Visit to the ‘Game of Thrones’ shooting locations in Spain

Just like a million others, I do watch Game of Thrones, & yes, I wanted to visit those unreal locations where the series is shot. This time, everything fell into place when we planned to visit Spain!

We visited Barcelona, Granada, Seville & Madrid in the month of April ( during the Easter vacation). While planning the trip, I did a bit of research to visit the filming locations of the Game of Thrones series. Around Barcelona is Samwell Tarly’s ancestral home as it appeared in Season 6. The palace is actually a private residence, ‘Castell de Santa Florentina‘ in the town of Canet de Mar in the Spanish region of Catalonia, a few kms drive from Barcelona & is also enroute Costa Brava. One can make a great road trip driving through these scenic landscapes.

(Here’s the link I referred while planning my trip)

We took a slight detour to visit the palace and drove to Canet de Mar to find the location CLOSED! We asked around at the town’s help desk, who told us that the owners usually do a private tour of their home on prior reservations. So in case you are planning to visit the place, do call them and book an appointment. It’s no point driving all the way otherwise, as you can see only the gate that leads to the property and not an inch of their home is visible from the street.

So, Location 2  was the Real Alcazar of Seville. We wanted to drive through the South of Spain, but since we had a time crunch, we had to take the train to reach faster. We reached Seville during the Holy week and the entire town was bustling with people who had gathered for the festivities. We stayed at Hotel Inglaterra, which is located at the main square & is at a walkable distance from the Real Alcazar.

To enter the Real Alcazar, was a queue that ran upto our hotel entrance! 😀 We were lucky to have booked the tickets and a guide well in advance, so we could beat the queue and enter on time. We met our guide the entrance and she took us around the palace and explained every room in great detail. Here’s a little something she told us about the actors during their shoot of season 6 at the location – The actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) had to step out of the location for some reason and when he returned, to reenter into the palace, he had to purchase a ticket! This was actually because of the crowd outside & they did not want to attract any attention. But still, the actor actually held on his reel life’s family honour – “A Lannister always pays his debts“.

The scenes were actually shot in a private area of the palace which is not open to the public. But, the common areas are still approachable. Here’s the pic –



Moving on, the third location used in the series is Osuna, again near Seville. This is the fighting pits of Meereen. Unfortunately, we couldnt travel to Osuna to see the bull fight ring. Instead, we visited the Real Maestranza, The oldest bull fighting ring in Spain.

If you are GoT fan & want to visit these locations in Spain, it’s actually easy to plan a trip with these in your itinerary!


Ancient Wall frescoes revived on canvas – The story behind Kerala murals

In ancient times, people adorned the walls of temples and churches with paintings depicting mythological legends. One of the most well kept frescoes can still be found in South India, principally in Kerala.

The artists of these wall murals basically imagined god to be in the form of a human. The subjects for the murals were derived from religious texts that described the details. The artists have thus, brought their imagination into life with these paintings. These paintings also follow a particular colour scheme and subjects also are stylised in a certain way that sometimes signifies non-human characteristics Eg: Ganesha – A man’s body with an Elephant’s head, a woman bearing four hands etc. which are actually Hindu deities.

The colour scheme can be explained due to the limited availability of vegetable dies or coloured powders that were smeared within a detailed outline.

(** The featured image is a reproduction. To see how an original fresco looks like, click here **)

Nowadays, there are many talented artists from the region who are bringing the art form back to its glory. The availability of paint in various hues is an added advantage.But, to stick to keeping the art form rooted to the basic scheme, we still use the basic colours that was used in ancient time – yellow, red, blue, green & black.

Kerala murals are mainly painted with acrylic on canvas. To arrive at the final shade, many layers have to be painstakingly painted line by line ( Yes! No smudging here). It starts with the use of Vermillon, Yellow ochre and followed by the other colours based on the subject. To make a modern painting look like a fresco, Burnt Sienna is mixed with every basic colour, to give a “dusty” shade. This is to mimic the colour on the walls  ( The original coloured powder combined with the dust on the wall gives a completely different look to the paintings, the age and natural wear & tear also adds to the colour as seen on the present day )

** The above article is based on my research from various blogs & websites written on the same subject. Below are the references, in case of any objections, kindly contact me – 1.                                                               2. **





Sketching on Toned paper – Inspiration from the streets of Italy

Toned paper is nothing but coloured paper. But to choose the right texture and thickness of paper for a sketch is pivotal!

The most commonly used shades of paper are either toned tan or grey paper. But why these shades ? For portraits, especially, the medium tones are largely used to fill up the sketching area. But with toned paper, the paper tone itself is a medium tone! So using this shade as the base, the artist can only use highlights to create dramatic effects in a portrait.

My first look at toned paper sketches was in Florence, Italy in 2011. I remember visiting the Accademia Gallery which hosts Michelangelo’s ‘David’. After this, we went on a walking tour to the old town and the 3 famous bridges and close to the Florence Academy of Fine arts. I think it was here, I saw amazingly talented artists who were sitting on the streets with their easels, toned tan paper & the classic chalk pastels and creating masterpieces with tourists as their subjects. I wondered what that paper was called? Would it be easily available etc. Once I returned home, I was still curious to find out what materials they used and I WANTED to procure it. I went to most of the local paper markets & stationary stores, but all in vain! They looked at me as though I was asking for something alien :-/

So, I did my research and learnt more about portraits, using the classic shades to create dramatic vintage effects that a graphite pencil cannot do! It took me quite sometime to find Strathmore’s Artist paper in toned shades and since they did not ship to India back then, I had to make my friend buy it for me and ship it. I used Derwent soft drawing pencils to create the below sketches. These pencils are the best quality I have used until now and highly recommend anybody who wants to try their hand at the art.


I have used the classic portrait shades in both the sketches below, just to show that one can use these materials to their full versatility.



For any further questions, plz feel free to comment below, OR just shoot an email to me 🙂

Difference between Oil and Chalk Pastels on paper – Part 2

Hello again! In this post I will be continuing to talk about using pastels on paper.
Chalk pastels are the simplest form of soft pastels that contain more pigment and less binding material ( like oil in oil pastels).Hence giving out brighter colours as compared to oil pastels.

Chalk pastels,as they are very dry and chalky, tend to leave behind a great amount of  dust after writing just like how the blackboard chalks do. So having them in the form of a pencil not only makes our lives easier, it can also be used for sketching the fine details which is very hard to do with pastel sticks. However, it is still a colored chalk and one must be careful not to rub off the sketch while resting the palm on the paper.

I’m using the Montmarte black paper sketching pad , the paper quality is exceptional for all types of sketching and Montmarte AUTUMN pastel pencils for my sketch. This pack mainly consists of great autumn shades i.e. tones of orange, red, green and blue. I have chosen to sketch a kingfisher bird to show that you can sketch anything with the autumn pack pencils and not just landscapes!

I have started off with a basic sketch using a graphite pencil. The autumn pack contains two great shades of blue and green, which I have mixed to get the below shade of the bird. Chalk pastels are very easy to blend, either by hand, a neutral colour or blending stumps .White pastel can be used to modify the shade to a lighter tone.

I have also started the sketch from the top of the page, so I can avoid resting my hand and smudging the surface.


The chalk pastels leave behind dust on the paper, so always blow the dust off instead of using a paper towel or your hand. You may also have to reuse the color several times to achieve a dark and bright shade.Since I have used pastel pencils, I’m able to bring out the details of the feathers of the bird and the fish its holding.


The completed sketch is as below. I have added some green shading, so the background isn’t  jet black anymore:


Chalk pastels are very hard to preserve unless they are protected with a glass frame or have a protective coating on the surface. Make sure to spray the picture with a fixative. But due to the chalk property of the pastels, its better to be cautious, as fixatives may impact the color or texture of the sketch.
Pastels are a great way to start, so grab your set and start sketching!
Let me know what you think of my tutorial in the comments below..

Difference between Oil and Chalk pastels on paper – Part 1

This time I will be talking about using soft oil pastels and chalk pastels on paper. I have use both black and white paper to show the effect of both media.

Part- 1 : Oil pastels on white paper:
Oil pastels are usually buttery and contain more oil content, so they can be blended more easily either by hand or with a neutral colour pastel. Oil pastels work great on good textured paper, for a smoother blending effect we can use our normal sketching paper which is less textured. I have used MontMarte A3 size sketch book and MontMarte Oil Pastels. Since oil pastels work differently than paints, it is important to start with a good quality pastel that works and blends smoothly.

There are many techniques to use oil pastels. In today’s sketch, I am going to use a technique called Layering, where you gradually build up the layers of pastels to achieve the colour and depth you want in your sketch.

I have sketched a scene of a small café in Europe, using a graphite pencil. Once the initial sketch was ready, I started with the basic shades in the picture. In this case, I start with pink/peach for the walls and tables, grey and black for the door, floor and parts of the background.

Its necessary to start with the basic shades as we can blend in more colours to produce gradients and we can also use contrast shades to highlight. You can either blend with your fingers or use blending stumps. I have used blue to highlight the chairs & tables and light/dark shades of green for the bushes and yellow for the flooring and door. (It is important to wipe your fingers and the pastel sticks in between so you do not end up transferring one colour to another)

oil pastel1

Make sure not to use too many shades in the same area, as the colours stop blending at one point after which the pastels start to stick . So plan for the shade you require and work towards achieving it with less than 3 colours.
You can notice the shadow of the window grill on the wall and shades of yellow on the right part of the sketch which indicates that the light source is on the left top corner. Paying attention to light sources and their effects on the object can bring about a great difference on how the finished sketch looks.


The final part of the sketch is the flooring. I have used shades of yellow to show the light on the ground and the shadowed areas are dark brown. The blue highlights are used to break the monotony of browns on the tiles.

After the major areas are completed and blended, I have outlined the details of wine glasses & plates on the tables. The completed sketch is as below.


Sketching on Black Paper with toned charcoal

Using Black paper for charcoal sketches works exactly the opposite way as that of working with white paper. We usually sketch the dark areas and then erase off the highlights while drawing on white paper. But with black, we usually draw the highlights and let the dark background work its magic!


The basic charcoal pencil used for drawing on black paper is white charcoal pencil. Im using Mont Marte White charcoal pencils- Set of 3 ( soft,medium,hard).

Other than the basic white pencils, coloured charcoal can also be used. For landscapes/flowers/fruits/birds/animals the usual colours set can be used. But usually for portraits , colours like sanguine, sepia, ochre etc. are used for bringing out subtle skin tones.

For my sample drawing below, I have used :

  • MontMarte A4 size black sketchbook
  • MontMarte coloured charcoal pencils for portraits
  • Derwent coloured pencils
  • Montmarte Black eraser
  • Blending stump
  • Fixative spray


Step 1 : Firstly, complete the basic sketch using a normal graphite pencil (HB). Im using a graphite pencil instead of white because in case you make any mistakes, it can be easily erased.


Step 2: Once you are happy with what you have sketched, start using the coloured charcoal pencils. I have started with the face, using white and ochre colours. Based on the light and shadows, make sure to use white for the lighted spots and ochre for the shadows. In a few places, I have also used sepia for darker spots. Make sure to use blending stumps to blend the colours softly.


Step 3: Next we move on to the hair. Again I have used the white and ochre for the few strands of hair exposed to light and also for the jewel on the hair. Even though the background is black, I have used black pencil to highlight the hair strands with bold strokes. Next move on the flowers on the hair, for this I have used ochre and highlighted with white in a few areas.


Step 4: Next step is the ear , neck and the jewellery for which I have used white and ochre and also black in between to bring out the highlights.


Step 5: To complete the sketch, draw bold strokes of white and ochre at the edges of the page and also give a minute outline with black to fine tune the edges.

If you have tried something similar, feel free to say something in the comments section! 🙂

Art in Ancient Egypt

My mom was somehow always fascinated with the mysterious land of Egypt and a load of stories, novels & movies added to it. A summation of all these, passed on the fascination to me and Egypt made it to the top of my ‘Dream destination’ list at a very early age.

Finally, at the age of 28 I had the chance to visit the country with my parents & sister. What I saw & experienced was no where close to what I had imagined as a child. The place is far more developed and commercialised, in every aspect! I expected to find some original art in Cairo/ Luxor, but maybe I didn’t look hard enough. All I found was repetitive designs on souvenirs, clothes, crockery etc. and annoying salesmen who do not miss a chance to harass.

We took a conducted tour to all the must-visit sights, the architecture & aesthetics in every heritage site are truly marvellous. The temples and tombs are very well preserved and thanks to our well-informed guides, we could understand every bit of -‘why’ they did what they did!

In some of the well preserved temples in the country, we can see wall paintings that have lasted forever and have passed the tests of time. Being the inquisitive one, I wanted to know how these murals were made back then, when humans had no idea they could even paint! The Egyptologist who accompanied us explained as so –  ” The ancient Egyptians used anything colourful they found to make paint! (Back then it wasn’t called Paint) ” They used to powder precious stones, flowers, anything with a pigment to use as colour. But this was dry and could easily wash away or lose colour when applied on walls! So, to make sure they are stuck to the walls, they pounded various ingredients to release their essential oils and used the oil to mix with the pigment powder. This formed a pretty sturdy mixture which could stick on the walls. The colours I saw were yellow, red, blue and green – Yes! the basics!

This also made me wonder if oil paints are as old as pre- B.C period ? Or if this was the origin? Or not ? I guess if any mummy did reincarnate, Boy! Would it be delighted to see these beautifully preserved works of art on the walls & also happy to find something its own age 😉

Egypt is a mystical country & I did fall in love with the history! On our visit to the Temple Island of Philae, we were told the greatest love story of God Isis & God Osiris. It is a simple story of how a wife fought with evil to bring her dead husband back to life – similar to the ‘Nala Damayanthi’ story told in our very own Mahabharata.

Listening to these stories had me imagining on how the scene might have looked! I did see the wall inscriptions which depicts the story, but I now want to paint my version of the Goddess of love – Isis.

Now you know what’s coming up! Stay tuned for more updates 😀


Learn to draw with Charcoal

Charcoal is usually burnt organic material like wood. Typically charcoal is used on paper to bring out a more dramatic effect as compared to the graphite pencils. This is achieved due to the dark black shades brought out by using charcoal.

Charcoal for art usage is available in the market in different forms- Compressed charcoal like pencils, softer charcoal called vine charcoal sticks ,uncompressed form like stumping powder and pigmented charcoal(white and other colours). Below I have listed the materials I have used in my project –

  1. Paper – I have used the MontMarte A3 size sketch book suitable for pencil/charcoal sketches. Its important to use a soft textured paper because if the paper is too smooth, the charcoal wont stick and if the paper is too textured, you have a hard time bringing out the details.
  2. Vine charcoal – This is uncompressed charcoal in the form of sticks. Also called Willow charcoal. I’m using these sticks instead of charcoal stumping powder.
  3. Charcoal pencils – This is compressed charcoal in the form of a pencil. It comes in soft, medium and hard densities. Soft pencils give darker gradations whereas hard ones give lighter gradations.
  4. Kneadable/Hard Erasers – Kneadable erasers are soft, pliable erasers that can be squeezed to any shape to erase off tricky areas. Harder erasers are good for erasing off charcoal while revealing highlights.
  5. Blending Stumps – Used for blending smaller detailed areas. This comes in different sizes, so choose the appropriate one based on the blending area.
  6. Paper Towel/ Tissue paper – for blending larger areas
  7. Stumping Powder – Charcoal in powdered form, used for covering larger areas without any pencil marks
  8. Fixative spray (optional)-Spray fix helps to protect a drawing once it’s finished by preventing smearing. It “fixes” or sets the media onto the paper.


To begin with, sketch the outline of your picture using a graphite HB pencil. Make sure the sketch is light and do not apply more pressure on the surface , because charcoal doesn’t stick on the pencil outlines. I have sketched a heritage sculpture of Buddha, you can choose any picture in black’n’ white for your initial sketches, as the shades are clearly defined


Once you are happy with your sketch, start with using vine charcoal to smudge over the surface, use it over and over again if you want a darker shade. Use a cotton swab or a paper napkin to smudge larger surfaces. Make sure to keep a paper under your palm to avoid rubbing off the charcoal.


After you have completed the shading of the face, for very dark and smooth gradation, use the blending sticks. Scrape off the vine charcoal to use the powder , roll the stick on the powder and then use it on the paper as shown in the image. The advantage of using the stick is the clear definition that can be achieved


After the basic shading of the picture, to highlight the dark areas, use the charcoal pencils. In the sample pic, I have used the pencils to emphasize the facial features and hair.


To complete the sketch, use the vine charcoal sticks to smudge and prepare your background to a light/dark grey based on the picture you are drawing. Darken the background areas where the light is more on the face and keep the background light where the face is dark. This kind of contrast makes the completed sketch more visually appealing.