clas­sics, such as en­chilades con salsa verde and fresh, warm tor­tillas, and it forms a true Mexican ex­pe­ri­ence. The move­ment and en­ergy of the place just keeps me com­ing back.

You re­cently trav­elled to Spain and Por­tu­gal. What were the highlights?

It’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to see past the flashi­ness of more trav­elled cities like Barcelona, where the loud, unique ar­chi­tec­ture of Antoni Gaudi takes cen­tre stage. I much pre­fer Sevilla’s var­ied in­flu­ences; the Gi­ralda was once a minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville be­fore be­com­ing a bell tower for a Catholic cathe­dral; the mix­ture of Moor­ish and Chris­tian ar­chi­tec­ture and tile-work made for bet­ter sketch­ing. Por­tu­gal is al­ways spe­cial, as my fam­ily moved to Goa af­ter my child­hood in Bom­bay. As a for­mer Por­tuguese colony, I love how Goa shares sim­i­lar­i­ties to Lis­bon. It feels like home, as Goan cul­ture is based on their colo­nial past, and you can see that in their food and hos­pi­tal­ity.

You did a lovely sketch of the Ghats in Varanasi. What are the best ways to en­joy this his­toric lo­cale?

I’m not re­li­gious in the slight­est, but Varanasi calls to me. It has to do with the spirit of the place, which con­nects to ev­ery­one in a very per­sonal man­ner. There’s some­thing for ev­ery­one, if you give it time to reach out to you. There’s noth­ing like a morn­ing sketch by the river at Lalita Ghat as sad­hus go about their rites, or sip­ping a chai as the city lives and breathes around you. Do check out Dashash­wamedh Ghat for the daily gaanga aarti (rit­ual of prayer to the Ganges river) at dusk. It is truly a sight to be­hold.

Tell us about your trip to Yosemite.

Be­ing just a four-hour drive away from San Jose, Yosemite is one of my most trav­elled lo­ca­tions. It’s filled with nat­u­ral­is­tic won­ders, from the ma­jes­tic Half Dome to the wide ar­ray of wa­ter­falls dur­ing the right sea­son. I re­cently spent time in Curry Camp, now called Half Dome Vil­lage, which was one of the first to of­fer cheap ac­com­mo­da­tion to tourists in the early 1900s. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see the rich cul­tural his­tory, con­sid­er­ing that Amer­ica is rel­a­tively young com­pared to the an­cient and ex­ten­sive his­tory of In­dia.

In this dig­i­tal age, what does hand il­lus­tra­tion mean to you?

There’s noth­ing quite like hold­ing some­thing in your hands and know­ing that some­one made this. Es­pe­cially when so much can be done dig­i­tally, peo­ple re­ally miss the idea of some­thing be­ing hand done and im­per­fect. It adds a nec­es­sary hu­man el­e­ment that helps peo­ple con­nect. I don’t think dig­i­tal art and il­lus­tra­tion will ever fully re­place hand-drawn pieces. They’ll merely serve as con­trasts, pre­cise and per­fect against nos­tal­gia and emo­tion.

Span­ish Mar­ket, Sevilla

In­dian Fish­er­woman, Bom­bay

Suhita Shi­rod­kar sketch­ing with her son while on hol­i­day in Mex­ico

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