COMPOSING THE VIEW

Street sketching is obviously not the same as sketching everyday objects at home or at a restaurant or café where you’re comfortably seated and can take as much time as you’d like to get the sketch right. The activity of people and vehicles on the streets and roads makes it difficult to capture basic outlines, let alone details. In Jaipur, most places that I’ve sketched are crowded market areas where shops occupy the ground floor of buildings and small houses overlook the street. Electricity wires and cables snake along walls, slithering along lintels to leap at electricity poles, adding to the visual noise of the city.

I rarely make thumbnails before sketching to judge the composition in my sketchbook. Mostly, a specific element, detail or aspect of the building or event before me gets my attention and I begin sketching it, adding other elements later on, if needed.

Shop front at M.D. Road (Moti Doongri Road) near Muslim Musafirkhaana, Jaipur. Rajasthan. India.
Shop front at M.D. Road (Moti Doongri Road) near Muslim Musafirkhaana, Jaipur. Rajasthan. India.

In making the sketch above, I considered two options- horizontal or vertical. A square view was out of question because I didn’t think it did anything for the subject of the sketch.

Thumbnails of the scene before beginning the final sketch
Thumbnails of the scene before beginning the final sketch

The vertical view was more interesting to me but as a challenge, I decided to do the horizontal view where not as much of the building can be seen. Charting the edges and shapes to understand relationships between elements is helpful and quickens the actual sketch. This is especially helpful in crowded places where you are required to switch places quite often. Sometimes, I sketch the basic shapes and any peculiar details to sketch the subject later in a disturbance-free zone. However, this only works in a familiar city surrounding where you know the architecture and language of the streetscape.

As you can see, I didn’t have a perspective to work on as I chose to sketch the shop front view. These are shops in the Moti Doongri area of Jaipur (Rajasthan, India) and I loved the contrasting use of paint on buildings with old shops and equipment.

I might sketch the vertical view too, as it was what I wanted to sketch initially. It’s amazing how the same scene can narrate starkly different stories depending on the part emphasized. To me, this sketch is about idiosyncrasies of personal choice. The blue, pink and brown make an interesting combination.

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