“We have same hobby”: On travel sketches and serendipity.
“Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worthwhile, and it will do you a world of good.”
It’s 1pm on Bali and to say it’s hot would be akin to describing a blizzard as nippy – hot doesn’t begin to do justice to this soul-destroying, sweat-inducing heat.
And yet here I sit in direct sunlight on a concrete path weaving through Orient Express’ Jimbaran Puri Bali resort, much to the amusement of the staff that keep passing by, saying, “Excuse me, madam.”
In direct sunlight or not, this just happens to be the perfect spot from which to sketch a certain heliconia plant. To be honest, I’m showing off by calling it by name – it took me asking five staff before I could do so.
But I’d been drawn to the plant ever since arriving at the resort, intrigued by its unusual design and bright colors, the squiggly stalk zigzagging down the center of the flowers like a zipper.
Suddenly a shadow spills across the page of my sketchbook like an overturned glass of wine; I look up and it’s another staff member.
“We have same hobby,” he says. The brass tag on his uniform reads Made, which I’ve learned by now means he’s son #2.
“Sorry?” I ask, not sure if I’d misheard him.
“You and me, we have same hobby,” he says, getting out his phone. With one hand shielding the screen from the sun, Made scrolls through an album of photos, all of his own sketches.
They’re done in pencil and are mostly portraits – remarkably life-like, delicately shaded and drawn in incredible detail. His favored subject appears to be those of the opposite sex, with a few in poses that are, shall we say, not for younger eyes to see.
He takes my photo with his phone, says he’ll do a sketch of me that night and bring it to my villa before I leave tomorrow. We say goodbye and I move on to draw the beachside Puri Bar, and then the resort’s small temple, complete with handcrafted bamboo decorations.
But in the back of my mind I’m always thinking of Made, of this man I apparently share a hobby with, and am more than curious to know what exactly, if anything, he’ll show up with in the morning.
The next day I’m sprinting around my villa, doing some last-minute packing, when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Made, with a scroll of rolled-up paper in his hand.
“Come in, come in,” I say, loving any chance to entertain in my deluxe pool villa.
He tells me he has to go check in another couple, but wanted to give this to me before I left. I squeeze off a tiny rubber band, start unfurling the scroll and can’t help feeling like an ancient Roman centurion receiving a message from afar.
But as soon as I glimpse what’s on the page, I stop. It’s me.
“It is not 100% perfect,” Made says, but I’m enough of an artist to recognize this familiar apology, a reluctance to call a piece ‘done.’
I’m not sure what’s more impressive: the fact that he stayed up until 3am working on it, or that he’s captured so many key details – the sunglasses perched on my head, the notebook in my hands, even the carved koru necklace around my neck.
Over the past two years, I’ve started leaving travel sketches in my wake around the world – I’ve found they’re a personal way to thank someone who has hosted me, or taken the time to show me around their city.
To have the tables turned, for someone to draw me a sketch – not to mention a sketch of, well, me – is unexpected. I’d come to the resort to sketch, not be sketched, but my brief friendship with Made is humbling, reminding me for the thousandth time that we have little idea of the vast web of connections around us.
The last thing I pack that morning is Made’s sketch; there’s just enough space between my laptop and my own sketchbook for the scroll to fit snugly.
Same hobby indeed.
How to get sketching at Jimbaran Puri Bali Resort:
My sketching sessions at the resort were kindly made possible by Orient Express, but all opinions (and gratitude for sketches!) here are my own. Learn more about the property at www.jimbaranpuribali.com, or give them a call at (+62-361) 701 605. It’s a true escape.