Asia sketchbook, August 2016.

Summer 2016 will long be remembered for the thrilling performances and record-breaking medal haul of Team GB at the Rio Olympics, but probably not by us. Lynn and I spent the entire duration of the event travelling around various parts of Asia, and we somehow contrived to see not a single minute of TV coverage while we were away. The BBC News app just about kept us in the loop, but athletic triumphs in South America largely passed us by. It was a sacrifice worth making, though.

The trip in question was a slightly longer and more complex itinerary than usual – a ten-day ‘Indochina Encounter’ tour of Cambodia and Vietnam with tried-and-trusted travel company Explore, followed by a couple of extra days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and an onward flight to Beijing to spend a week with our daughter Chloë, who is currently working out there.

I was accompanied as ever by a crisp new Moleskine sketchbook, which these days is one of the first items on my packing list. If space was tight and it came down to a choice between this or some other travel essential such as mosquito repellant, I’d probably take my chances with malaria. As with previous intensive trips of this sort, a lot of time is spent in transit, which does rather dictate the subject matter for the bulk of these sketches. We’re talking fellow travellers – with Lynn featuring prominently – reading, snoozing, or otherwise killing time on planes, trains and automobiles. Outside of that, our schedule was generally too frantic to accommodate drawing intervals, but admittedly that is the way we like it. The erratic, wobbly line in which several of these sketches are rendered, bears testament to the absurdly unfavourable circumstances in which they were drawn. Usually this would be some rattling bus, swerving and honking along an uneven road surface; the resulting images recalling the journeys in question with ironic clarity.

Considering the exotic, whirlwind, experience-packed nature of the trip, which included visits to bucket-list locations such as Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, Beijing’s Forbidden City, The Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, there’s a curiously domestic feel to most of the drawings here. These are the otherwise-forgotten ‘between’ times, when the camera takes a rest and, for some of us at least, the sketchbook comes to life.

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The occasional flat tones and spot colours were added digitally, back in the studio – in case you were wondering.


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