How one reporter turns to watercolors to tell the story

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: There are many ways to tell stories and long time BBC correspondent Andrew North is used to telling them with microphone in hand, but lately North has added another tool to his reporting kit: a sketch book. He brought one on his latest trip to cover the Jaipur Literary Festival in India.

Andrew North: Yeah. I've been taking a sketch pad with me on my travels for the last 18 months or so and when I've had time, I've sat down and I've tried to kind of put down in a pad my impressions of a place or people I see, but just recently what I've also been trying is when I'm actually out reporting is to actually do a kind of what I'm calling a news sketch and to do it as quickly as I can. Just like you would as a reporter writing down quick notes about what people say, what you see, et cetera, but doing that with a pen and then adding a bit of watercolor. So when I was at this Jaipur festival, which is kind of the biggest literary event in Asia now, with people coming from all over the world including big names from the U.S. I knew I had people sitting in one place say for 40 minutes or an hour or so. So again, I did the same thing. These kind of news sketches and I put them out and this is really where I've got to. It's really still a work in progress.

Werman: I mean, I know some journalists, writers like yourself, who take photographs kind of almost for reference when they're out in the field. Just to refer back to, but I mean a sketch pad. It's a completely different pace. I mean, you talked about the speed. You've got to be fast, don't you?

North: You do and I'm learning all the time as to kind of how to be quick and in some ways there are similarities with reporting because the same thing is you go to a scene and you talk to people and look and you try to distill things and it's the same thing that you're doing with sketching. You're trying to distill things, but in some ways, possibly, and this is where I'm finding it almost helps me. I'm looking more closely because I have to. Just to try to find whatever it is that really sums up that moment.

Werman: Can you give me an example of maybe something you've seen that you might not have noticed before and how that changed your whole outlook on a story perhaps?

North: One sort of project that I've been working on is to sketch and paint a little community that lives fairly near to me in Delhi. At the center of it is a kind of a garbage trading operation where people come along, they pick up garbage, and then they come and sell it to this trader who will then recycle it and sell it on. I spent quite a lot of time so far sketching the boss of this garbage trading operation and just watching his face and the way that he deals with people, because I had to by sitting there. I felt that I was learning much more about the kind of the interactions between different people than I ever would have done if I was there doing my day job so to speak.

Werman: When you posted some of these sketches on Twitter and you got this kind of enthusiastic responses, why do you think it got people's juices flowing?

North: In some ways perhaps it's more personal than you could ever be even with a photograph, which obviously is a personal choice. If you're there sketching it, you are really saying this is the way I saw things. You're making more an interpretation and sort of when you match that with some words. With the Jaipur Festival, I've been adding quotes from what some of the speakers have been saying. They've been talking about things like Afghanistan, the future of India, politics and everything. Putting that in there, mashing those two together. Somehow I think that engages people in a slightly different way. I've only set out like five or six sketches on Twitter so far. So this is really just the beginning.

Werman: BBC correspondent Andrew North. Don't forget the pencil sharpener, Andy. Thanks for speaking with us.

North: Thank you, Marco.

Werman: You can see some of Andrew's new sketches at