Welcome! My name is Candace and I’m a writer, sketch artist, and illustrator with a passion for telling stories about the world – be it through words or watercolors.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
– Joseph Campbell
Seven years ago, I hesitantly took Campbell’s advice. I let go of the life I had planned and opened myself to the myriad possibilities the world has to offer. While stepping off the edge of my safe existence into the unknown was a terrifying prospect, I also had a feeling that something incredible awaited me if I could take that initial leap of faith.
Life has been a crazy adventure ever since.
Welcome to The Great Affair
That leap of faith I just mentioned? It’s exactly what this blog is all about. I’ve been writing The Great Affair since 2008, ever since I first launched myself into the unknown (more on that soon). Although it’s now evolved into part-blog, part-portfolio, my vision for the site remains unchanged.
Through the stories and sketches I share here, I hope you’ll fall in love with the world and the possibilities it offers.
I hope you’ll be inspired to take your own leap of faith.
I hope you’ll live life to its fullest.
The name of the blog itself comes from the following quote:
I first came across Stevenson’s words on a magnet in the Art Institute of Chicago’s bookshop. It was my senior year of university and the only traveling I’d done up to that point had involved family roadtrips on the East Coast of the US.
Even still, the quote spoke to me like a yet-understood language on ancient parchment.
The great affair is to move.
As I rolled the phrase across my tongue, it conjured up images of a worn-down bus winding its way through lush, jungled hills; of a ferry plying the waters of a churning sea; and of a train barreling across the countryside. Anything, really, that takes us from here to there and back again.
But beyond the literal action of a trip, about where we travel or how we got there, it seemed to speak of the spirit behind the movement – the why. That insatiable desire for newness and adventure, for different air and foreign sounds, for a journey.
The great affair of creating a life worth living – and of writing for ourselves a story worth telling.
I’ve always wanted to travel. Although I never traveled outside my home country of the US while growing up, something in me still knew it wanted more – that little twitch they call wanderlust. While studying English in college (not the most practical of degrees, I now realize), I was as lost and directionless as they come. Did I want to be a songwriter? An editor? A teacher? One April afternoon in 2008, I ultimately decided I would regret not seeing the world more than anything else. Then, with just a month to go before graduation, two friends offered me a serendipitous invitation: “Candace, come to London with us.” I had no idea at the time how much those six words would change my life.
I was soon writing about my wanderlust. Like with traveling, I’d always wanted to be a writer. The thing is, I have no imagination and thus make for a rather appalling fiction writer. But not long after I left London and moved to New Zealand, something inspired me to google “Masters in Travel Writing.” Not only did such a program exist, but it was offered by a university back in London. I instantly knew that was the path for me. I could write with the tools and techniques of fiction, but didn’t have to invent stories – a brilliant compromise in my books. My writing has now appeared in places like BBC Travel, AOL Travel, National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog, and World Hum, and I’m also at work on an illustrated memoir.
Then I started sketching on the road. You know how right when you think you’ve figured your life out, the universe throws a curveball your way? The curveball in my case was a very good one, but unexpected nonetheless. I’ve loved to paint since even before I loved to write, but it was only just over four years ago that I brought a sketchbook and watercolors with me on a weekend trip to Portugal. From that moment on I was hooked. Sketching and illustration have now become an intrinsic part of what I do, and I’m grateful to call myself a self-made, self-sustaining artist. I’ve drawn my way through more than 30 countries, been featured in The New York Times as a sketch artist, and published a book of sketches and stories from Southeast Asia and Japan.
It turns out Joseph Campbell is right. When we get out of our own way and let life do its thing, magic happens. In the last six years, I’ve volunteered on a Tahitian black pearl farm, bathed an elephant in Nepal, sketched Colombia’s Lost City on assignment for National Geographic, solo-hiked a 220-mile pilgrimage through rural Turkey, crashed a Berber picnic in Morocco, and driven an auto-rickshaw 2,000 miles across India – where I’ve also lived and left a significant part of my heart. More importantly, my core loves of writing, sketching, and traveling are now inextricably linked for me – I couldn’t imagine doing one without the others. It’s at the point of convergence between these three worlds that I finally found my path and my passion:
Where life and work collide
When I was 14 years old, I started keeping an art journal. As I was homeschooled at the time, the journal largely consisted of everyday life updates and quick sketches of household knick-knacks, but there was also the occasional colored pencil drawing of something I’d seen in a magazine. On January 29, 2001 – exactly ten years to the day before that fateful sketching trip to Portugal – I copied a picture from a 1959 issue of National Geographic. It showed a man with his head bowed before a mosque, hands clasped behind his back and prayer beads in his fingers. Above the drawing, I wrote these words:
I want to try and expand my artistic horizons further.
If you had told me then just how far my horizons would one day expand – that 13 years later, I would sketch a man in Kütahya, Turkey, as he walked down a cobblestone street with hands clasped behind his back and prayer beads in his fingers – I would not have believed you. The thought of traveling the world and earning a living doing watercolors on location (i.e. not from a magazine) would have been inconceivable to me then. It would have been so far outside the realm of what I thought possible in life as to be laughable. But that’s how the universe works, isn’t it? Revealing it all to us in time – poco a poco, step by step.
In the past several years, I’ve worked on an exciting variety of illustration projects – hand-drawn maps, custom website headers, book covers and editorial illustrations, whimsical renderings of homes and wedding locations, and even an 85-foot-long mural for Google Thailand in their Bangkok office. If you’re interested in hiring me for a project, please feel free to check out my sketching portfolio or visit my Etsy shop – I’d love to hear from you!
A few little facts about me
Just so we’ve really gotten to know each other, there’s a couple more things you should know:
- I am hopelessly smitten with Wes Anderson.
- My favorite food is Mexican. Give me some guacamole and a margarita and I will love you forever (but not as much as Wes).
- I get my middle name (Rose) from my paternal grandfather, Webb Rose Rardon.
- I collect postcards, foreign beer labels, and found playing cards. I’m still looking for the queen of spades.
A brief note on ads and sponsored content
The Great Affair is the online home of my writing and sketching portfolio, which means everything you read here will have been written by yours truly only. And that’s a promise. I’ve made a decision to support myself through freelance writing and sketching commissions, so this site does not accept advertising of any kind, be it paid links, banner ads, or sponsored posts. I also don’t accept press trips; please know that all journeys documented here for your reading pleasure have been self-funded, or occasionally by partnering with like-minded companies and organizations.
Get in touch
Now that I’ve shared my story, I’d love to hear yours – to get in touch, send me an email at [email protected] or a message through the contact page. And please feel free to join me elsewhere on the interweb: