I am Suhita Shirodkar, an artist and urban sketcher who works primarily in watercolor, pen & ink (visit my website and follow me on Instagram & Facebook!). My body of work varies widely in subject, but it all ties back to a single, underlying aim: to view and to capture the world around me as a traveller would; to see both the everyday and the exotic with wonder, and to look deeply at the old and the new.
So whether I’m capturing a moment of calm on the banks of a river in India, or painting the fire hydrant I walk past everyday on my street corner, I try to see them both with fresh eyes. I live in San Jose, California now, but I grew up in India and I attribute my love for vibrant color and for drawing busy scenes to growing up in the midst of all the color and chaos.
I like to paint a surprising mix of subjects: Bustling scenes full of people. Forgotten places and decrepit objects that tell stories. And little still lifes of everyday objects I find around my home and studio.
I first took to watercolors because they were so portable and lent themselves to working quickly on location. But I’ve come to love many things about them.
What I like best is that the medium is so alive, and that I don’t get to (or want to) control it completely. Painting with watercolors is like improv. You can never fully plan a piece, but you can be there to respond to what the watercolor does on your paper. I love painting wet-in-wet, because it is the process that most allows watercolor to work it’s magic.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all hit-and miss or that there isn’t a lot to learn and study. It’s just that I don’t like to get bogged down with theory, I like to learn from playing (a lot) with my colors. My other favorite way to learn is to study the work of artists that inspire me and try to see what they see and how they interpret it. I find that as I work more with the medium and better understand my pigments and paper, I am more open to letting watercolor be itself, and to anticipating and allowing for happy accidents.
My inspiration? There’s too many artists to mention by name. The Urban Sketchers community has been a huge inspiration to me. Their mission “to raise the artistic, storytelling and educational value of on-location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world.” resonates with me.
I have taught for a few years at the Annual Urban Sketchers Symposium in countries around the world and the shared experience of teaching and learning from hundreds of sketchers that gather in one city to sketch and paint for 4 days is amazing. The next Urban Sketchers Symposium is this summer, in Chicago, and I will be there!
My setup and supplies are simple. My mobile studio is always on my shoulder: a messenger bag with a couple of watercolor sketchbooks (I love Stillman & Birn’s Beta books), pen and ink (Sailor Bent Nib Fude pens with DeAtramentis document ink), a watercolor kit (with a mix of artist’s grade pigments that changes too often to list) and a few brushes (if I had to grab just one, I’d go with the Rosemary & Co Sable Blend dagger).
Currently I am working on a project to sketch, research and blog vintage signs where I live in San Jose, California. This combination of urban sketching, digging through historical archives and soliciting stories to uncover the history of these signs has been a dream project for me, and I hope to document it all into a book when the project is done.
I am also working on collecting all my sketches from my travels in India in a book that I hope will inspire people to go visit that amazing country.
Some of my works take just a few minutes to capture; Others, a couple of hours. While I sometimes work in my home studio, what I love most is working on location. I really enjoy the immediacy it brings to my work.
You can see more of my work at the links listed below, and if you’re interested in learning how to draw people in action, be sure to check out my Craftsy class!