The Making of Times Square: Before the Pandemic — Thoughts and Afterth

The Making of Times Square: Before the Pandemic — Thoughts and Afterthoughts

by Shardul Amit Singh

What started out as a pastime during the lonely days of the Covid Pandemic in 2020 soon grew into a full-fledged creative fire that had hitherto been smoldering since my childhood days. In loneliness, I rediscovered colored pencils. One artwork followed another, and with time at my disposal, I was soon hooked to the world of colored pencils.

Times Square: Before the Pandemic, 9x13 inches

Why colored pencils? Why not any other media which have been so popular throughout the ages? The answer would surely vary from person to person, but for me, the appeal of colored pencils lies in the fact that I can indulge in my favourite pastime without the mess that generally accompanies traditional painting media. And colored pencils offer precision. Colored pencils these days are no more the crayons that I had during my childhood. Professional colored pencils are rich in their pigment load, and lend themselves wonderfully well to precision and thus realism in art, which I do strive for in my artworks. Added is the fact that the professional colored pencils are lightfast and artworks produced with them are guaranteed to last lifetimes.

“The appeal of colored pencils lies in the fact that I can indulge in my favourite pastime without the mess.”
Of the various colored pencil pieces I have done till date, ‘Times Square: Before the Pandemic’ has been the most challenging for sure. I have always been attracted to crowded places and the vibrant life that accompanies the crowds thronging the cities, be it in celebration or otherwise. Be it the people thronging the streets and by-lanes of Kolkata during the Durga Puja festivities or the multitudes of people enjoying themselves at tourist locations throughout the world, it’s nothing but a celebration of life. What’s this world without life? Work had taken me in 2017 to New York and not really expecting the crowds I am familiar to back home, I was surprisingly proven wrong. Times Square, New York was such a crowded place, dazzling, vibrant and so full of life. The razzle-dazzle was mind boggling. The photographs taken by me during this trip were soon to become references for this artwork. At that time, nobody could have imagined that in the days to come, Covid would cripple life on this planet and Times Square would turn into a desolate and lonely place.

Work-in-Progress... The lower third took me ages

As Covid eased off and as the world slowly started recovering, I was stunned to chance upon a photograph showing a desolate and deserted Times Square during the Covid period. Where had all the life gone? This was the thought going on as I revisited my old photographs showing a lively Times Square and in June 2021, I decided to celebrate life, as I had seen it, through an artwork. I was never sure I would be able to pull this off, but my approach was the same that I follow in all artworks. Slow and steady does it. Colored Pencil artworks, for me, progress at a painfully slow pace of about a square inch, maybe two, a day. I proceeded at a snail’s pace, slowly drawing the line art, putting on the layers, completing sections, then again continuing with the line art, putting on the layers and so on. I lost my way umpteen times among the cars and the people but after persevering for seven long months and countless hours, I could finally finish it. As the world recovered, I relived the experience once more over those seven months. The upper part of the artwork took me long, but the lower third, full of the multitudes of people in the foreground, took me ages to complete.

“I decided to celebrate life, as I had seen it, through an artwork.”
I would like you to believe me when I say that I now know all those people there in the foreground. As I drew them, I was drawn to them. I had fun imagining the emotions they would have been going through at that moment caught on camera. Most of the likenesses have been preserved in the artwork, but then at places, artistic liberty was allowed to run loose. Some people were removed for the sake of clarity from the final artwork.

Original image from where the artwork was referenced from. The artwork features only a cropped portion from this image.

This was a pure colored pencil project and no solvents were used. This was drawn with Derwent Lightfast and Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. It was really fun working with the creamy laydown of the Derwent Lightfast pencils and the precision offered by the Faber-Castell Polychromos ones. Most of those faces there are the size of those pencil tips and I had to keep those pencils super-sharpened at all times to render the facial features. The faces were the toughest of the lot. Once the artwork was completed, I had the feeling that I have had a lifetime’s fill of drawing portraits. Regarding the surface, this was my first time working on the Arches Hot Press 140lb sheet and I found it fabulous, ready to accept layer after layer of the colored pencil pigments. At places, I tried to scrape some details into the portraits with my X-acto knife, but the knife did not lend itself well on this surface and I had to create the textures and details with my pencils.

The world has now returned to normal, well almost. Covid keeps rearing its ugly head every now and then, but then the indomitable human spirit has found out ways to come up trumps, as it has done innumerable times in the past. Times Square has returned to its former ways. And Life continues.

About Shardul Amit Singh:

A self-taught colored pencil artist based in Kolkata, India, Shardul Amit Singh, took up colored pencils seriously during the ample time he had after the Covid pandemic. He is passionate about the creative arts. Painting in Colored Pencils and photography take up most of his spare time. His colored pencil artworks lean towards the realist style and have been featured and published in international art magazines.

Comments (9)

Shardul meditates and attains the state of Godliness through his paintings, more so through the process. Hats off to his perseverance and tenacity!

Sounak Dey - Feb 20, 2023

It has been a privilege to know Shardul personally. His life is a lesson on how one can follow his passion and at the same time fulfil his numerous duties towards family, job and society.

Snehashish Chanda - Feb 20, 2023

The details captured through this artwork is amazing and spellbinding.
Greater laurels awaits him, if he continues to mesmerise us with his fine skills with the colored pencil.

Dipankar Bhattacharya - Feb 20, 2023



Your thoughts and perseverance to the spirit of humans to get on ahead despite the temporary hinderences to its survival has been philosophically redrawn through your artistry with colours, the very essence of our lives, Survival.It would be interesting to juxtapose the empty street, if there is a picture, to give it life. I liked the ’ trumps’ word in the text, so significant in those times politically. Great work Amit, Good luck.

Deepak Sarkar - Feb 20, 2023

A treat to eyes.without witnessing his art it hard to believe that these incredible paintings are humanly possible. There is a certain degree of peace & tranquility in his work.

Sudipta Bera - Feb 20, 2023

Thank you for sharing such an amazing story of rediscovered love and passion. This art is so mesmerizing and lively! Keep glowing Shardul. With love.

Debanjan Mukherjee - Feb 20, 2023

Shardul is one of the most creative individuals that I have crossed paths with. Over the years, I have found immense grace, beauty, harmony and precision in his diverse creations with media such as photography, painting, rice writing , calligraphy and the written word. In my view, the vibrant and festive Times Square made alive by Shardul’s color pencils is a celebration of joie de vivre that stands in perfect contrast with humanity’s recent moribund encounter with disease, death and mayhem. I wish him emphatic success with the new medium of choice.

Subhra Datta - Feb 20, 2023

Its an absolute honour to know Shardul. His art reflects the person…more so the way he puts these classics literally inch by inch…his work is an example of what true passion can bring in. I do believe the Times Square one is probably the best of hia works till now…as it captures the vibrancy, diversity and above all a celebration called ‘life’. So much to learn from you ‘the Genius’

Tirthankar - Feb 20, 2023

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