From Giza, Egypt
Scratchboard, 9 x 12
I haven’t had much luck with camels. Laden with cameras and film, I had agreed to this “exotic, rarely conducted camel tour around the pyramids in Giza.” Of course, I figured out much later that the tour was indeed “around” the pyramids — because my guide did not want to pay the entrance fee to the Giza complex.
So there I was in the midst of the Libyan Sahara, far from both monuments and humanity. Gesticulating wildly, he was heatedly haggling with me, threatening to walk the camel —with me on top — further into the desert should I not agree to his “new rate”.
“Fifty pounds extra,” he persisted, lowering his bid. Previously I had stuck to a stubborn 30, but now, out of unashamed fear, I capitulated.
Much later I disembarked with relief. I took a final look at the beast, now absolutely nonchalant, who stood relaxed in the blazing sun. Her demeanor was so comically calm, given the threatening transaction that had earlier taken place, that I had to take some pictures.
Scratchboard was the inevitable medium to convey these distinctive textures. I used a scalpel to evoke the woolly fluff of her face and neck.
From Varanasi, India
Acrylic on board, 12 x 16, circa 1986
It was late afternoon in the holy city of Varanasi in India.
I had blundered from one spot to the other till I had wandered hopelessly far away from my destination. It had become ominously cloudy and a downpour seemed inevitable. For a fleeting impressionist moment the sun straggled through a cloud bank, lighting up the water and a distant bridge ahead. The mottle of boats and cattle added a strange vibrancy to the scene.
A washerman was hurriedly pulling clothes from a makeshift clothesline. An obdurate goat wouldn’t budge from its sunbathing moment much to the chagrin of its masters trying to hurry it home.
In this land of contrasts, a distant mosque loomed in the sweep of this ancient temple town.
I captured the conflict of moods with an ink drawing on a paper, later recreating the scene on hardboard painted white, using acrylic with a dry-brush technique I found effective.
From Sukhothai, Thailand
Conté crayon, 14 x 17
This could have been a scene from ancient Sri Lanka. The influence of that country’s architectural motifs was unmistakable, from the stroke of the chisel to the slather of the trowel.
I was walking in the central part of the Sukhothai Historical Park when I chanced upon this masterpiece in the deserted shine of Wat Sorasak. It was commissioned to be built in the early 1400s by one monk Nai Inthara Sorasak in honor of the governor.
In awe, I gazed at the parade of 24 stucco elephants that protectively emerged from the bricks holding up the chedi. “These elephants,” my guide told me,“are eternally upholding our great tenets of Buddhism.”
The bricks that made up the base were now worn out by 600 years of exposure to the elements, but the stucco was firmly holding up the line of resolute pachyderms.
I would have liked to wander around here some more, but the mosquito orchestra was getting a bit sonorous and aggressive. I took a few pictures and later sketched this in the air-conditioned comfort of my room.
From San Ignacio, Belize
Scratchboard, 16 x 20
Hiking the densely-forested terrain of the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve in Belize, I had spotted several troops of howler monkeys, gibnuts, white-lipped peccaries and countless exotic birds. Sadly the only jaguar I spotted in that trip had been at the Belize Zoo.
Not content with such an interesting animal parade, upon every rustle in the thicket my ears would perk up for the faintest whistle of that gentle giant. The Baird’s tapir that had once rubbed shoulders with the ancient Maya indeed proved to be a shy creature. A scary herbivore when enraged, I had to be careful lest I stumbled upon an unsuspecting full-grown adult or worse, a mother and its baby. Unfortunately the closest I came to spotting a ‘mountain cow’ – as the tapir is known – was only a set of fresh tracks on a trail leading to a pond.
My foray to the Belize Zoo surprisingly proved futile since the resident tapir had decided to nap out its afternoon, much to my chagrin. Determined, I ended up at the Field Museum in Chicago, picking up where the taxidermist had left off.
Lighting up the fur, and the eyes of mother and child with bolder cuts of the blade, I needed to breathe some life into this rather sterile setting. I used an X-Acto #11 blade, nicking out each strand of fur, hair by hair. It took me several weeks to complete one of my bigger pieces I had ever attempted in this medium.
– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.
From Ellora Caves, India
We were more than 15 miles away from the colorful township of Aurangabad and 250 miles from the bustle of Mumbai. Our creaky Jeep headed for the renowned Ellora Caves was groaning through a winding ascent.
“Here are 34 caves carved out in a crescent curve on the slope of these low hills,” our guide told us.