Stories from an illustrated travel : India – The first time round!

Murals, Travels
Pushkar Market, India by Jasmine Hortop

35mm film // Pushkar Market, India.

So anyone who follows me on instagram and was around this time last year will have seen glimpses from my first journey to India, where I was filled with inspiration from the colour and energy in this beautiful country! Drawing on my journeys is something I love doing to record the feeling of that place, travel illustration is something I do as it feels so necessary for me when I visit a place.

I’ve tried to do a little round up of the places I visited, and the drawings I made and creative adventures I got up to on the way, and why I am now going in for (you may have guessed by the wording in the title) – round two!

Illustrated Udaipur

I decided to fly straight out of Delhi and to Udaipur for a little cultural settling in period… I think it’s important to ease yourself into India a bit – it can be overwhelming, and Udaipur is a pretty wonderful place to relax in. ‘The Venice of India’ or ‘The city of Lakes’, as you may guess, is full of water – with five lakes, some natural, and some man-made – created for the Maharanas of Rajasthan who lived here over the years in the amazing City Palace.

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Illustrated rooftop view while on my travels in Udaipur, through one of the many beautiful scalloped shaped windows around the city.

I had a guided tour of the city palace and don’t regret it, it was worth every penny (all of like £2 – so not hard). There is a long history of amazing art in Udaipur, mainly influenced by the paintings in the Palace. I was blown away by these tiny paintings, and one of my biggest regrets is not buying some of the pigment that they mix with the gum to create the brightest, punchiest and opaque colour I’ve seen! Every art shop seems to say their dad’s uncle or dad’s dad used to paint in the palace, but this is India for you!


The colours really are like this!

I was so inspired by my visit to the palace, and all its amazing paintings inside, it also coincidentally coincided with me finishing a commissioned portrait piece of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, so it was amazing to learn all about the history of her in depth through this tour!

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I felt so lucky to be commissioned to work on this illustration of Saraswati while travelling India – what a dream!

I loved winding through the little alleys and markets, and found one of many amazing sari shops, which I then drew, and this became one of my favourite travel illustrations I made from the trip in my sketchbook. It was exploding with colour, with fabric from floor to ceiling.

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Sketchbook travel illustration : An illustrated sari shop in whilst on travel in Udaipur

After a few days here, I travelled to Pushkar on the train – I got a sleeper train and it was about 10 hours. It was the first one I had booked, and had the bottom bunk, so woke up to two or three guys, sitting and having a conversation with someone over the other side of the aisle at the end of my bunk in the morning (I try book the top bunk now!). I drew this cute family going on a holiday, and drank the delicious Chai that they bring round.

Illustrated travels : A train journey from Udaipur to Pushkar

Sketchbook travel illustration : A train journey from Udaipur to Pushkar, India.

Illustrated Pushkar – and Mural time!

When I first got to Pushkar, I didn’t completely ‘get it’, everyone had said I would love it there, but at first it just seemed like markets and shopping, it took me a few days to settle in, and then settle in I did!

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Sketchbook travel illustration : Animals of Pushkar! The first guesthouse I stayed in had huge gangs of monkeys clambering over the rooftops and occasionally running off with your things if you weren’t careful. And the holy cow! That lives a life of leisure, being fed and sitting wherever it damn well pleases (often in a road).

A few days in, while drawing on the rooftop of the U Turn Hotel I got chatting to the owner Mowgli, who then asked me to paint a mural on that exact roof, which over looks the pilgrimage site of the Pushkar Lake. This was a huge YES, and within 20 minutes we were in a paint shop picking colours!


A wall in the shop to test your colours out on.


Paints need paintbrushes! I brought some home with me, some are made of hair from a squirrels tail..


Bright colours to make that rooftop mural pop! Brand – Asian Paints, mixes up to a huge range of colours – I was impressed!

I was going to paint the mural the next day, so didn’t hang around too much and designed something super flexible that would mean I could freestyle it a bit on the day. I also had to work around the two backgrounds being different colours and bearing in mind the heat, I didn’t want to repaint this, so worked out a two-tonal design.

I painted it in 43degree heat in about 6 hours, with the help of wonderful Mohi, one of the guys who worked at the restaurant. See more pictures of the finished mural here.

Some finished pictures of my mural in U Turn Hotel, Pushkar, India painted by mural artist Jasmine Hortop.

Illustrated Mural : Finished! And an in progress picture with my lovely assistant Mohi. Painted with Asian paints.

In Pushkar I got invited to an indian wedding (what an experience!), and made some wonderful friends, but I didn’t have too long left, and felt like it was time to head on, so I headed up north, to the Himalayas.

Illustrated Dharamshala

I got a flight from Delhi, to Dharamshala, where I went to Mcleod Ganj. I was really interested by this area as the Dalai Lama lives here, I was excited to be in a different environment and see what new inspiration I could take from somewhere that mostly practiced Buddhism rather than Hinduism, and also the different scenery of being in the lush, green mountains, rather than the deserts of Rajasthan.

Watercolour illustration of the Himalaya mountains, looking out form Mcleod Ganj. By Jasmine Hortop, travels illustrated.

Sketchbook travel illustration : The Himalayas from Mcleod Ganj, Dharamshala, India

However – I didn’t last too long here! Yes, Rajasthan had been HOT (this is end of April now!), but it was off season there, so I had got used to the amount of tourists not being too high. Where as Mcleod Ganj was much cooler, and was heaving with visitors. I ended up staying in the slightly more chilled neighbouring hippy village of Bhagsu instead, but with the heavy rain I was cold – and missed the bright colours, smells and chaotic noise of Rajasthan.

So – back to Pushkar…

In Bhagsu, by chance I met some Indians who were friends with some of the friends I had made in Pushkar, and happened to be making the trip back down by train. I decided to go with this, and made the 18 hour or so journey with Sam, and a lovely married couple (who I wish I could remember the names of!) back to Pushkar, where I took things why more slowly, got a moped, and explored the local area with the friends who were still there, and chilled out!

Illustration of Pushkar Square by Jasmine Hortop. Sketchbook drawing from an illustrated travel journal.

Sketchbook Travel illustration : Pushkar Square. I drew this from the yummiest Chai shop that is on the square, on my last morning in Pushkar.

I didn’t go past Agra on the way back to Delhi to check out the Taj, I already knew I wanted to return to India on another trip (I’m writing from that second trip, and this country is beautiful and huge, with so much to see and difference between each state) and felt like this would make my last few days, from what had been a lovely and chilled trip, reall hectic. I didn’t feel like I had to go, and I’m glad I made this decision! Everyone travels in different ways, but I realised I like to take things super slow, and didn’t necessarily have to see the ‘sights’, as for me, the explosion of the strong culture all around me was what was getting me going!

Before my flight home, I did a whizz through overnight stop of New Delhi, where I saw a very cool cosmopolitan side to the city, full of fancy bars, restaurants, shopping and night clubs. I’m excited to go back and explore Old Delhi this time however.

So then I was home! With a sketchbook full of illustrations from my travels, which I have slowly been developing into full colour digital illustrations over the last year. Here is my favourite – the Indian railway!

Indian Railway illustration by Jasmine Hortop, drawn on Procreate developed from illustrated travel sketches from Rajasthan, India

Travel illustration : Indian Railway  by Jasmine Hortop.

*All images are my own unless stated otherwise*

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