A Fellow Traveller
'A Fellow Traveller' was published in 2015. I've also produced very limited edition canvas prints of views from the book.
On Friday 21st May, I shall be giving a talk ’A Fellow Traveller Returns’ as part of the Stamford & Rutland Amnesty International Festival of Social Justice. It is free, just book a ticket on the link. And as it is via zoom you don’t need to be in Stamford to join in!
A Fellow Traveller © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
On 5th April 2001 I set out on a five months journey, having been awarded a Travelling Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust , visiting UNESCO World Heritage Cities and Sites on the World Heritage List through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, India and Nepal. I returned in September 2001 having completed 106 annotated watercolour sketches in my diary recording my experience, 42 of which appear in the book. Here are a few extracts from my diary:
Paris, France © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
‘France - April 5th 2001 - My train leaves Waterloo and arrives in Paris about three hours later and my journey has begun. A gentle start with only subtle cultural differences with which to contend. The rainy April weather and the train drivers' strike made me feel not far from home at all. Surprisingly, I must have had a convincing savoir faire look in France because I have been asked for directions at least a dozen times. Only when I opened my mouth did I give the game away!...
Avignon, France © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
Avignon - hurrah the sky is blue, the sun is shining but boooh, there is a raw north wind racing down the Rhône Valley and there's nowhere to hide. Fearlessly into the wind I head across the exposed Pont de Edouard Daladier to the Île de la Barthelasse to enjoy this incredible view. This imposing view must have instilled a healthy respect for this papal town and frontier crossing between the then kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire. It still commands a healthy tourist count today!
Venice, Italy © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
I could spend years getting lost down all the alleys, arriving at a canal, going back up the alleys, eventually find a bridge over the canals and so on. I walked through the Jewish Ghetto, which was powerfully moving, .....crossing the bridge only a few metres away, but which probably meant the difference between life and death not so long ago. More happily St. Mark's Square is still as gorgeous as ever, appreciated by thousands every day and even more pigeons!
Lucca, Italy © Karen Neale
Arrived in Florence yesterday from Bologna. I have been so well looked after in Italy, as I've stayed with such lovely people every day so far since I have arrived in Italy.....I visited Ferrara on Monday, which is beautiful too, but just could not sketch. Anyway today I feel I could stay in Lucca for weeks, there is just so much here to draw and be delighted in - well simply another place I will come back to! And the famous Piazza Anfiteatro lived up to all my expectations....
San Gimignano, Italy © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
..across the beautiful Tuscan Hills I could see in the distance the medieval skyscraper outline of San Gimignano....Quite unique, beautiful without stepping into tweedom. This is sketched from the Torre Grossa, the largest and tallest of the fourteen remaining towers of an original seventy two in the Middle Ages, when San Gimignano was a prosperous little trading town. Just over half of the towers have made it into this piccie..........
Matera, Italy © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
Matera, a truly incredible place. In Matera dogs appear suddenly at the top of a building, overlooking you like a furry gargoyle and welcome you to Matera in comical fashion. This is the view from palazzo Canfranchi, looking across to Sassi Caveoso, el Duomo on left, here is San Pietro caveoso and Madonna dell' Idris set into the rocks... all quite amazing...The mad swallows swooping overhead in eternal circles like an airy whirlpool of mirthful mayhem - wonderful.
Epidaurus, Greece © Karen Neale
‘..... Epidaurus is truly spectacular. The acoustics are indeed near perfect. You can hear a penny (or rather a drachma) drop on the centre circle of the stage from the back tier. ...being such a part of its natural surroundings, it was only discovered in the 19th century. Polykleitus built this in the 4th century BC, how did he do it? How did he know with all the variable surroundings that acoustic perfection would be achieved? To me it really is a wonder of the world....
The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
...lost in the wonderful and bizarre Grand Bazaar, an experience not to be missed ....and it is sketcher's paradise overload.... constantly plied with water and Turkish tea - which is very hospitable. It is a real theatrical performance, ...'this way please, best carpets here lady, lady lady' and so on. It is great here, I may drink the bazaar's Turkish tea reserves dry though, as I could stay here for decades. You can just about buy anything here I think - for a price and the antique pewter, copper and gold don't come cheap!
Tea House in the Bazaar, Kerman, Iran © Karen Neale
…..Iran - 30th June 2001 - The heat rises to nearer 40 degrees and more and it is on with the not so little black dress and hejab to form your own portable oven. After a couple of days of adjustment to this attire everywhere outside your room and seeing one half of the population also dressed like you, but of course with exquisite Persian elegance and aplomb which you can't hope to achieve in a couple of weeks, it all seems quite normal…………You can walk for miles along relatively cool terracotta domed lanes and alleys of the bazaars which are teeming with everything from intricately carved hair slides to vast copper vessels, to carpets and cakes galore, all washed down with compulsory cup of chay in atmospheric teahouses where the locals get down to their business over the hubbly bubbly pipes, reclining on the low level cushioned couches. (Stress seized businesses everywhere take note!) Maybe because there are not many travellers here, the hospitality shown by so many people to foreigners is quite overwhelming and humbling……..
....The modern day city now lies outside the walls of the ancient city Arg -e- Bam....The citadel is quite out of this world and completely compelling, even while drawing this at 50° early in the morning, melting. The only inhabitants now in this amazing ancient city are the restoration workers, the ladies at the teahouse in the gatehouse to the citadel (great cooked eggs!) and the odd inquisitive lizard and bird.
Bazaar, Esfahan, Iran © Karen Neale
and as you walk along the arcade, suddenly the symphony of clanging metal gets louder and louder, and then you turn the corner and it is the copper bazaar, and these amazing men, many of them quite old, are busily crafting their amazing pots, and in this case vessels the size of small boats - brilliant!
Khiva, Uzbekistan © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
... Khiva is very quiet, well the Ichon Qala area within the fortifications - it is a living museum,....there are no ordinary shops or businesses etc. giving that busy bustle,...Still it is incredibly beautiful and its quietness makes it a restful place. Islom-Hija minaret on the right, Paklaven Mohammed Mausoleum, with its beautiful turquoise dome and then the Juma Minaret on the left, with an array of other important things in between too!
Uzbekistan to India......
India for me was an assault on the senses all of the time. Culture shock well and truly hit me here - a country of extremes where heaven and hell exist like oil and water - karma chaos...
Surajpol Entrance, Meherengarh Fort, Jodphur, India © Karen Neale
Jodphur....Up here, at the Meherengarh Fort, things are a little calmer and here everyone is just intrigued by my drawing. This is the entrance to Surajpol (I think), all the courtyards and palaces are interwoven and with the vibrant colours of the women's saris and the men's turbans it is a sight of great beauty. Sudden fantastic bursts of colour as large groups of Indians of different castes appear and disappear through the layers of the fort.
Tailor in Udaipur, India © Karen Neale
.... I am getting a pair of trousers made from my old ones, which are almost falling apart now. This is Bhopal Singh, the quiet and hard working tailor who performs small miracles on this wonderful old sewing machine, and all the fantastic colourful fabrics.
Lake Pichola, Udaipur, India © Karen Neale, Watercolour Artist London
. A very atmospheric monsoon day today. Took a boat ride out on the serene Lake Pichola to Jagmandir Island, just in time as the heavens opened and the dark clouds leapt over the mountains unannounced and shrouded the landscape in mysterious mist...... Anyway all is fine and can just about see the City Palace and Jagnawas Island - the Lake Palace Hotel....
Khrishna's Birthday, Udaipur , India © Karen Neale
.... it is Khrishna's birthday today -.... this evening, .... the whole square outside the temple filled well beyond capacity, to watch the annual event of teams of human pyramids competing with each to get the 5000 rupee bootee hanging up here. I am amazed there were no serious injuries as each pyramid collapsed one after another, until the bootee was lowered a little and then one daring team grabbed the pot....An amazing spectacle - not for the claustrophobic - lucky pigeons get the best view!
India to Nepal.....
Kathmandu, Nepal © Karen Neale
please click on the image below to see a larger picture
…..Kathmandu – 22nd August 2001- Ancient history is fresh and youthful here, as stone Buddhas and Incarnations, stupas and other edifices nestle in amongst the washing lines and 'Internet access here' signs. Medieval and modern life combines in a wonderful vibrancy in some amazing characteristic Nepalese adaptation. The apparent randomness of the religious and secular buildings belies a wonderful complex and intricate network. In every 'chowk' (residential courtyard/ marketplace with business enterprises mixed in on the lower floors) are stupas and Buddhas or even temples, which you can often glimpse from the street. It is a maze of delights……….’
Bhaktapur, Nepal © Karen Neale
... I've reached Bhaktapur, otherwise known as Bhadgoan, from village of rice to city of devotees. This third city is a time capsule from medieval times and set nestled in the foothills,..... This is Tachupal Tole, probably the oldest part of town, looking .... across to Dattatraya Temple. Life is in full swing in the square below, the bright eyed crippled beggar (whom I told lives with his parents up the road) doing the rounds, people selling things, couples of men everywhere, kids playing and so on.....
Everywhere in the world we are never far from magical places and the World Heritage List highlights the most prominent ones and keeps us aware how precious and fragile our world is…Sketching erodes cultural and linguistic barriers, as a picture and the process to create it can be universally understood....
I think that the single most important lesson that I learned (or rather confirmed, since I had always suspected it) is that although the countries I visited had quite different cultures, languages, diverse peoples, societal and physical structures, the underlying core and hope in most lives everywhere is the same. That is to lead an uncomplicated, peaceful life, with a roof over their head, food on the table and being surrounded by friends and family.Such an important thing to remember, especially in the current climate of mistrust of things done differently, when underneath it all lies a common universal aspiration.......So the sketches are not only about capturing the designated buildings, monuments and landscapes, but also recording at that point in time, their context, the people and the bustle of every day life in these places - humanity in its heritage and a journey of a lifetime!
Copyright: Karen Neale Art