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Welcome to Armchair Travels, an invitation to travel around the world through the reportage illustration of Studio 1482.We have gathered art from our travels to share with you in the hopes that, while you can’t get out and see these places (yet), our experiences may bring some happiness and light to your day. Please check back often as we will be posting new adventures weekly.

Enjoy Times Square, NYC by Greg Betza…

Times Square, that section of midtown New York City that has been referred to as the “Crossroads of the World”amongst other things (both favorable and not so much). It is a place that many native New Yorkers avoid at all costs and yet it is a not-to-be-missed destination for all tourists.

As a New Jersey native that spent a great deal of time in New York City, I have a certain fondness for Times Square, though I completely understand why you’d want to avoid it as well. What a contradiction!

Get me outta here!

Speaking of contradiction, could there be a place more antithetical to our current “new normal”? To think of the thousands of people that would traverse the area each day; have it reduced to a near ghost town in a matter of weeks. Chalk that up to things I’d never thought I’d see.

It was the masses of people that first brought me to Times Square to draw. It was a challenge. So many people, so much movement, even more personality. The architecture, the advertising, the lights! To learn to capture and tell that story was a lesson so important in my development as a reportage artist and illustrator. Here are a few early attempts.

Trips to draw here gave me the full sensory experience. Ears assaulted by honking horns, indiscernible shouts, tourists asking for directions…, music, discernible expletives, and of course, the pigeons!
The smells. Oh boy. From hot garbage in the summer, to the constantly wafting smell of something frying from the endless row of chain restaurants.
And watch your step, the garbage cans often overflow!
Now while this may sound horrible, it is what makes Times Square unique and as an artist you need to take it all in…the good and the bad, to tell the truth with your reportage. And despite all of this (and there is more) people flock here anyway and stay awhile. As did I, many, many times.

On a more positive note, looking up and around when you are here is inspiring. On the surface it can appear a soulless theme park devoted to consumerism, but if you can get past that tired and overused criticism, Times Square is home to so many visions realized. As a student of advertising I love to see the campaigns compete with each other publicly. How each brand approaches this space and how they utilize technology to bring their message to the masses is truly impressive. It’s a constantly evolving gallery.

One of the last times I spent a long day drawing in Times Square was back in 2010 when Mayor Bloomberg closed several sections to traffic, allowing the area to become more pedestrian friendly. I remember it was a very peaceful day, the people seemed to enjoy the space more than they had in the past and I believe I noticed more native New Yorkers hanging around that day too :)


In 2015 I had the most amazing opportunity to spend time in Bali, one of the Indonesian islands.

One way in which Bali is set apart from the rest of Indonesia, which is composed of mostly Muslim countries, is that the dominant religion of Bali is Hinduism.

Balinese Hinduism is unique, and includes the influence of Buddhism, Shivaism, animism and ancestor worship. Families usually live in compounds with a central family shrine, and offerings to the gods are made several times daily.

A family compound in Ubud.

Everywhere in Bali are reminders of the spiritual realm, from the statues of deities nestled in the forest to the offerings of rice on hand-crafted palm or bamboo plates set out on every crosswalk. Even the taxi drivers put rice offerings on their dashboards – it is a constant reminder that there is a force greater than us in the universe, there to be accessed if we can only listen. Bali is the only country in the world that I know of that observes a national day of silence, called Nyepi, for the New Year. What a beautiful thought.

Offerings to the gods are everywhere in Bali.

We spent our first week up in the mountains near Ubud, the area of Bali made famous in the USA by the book Eat, Pray, Love. Miles and miles of rice paddies surround this ancient city of stone and wood. Carved deities peek out at you from every corner, and even the local Starbucks (yes, they have it there too) has that pervasive feeling of being lost in history. Every morning as we sipped our coffee on the little patio behind our hotel bungalow we saw people working in the rice fields, just as they must have done for hundreds of years. And in the evenings we would watch the sun set slowly over this same field. It was serene, to say the least, and I don’t think that this New Yorker has ever experienced such a sense of calm as I did while there.

We were fortunate to be in Ubud during the Purmnama Sasih Karo, or the Full Moon Ceremony. Full moon ceremonies in Bali are celebrated in temples where Balinese Hindus come together to pray, be blessed, and offer fruits, flowers, and food to the gods.

Musgi, the young English-speaking rock-and-roll loving man who worked at our hotel, kindly invited my husband Neil and I to join him at his family temple outside of Ubud, so that we could witness the ceremony, and I could draw it.

That evening, we put on the sarongs we had purchased earlier in the day, and joined Musgi in following the procession to his temple. (You are not permitted to wear anything but a sarong in the temple for the festival, fyi.)

The temple is mostly open air, with pagoda like structures to give shelter in the rain. Lined up along the entrance to the temple are these kinds of tall curved bamboo poles with coconut leaves, flowers, coins and fruits hanging down from them, called penjor. They are all over the streets of Ubud during the religious holiday, and make the place feel very festive.

It was late evening as we approached, and the sun was setting. Bats were beginning to circle in the air above us. As we entered the temple, Neil felt something wet hit the back of his neck – as a native New Yorker, his first thought was how the pigeons in NYC will often ‘bless’ us as they fly over head and he yelled out, “I just got peed on by a bat!” We both had to laugh at ourselves once we realized that it was only a Hindu priest, kindly sprinkling us with holy water as we entered the sacred grounds.

Inside the temple area it was a bustle of activity. People from the villages all around had been assembling – usually, men arriving on mopeds with women on the back (and sometimes children pile on too.) Everyone is wearing beautifully decorated sarongs, and the women have these stacks of goodies to offer to the gods piled high in a golden tower on their heads: fruits, cakes, rice, incense, flowers – so beautiful!

The families stack up their offerings on different covered platforms of the temple, around a large open common area. Then everyone gets on their knees to pray. There are a lot of rituals involving holding flowers up in between folded hands, interspersed with blessings from the priests, with incense and holy water. During new moon festivals, the essence of the sweet stacked golden offerings is to be enjoyed by the gods, while the people purify themselves in preparation for the new cycle that is beginning. Neil participated in the prayers while I drew from the sidelines.

And of course there was chanting by the temple patriarchs, who all sat together on a dais, and music. It was quite a celebration of the ever-changing cycles of life, represented by the miracle of the new moon.

Musgi told us that over the next few days, the families enjoyed eating all of the cakes and fruits that had been blessed, continuing the celebration. We felt so welcomed, and honored to have been a part of it.

After a week in Ubud, we ventured down from the mountains to spend time on the coast of Bali, in the beach village of Sanur. Although the Fairmont hotel we stayed in had more of a western luxury vibe to it, there was still plenty of traditional Balinese culture surrounding us, from the musicians playing in the hotel lobby to the small shrines and offerings of gratitude scattered around the hotel grounds.

As a westerner, I’m not used to seeing shrines and places to leave offerings to the gods in the gardens around a hotel pool, but the suite we stayed in and the pool at the Fairmont were so nice that I definitely felt the gratitude!

The boardwalk along the beach in Sanur was full of bustling activity and plenty of thick vegetation to find shade under. People were sweeping the sand from the boardwalk continuously, and in the drawing above, you can also see them up in the trees doing some pruning. A lot of the activity, though, was spurred by the upkeep of the traditionally colorful boats called jukung. They looked so pretty, lined up along the shore. The jukung are essentially fishing boats, and the men who steer them wait along the shoreline for tourists who want to hire them for a day out on the ocean. They must require a lot of maintenance; as it seemed like the boats were constantly being worked on between trips.

As well as taking the jukung out, many men fish close to the shoreline, in special gear. The large hats they wear not only protect them from the sun, but they also have little bait boxes on them for quick access. Although this may be a traditional way of fishing, I learned that most of the men we saw out every morning were tourists from the city, finding ways to decompress. Just as we were; although traveling there from New York City took quite a bit longer.

I loved drawing the fishermen, and did many studies of them during our stay in Sanur. I wondered if women fish this way too, but I didn’t see any during our time there.

The culture and history of Bali is so rich, I could have stayed there for another year and still discovered something new every day. I haven’t even discussed the richness of the Balinese visual arts, dense and packed with narrative – an illustrator’s dream. While we were visiting Ubud I took the opportunity to have a lesson in the traditional art of Batik. It’s a way of decorating fabric by drawing a line of resist with hot wax, and filling the spaces in between with different colored dyes. I’ll end this post with my batik efforts, and the hope that I will be able to some day return to


To see more Armchair Travels from the reportage artists of Studio 1482, please click HERE.


I’m excited to introduce Armchair Travels, an invitation to travel around the world through the reportage illustration of Studio 1482. We have gathered art from our travels to share with you, in the hopes that while you can’t get out and see these places (yet), our experiences may bring some happiness and light to your day. Please check back often as we will be posting new adventures weekly.

Enjoy Vatican City…by Veronica Lawlor

Here I post some memories from an afternoon in Vatican City and an audience with Pope John Paul II…

Looking at the current images of Rome under lockdown: empty streets, deserted piazzas; I can’t help but contrast them to the Rome I found back in 1998, when I spent a week drawing the scene in Vatican City. PEOPLE make the heart of any city, and in a place that is sacred to so many of the Catholic faith, that rule applies even more, despite the gorgeous architecture. The crowds were immense, almost as immense as the heat that August.

While I definitely felt it was important to capture the majesty and the sheer crowd size of the square, what intrigued me the most about Vatican City was how everyday it was for the people who lived there – not only the priests and nuns, but also, the vendors who made a living from the hordes of tourists coming to visit the shrine and perhaps catch a glimpse of the Pope. To help me feel immersed in this world, I decided to stay at a convent while visiting. When the nuns found out that I was busily drawing their city, they arranged for me to have an audience with the Pope to complete my story. And so, one morning after our communal breakfast, I headed into town for my day’s work.

Vatican City is a bustling little metropolis in it’s own right, and actually, it’s an official country within Rome. There is no difference between commuting here and in any other urban center, except in Vatican City, many of your fellow commuters are wearing the garb of the clergy, and saying the rosary is a common commuting past time. Above, a group of nuns wait for the bus to take them down the mountain to St. Peter’s Square.

Vatican City is also a place where many secular Romans make their living. Here, two vendors argue on the outskirts of the Piazza, exhibiting the famous Italian body language and hand gestures as they emphasize their points.

Not far from them, a group of nuns and priests take their lunch break. Different suits, but in many ways, the same activity as the folks on Wall Street.

I soon arrived at St. Peter’s for my audience with the Pope. That sounds so intimate, but actually, you need a ticket to get in, and when I arrived to the entrance of the smallish theater where the audience is held, there was a line complete with vendors hawking umbrellas and water to protect us from the August heat while we waited to get in. Most of the people on line were from the clergy, taking their vacation to visit the holy site. There were nuns and priests visiting from all over the world, and as Pope John Paul II walked on to the stage, there were nationalistic cheers from the various factions of religious folks. It was quite a rally! He waved to the crowd as he slowly made his way to the chair set up at the center of the small stage.


Pope John Paul II was very old and frail by 1998, but his aura was still quite strong. He was multi-lingual, and people were in tears when he spoke to them in their own language. Everyone lined up and walked across the stage for a personal blessing. It was kind of like a graduation of sorts. The Pope was surrounded by many bishops and the Swiss Guards at all times. It was quite regal.

It was also quite moving to see how the people responded to him. After the audience ended, we all went through St. Peter’s Basilica, where the tradition is to kiss the feet of the statue of St. Peter, which at this point are nothing more than thin worn down slabs at the end of his marble legs.

On my way out, I stopped to make some drawings of the Swiss Guards.

I was quite enamored of the Swiss Guards – after all, when you are a young Italian man wearing a uniform designed by Michelangelo, it’s hard to go wrong. I can’t say that my motivation was entirely religious here, but I think they were good with it. Even in Vatican City, that holiest of places in Rome, bella figura rules the day!

To see more Armchair Travels from the reportage artists of Studio 1482, please click HERE.