North India Explorer sketchbook.


Our summer holiday came early this year, the unconventional timing determined by the destination. India has been on our wish-list for a long time but unless you have a particular enthusiasm for apocalyptic monsoon rain, then two weeks in August – our usual escape slot – is out of the question.

The trip was another gem organised by tried and trusted adventure tour company Explore, who have yet to disappoint. The North India Explorer involved a very full-on 15-day itinerary starting in the capital Delhi and travelling to Udaipur, Pushkar, Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi and finally ending in Kolkata.

It was a lot to take in; we’ve been back almost a week and my head is still spinning somewhat from the experience. It’s a country like nowhere I’ve been before, throwing up a relentless succession of extreme and unfamiliar images, from the sublime to the downright surreal, with no pause to process what you’ve just seen before the next WTF tableau presents itself for your slack-jawed consideration. If you’re a remotely visual person, it’s an absolute blast.

Needles to say, India is a snapper’s wet dream and I came back with my memory cards stuffed. I’m still editing the results and could be at it for some time yet. As ever though, I also packed my sketchbook – a fresh Moleskine no less – and whipped it out whenever there was an opportunity.

The pace of the tour was such that there simply wasn’t time at most of the sites we visited to sit down and draw. However the trip did, by its nature, involve a lot of travelling – by train (including three sleeper trains, an experience in itself!), bus and boat – and it was during these stages that I would attempt to capture whatever was in front of me. Unsurprisingly, this consisted mostly of my fellow travellers killing time with books or mobile phones. Also, Indian roads being what they are, the sketches were often made in conditions more akin to a roller coaster ride than the zen-like serenity of the art studio. No matter – for all their jerky imperfections and repetitive subject matter, the following sketchbook entries still evoke the exact conditions and environment in which they were made, and with a Proustian vividness that a split-second photographic snap of the same subject could never aspire to.

The occasional odd gaps on the pages are where I’ve deleted diary notes – you really don’t want to be burdened with those – and the flat tone was added in Photoshop after scanning. There’s also one easy-to-spot iPhone finger-drawing included and you can, as always, click on any individual page to enlarge.


22March14(150dpi)24March14(150dpi)24March14_2(150dpi)25March14(150dpi)26March14(withTone)27March14(withTone)27March14_2(+Tone)28March14(150dpi)29March14_(combo)(+Tone)29March14-Ajmer-Jaipur_bus(iPhone)1April14(+Tone)1April14_2(+Tone)2April14(+Tone)2April14_2(150dpi)3April14_3(+Tone)3April14_4(+Tone)3April14_4 1(150dpi)5April14(combo)(+Tone)7April14(+Tone)

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193 Responses to North India Explorer sketchbook.

  1. kateosborne says:

    what a wonderful sketchbook!

  2. satsumaart says:

    These are wonderful as always! I’m not as diligent as you are but my sketchbooks also have many back-of-bus/train/plane sketches, so the perspective feels very familiar. :) After your description I was expecting your lines to be even wigglier but everything looks great. And I especially like the little groomed-moustache detail. :)

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thank you! That three-quarter rear view is quite a useful one for sketching a subject unnoticed, don’t you think? Really enjoyed making these, in spite of the adverse conditions which, I assure you, really were as bumpy a described. Indian pot-holes are something else!

  3. curtis tappenden says:

    Brilliant Geo. Evocative with superb draughtsmanship. They tell an enticing story. Well done! x

  4. Pingback: How to make a sketch diary: my top tips | myf draws apparently

  5. rohitmaiya says:

    Absolutely wonderful. It is always interesting someone’s travel stories in photographs and to see it in sketches is even more interesting.

  6. yogibattle says:

    I can feels the bumps in the road from your sketches! Beautiful and original perspective.

  7. Napo B says:

    wonderful drawings, isn’t India the best

    • Geo Parkin says:

      It was our first ever trip to India and we found it extraordinary in so many ways. Probably the most vibrant and visually stimulating country I’ve ever visited. Would love to have done a lot more drawing but it was a packed itinerary!

  8. debrazone says:

    Your drawings are incredible and so inspiring! I remember an art teacher in college many years ago writing a note in my sketchbook, “DRAW, DRAW, DRAW!” … and I try to. Mainly I doodle, but upon seeing your work, I feel like I WANT to get back to drawing my surroundings. Thank you!

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Your art teacher was right! As with any activity, the more you do it the better you get. If you can get into the habit of keeping a small sketchbook with you at all times, you’ll always be prepared when you find yourself with a few spare moments to fill. Just draw whatever’s right there in front of you – don’t wait for that ‘perfect’ subject to appear!

      • debrazone says:

        I draw in a small Moleskin sketchbook every night after dinner, but it’s more free-form doodling while watching TV … and I always travel with it. I started this as a distraction and relief from chronic back pain, and it works! (I’ve uploaded some to my site)

        You are RIGHT though, if I can remember to take my iPhone with me everywhere I go, I can certainly remember my sketchbook, and get back into the practice of drawing from real life.

        You are an amazing artist, thank you for replying.
        – deb

  9. assandbullshit says:

    Love it!

  10. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  11. CYogi says:

    Lovely! I traveled to India in January your sketches bring back wonderful memories.

  12. As an Indian its always fascinating to see how someone from the outside looks at things that we Indians take for granted. I am so glad you felt the way you did, and you are right you have not even scratched the surface.

    • Geo Parkin says:

      We loved it and hope to return sometime to see more. The people, the history, the culture, food, the light and the COLOUR – it was a memorable trip.

    • voter33 says:

      Interesting, because I assumed the artist WAS Indian, as he was able to observe & draw the subtle details I missed on my trip. You see I had traveled to Agra, Jaipur and all over India.. flying out of Heathrow, as he did (my origin was from Los Angeles).

  13. This is brilliant! Love the pages of your sketchbook on North India! I’m from Mumbai, India. We just visited Ranthambore and Jodhpur in March. Better then than now because of the current scorcher of a summer!

  14. Gosh, you are unbelievably talented ! How I envy you ! I was also looking forward to some images of Kolkata, my hometown. Did you visit any place in Kolkata ?


    • Geo Parkin says:

      The trip ended in Kolkata and we only had a very brief stay there. It looked like an amazing place and it’s a shame we didn’t have had more time to explore. Loved visiting the flower market and the amazing Hindu Icon workshops in the Kumartuli area!

  15. Frank says:

    Amazing! I once resolved to do this more often, but always forgot. I only remember hours later. :P

  16. Amazing peace of work ! Sketchbook *lovestruck*

  17. Beautiful and very motivating

  18. amazing sketchography…great work..inspiring…

  19. ajudaz says:

    Reblogged this on ajudaz's Blog and commented:

  20. Reblogged this on gynwdr57 and commented:
    Very good art work I like drawing

  21. Rahul Singh says:

    You have made an expat’s life more interesting. Seems like home was never far away. Oh yes and the bumps! :) Having been used to them all this while, driving in France seems so incomplete. Amazing sketches and thanks for sharing. Will look forward to more.

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Glad you like the sketches. Some of the road surfaces are incredible but it’s true, after just a couple of weeks we were starting to get used to them. Smooth roads are SO overrated!

  22. katpegimana says:

    Brilliant and fantastic!

  23. Very interesting sketches, as architecture students we were packed into buses early morning and unpacked in front of important building, before the crowds set in to sketch, so I do get what you are saying, and the bit where a bystander gets too curious.

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thanks. It’s true, an audience can be very off-putting when you’re trying to draw and make you too self-conscious to continue. I generally try to avoid those sorts of situations. Finger-drawing on an iPhone, if you can get the hang of it (it’s not for everyone), is actually a great way to make a drawing in public without attracting unwanted attention. Passers-by who see you tapping away at your phone will assume you’re checking emails or some such. It really works!

  24. Ravi Gautam says:

    Love those sketches.
    I would like to know more about that miniature artist.

  25. Jenny says:

    I love these drawings! you really seem to capture ‘the moment’ – people sitting around and waiting is something I wouldn’t normally pay much attention to, but you bring it to life in a perspective that would never be achieved by photographs…. Although I would love to see some of your shots of India!!

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thanks for your comments. I did come back with hundreds of photos but the blog is really just intended for drawings. Having said that, it’s probably the most photogenic country Ive been to – full of life and colour!

  26. wow. this is amazing work!

  27. imp says:

    With a skill like yours, waiting can never be a problem! And that is something one is forced to do often, in India. Lucky you :)

  28. I have alqays wanted to go to India

  29. Extraordinary sketches. Glad that you loved my country and had a good time over here!

  30. Malar says:

    Lovely sketches…..Try visiting south India as well there are a lot of beautiful landscapes out there….

  31. Amazing Sketches!!! Simply Awesummmmm!!!

  32. Reblogged this on collectivegalleria's Blog and commented:
    North India sketch book

  33. Outstanding! remarkable actually. Loved your sketches and the narrative it brings out. India can be overwhelming though am glad you enjoyed your experience and thank you for sharing it with us. Congratulations and do visit soon again!

  34. redjim99 says:

    Really good sketches, interesting views of fellow travelers and locals.


  35. techgirl says:

    Your sketches are wonderful, I am amazed that in 15days journey with so many places and so much of travelling, you sketched so much and so well.. yeah, you should have also come to Maharashtra state, that includes Bombay (Mumbai) and Goa.

  36. Reblogged this on Msstraightnocut and commented:
    This is so neat… I wish i could draw

  37. kenpsm says:

    Great Blog Post!

  38. Really wonderful pictures , I really like it. Hoping to see more artwork from you.

  39. This is brilliant Geo, wonderful and such interesting! Please don’t hesitate to give your opinion regarding the artist I wrote about in my last post…! :-)

  40. feichameleon says:

    love your drawing style!

  41. voter33 says:

    Very good drawing!

  42. Avinash says:

    Man, this is just awesome:) Have no words. Excellent work !! I myself had been to Rajasthan a few months back.. But I’m not as gifted:) Good luck! Do more and post more. I’ve already bookmarked your blog:)

  43. annu23 says:

    amazing have shown a lot about india in these short sketches. I am from delhi and just want to say that there are a lot more things in india to be do visit again and discover more. GREAT WORK…….

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Our trip started in Delhi which was an amazing introduction to India. Riding in a tuk-tuk through the streets of Chandni Chowk was an experience I’ll never forget! Thanks for the kind words.

  44. hey!!! Do you make money by this blog…! pls give me some advice to write a blog.

  45. shabnamphoto says:

    wow, not just wonderful, great sketches, makes me want to draw!

  46. Miss Keene says:

    Thanks for sharing these, you have quite a knack for catching the setting details and human expressions. I’m inspired to stick with improving my abilities especially since as you say, it keeps one longer engaged with the subject than does a photo. I’m years out from your skill, this is true – so I’ll just have to visit your blog to keep me going ; )

  47. pumpy9 says:

    Reblogged this on pumpylee9 and commented:

  48. infamousloww says:

    This is really cool! what an awesome idea capturing drawings on vacation along with the photographs :-)

  49. Reblogged this on The Higher Firewall and commented:
    A nice journey with lines drawn around, taking you to an untold adventure with new places to visit and the journey altogether. A beaming post to go through!

  50. moriaus says:

    This is lovely work!

  51. I am from North India,Lucknow,to be precise and I can guarantee you that you will have an enthralling experience if you visit this beautiful place.Namaste !

  52. nirupamaprv says:

    awesome. loved this perspective of my home and country. your sketches are so splendid.

  53. Love it. Will start my own travels next year. Thanks for some inspiration!

  54. These are awesome, love the darker tones that have been added. What pens do you use for your sketches?

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thanks, Jess. The tools are nothing special; The line-work is done with a 0.3 Unipin Fineline pen (pretty widely available I think) and the areas of black are blocked in with a Pentel Brush Pen – an excellent drawing implement that should be an essential item in any artist’s toolbag, IMHO. The grey tone was quickly added after scanning in Photoshop. Good luck with your studies!

  55. Really nice work; I certainly enjoyed going through the pages of this sketchbook.

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Cheers, Jason – appreciate it coming from a fellow scribbler. Just been looking at your blog; illustrator, sketcher, cyclist and beer enthusiast – we’re not related, by any chance? ;-)

  56. Logan says:

    Excellent work my man. These sketches are next level. I especially like the color picture of the woman in the seat. Keep it up buddy!

  57. swamiyesudas says:

    Very Good Art-work, Geo! You have captured the Essence! If You could also have taken in the Sound (Killing!) and the Heat (Also Killing), it would have been Awesome! As an Indian, I know how tiring it is to travel in our country. Sorry You had to go through all this. Hope things get better in the Future. Regards.

  58. They are simply amazing, flawless and what not !! You are a very talented person. Keep up the delightful work. (y)

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thank you – very kind. And fingers crossed for Liverpool; like many fans of other clubs (Bradford City for my sins), I’d LOVE to see them win the title this year. It can still happen!

  59. Part one of my first published travel memoir, “Just the ticket” was about my first visit to India in 2011. An invitation to attend a Sikh wedding in the capital of the Punjab, Chandigarh, prompted my visit. On completion of the 5-day nuptial event, I went on to visit Goa and tour the Golden Triangle. I fell head over heels for India so much so that my then long-term Indian boyfriend (now husband), Kuldip, and I returned to Chandigarh to live for three months last year during which time we bought the unit which we returned to, for a 12-month stay in January this year. I loved your sketches. They are a fluid visual snap-shot of my new second ‘home’, India. Thank you for posting them.

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thank you for the comments, Lynnie. Your blog sounds really interesting; I just had a look and there’s a lot there to read. I’ll definitely check that out properly as soon as I have a quiet moment. We saw enough in just two weeks to appreciate how easily one could fall in live with India!

  60. Mary F. says:

    These sketches are amazing!

  61. Brilliant and intimate sketches that must be a lot more meaningful than digital pictures. Keep up the good work.

  62. I have never been to India. Perhaps, some day I will go there…

  63. jillianbain says:

    Really enjoyed this post! Follow for follow?! :)

  64. Editor Undercover says:

    These are amazing sketches – it really put me there!

  65. These sketches show such a lovely insight into your trip here! Especially loved the one you did of the Pushkar Ghat :)

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thank you – there was something almost tangibly spiritual about the atmosphere around the Ghats in Pushkar. One of our most vivid memories from the trip – a lovely spot!

  66. Reblogged this on mansaramjogiyal and commented:

  67. Brill. Lifelike yet humorous. Found myself smiling throughout. Keep going but don’t draw me. I wont be able to bear it. x

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thanks, Rosalind – much appreciated. As for being drawn, it’s a painless process – many of my subjects have no idea they’re being ‘done’. ;-)

  68. Badri says:

    a really wonderful sketch book.

  69. really nice pictures. I loved India. I remember when i was on a bus from Amritsar to McLeod Ganj (Dharamsala) and an hour into the journey a car car slammed into the back of our bus. As it was India the driver shrugged as if to say “No-one died” and continued the journey….

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Ha – excellent. That sounds so typical if the attitude we saw throughout our tour. Saw so many near misses but amazingly, no actual collisions. Got the impression that anything non-fatal would have been treated as no big deal though, as you said!

  70. amala says:

    All my years of living in India and I can tell you that this is spot on :)

  71. I love the detail. I notice one thing–no one seems to be talking to anyone else.

  72. I love your sharp observations. As a north Indian, I could identify places and trains in your sketches without reading anything written on it. When we have cultural differences every kilometer, this is great success, you can sketch them.
    I will love to translate and reblog at my Hindi blog. May you allow me?

  73. I like your Drawings, Thanks For Sharing!

  74. leefeller says:

    I am envious…I cannot sing or sketch.

  75. Reblogged this on SMILE and commented:
    Cool sketches :-)

  76. Gloria Moore says:

    These sketches are awesome. I traveled in India for 3 weeks in 1999 and loved it. Wish I could draw. I’d have my own sketch book. One of my favorite sites was driving through a Sikh village on hair washing day. Everyone had their hair down letting it dry in the sun.

    • Gloria Moore says:

      OOPS! I meant SIGHTS in stead of sites. :)

      • Geo Parkin says:

        I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s visited India and hasn’t just loved it. The Sikh hair-drying ritual sounds great – we didn’t see that but there were so many other other sights that will forever be imprinted on my memory. An extraordinarily visual country. Thanks for visiting my blog, Gloria!

  77. lovethyself9 says:

    These are really nice sketches and beautifully captured the bumpy beauty of India!

  78. Rohini says:

    Amazing sketches!

  79. Pingback: उत्तर भारत खोज-चित्रमाला | गहराना

  80. Povonte says:

    Awesome idea and photos…thanks.

  81. That’s definitely an amazing sketchbook you have there.They are the ‘true’ pictures of how things are here and you have got them perfectly right. You have indeed captured few exquisite details which are so a part of India which i despite being an Indian would have maybe ignored if i were to draw these sketches specially the God idol on the dashboard. I hope you had a nice time here :)

  82. ekhupe says:

    good illustration…

  83. saurabhrutkarss says:

    It’s always pleasing to hear praises about your country. Thank you!
    And yes, your sketches are brilliant!

  84. saurabhrutkarss says:

    Reblogged this on saurabhrutkarss and commented:
    A Proud Indian.

  85. 😊 Somehoe we in India fail to see what others see in her.

  86. sugartoffee says:

    these are truly captivating sketches! wow!! so rad!

  87. Awesome comics, man! I just love the humorous way in which you portrayed your travels in northern India.

  88. russwilliamsfreelance says:

    Amazing! I see these facial expressions all too often on trams in Melbourne..!

  89. wonderful sketches—better than photos!

  90. timewilson says:

    simply stupendous drawing!!

    • Geo Parkin says:

      Thank you, Tim – very kind.

      Will be investigating your blog too, it looks really interesting!

      • timewilson says:

        many thanks. Are you an animator too? I have a number of 2d projects and have the blog to keep the drawing going and the thoughts alive! I think your artwork is stunning and so pleased to see another moleskin publisher on here!

      • Geo Parkin says:

        I’m an illustrator but I’ve been hugely influenced by animation over the years (see for the evidence of that!). I keep the blog and an active sketchbook going for precisely the same reasons as you – it keeps things fresh and in working order. A gymnasium for the mind, if you will!

      • timewilson says:

        I see immediately the animation influences! Your figures have stunning LIFE!! I also enjoyed the Tintin references! (do you know the work of Daniel Torres?) I love what you are doing!

      • Geo Parkin says:

        I certainly do know Torres’ work. i used to be kind of obsessed with all those European ‘Clear Line’ artists: Joost Swarte, Serge Clerc, Ever Meulen etc etc… I still love all that stuff even now. All big inspirations.

        Thanks again for your comments!

  91. Reblogged this on old world underground and commented:
    Love this!

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