[Guest post by Joel Winstead in Angkor Wat] After the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore, I travelled with a smaller group of sketchers to Cambodia to sketch Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. We spent several days there sketching the temples, the city of Siem Reap, the markets, and the people.
On our last day at Angkor Wat, I suggested we try to catch it in the afternoon light, since the previous day we'd sketched in the morning. I found a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way vantage point to sketch from, and went to work, using a reed pen and sumi ink, which I keep in a little film canister stuffed with gauze (a trick I learned from Ch’ng Kiah Kiean, also known as KK, at the previous Symposium). There were monkeys nearby, but I didn’t think much of this.
While I was working, one of the monkeys approached and sat down about five yards away from me, watching. I wasn't real comfortable with that, but since my nephew likes monkeys, I thought I'd take a picture. So I stood up to fetch my camera out of my pocket. But instead of posing for a picture, the monkey took advantage of this, darted forward, stole my ink canister, and ran away with it! He then pulled out the gauze and ate it.
More monkeys appeared. I stomped and yelled at them to go away, but this did not work: instead, they bared their teeth and hissed at me. One of the larger ones charged at me with his canines showing. Since I didn't think a monkey bite would make a very good souvenir from Cambodia, I backed up a few steps.
Now there was a monkey sitting on my sketchbook going through my things, and I wasn't entirely sure what to do about this. He found the bottle of sumi ink I use to refill my ink canister, managed to unscrew the lid, and actually took a drink of it! I can't imagine that tasted good. He also unzipped my pen case (yes, monkeys understand how zippers work), but fortunately he realized that fountain pens are not edible, and put it down.
Any time I approached to get my things back, the monkey would hiss, bare his teeth, and charge. I decided he could have the ink, but I did want my pens back - and I definitely had to have my sketchbook. I was saved when a group of tourists walked by on a nearby path, carrying food. The monkeys quickly decided that they were more interesting than I was, and chased after them instead. I was then able to grab my things together and hurry off to a more crowded (and monkey-free) area.
This is the unfinished sketch, as it was when I got it back from the monkeys, dirt and all:
So if you’re ever sketching at Angkor Wat, and you see a monkey with a black ink stain on his chin, say hello for me. And watch your art supplies.
Joel Winstead is a software engineer based in Reston, Virginia, USA. He is a contributor to Urban Sketchers Washington DC, and you can see more of his sketches on Flickr.