Women Of Zafigo: Traveling Through Illustrations With Alicia Aradilla

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In a fast-paced digital world, we are used to taking quick snaps with our phones before moving on to the next destination, but not Alicia Aradilla. A watercolourist and sketchbook artist from Spain, Alicia takes her time to capture everything – from landscapes to food and architecture – into her vibrant travel journals. She even went on a one-year break to journey across 19 countries which prompted her to illustrate over 700 pictures along the way. Besides sharing 10 of her most favourite illustrations, Alicia spoke to us about the joys of slowing down to watch paint dry, what drives her, and how her art has changed how she sees the world.

Home

 

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I don’t usually post many photos of myself on Instagram. This image was taken during the pandemic, in the weeks when this terrace and my notebooks were my entire outside world.

Hawa Mahal, India

 

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India can be a bit of a mess, but it hides thousands of precious stones within. One of them is Hawa Mahal, in Jaipur. I was looking for a place to sketch this amazing building when the owner of a jewellery store situated in front of the Hawa Mahal invited us in for a cup of tea and let me sit there to paint more comfortably.

Ijen Volcano, Indonesia

 

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I did this drawing after walking for several hours in the early morning to see the sunrise from the top of Ijen Volcano. It was a spectacular place, but I felt very tired at the time and carried a face mask with me to block out the sulphurous smoke. The smell was terrible, but I thought that view deserved a sketch!

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 

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There are few places in the world like Angkor Wat. Sitting on its stones with my sketchbook, I felt like an explorer of centuries past. It is a magical feeling. Also, because it was Christmas Eve and the first time I was far from home and my family, this sketch carries special meaning for me.

Fushimi Inari, Japan

 

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The famous orange toris are one of Japan’s most iconic symbols. Fushimi Inari is a pathway in a mountain that has thousands of these toris. I found a small corner far from tourists and their cameras, and enjoyed the silence while I painted in my sketchbook. But not everything was peaceful… I remember the mosquitoes almost killing me that day.

Fenghuang, China

 

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China has incredible places to visit, like The Great Wall and the Buddha of Leshan. But I remember my day of painting in Fenghuang with a lot of love. It was raining, my clothes were wet, and the rain dripped onto my page, but guess what? I love the unfinished look and the fast strokes; they give the drawing a ‘loose’ vibe that is very difficult to achieve. 

Luang Prabang, Laos

 

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Laos is the perfect place to disconnect from the world. We spent a week there and on one of those days we took a trip to these small waterfalls with the most turquoise water I have ever seen.

Bangkok, Thailand

 

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Bangkok is usually the gateway to Southeast Asia for many tourists. The temples with the golden domes are one of the first things that attracted my attention and I felt I had to capture that image in my sketchbook.

Food, glorious food

 

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I also usually take notes about the local foods of each place in my sketchbook. I pay attention to ingredients and flavours. Gastronomy is a very important part of the culture of a country, and so, also important for a travel diary!

Fellow Travellers

 

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I paint while travelling, but also at home. I especially enjoy imagining how the travel diaries of great adventurers of the past would look, and I try to draw their journeys using just my pencil on kraft paper, giving each page a vintage look.

What first inspired you to paint your destinations and how has it impacted your travels?
Travel diaries bring together two of my great passions – illustration and travel – and also allow me to remember the experiences in a very personal way. Watercolour is the technique that best suits this lifestyle: it is easy to carry and allows you to add a lot of colour to the drawing with very few brush strokes.

I have always admired the travel notebooks of artists from the past, when photography didn’t exist. Those books inspire me a lot. When you see its pages, you can feel what the artist felt at that moment; it is like a kind of magic and I wanted to transmit that feeling in my work. 

The main change in my trips is that I needed to travel slower. I think it was a great change because it helped me to enjoy each place like never before and discover details that I may have otherwise missed. 

Has your passion for art changed the way you view the world? 
For me, art is a way of interacting with my surroundings. My routine is always the same: I look for a place that catches my attention, I sit down, get out my watercolours and sketchbook, and spend about an hour painting.

During that time, many things happen. There are people who come to ask me what I’m doing, sometimes locals tell me stories and share amazing facts about the place. At the end of the day, all these things give my trip a new dimension. You also realise that the world is a stunning place, not only for its landscapes, but because of its people.

Now travelling is not as accessible, how has it impacted you and the art you create?
Travelling is – in addition to my passion – a part of my job, so it was difficult to adapt to this new situation. I’m trying to continue travelling, but for now, it is to local destinations. I think local travel is also important because it is a way to help my country’s economy.

Being at home for a while also helped me find other sources of inspiration. For example, I am now putting together the stories of great travellers in history, and illustrating their adventures in black and white on kraft paper, giving it a vintage vibe. For me, this is also a way of travelling.

What do you miss most about travelling and how have you been coping with the pandemic?
What I miss the most is the feeling where every day is different. There is no Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… just new experiences. The more you enjoy it, the easier it is to lose track of time. This is when you know that you are enjoying life. Fortunately, the pandemic coincided with several projects that I had to finish, so I took advantage of the time at home to get work done. 

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through travel?
Travel has helped me overcome many fears and learn to make decisions along the way. It showed me how to open my mind, get out of my comfort zone, and try new things. It taught me that I can do more than I think I can, and that the world is an amazing place full of fantastic people.

Follow Alicia Aradilla and her work online: Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Website. Alicia also conducts online classes at Patreon, where you can also support her work. 

Tercia Goh
Tercia is a Digital Strategist by profession and a Scrapbook Journal-er by passion. Said to have a knack for locating a café or bar within a 10-foot radius, she spends most of her spare time scouring flea markets and stationery stores during her travels. You can follow her journaling journey on Instagram at @Skybambi.