Holi or the Festival of Colors is celebrated every spring by Hindus, Buddists and Sikks. It is primarily celebrated in countries with large Indic diaspora populations. From what I read, I anticipated people decorating themselves with brightly colored chalks. This was something I had to sketch. I read that this celebration was taking place right here in Orlando so I packed my art supplies and drove over to the Citrus Bowl where it was taking place. That evening I was also going to a Oscars party so I put on a nice suit and dress pants.
When I arrived at the Citrus bowl, I could hear the very loud music. Parking was $10 which was annoying, but I bit the bullet and drove into the dirt lot. When I entered the fenced in area where Holi Fest was happening there were a few tents set up for food and assorted goods. There was a table full of colorful, romance filled and vibrant Balliwood DVDs. Leaning against the fence were a wide variety of paintings of Krishna, Radna and other exotic and beautiful gods. The place was rather deserted when I got there. People were just setting up and the sound engineers were standing near the stage truck and the huge wall of speakers. As I was finishing my sketch of the main stage, a woman approached me from behind and rubbed her hand along the back of my neck. I thought, well, isn't that friendly. Then when I looked back at my sketchbook, I saw that the page was covered in bright pink powdered pigments. I quickly blew off as much pigment as I could but some had landed in a wet patch of watercolor so it remained. Then I noticed that my suit jacket was also coated in the pigment. Glancing around I realized that the field was now filled with hundreds of people, most of them dressed in white and covered in various pigments.
With my first sketch finished, I stated wandering around the crowd looking for my next subject. Everywhere I looked people were throwing or wiping brightly colored chalks on each other. People were using super soakers full of pigmented water and squinting each other. I was in a colorful war zone. I backed myself up against the fence and relaxed in the shade of a tree for a while.
Rather than try and draw the huge and constantly moving crowd, I decided to approach these children who were relaxing behind the speakers. I asked I they minded me sketching them, and the young girl said, "Of course not!" I sat a few feet away and started working. I was anointed with pigments several more times as I worked on this sketch. I realized that I stood out like a soar thumb since I was the only man in a black suit and everyone else was dressed mostly in white. I slowly blended in as I became more colorful. Performers who approached the stage would walk right in front of me. They were smart, having covered themselves with long raincoats which they only took off when they got on the stage. There was music and dancing all afternoon. Songs often would have to do with the epic love story of Radna Krishna. I didn't understand the words, but the spirit and playful fun of the event were not lost on me. By the time I finally decided to leave there had to be several thousand people crowded on the field. Everyone was brightly colored and often soaking wet. The family I sketched had flown from New York State to Orlando just to go to this event. I gave the mother of the children I had sketched the address to this blog so she could get a copy of the sketch. She then offered me a huge plate of Indian food which was fantastic. There was an apricot pastry, and several really tasty Guijia, which are fried dumplings. It is often impossible to sketch and observe an event without it coloring and influencing my life. How great that Orlando still offers new and unexpected experiences. This is a fabulous, fun and free event that I certainly plan to attend again next year.