MIR Client Spotlight: Sketching the South Caucasus

MIR Client Spotlight: Sketching the South Caucasus

Ned and Marilyn Livingston are seasoned MIR travelers, and as they say, “hand in hand” travelers for the past 58 years.

Ned and Marilyn Livingston,   with Mount Ararat in the background <br>Photo credit: Ned Livingston

Ned and Marilyn Livingston, with Mount Ararat in the background
Photo credit: Ned Livingston

Longtime TravelersIn 2012, Ned and Marilyn explored the Silk Route through Western China and the five ‘stans on MIR’s small group tour, Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia. In 2013, Ned and Marilyn’s travels took them to entirely different landscapes and cultures on MIR’s Treasures of the South Caucasus, surveying Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

As they travel, Ned loves to pull out a pencil and sketch what he sees. That was the case on MIR’s South Caucasus tour, with Ned sketching the iconic sights of these distinctive countries. Ned generously offered to share a few of his favorite sketches from that journey. Thank you, Ned!

Sketching, Nuts & BoltsNed sketches rather than paints when he travels: pencils are lighter to carry and take up less room in a suitcase. He uses a “wet and dry” sketch book and a simple Paper Mate #2 pencil with eraser. That’s it. Ned emphasizes that the eraser is essential!

“I like to sketch on the spot,” Ned says. “I’m inspired by what I see.”

One of Ned's favorites: sketching Armenia's medieval Haghbat Monastery, perched high atop a plateau <br>Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

One of Ned’s favorites: sketching Armenia’s medieval Haghbat Monastery, perched high atop a plateau
Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

This view of UNESCO-listed Haghbat Monastery is similar to what Ned Livingston sketched <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

This view of UNESCO-listed Haghbat Monastery is similar to what Ned Livingston sketched
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Drawing NearWhen Ned looks at his drawing of the Church of Echmiadzin in Armenia, he sees a “so-so sketch.” But the memory of drawing it is far from ordinary. “I was perched on a park bench drawing the church when an older gentleman in semi-ragged garb took a seat at the other end of the bench. We sat there together. He ignored me and I ignored him – except after a while I saw him peeking at what I was doing. The more I sketched, the more he showed interest,” Ned recalls.

“Finally, as I wrapped things up to leave and catch up with the tour group, the man grinned and put out his hand to shake my ‘aloof and independent paw.’ We didn’t speak a word – we couldn’t have understood each other anyway! – but we grinned and shook hands. We communicated, and the sketch did it!” 

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Echmiadzin Cathedral is the sacred center of the Armenian Church <br>Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Echmiadzin Cathedral is the sacred center of the Armenian Church
Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

Ned Livingston was inspired to sketch Armenia's Echmiadzin, one of the world's oldest cathedrals <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Ned Livingston was inspired to sketch Armenia’s Echmiadzin, one of the world’s oldest cathedrals
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Time LapseWith Ned, there’s no hemming or hawing, no artistic equivalent of “writer’s block.” It takes Ned at least 30 minutes to sketch a site, what one friend in his MIR tour group called “Ned’s long exposure time.”

“It’s artistic intuition that tells me where to go,” Ned says. “Every situation has a sweet spot – the trick is finding it.” (Ned admits that sometimes that “sweet spot” is simply a park bench!)

Rough RidersNed remembers less about this place, Holy Trinity Church (Tsminda Sameba) in Georgia’s alpine village of Kazbegi, than he does about the bumpy one-lane road getting there. Indeed, perhaps a reason the church is so well preserved is because it’s truly off the beaten path of smooth roads and highways.

“That ride is burned in my memory card forever! What a blast!” Ned recalls.

Ned Livingston sketched  mile-high Tsminda Sameba  Church, popular with trekkers and rough riders <br>Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

Ned Livingston sketched mile-high Tsminda Sameba Church, popular with trekkers and rough riders
Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

This view of Georgia's Tsminda Sameba Church is every cliché: jaw-dropping, breath-taking, unforgettable <br>Photo credit: Peter Guttman

This view of Georgia’s Tsminda Sameba Church is every cliché: jaw-dropping, breath-taking, unforgettable
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Capturing the MomentNed sometimes shoots backup photos to fill in details later, if needed. An architect by training, he has a sharp eye for detail. Since the South Caucasus is filled with religious buildings and edifices, Ned tended to draw them on his MIR tour. It’s a reflection of reality as well as a reflection of the beauty and landscapes of these ancient and amazing countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Ned says he and Marilyn have “truly enjoyed our trips with MIR.”

“Certain episodes on each sojourn shine like beams of sunlight on that primrose pathway of Marilyn’s and mine,” Ned says. “Marilyn and I can’t thank you enough!”

Another favorite sketch of Ned Livingston's: Gremi's Royal Citadel in Kakheti, Georgia <br>Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

Another favorite sketch of Ned Livingston’s: Gremi’s Royal Citadel in Kakheti, Georgia
Sketch credit: Ned Livingston

Castle, cathedral, church: Georgia's 16th-century Gremi complex goes by many names <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Castle, cathedral, church: Georgia’s 16th-century Gremi complex goes by many names
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Travel to the South Caucasus with MIRJoin MIR’s scheduled tours to the South Caucasus and see for yourself – or sketch for yourself – the scenery that Ned captured in just a small sampling of his sketches. You can also book a custom private journey.

(Top sketch credit: Ned Livingston – Armenia’s Geghard Monastery, carved from solid rock.)

PUBLISHED: July 31, 2014

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