It was in 1975 that I travelled up the Raj Path in the local bus from Birgunj. During a stop at a teashop, I was struck by the beauty and variety of faces around me.
That same beauty had impressed me during a brief visit to Nepal in 1968, when I worked at Boris Lissanevitch´s famous Royal Hotel. A vague urge had pulled me back to Nepal to illustrate her beauty. At that teashop on the Raj Path into Kathmandu, I knew what I wanted to do — draw the faces of Nepal´s people.
My materials were simple; plain paper and pencil. The first portrait was of a small, cheeky, Newar boy. In the process of capturing him on paper, he captured my heart. I became involved in his life. Today he is my adult Nepali son.
Drawing the faces of the many ethnic groups of Nepal meant travelling north, south, east, west, all over the country. Being a woman has been a definite advantage. Villagers are more forthcoming, and there is much laughter and interest as they watch a picture emerge. In one Tharu village, in Dang, some Western friends who lived there cautioned me that the people would be shy. In two years, they had never succeeded in photographing even a single villager.
Sure enough, as I entered the village, everyone disappeared into their houses. So I sat and began to draw, A little girl, unable to resist her curiosity, cautiously peered over my shoulder. Then, one by one, the villagers crowded around me. I was able to draw many of their faces. It was great entertainment for us all.
I have drawn perhaps 450 portraits. Recently, I taught myself the techniques of oil painting. These confine me to the studio when I do portraits, because I have not yet solved the problem of preventing curious children from fingering the irresistible gooey colours, or from squeezing tubes of precious paints. With these distractions, painting from life in a village has been difficult.
I do miss that personal contact with the villagers—hardy, friendly people who work in the fields and are the backbone of this country.