Making sense of most things

Having moved to Seoul only 4 months ago, I am literally a tourist in my own backyard. Most things I see, hear, feel and occasionally taste is new, different and foreign.

A change like this is exciting no doubt, but it can be overwhelming too. Imagine someone pitching 90 mph balls of new information at you, nonstop, everyday, right from the moment you got off the flight. The only problem is you have two hands to do all the catching!

And you want to catch as many balls as you can, as fast as you can because our first instinct when we travel to a new place is to try and make sense of the environment we are in, even before we start comparing it with the one we just left, praising it, deriding it or adapting to it.


Seocho-gu neighbourhood, Seoul

Being a sketch artist, drawing constantly is how I make sense of my environment. Spending time at any particular place, observing it in a way I would never have if I was walking past, and documenting it on a piece of paper is how I catch those metaphorical balls of information and process them.

Like this random scene I sketched the other day of my neighbourhood in Seocho-gu, a district south of the Han river and found that in the shadow of glamorous looking high rises lining the main thoroughfares, there are these two/three storied honky-tonk buildings in the back lanes, covered with bold coloured signages, housing barbecue joints, fried chicken and beer stalls, underground bars, design studios, themed cafes, bubble tea stores, E-Marts and 7 x 11s, beauty parlours, English learning centres and an automobile repair shop, even.

Seocho-gu sketch

Pen and ink drawing of a random street in Seocho-gu, Seoul

And crisscrossing the scenery or most sceneries in this city are these ubiquitous overhead power lines flying out in every direction from utility poles.

Usually after the initial curiosity of people upon seeing a foreigner sitting on a foldable stool in the street and doodling in her sketchbook has been met, I am left alone. As time passes, the ripple I had caused by being there, starts to smoothen. The novelty wears off. I am offered a glass of water here and a thumbs up there. Furrowed eyebrows are replaced with nods and smiles. Conversations are initiated and had using hand gestures and monosyllabic English. Soon enough someone clicks a picture.

And just like that I become a part of the scene I was trying to make sense of.

Isn’t that amazing?


























8 thoughts on “Making sense of most things

      1. C Hintz Studio

        I use pen and ink in my work, too. Will you tell me the brand of pens you use? And are you happy with them? I’m having trouble finding the right pen.

      2. Somali Roy Post author

        These days I use a dip pen with a flex nib. So basically I buy nibs and attach it to a pen holder and carry a bottle of ink with me for dipping.

        Another fav is a Japanese fountain pen called Sailor Fude DE Mannen. It has a bent nib and I like it because you can make different kinds of lines with it. You can read the reviews online.

        My last recommendation would be Pilot Kakuno fountain pen. It is inexpensive. It won’t give you different line widths like the Sailor pen with Fude nib but it comes in various nib sizes and the ink flow is excellent. You can also check out reviews for Platinum Carbon pen which I used to use a lot too before moving to dip pen.
        Hope this helps 🙂

      3. C Hintz Studio

        Thanks so much! I find the surface of my paper makes a huge difference too. I’ve been struggling with a “recommended” technical pen on rough watercolor paper. But on hotpress ​​it tells a completely different story – so much easier.

        I like your idea of the Sailor pen. Your drawings make any pen look great!

      4. Somali Roy Post author

        You’re right!
        It also depends on the kind of effect you want. When I use dip pen, I like to use slightly rough paper, because when the nib gets caught in the ridges of the paper, it creates a splatter which I love.
        On the other hand when I’m using a fountain pen, I love how it glides on a hot press paper!
        The Sailor pen works beautifully and effortlessly on hot press. Actually the ink flow is so good, I don’t think you’d have problems drawing with it on cold press even.
        Good luck!

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