It all started when I asked my son Ted if he would like a painting for his new London flat.  “Yes please” he replied, “Can you paint me a picture of the ghats in Varanasi?”  Like us, Ted had experienced a wonderful and memorable stay in this fascinating and colourful Indian city on the banks of the river Ganges. 

To Hindus, the Ganges is sacred: they believe that those who bathe in its waters achieve purity, and those whose bodies end up in the Ganges, whether as ashes or corpses, are believed to break the cycle of reincarnation and become one with God.  Hindus arrive in huge numbers to bathe in the river, to cremate their dead on the ghats (the steps that lead down to the water), and to scatter their ashes in the sacred water. Many older Hindus travel to live their final days in this holy city, in the hope that their bodies will eventually be returned to the Ganges. A few days in Varanasi is a magical and unforgettable experience…… but not one I had ever expected to paint!

The photo that Ted sent me to work from was extremely detailed, and not the type of subject I would normally paint, but a promise is a promise so I set to work.   I started with a detailed sketch, and gradually added shadows in thin layers of dark translucent paint.  The first colours I added were more opaque, but still relatively dark and de-saturated.  The later stages involved the more detailed areas with brighter, lighter colours and highlights to contrast with the dark shadows and add depth to the painting.

The painting is now complete and will travel with me by train to London on Thursday.  I just hope he likes it!