Last month Kris and I met up in a bar across from the studio for an hour before getting him in front of the camera and grabbing some shots, which I honestly feel might just be the best ones I have taken so far. Inspired by American photographer, Billy Kidd, who did a wonderful set with the actor Ethan Hawke, we used a single softbox to get some honest and clear shots of a wonderfully talented man.Read More
Kiarna worked at Benefex and then Thomsons Online Benefits before she took her first trip travelling. She then joined like minds on a short-term contract before setting off on her travels again. She returned to like minds in October 2016 to hopefully settle down and bring her energies, enthusiasm and considerable experience to the team on a more permanent basis (we hope).
Kiarna has been fortunate enough to head off globe-trotting for most of 2016 and has had some incredible experiences which she was more than happy to discuss. We find out about some of the places she’s visited, her trip highlights and some of the toughest things she experienced whilst out of her comfort zone. We also get to hear about her fear of boats, her travel companion Mr Donkey and the chicken bus...
Hey Kiarna, thanks for joining me to talk about your travels! You’ve travelled before – did I hear you’d lived in Australia too?
Hey! Yeah, I was in Australia for 2 months – what actually happened was I had planned this big travel-trip for ages, that I had been basically saving my whole working
life for, knowing I was going to go travelling at some point. Then my plan was to go from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, down through south east Asia, through to Australia and New Zealand.
The plan was to work when I got to Australia (because I would have definitely run out of money by then!) so I had a working holiday visa. I was aiming to work there, however long it took, and then my plan was to move on to South America before coming home. I was actually aiming to be away for about 18 months to 2 years. However, when I got to Australia, the kind of work that was available to people with my kind of visa was, I found, quite limited. So I ended up doing some temporary work, which involved some pension comms with a Canadian Wealth Management Firm. The comms industry in Australia is so far behind the UK, and I found it so frustrating. So, I ended up coming back to London for 5 months, working at like minds before continuing the trip.
During that time, I met Roman (my boyfriend) en route from Thailand to Vietnam, so I went back from Australia via Germany (he’s German), through Europe before then taking him with me! This trip started at Dusseldorf (to get Roman), then via Dubai to Vietnam – which is kind of romantic because that’s where we met (when he was travelling as well). It was important for us to go back and my friend had been teaching English there for 6 months and we went to visit her.From Vietnam our trip went to Australia (to see the parts I’d missed) New Zealand, the Cook Islands, then we did a weird loop around South and Central America. Then New York and Amsterdam on the route back home.
So how long were you away for this time?
7 months exactly! Spanning, I think, it was 16 countries (and that was just this time around…!).
What were your hardest challenges whilst you were away? Was language a problem or was it just day-to-day living?
There were certainly a few things – one was due to my GCSE Spanish and the fact that, stupidly, I didn’t practice that much. And, strange as it sounds, I didn’t expect it to be so Spanish (which sounds ridiculous I know!). You take for granted that, as an English speaker, everyone else will have some remote level of understanding English, but that turned out not to be the case. There’s a huge variation of education there and it is very, very different to what I was expecting. Even in areas which were near to very touristy towns – we flew in to Cancun in Mexico and traveled a couple of hours down the coast – there was no English at all!
But it is amazing how quickly you can pick it up when you have to learn Spanish. So whilst it was quite a challenge, it was also a fun one. I ended up speaking the same words and sentences quite often.
The other thing was a lot of countries in South America that we were travelling through, like Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, are in the Andes, so one of the biggest physical challenges was the altitude. I’d read about it before – about the acclimatisation-phase. Cusco is 3400 metres above sea level and La Paz in Bolivia around 3,800 metres, so your oxygen levels in your body drop (as there’s not as much in the air) so your skin gets really dry, your mouth and nose are dry too. You have to drink loads and loads of water to rehydrate to avoid things like really bad headaches and sickness – it can kill you too!! So, pretty bad… I was okay with that but Roman struggled, as he has asthma, so found it a little more difficult when trekking around Peru. We were fine, but there were a couple of 18 year olds who thought they were really fit and healthy, which goes to show it’s nothing to do with the fitness, as they were being very sick. They almost got sent home because they had only flown in the day before, but they just hadn’t had a chance to acclimatise. This all took place on our group trek to Machu Picchu which was great. They did manage to get used to it by the end, but the four days it took to get there they were on the emergency donkey.
So it was language and the altitude that were the main issues for you?
Yeah, and also, though it’s not like working at all so this sounds silly, but when you are constantly thinking and you keep planning – even when you are here eating a meal you are having to think about tomorrow and where you’ll be the next day. It’s constant thoughts of ‘how will I get there?’ and ‘how much is it going to be?’.
So finances played a part too?
It’s really restrictive, Roman works in a bank and his mind is really financially focused (which helps ‘cause I’m really not that sort of person!). We did have a budget, and we worked out that the trip was costing us about £1,000 a month, each - so still quite a lot but cheaper than living in London!
Initially I’d budgeted the same as I’d done for South East Asia – and actually it’s more expensive in South America. The main reason for that is that in some countries like Peru, Lima is quite a dangerous city, and they only have one area (Miraflores) which is safe because of the police presence. You can stay in the cheaper places but I really wouldn’t risk it. To stay in the safer places, you are paying a little bit more for the protection. And that’s the same everywhere.
So, yeah, money was a big problem – I was scraping all kinds of barrels, but as it was the one thing I really wanted to do in my life I was prepared push it and probably suffer the financial consequences later!
But safe to say I won’t be going anywhere for a good few years now!
So what were your highlights?
Obviously I did quite a bit of research into places, but when you get somewhere or do something and it can be completely different to how you have it in your mind. Colombia was an absolute highlight, because there was so much to do. We ended up spending 4 weeks there, the people in Colombia were so friendly – they were amazing.
Another highlight was getting to Colombia – which was more of a personal challenge as I’m not very good on boats. But, because there’s no border crossing between Panama and Colombia you either have to fly, or if you want to see San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side of Panama then people do these sailing trips. Usually these are 5 days (but ours was 6 as the captain wanted to go early because of some immigration bank holiday) so we had a mad rush to stock up on beer and boxes of wine! Some of the islands we stopped at for 2 days, but then it was, like, 30 hours at sea – you can’t see any land and we were praying to avoid any storms. Whilst I knew there were horror stories about the trip, I chose to avoid reading them until afterwards. There are a lot of shipwrecks on that route – but to see those islands you have to put the risk in.
I was telling some friends about it a few weeks later and I said I’d never do it again – but now it’s been a bit longer, all of the good memories remain and the tougher times get forgotten a bit.
I loved Machu Picchu – I was there for my birthday – and the Galapagos Islands too. The best way to see that was on a boat trip (because they are so spread out), so after lots of research we found that you really need a guide. It’s 12-15 people max per guide, so if you go and stay on an island – you can’t even do a day trip without a guide – and the day trips are about $100. It actually worked out cheaper to get your meals and accommodation included in a cruise, so we did 5 nights. It was after the other boat trip and it was luxury in comparison! It was so exciting, the boat was so big and had air conditioning which was, at the time, the most luxurious thing in the world! I was so glad we chose it – we nearly didn’t because of money – then I called home and my mum told me to do it – so we did!
What were some of the more unusual things that happened?
We did quite a lot of free walking tours in the cities – the idea is it’s free and you give a tip at the end depending on how good it is. They were amazing in general, but one of the most memorable/crazy ones was in La Paz in Bolivia (and it’s a strange city anyway) they don’t have supermarkets – everyone buys from the markets. It made the culture there – and I’m not sure if it’s the whole of Bolivia or just La Paz – is when they build a new building it’s tradition to sacrifice something for the building. So apparently, with smaller buildings they will use dead baby llamas to put in the building to bring it luck. But, if it’s a larger office or similar, they (apparently) find homeless people, get them drunk, and bury them underneath the building. I don’t know if they still do this, but it’s one of those creepy stories you get told on the tours!
So aside from your GCSE Spanish, did you find you had anything else – such as a skill – that you found enabled you to cope with a situation?
Well, it does make you realise what you are good at and what you aren’t good at. I realised that I’m really not good at sticking to a budget, whereas I realised that I am organised and I know what I want to do. I find the way to get there – you have to be very organised and planned, meeting buses in the middle of the night, do your research the day before. Kind of like survival in a way.
I’ve become really good at guarding my stuff, like if we were in certain areas your camera would have been long gone! Over there we are looked at like the gringos, or the rich gringos – even though we’re not, in their eyes, we are.
The other thing that blew my mind was the impact of the cocaine industry in South America. The main production happens in Peru and Bolivia, it’s crazy! There’s areas where you can’t go, buses don’t go through and you are warned away from as there’s gangs and it’s too dangerous. The pressure from the cocaine demand is all from the US and Europe – mainly the US though. Seeing the impact was tough, we learnt a lot about it from talks and stuff. Free tour guides and locals/hostels were brilliant to talk to about this.
Did you find yourself relying on tour guides rather than discovering yourself?
Yeah, a bit, although the internet is a wonderful thing. So you don’t have a problem getting on wikitravel or trip advisor and reading things, but one of the best ways to discover new places is just to talk with people. There’s a big ‘travel’ community and they help a lot. The best tips are from other travellers. We wouldn’t have done the San Blas trip if it wasn’t for those suggestions.
We touched on tough challenges – were there any bad experiences, things that scared you?
I’d never go back to Quito in Ecuador – I felt really unsafe there. Everyone has different opinions but it was scary, you were looked at like a target. Someone grabbed my bag whilst there – I knew not to take anything out with me so I had a really old camera and lip balm in there but a market seller carrying a load of carrots in one arm tried to put his hand on my bag with the other. I looked at him thinking ‘what are you doing?!’ but luckily he let go of it and the moment passed so quickly I didn’t get a chance to say anything.
Aside from feeling uncomfortable and a bit out of place, like at bus stations, the idea is to blend in a bit more and just try and fit in. Be polite, try speaking Spanish, and try not to be a regular ‘tourist’ looking lost with a map.
It depends where you are but the whole world is more ‘Western’ than you think it is, there’s only a few places that you feel uncomfortable in. Most places have shopping malls and cinemas – a lot more modern than here in the UK. Some buses have Wi-Fi and TVs – you don’t often get that on National Express!
What places did you enjoy the most or were there any that surprised you?
Definitely eastern Colombia – Roman wanted to go white water rafting and although I was scared, we did it anyway and I loved it! That took us both out of our comfort zones which was brilliant – you wouldn’t have gone to that part of the world without the white water rafting, but it was the most beautiful place: the mountains, scenery, walks…it was just insane!
Another place that I loved that I didn’t think I would was Buenos Aires. I really loved it and I wished we’d done more than 4 days there. We saw a tango show, which was amazing…and then the food – the beef – my god it was incredible!
So many places – definitely the Galapagos, Colombia was a massive highlight, Machu Picchu. Also, because we’d spent so long in the cold, we did this trip to the Amazon which was in the very south part. It was the most basic place and we got flights and accommodation for £100 or something ridiculously cheap for a few nights. We saw so many animals – a lot of this whole trip was about animals.
Oh I haven’t even mentioned Rio! I almost forgot, I was so focused on Colombia I forgot about Brazil! We went to Rio de Janeiro, instead of staying 4 nights we stayed 11 days and it was so good. We took a tour of the Rocinha Favela, a huge slum area, with several million people living there. We joined a guy called Carlos Antonio de Souza (he’d been on the BBC before) and he grew up there and it was so incredible – the stories he was telling. He told us of the time Barack Obama visited the Favela. To prepare for it they knocked a load of homes down, built a road through and just painted the very area he was going to be guided to see. Even to the extent that only facing walls were painted, one side of a building would be painted but not another, to show the investment that was happening in these areas, but it’s not like that in reality. We actually ended up staying in the favelas in small guest houses for 2 nights which was great too!
Why was it always this part of the world? Was it always something that was a target to visit or part of ‘I want to see the world’?
I had a list of priorities, first was Asia as it was one of the things I most wanted to do, then see my family in Australia, and then I genuinely wanted to see as much of the world as possible. So I saw South America, as it’s such a huge continent that you couldn’t really do it as a holiday. You need a considerable amount of time to do it. I was worried that it was going to be detrimental to my career and panicking that my friends would all move on, but luckily that’s not been my case.
I think South America because it’s a great back-packing place to go.
It’s a lot easier to get around the world than you think – everywhere is connected, even in the poorer countries there’s often good infrastructure. Don’t get me wrong, some of the night buses are questionable, but you learn what companies to go with and find the safer options.
So you travelled light – was that quite difficult?
So difficult! I said to myself I would take far less stuff time and yet I think I ended up taking more – because of the weather as well – trying to pack for hot and cold climates. We decided to buy cheap jumpers along the way so I ended up looking like some kind of hippie!
I really missed a hair dryer – I spent most of my time wandering around with wet hair waiting for it to dry and looking like a weirdo. I had to wear a lot less make up which is a bit trickier for girls (maybe just me!) in general. When I left I had 13kgs and only brought back a few souvenirs as I shipped back the odd gift during the trip…my mum was receiving strange packages from South America!
Were there things you missed that you didn’t have with you?
It’s really weird, you quickly get used to not having much, and since getting back, both Roman and I have realised we don’t really need all the stuff in the house. The decorative stuff is fine, but the clothes and the extra stuff I had clear out of before leaving London. Roman didn’t do this though, so he’s found himself going through things since returning and wondering if he really needs those party sunglasses from 2005! You are used to living on less and get used to it really fast.
As well, you don’t need to take much, not only is the world so well connected but you can buy anything anywhere - plasters at a pharmacy, iPhone cables for pennies in the market.
One of the best things about being away was getting my laundry done – I actually miss being away as I have to do my own laundry now, rather than give it to the laundrette man or woman at the hostel. Oh, and now I have to cook as well, rather than just getting market food!
We missed friends and family, but whilst in Colombia we had some friends that came and visited us there. 2 of my friends were travelling already and then another friend had come out from Germany on a 2-week holiday to travel with us. It was weird seeing people from home. We made sure to have a date night – even though we were together all the time, we made a point to just enjoy time together and not worry about planning.
What’s the most important kit in your bag?
The things that were most important to me personally, the things I’d be most worried about if my backpack got stolen, wasn’t my phone or anything like that. It’d be my journal, as it’s taken hours and hours to fill it all in. I keep lots really random things in here [the journal], so I don’t forget!
Also, my sister gave me a little teddy, called Mr Donkey, who’s actually a giraffe. Mr Donkey was given to my sister when she went on her first foreign trip when she was about 5, and she gave it to me to take with me to keep me safe. So I was always panicking about Mr Donkey, and luckily he made it through! He’s showing signs of the trip, as he’s more dirty brown than his giraffe-y yellow colour now.
In terms of more practical items we’d got iPad minis, for reading and a means of research. Otherwise I’d tried to trim it down a lot! Roman had a lot of gadgets being German and super-organised, so he had gadgets for everything on the trip!
Did you write a blog during your trip?
Yeah, we did a Tumblr site which was really just photographs – ‘Denglish on Tour’. It was somewhere we could put images together that wasn’t just Facebook. It means that all our pictures are together.
I did start a blog and my original plan was to have one – it sounds stupid but you just run out of time to do things.
Whilst you were away, was there anyone who stood out in your mind as a character who you’d never forget?
There was a few of those actually. There was actually a person we’d met on a plane (we’re now friends on Facebook!) called Mao, and he was really interesting. He was chatting to us – we were using google translate (best app in the world!) and he was the biggest football plan ever! He was obsessed with his team (Atletico Nacional – Colombia), he’d flown from Ecuador to see them play in Guayaquil on the coast. Afterwards, he was very complimentary saying it was genuinely nice to meet us and chat.
You do also need to be able to let your guard down and just go with it, otherwise you’ll miss out on these amazing people. It’s those people that make your trip, not necessarily the places. It sounds really cliché, but it’s true!
Even the people we met on our journey would have their own reasons for travelling – you remember people’s stories and it can often inspire you – if they had that idea maybe it’s something we can try? We’ve got lots more friends now, dotted all over the world. Although you do see a pattern of a lot of British, French and Germans travelling. It’s nice when you meet someone random, not from Europe. We did meet someone in Belize at a bus stop whilst waiting for a chicken bus…
A chicken bus? What’s that?
The chicken bus is the old buses that would carry everything – including chickens! They are the old American bluebird school buses (like The Simpsons style). The Americans sold loads to Belize, anyway…
We were trying to find our bus and this shop owner was trying to help us, and we ended up chatting to him for about an hour, bonding over a Bollywood film I’d seen in India that he’d also loved. His family were in Bristol, and he was on the phone to them and it was so surreal.
What has travelling taught you?
It certainly makes me appreciate where I’m from. I have loved seeing the world, but I really appreciate where I’m from and London and the UK. How lucky we are, there’s a lot of people that moan about a lot of things including politics – but there’s a lot of countries that have things a lot worse than us. You appreciate the freedom you have here and how safe it is, and just the opportunity both men and women have.
It annoys me when people say I really want to go travelling but I can’t, because if you want it hard enough you can do it. We met people on maternity leave traveling with their 6 month old baby!
I always thought I’d never quit my job and go, leave my friends and family but this has taught me that anything is possible. I also think people can adapt to things and situations quicker than they expect they will, you could be in an uncomfortable situation where you feel you can’t cope, but then you take a moment and realise you can do it and you power through.
Any tips for others whilst travelling?
Don’t be afraid to do it. It’s so easy to get stuck in a job or situation and then feel you can’t do it – even if you just take a month or a couple of weeks and see all you can, organise a trip or anything. Also, don’t be afraid to spend a little bit more than you may have planned to – because you only get one life so you should make the most of it. You can’t take your money to your grave! At least that’s what I believe, but my father would then say that’s pretty irresponsible!
So where’s next – what are your future travel plans?
Actually right now I have no plans! For the first time in my life I feel really content, and also incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to do this. I will take this with me forever now. I’ll be forever grateful that things have worked out for me – you just have to take those risks!
There’s still a lot of places on my list to visit, the Philippines and then Africa to do a safari – those are my top two things. I’ve never been to Canada so I’d like to go there and I’d also like to see more of Europe. So maybe next year I will try and visit more of Europe, taking some cheap flights, as that’s all I can afford right now!!
What are the 3 most important things in your personal life?
Very normal, but my health, having the support and fun of my friends and family, plus my boyfriend. He should probably get a mention!
Are there any mantras that you live by?
Do whatever makes you happy, live your dreams and be kind.
Which person do you respect most in your life?
I don’t respect just one person, but anyone who can find it in themselves to do what makes them happy and live their life to the fullest. We only get one chance!
I have so many favourites but my (guilty) pleasure since I was 6 is Take That! Gary! Actually, following our trip we’ve compiled a playlist that reminds of of our travels and times away, which you can find on spotify -Click Here!
Must watch film/tv show?
The Sound of Music
The Enchanted Tree by Enid Blyton
Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
Websites you regularly visit?
Buzzfeed! Plus a whole list of travel bloggers...
You have 24 hours to live - how do you spend your time?
I’d probably get all my friends and family, go down to Studland beach in Dorset (where I grew up), buy some inflatable crocodiles and lots of champagne and have a party!
I’m sure that won’t be the end of Kiarna’s travels, its been fantastic to hear about her time away. If you wanted to see a map of her journey its below!
Deepesh is a 23 year old illustrator and animator from Coventry, currently working for like minds in Kenilworth.
He attended Loughborough University studying Visual Communication. We caught up for a chat to find out more
about his passion for illustration and to get an understanding of the processes he goes though when creating his
work. We discover the influences and lessons learnt to make him the creative talent he is today.
Deepesh and I took an hour at lunchtime to visit one of the pubs local to us in Kenilworth to talk about his real passion for illustration and character design.
He came suitably prepared, with his Waterstone’s plastic bag (that has clearly seen better days) containing the tools of his trade. We sat down and he delved into the bag bringing out the pens that have so far helped create his wonderfully colourful, character driven world...
How do you start your illustrations - what process do you go though? How do you choose who you will draw?
When choosing, usually it’s the most interesting looking people that I see, so if someone has quite distinctive features or they themselves just look like a character, then I just have to draw them. I enjoy searching for these unusual characters and love taking them on and exaggerating their features.
I like to try and put some humour into it, as I also tend to upload them to Instagram, and sometimes write a short story to go with them. So there was this guy on the bus and the only thing I managed to scribble down was the back of his head and some quick lines for his side profile when he turned around for a split second. From there I went home and completed the sketch which I initially thought was really boring, so I developed it and made up a bit of a story.
So, does the fact you travel on the bus to work give you more time and opportunity to find these characters and do some serious people watching?
Yeah, that’s why I quite like taking trains and buses, because you get so many different people and it’s different to when you go to a coffee shop, because you’re
moving through the city and you’ll get new people on the bus. Things are constantly changing; if I go into a coffee shop and sit around for an hour, I’m probably going to be surrounded by more or less the same people for that hour.
How do you get round when things aren’t working and you are struggling to get a certain feature. Is that something you just persist with or do you get to a point when you just think this isn’t working and stop?
Sometimes I persist, sometimes I have to just stop. But I try and get down as much as I can in the situation. So if I find I have like, literally 2 seconds, just to sketch out what a person looks like, all I’m doing is putting down marks to help me remember for later on.
There’s one I have in my sketchbook where I saw this guy waiting. He had his shirt unbuttoned so you could see his stomach. He was reading a book; he had a moustache and big thick glasses; I had to quickly mark down the lines - just the important bits, two squiggles to remind me he had an unbuttoned shirt, some quick lines for glasses, a little scribble for the book he was holding - so then I went off and drew the rest from how I remembered him. I’ve not yet taken the chance to develop that one into a proper character, but I am aiming to at some point.
When you get stuck creatively, how do you overcome that?
Having a break and taking my mind off it helps. Sometimes you’ve just overworked yourself and you need to sleep or walk away from it.
Asking other people for advice is quite helpful in these situations too, just because everyone has a different perspective, they may come at the problem from a different angle.
So, do you prefer doing a complete drawing of someone in front of you or would you rather do the full sketch from memory afterwards?
I think the memory thing is something I want to work on a bit more; I don’t think I’m as skilled in that area. I found that out recently at the ITN job I did, as I was having to sketch what the person was telling me; they were saying things like ‘I want to have grandkids’ or ‘I want to go travelling’, so I was having to draw something that wasn’t there in front of me and I wasn’t anywhere near as confident in doing this. So I do want to do more things from memory, rather than just the things right in front of me.
“everyone has their own visual language”
How do you think you’ve developed over the last couple of years? Have you developed your style?
I started my current book about March time, I date each one. There’s a mixture of things in here - from really quick ones to full colour sketches. Some of them I hate, some of them I like.
Whilst going to university the tutors have always said ‘don’t concentrate on trying to find a style, its not the way you’ll get one’. I think style is a difficult thing, and I think, for me it always changes. It might stay within the umbrella of my work obviously, but personally for me I think it changes. I’m doing this drawing a day blog - is if you are drawing every single day and you’re drawing exactly the same way (starting with the nose etc). You start to think and question yourself, ‘what am I doing?’, then start to try another way of doing it, to make it more interesting.
With the drawing a day, have you found it a bit monotonous?
Yeah, I think a few months into it I thought, ‘I’m not progressing, I’m doing the same thing every day’. It got to a point when I thought ‘I’ve got to change it up a bit’, so I threw in some bigger, more detailed sketches when I had a bit more time in the day.
It’s why I’ve started to try and push on; like with this one. There was this guy I saw in Nottingham in a coffee shop. I had a blue pen to hand - I always do the red or blue outline first and colour them in afterwards. He obviously didn’t look quite like this, I’ve exaggerated it a fair bit, but I’d rather do that than what I was doing earlier on, when I was doing more representational stuff. It’s still good to do that (the representative stuff) as a study of people and features, although my personal goal every time I sketch people, is not to just draw what’s in front of me, but to try and create a character; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!
I love your sketchbook - some of the pages could be taken and framed; do you worry about making mistakes?
What I’ve realised about sketchbooks is it is a place where you can make mistakes - it’s supposed to be a load of bad drawings and you might, one day, have a good drawing in there. I think earlier, when I was at school and those early years of uni, I was too scared to use a sketchbook. I thought everything had to be perfect - but that way you don’t really do anything. You don’t progress and things don’t change.
With the drawing-a-day project I just had to keep going, even if its a bad drawing. In comparison, if you go out with a camera you’ll often take a thousand pictures and 90% you probably aren’t going to show, but every now and then you’ll get one or two great shots, which is exactly how I think it is with drawings in a sketchbook.
I agree, although I do think there is a slight difference, the fact I can just delete mine, but I guess that’s better for you in a way, as its there as a permanent reminder?
Yeah, it’s good having it on paper, so you can look through it and think about what’s wrong with it - it’s right there staring you in the face, so you have to confront it - it’s not just all in your head. I think if it is all in your mind and you aren’t putting things on paper every day then you’d probably find yourself thinking ‘Oh I could have drawn that if I wanted to’. Then you realise when you come to do it, that the things you’re thinking in your head, you can’t actually do yet. You need to train your hands to do that first.
Your lecturers advised that you shouldn’t try and find a style; but I do think your work has a definite style - the sketches can be easily identified as your work can’t they?
Well, at university they didn’t call it a style, they called it a ‘visual language’. Everyone has their own visual language. It’s kinda to do with who your influences are and your own personal journey into art.
So, if I was going to draw a guy sat in front of me alongside another illustrator, I’d interpret in my way and they’d do it in theirs. That’s a good example of what visual language can be. It’s great that they told us not to try and discover our style. It gave us all a bit more freedom and it meant I could just have fun and try stuff.
How do you know when your work is finished and are you ever tempted to over do it?
I think I’m able to control myself - if it’s a commission for someone else I don’t want to be experimental, especially when it’s at a stage where it’s almost done; I don’t want to think ‘oh, let me try this’ because you want it to be good for the person you are doing it all for.
But it’s hard to say when it’s complete; if it’s for me, I’m more likely to try new things and be as experimental as I want to be.
There are some good examples in this sketchbook of when I’ve made a mistake or tried something that didn’t really go to plan, but then again it didn’t really matter because it’s in my sketchbook - it’s where I do the ‘working out’. For this sketch, I messed up on the eyes with a thick pen, so I then covered the whole forehead in black and turned it into a shadow. I think it does make it look a lot more interesting than if I’d just left it; I guess it’s about being brave.
My personal work I should be more risky with the way I exaggerate people. It’s how I can develop.
Have you got a creative tip for something you do in your work?
For jotting down quick lines of characters, I usually draw the lines without looking at the paper. I think it’s important, especially in the initial sketch stages, to look at the subject more than the actual drawing, because it forces you to observe.
Also I think it’s important to practice every day, even if it’s just for a little bit.
I think a good tip is to know that sometimes you have off-days and not to let that discourage you. All that’s happening here, is that your ambition is higher than your skill, and that’s good. You wouldn’t want it to be the other way around.
Do you have much of a response from the people that you are capturing - do people ever object or ask what you are doing?
As far as I know, none of the people that I have drawn have noticed that I have been drawing them, nor have they come up to me - if anyone does talk to me. It’s usually someone near or next to me. They will see that I’m drawing someone across from me and then we’ll have a chat about what I’m doing.
Has anyone seen your work and requested that you draw them?
Luckily not while I’ve been sketching in public! To me, that would be the worst question ever, because then you are being put on the spot, and you don’t have the freedom to be as ‘mean’ or as creative as you’d want to be. Like I said earlier, a sketchbook is where you make bad drawings. I have had friends or friends of friends that have seen my work online and requested commissions which I’m more than happy to do.
But you could still be brave with it?
I guess so; when I was in India, my family over there would request portraits all the time. In a way it did help me overcome the fear of doing that. I know whenever I start a drawing that it could go wrong, or could go right, but then it’s getting over that fear - luckily all of the sketches I did of my family members turned out to look like them!
And so that helped with work recently, with the ITN job you were involved in?
Yeah it really did help. I only had 3-5 minutes to draw people so I decided that there was no time for the pencil stage. Both the ITN job and drawing my family members in India were good practice for drawing portraits from life, because I was put in a situation where they expected a drawing to be done there and then. Which was good because it helped me not waste time and to get over the fear of drawing people from life (not get completely over it because it is a scary thing.) I think it taught me that whatever happens, happens. All I can do is do the best I can in the time I have.
When did you realise that you could draw and that it was something you could pursue?
Well, I’ve been drawing all my life - obviously every kid draws, but I guess I just never stopped drawing. I then probably started to take it more seriously, maybe about the time of my GCSE’s. I think it was more having competition and realising there were some really good people in my class. They were so much better than me and I think that propelled me to push my work even more. It’s interesting as not everyone is like that; some would find that the competition put them off - it’s too hard to make a go of it.
I did hit that stage where I thought ‘what’s the point? There are people miles ahead of me, why should I bother?’ I then realised that that’s not really a good attitude to have. It’s good to have competition to help you drive your own work as it pushes you further than you yourself ever will and it gives you something to aim for.
I do feel incredibly lucky to be around such talented people.
So did you find that you were looking at these people less as competition and more as inspiration?
Of course, I don’t think my work would be what it is today without those people. You can learn a lot from others.
Sometimes you’ll see the techniques that they use to do things; how they might interpret a nose or torso. You don’t necessarily copy it, you’d just take it on board and think about how that was different from the way that you do it. Taking it a stage further, I’d see if I could incorporate that way of looking at things into my work.
Have you ever worked in collaboration with another artist?
I did collaborate on one or two projects and remember enjoying them. I’m now messaging people from my old classes and organising projects where I think we’d work well together. A good way of collaborating is looking at your strengths, looking at other people’s strengths and seeing where they can fit together. For example, I’m starting a project pretty soon with a great illustrator - one of the best I’ve worked with. So while her strengths are in illustration, I feel like my passion is in animation (I’m not that experienced in it yet but I want to be a lot better). So we’re hoping to combine our skills and create some animated shorts. We’ve got some ideas together and we’re looking forward to it!
You mentioned near the beginning that you wanted to start doing more work from memory and imagination. Have you started working on that already?
Yeah I have, I did one last night that wasn’t based on anyone; I closed my eyes and visualised someone, and without looking at the paper putting some lines down.
It’s something I am hoping to do more of - I find when your eyes are open you can sometimes concentrate too hard and all of the fun and the exaggeration can get lost because you’ve been trying to draw the person exactly how they anatomically should be.
“I think its important to surround yourself
with like minded people”
So we talked about inspirations and role models. Obviously you’ve mentioned students and classmates you’ve been mixing with, is there anyone else?
I think above all, it’s important to surround yourself with like minded people, as you help each other get to where you want to go. Also if you think someone is really good at something and you’re surrounded by people like them, it’s almost as if their talent rubs off on you a little.
Other inspirations - when I was first starting out, back when I was really into oil painting at school, my inspirations were people like Rubens and Caravaggio, which is an early example of my interest in drawing people - although I reckon it goes back further than that. Now I look up to illustrators such as Will Terrell who often goes people sketching to aid his character design skills. If you look at his sketches you’d probably be able to see where my inspiration comes from.
He also often uses brown paper which has become my preferred sketching paper.
With a white sketchbook its a bit daunting as nothing is there - you have to create something in a blank space. He makes a lot of YouTube videos where he’s sketching and talking about a range of things from what it’s like getting into the industry, his own processes and general stuff like relationships, the people you surround yourself with, which is probably where a little of what I was saying stems from. There’s talk about positive thinking and the videos each have a different point to make, whether its overcoming fear or getting out of a rut. Sometimes when I sit at home sketching, I’ll listen to these videos in the background. It’s quite good to do - very motivational.
What other creative training do you do outside of work? You mentioned the videos by Terrell, is there anything else?
Watching videos helps quite a lot. There are a lot of other YouTubers I follow who have similar channels to Will Terrell, such as Bobby Chiu and Sycra.
I like to practice sketching poses/anatomy, which I feel like I’ve neglected for a while so I’ll need to get back on that.
Also watching things like TED Talks while I work helps to motivate me and sometimes just collaborating with other artists helps push my creativity.
Photographers will often discuss the shots they didn’t get or the opportunites they have missed - there must have been people you’ve wanted to sketch that you haven’t had the chance to?
Yeah, I see them a lot - especially when I visit places like London, or even smaller towns like Loughborough.; certain places seem to have so many characters I want to draw, I carry a sketchbook with me wherever I go so that if that happens I can try and document the lines and give myself the best chance to create these characters.
Have you missed any opportunites due to being unsure or through fear?
Recently I have had the mentality that if I’m given an opportunity I will just say yes without thinking about it - then the fear comes afterwards. But I think that’s good, because that way I’m not letting opportunities slip by.
Have you done an assignment/project outside the office that has really benefitted your work?
I can’t really think of a ‘break-through’ moment where I’ve suddenly become wiser with one project, I think it’s just that over time, the more projects I do I might learn a little fraction of something new, whether that’s how to work with other people, how to continue when things go wrong or just skills in creative software.
So where do you think or hope your illustration will take you? What do you think the future holds?
I enjoy creating characters and I think I want to get more into telling stories - anything that allows me to do both would be great.
Finally the very last question - are you creatively satisfied?
Well, I’m not dissatisfied, but I know there is a lot that I still want to do!
How would you describe yourself?
I guess I’d call myself an illustrator/animator. Or an illustrator who really wants to be an animator.
If you weren’t able to illustrate how would you express your creativity?
I’d probably get more into creative writing, from short stories to poetry. I’ve done some here and there but I’dlike to get more into it.
Very difficult - I’ll just name a handful of my favourite albums: Of Monsters and Men: Beneath The Skin, Red Hot Chili Peppers: Stadium Arcadium, Michael Jackson: Bad, Guns N Roses: Appetite for Destruction, Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory
Must watch film/tv show?
TV: (recent/current) – Stranger Things, Narcos, Bates Motel.
Film: The Guest, Psycho, Robocop, Drive, Memento, Ink, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, It Follows.
Favourite book? The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
The Watchers - Neil Spring
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change”– Wayne Dyer
Favourite place you’ve travelled?
Venice & New York
Where would you love to visit?
Florence, San Francisco, Guanajuato, Tokyo, it would be nice to go around China too! I think these are just a handful of places that I feel that I need to see. I think because in my illustration work I’m constantly observing.
Websites you regularly visit?
I don’t think there are particular websites I visit regularly, apart from things like Vimeo for animations. I think I mainly just keep up to date with certain profiles I follow on social media, which includes a range of different artists.
Will Terrell, Bobby Chiu, Shaun Tan, Oliver Jeffers, Stephen Collins and Mr. Bingo.
You have 24 hours to live -how do you spend your time?
I think I’d just spend my time observing. Just looking at everything and really take it all in. I think we all overlook the brilliance, the details and the moments
of the world during our busy lives.
This reminds me of Don Hertzfeldt’s animated short ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day’ which follows a man with an unknown illness. When a doctor tells him he doesn’t have long to live, he starts noticing the details of the world around him that he’s passed every day but never truly appreciated. He wants to stop people in the street and say ‘Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t everything amazing?’
Massive thank you to Deepesh and we hope you’ve enjoyed this interview.
You can find out more about the work and projects Deepesh is involved in by visiting the following links:
Behance - www.behance.net/DeepeshPatel
Instagram - www.instagram.com/deepeshpatel.illustration
Drawing a day - www.deepeshpatel-drawingaday.tumblr.com