Inside Faye Suzannah’s India Sketchbook, A Lovely Glimpse Into Her Backpacking Trip Across South India

UK based multidisciplinary artist Faye Suzannah backpacked across South India for 2 months in early 2013. We were fortunate enough to find images of her beautiful sketchbook, a curation of all her memories of the exotic south–in the form of simple yet quirky collages. Combining her lifelong interests of screen printing, and analogue photographic techniques, she studied surface design in London. Although, more recently she has begun setting down and works on commission, using water based paints to decorate both private and commercial spaces all over the world. Leaving her dependence on equipments, Suzannah prefers backpacking with a packet of paintbrushes and a rudimentary sketchbook kit and her trip to South India wasn’t any different. Collages made up of wax crayon illustrations that merge behind waste materials found on the streets of Gokarna, her sketchbook is truly a treasure reminiscent of her learnings. Scroll down as she tells us tales from her trip and the inspiration behind these beautiful collages. 

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

HG: When did you travel to India? Why does your sketchbook only draw inspiration from South India?

FS: I travelled for 2 months throughout south India early 2013. I felt I was ready for the cultural and visual extremes I knew they would await me there. For the first time I had a willing male travel companion which I knew would be a good idea in India; having heard a lot about solo women travellers being hassled for various reasons. We flew in and out of Mumbai and travelled, in short, down the coast through Goa and Karnataka, up into the hills in Tamil Nadu then back down to the coast in Kerala where we stayed for a few weeks before returning to Bombay on a faster route through the backwaters of Kerala, past Hampi and via one last return stop on the beaches of Gokarna. Our route was determined by fellow travellers we met, how much in need of peaceful beach time vs highly religious/more traditional experiences

HG: How did you go about creating your collages? Where did you source the material from?

FS: The most essential part of my sketch-booking kit is a plastic folder to keep everything I find and a sharp craft knife to craft things into funny shapes before I stick them. I picked up all kinds of wrappers and leaflets from the ground as well as purchasing certain items solely for the use of the packet it came in. Collaging for me is a matter of selection, some of the pieces I collected on that trip still haven’t been used, awaiting the “perfect” place to be stuck down. I Combined collaged bits with observational drawings and mimicked it with how pattern and textiles are used in India. Later using it as a tracing paper helped me to create depth in my sketchbook. I hand-made this book before my trip too, as a totally blank bunch of pages can be daunting to start, so I used pieces of patterned and printed paper that I imagined would fit in with indian imagery.

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

HG: Do you have any favourite pages? If yes, why?

FS: The whole sketchbook is very meaningful to me, probably one of my most valued possessions. And a visual reference for me forevermore. It is hard for me to choose specific pages, but as a general rule, the work which takes the longest, a laborious pattern or a closely studied observational drawing, feels the most personal as there has been a struggle, and a memory concreted through that process. I love how all of the elements of india, the colour, the pattern, the food, the philosophy and belief system, even the smell, has come together in this small book which, as a document has an air of humour about it — like a reminder that life is not all so serious. Especially not when there are mangos growing everywhere, elephants being washed in rivers by young european tourists and monkey gods being worshipped!

HG: Would you like to share a fond memory you had while travelling across South India?

FS: As with the sketchbook it is very hard to choose specific moments. Although I do remember the time when a wonderful man at Shri Benaka cameras in Bengaluru was overjoyed to fix my 60 year old analogue camera, saying that it was the type of camera he had first learn to fix cameras on. He grinned, as my shutter made its good old “clunk” noise after becoming jammed, to my horror, on the beach in Goa a month earlier. I payed him more than he asked for which was still hardly anything!

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Apart from that, I still reconcile with my learnings. In many ways the western people/western attitude/western culture coming into India seemed to have some jarring or confusing effect on me. Such as rubbish/litter created by western food products could not be processed using known traditional eastern systems.These were not things that affected my Indian experience, but that made it all the more incredible when the two worlds worked together. Gokarna town was the best example of this where hoards of bikini clad tourists sat on beaches spending money in indian run beach huts, whilst a short walk over the hill, hundreds of religious pilgrims arrived daily to worship numerous Gods across the  temples. This is why we went there again just before flying home.

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Image credit: Faye Suzannah

Find the rest of the pages on her blog 

Compiled by Karan Kaul 

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