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Hello! My name is Candace, and I’m a sketch artist with a passion for helping you connect with the world through art. Pull out your sketchbook and watercolors and find your favorite view — I’m glad you’re here!

“We have same hobby”: On travel sketches and serendipity.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012 | 19 Comments

“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.”

– Cennini

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.

Travel sketches of Bali flowers

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.

Travel sketches of Bali

Travel sketches of Bali

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.

Travel sketches of Bali

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.

  • Candace, you have a rare talent. These sketches are so beautiful, and it’s really something you don’t see a lot of people doing – they give a different impression of somewhere than a photo or a journal entry.

    Just so you know, whenever we meet up on the road, I will be commandeering your sketchbook and browsing for hours 😉

    • Completely, utterly agreed. You should sell these as postcards, greeting cards, etc. Let me know when you do – I’d love to have them (because I believe in the dying art of thank you cards!)

      • Thanks so much for your comment, Cat! I think expanding my sketches will happen pretty soon, and I will for sure let you know when I do 🙂 (and yes! I’m a big fan of thank you cards too…)

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Naomi – they’re really encouraging to hear. And you are more than welcome to commandeer my sketchbook (brilliant word choice, by the way…) – I love sharing my sketches and would be happy to show you too! Whereabouts are you these days? Hope all is well! x

  • kathysk

    Candace, seeing your sketches here immediately reminded me of my flight back from Italy in the summer of 2011. The woman seated next to me told me she’d been in Florence doing some artwork. She was more than happy to show me her sketch book and I was just in awe of her talent. Here is her website: shirlriccetti.com She is part of a gallery in Houston. Your artistic ability is wonderful!! You need to have your own gallery! I’m serious! I would be your most loyal customer (after your mother, of course!) Much love from Iowa!

    • JenM

      LOL, I was just reading this comment and getting kind of defensive about another person from Iowa sending you love (like you’re not allowed to have best Iowa friends other than me, right?! haha) when I went back and read the name again…kathysk…haha oh I love our mothers! And I agree with mine-totally should sell these in some form 🙂

      • Your comment made my day, Jen. Don’t worry – you will always be my only best friend from Iowa 🙂 And yes, a book of sketches is definitely in the works…especially as they become more and more a focus in my travels. Can’t wait to share it with you one day!

    • Hello, Mrs. Skalbeck! It’s great to hear from you 🙂 and thank you SO much for sending me the link to Shirl’s work…I am officially in love with her sketching style. And it was very cool to learn about the “Sketchbook Project” she’s a part of – I’d love to see that exhibit at some point. Thanks so much for your comment, and I’m sending lots of love back to you!

  • MarkG

    I am truely in awe and envy of your artistic abilities. They are really lovely sketches that would serve beautifully as travel book illustrations.

    Are you self taught or did you study art at school?

    Do you apply the water colours in situ or later on?

    • Thanks very much, Mark! Your kind words mean a lot. I would love to put together a book of my sketches one day, so that is definitely on the horizon. In terms of instruction, it’s a bit of a mix – I took watercolor lessons from around ages 11-13, but since then, it’s been mostly self-taught. And yes, I apply the watercolors on the spot – I really enjoy doing the whole thing while I’m right there 🙂

  • Lovely work, Candace. I’ve heard Bali is super beautiful, and you’ve captured what I imagine it looks like.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, JoAnna – it’s lovely to hear from you. Bali definitely is beautiful, although it sometimes takes looking beyond the more built-up parts down south. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you!

  • jen

    I think your sketches are getting more and more amazing as you move through the world. I think I need to take up your trick of using less detail with the paint and more with the black pen. Maybe i’ll practice today on this rainy Saturday in Bermondsey.

    • Thanks for such kind words, lovely! They mean a lot. I think I can feel my eye getting a little stronger the more I sketch – that old adage about practice and perfect is really true, isn’t it? I’d love a peek at your sketches one of these days 🙂

  • I love this post, Candace! What a surprise to see a portrait of yourself! The sketches are great, as is the storytelling accompanying them.

    • Thanks so much, Sarah! It was definitely a surprise – more so as he’d only done it the night before 🙂 I really appreciate you stopping by and hope to see you here again!

  • What a beautiful story! I love hearing your adventures of serendipity. I love the sketches. They really do add a depth to your posts. I hope when you publish your book one day that you accompany your sketches. That would be so “you!” Another layer to this post that I like is how you’ve captured the friendliness and genuine nature of the people in Bali. Adding to the list!

    • Thanks for this lovely comment, Natalie! I really do hope to include sketches in my first travel memoir, and I’ve got plans to work on a book of mostly just sketches too, so I can’t wait to share them with you one day 🙂 And yes! I certainly recommend getting to Bali if you can…a beautiful place to visit and explore. PS – I caught up with Dylan the other day in Bangkok and told him how fun it was to meet you at BP in August!

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