Painting trip with International Watercolour Society Nepal

By Ginette Wang

Ginette is an award-winning artist. She hosts watercolour, sketching and Chinese painting workshops in New Zealand and overseas.

As a travel blogger, writer and artist, I get inspiration from my travels, especially exotic places with great heritage and architecture.

It started with an email from the International Watercolour Society (IWS) Nepal to congratulate me that my painting Nice at Nightfall, France had been selected for exhibition at the 2nd International Watercolor Festival Nepal 2018 and an invitation to participate in a 7 day program. I have always wanted to go to Nepal, not to conquer the Himalayas but to visit all the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sites. What better reason to make the exciting trip and have the honour of being exhibited and painting alongside other watercolour artists from around the world. My flight to Kathmandu arrived very late at night to a warm welcome from IWS Nepal leader NB Gurung.

Day 1: The Opening

Yes, we artists can feel the presence of other artists. Everyone greeted each other during breakfast. The exhibition took place at the Nepal Art Council, Kathmandu. The event kicked off with 10 artists demonstrating at the same time - different styles, subjects and action happening under one roof. The grand opening ceremony was hosted by IWS Nepal with the honour of Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Ishwor Pokhre’s attendance. After lunch, we were taken to the Nepal National Culture Cooperation Centre to watch Nepali dance performances.

Imagine a bunch of artists all trying to capture the best shots for our future painting references. This day was about experiencing Nepali culture from art to dance then to food. Dinner was a banquet, sitting at long tables, chatting to each other while being served Nepali food (pretty similar to Indian food, I reckon) and enjoying Nepali folk dance performed on stage. After a few shots of Nepali liquor, everyone was dancing and singing a popular song Resham Firiri which got stuck in our heads for the rest of the trip!

Days 2, 3 and 4: Here we come, Lumbini!

44 artists from around the world travelled with painting gear on a 10 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Lumbini. I was fascinated by the skill of our bus driver. He avoided the random bikers, motorcyclists, crossing pedestrians and successfully overtook many trucks on the partially sealed narrow road. If we could all drive like this, we would have no traffic accidents in New Zealand, I was thinking! The distance is equivalent to Auckland to Hamilton, but because of the road conditions it took ten hours, including toilet breaks and a lunch stop.

The following day we walked toward the Birthplace of Buddha – a living World Heritage site. We arrived at the main temple, washed our feet, and walked barefoot entering this sacred ground. We paid our respects to the Buddha and walked to the outdoor gardens which were mostly ruined by war long ago. We were guided by our Nepali fellow artists around the sacred grounds, and a group meditation took place before we went by tuk-tuk to see other temples built by different countries on the site.

The next morning we returned to the main temple, set up our gear and started to paint. It was peaceful and serene yet full of energy from the surrounding monks, pilgrims, and Bodhi trees covered in countless prayers flags. I had chosen a spot in front of the sacred pond to capture the temple. It was a wonderful experience.

More plein-air painting and live demonstrations followed. It was practically a painting marathon!

Days 5 and 6: Painting in Kathmandu

Some fellow artists and I decided to take a flight back to Kathmandu instead of the long bus ride. We didn’t get a chance to conquer the Himalayas, but we did get a glance at the ridge during our 30 minute flight. It was magnificent.

The next day, the group headed to Patan Dubar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the main attraction being the ancient royal palace where the Malla Kings of Lalitpur resided. Artists were everywhere - sitting, standing, squatting on the rooftop of a roadside building to capture another breath-taking view. Locals and overseas visitors approached us with envious looks that we are able to paint these views, just like that! Isn’t it great to be an artist!

We had great fun inspiring each other and learning different cultures through this international event. The Nepal earthquake in April 2015 damaged many World Heritage sites beyond repair, but still Nepalis are trying to rebuild with a strong spirit and friendly humility.

I find the best thing about travelling is to remind myself to appreciate what I have back home. I gained much more than I expected from this trip.

For my full Nepal painting travel blog and photos, please refer to my website

The International Watercolour Society is a global society, aiming to promote watercolour and watercolour artists globally. As the newly appointed leader for IWS New Zealand branch, I would like to invite you to be part of our future events. IWS New Zealand will organise an international Watercolour event in the near future. Please follow us on the IWS New Zealand Facebook page for upcoming events. You are welcome to contact me if you wish to contribute in any way towards our future events.

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