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Journalistic Approach to Illustrating Travel: Jitesh Patel in Porto

15 August 2022

The essence of travel is the experience. It is one of the best ways to learn and grow, especially as a creative person. Jitesh travels the world to capture vibrant colours, textures and shapes of cities. This month, we caught up with Jitesh on his recent trip to Porto to learn more about his creative process and how he maintains his enthusiasm for travel...

 

1. Can you tell us a little bit more about your time in Porto? How did this opportunity come about? 

In October 2020 I spontaneously chose to move to a city in Europe (while the UK was still part of the European Union) and it felt like it was a now or never moment. I had a couple of cities in mind (Berlin, Brussels) as I had friends living there, however something about the city of Porto felt right. I wanted to be near the ocean in the sunshine, and it helped it was a convenient 2-hour flight destination from London.

Before I travelled, I researched how to become a Portuguese resident, and whilst I was there did so, this made it simple for me to stay for nine months. I rented my home in London and packed up one bag with a few essentials, my drawing materials, laptop and sketch books, which was all that I needed to be able to work remotely as an artist / digital nomad. Porto was one of my favourite life experiences so far and I’m so glad I took the leap to go there.

2. What has been your favourite place you visited and why?

Porto!

It is a city that has a rich history, interesting architecture, a sunny climate, and an ocean on its doorstep. With so many unique buildings with interesting details to draw from tiled façades, balconies, and beautiful doors, I was constantly inspired here. I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and being able to navigate my exploration on foot enabled me to know the streets on a personal level, it made it feel like home away from home.

3. What excites you most about drawing on location?

I like the feeling of being in the fresh air and seeking a place to draw. I find pleasure in sitting at a location for hours with my sketch book/pen and sketching a loose drawing of what I am enjoying and experiencing. It is quite a personal, instinctive urge to create drawings whilst observing architecture and distinct characteristics - much of it comes down to the look and feel of the unique location.

4. Are there any creative challenges you have to overcome whilst working on location?

The weather is one fundamental aspect that can be challenging while drawing on location. On a cold day trying to keep warm and my fingers not tingling while drawing can be a challenge. Sunny days has its own challenges too, I don’t want to be overheating and getting sweaty hands or getting too lost in the time spent in the sun - I always have to wear a hat!

5. Have you had to adapt your ways of working at all? How has travelling affected your creative process?

I sketch out the perspective of the location in a loose line sketch to start and I mostly draw in black fine line pen – normally a 0.25 black Rotring Rapidograph pen. While I travel my drawings are much looser and quicker than the way I would draw for a client request. I like to draw quickly; this is mostly due to time restraints and trying not to sit for a long period yet in this method I make quite a few mistakes. I do go over my drawn lines to correct and reposition detail if they don’t look quite right. I like to think these details add to the character of the sketches. My sketch book drawings are mostly personal drawings for myself, friends and my social media channels.

6. Can travel make us more creative? If so, how? How can it shape your work and lifestyle? 

I think that travel makes us more creative, and it has inspired and shaped my personal creativity as it’s opened my eyes and mind to different cultures. I love having an adventure and coming home with interesting stories to bring a new perspective to my life. 

Whenever I travel to a destination, one of the things I enjoy is seeking out an art gallery or museum. Experiencing new art and learning about different styles of work inspires my creativity and it’s a good foundation to draw upon when I am thinking up my ideas for a creative brief or my own personal work. I like down time and to immerse myself into a city, I enjoy sitting in coffee shops and people watching, I try not to have too much of an agenda and go with a loose plan just to see where it can take me.

Every destination is unique, from the architecture of a city when you’re walking the streets you get to understand its layout from the landmarks, graphic design (navigation systems: signs and Transport) And these small yet significant elements of traveling inspire my creativity.  

A few years before the pandemic I figured I could combine my illustration and pleasure of drawing with my traveling which evolved into a traveling and sketching lifestyle. I have been commissioned to draw illustrations for clients who have come to me from my traveling location drawings or seeing other client commissioned work of maps and places all over the globe.

7. What 3 things have you learnt from your travels? 

Research, Planning and Read the Map!

Doing the research before I go is essential as I need to maximise the most out of my traveling, from visas to cultural norms to gallery opening times, the city’s goings on - I enjoy this process to get excited for my trip.

Planning my days for when locations won’t be too busy or to be around the weather is also essential as I must be quick and yet detailed at the same time.

Maps! I look at Google maps and understand the orientation of a city, I also draw my own map before I travel. This lets me know in a certain way where I can find the main landmarks and I use these to orient myself.

8. As an illustrator, what do you think are the benefits of drawing over photographing a scene?

I can feel a place on a personal level, when I draw a map of a city destination, I can get to understand the streets and landmarks – this can’t be experienced through a photograph. When I draw a particular location (street scene or building), I draw the details and I use my observational skills and gut feeling to draw out those most expressive details. In drawing it can take some time to study, observe and extract what you are looking at. The same rules apply for composition to a drawing as they would when you compose a photograph using a camera, yet my drawings are not a literal representation of what I see. They’re an interpretation in my style - I don’t have to be so accurate.

9. Where would you like to travel next? 

South America, it’s been high on my list for a long time. The architecture looks interesting and distinctly different from much of the European style of architecture I usually draw from my travels.  

Want to discover more from Jitesh? Check out his folio here!

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