Wednesday, March 31, 2010

the hands and the face

L'accordéonisteIn Cihangir

a delicious discovery

Cihangir is a veritable maze of teeny-tiny winding streets, with treasures hidden around every corner. I just so happened to be walking down a street I've walked dozens of times, and noticed this charming little restaurant for the very first time, Hanımeli.

Hanımeli, which I just learned means honeysuckle, is so small that I bet you could only fit about twenty people inside, if you were squeezed tightly. You feel like you've been invited into someone's home, and that you're about to sit down to a warm and delicious home-cooked meal. The dining room is cosy, separated from the kitchen (which looks like my mum's kitchen) by a glass case of cold dishes, warm dishes placed tantalisingly on top. Ooh and the smell that greets you is incredible— dill, hot tomatoes and sweet onions.

I discovered Hanımeli while walking around with Javier the other day, and decided to bring two of my newest friends, Gyl and Tia to try it out. The life of a travelling nomad is a marvellous one— you never know where you'll end up and who you are going to meet. While in Budapest, I had the pleasure of meeting two fabulous travelling ladies, Molly and Nancy, and last week I got an email from Molly's friend Gyl, saying that she and Tia were coming to Istanbul and wanted to meet up. This is what I love most about my life— meeting new people, hearing new stories, discovery. After showing off my favourite Cihangir çaybahçesi, Gyl, Tia and I walked around the corner for some amazing stuffed zucchini, köfte and soup.

Seriously, look at that. Not only did my stomach love me, but the fact that each plate is around five lira, makes my artist's wallet happy too— and the owners/cooks of the restaurant are so sweet, the whole experience left me feeling warm.

Hanımeli Ev Yemekleri
Ağahamam Caddesi No.6A Firuzağa / Cihangir / İSTANBUL
0 212 245 98 78

ada çay

It was Javier's last night in Istanbul, and I wanted to take him to one of my favourite drawing spots— the tea garden in Cihangir. We sipped on fragrant sage tea as we picked out our subjects from the colourful crowd. I find that ada çay lends itself well to long periods of sketching, as it's caffeine-free— I can't tell you how many times I've gotten ridiculously wired from glass after glass of çay, my hands drawing trembling lines. Turkish tea is powerful stuff— beware.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

the other side

I remember the few instances when I caught someone sketching me.
Once I was on the D.C. metro and I noticed that familiar up and down head bob out of the corner of my eye, as a guy was moving his eyes from a sketchbook to my face. I felt my cheeks burn— I tried not to act nervous or ruin his drawing by shifting away or becoming unnatural. It was an odd feeling, being the one drawn. Another time I was sketched in San Francisco while arguing with an ex of mine— which was uncomfortable for several reasons— but when the sketcher showed me the frantic lines of my anger and wild hair, and the curves of my ex's relaxed posture, the perfect capture of the moment made us all laugh.

Sketching people is intimate. There is a connection made somewhere between the eyes and the hand that holds the pen. I am not concerned with likeness when I draw, but more with holding onto that moment, that expression and feeling in a person— their essence. Sometimes the connection is so powerful that I can find a kind of perfection in my drawing, and other times it just doesn't work.

I love these portraits Javier sketched of me.
It's an honour, being on the other side.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

island sketchfest

Please click on the pictures to see them larger.
To see some of the drawings by other sketchers, please visit Urban Sketchers.

the island

Fifty Spanish designers, a Turkish photographer and I headed to Büyükada on a greyish morning with the goal of sketching as much as we could. The grey turned blue, and the sun peeled off our coats as we made our way across the Marmara Sea, seagulls following us for crumbs of simit.

We met these shy little girls along our hike up to Ayia Yorgi Church, selling flower crowns— oh, and this charming cow, who was enjoying some fresh grass under the shady pines. The climb to Ayia Yorgi is steep— meant to tear at your tendons, pound at your heart, and force you to contemplate life, decisions, and the beauty of your surroundings.

Ayia Yorgi icons
After marvelling at the quiet little church, the blue returned to grey, bringing with it a cold rain. We just managed to finish our lunch before getting soaked, and crammed inside the dark café for a look at each other's work.

Sketches coming soon!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

sketching eminönü

Seed seller

I met Spanish sketcher Javier de Blas in Eminönü for a chat, a coffee and a lot of sketching. There is nothing more fun than sketching with other sketchers. Most of the time I draw alone, or try to scrawl one out as fast as I can when I'm with non-sketchers. It's so nice to just be able to draw at my own pace, not having to rush somewhere or feel like I am neglecting someone, just draw, sketch, paint— and seeing the different techniques and styles of other artists is an invaluable experience.

Rüstem Paşa Camii

Sketching Eminönü

As a lover of ink, I seldom paint on-site, but decided to give it a try when Javier got out his compact watercolour palette. Eminönü at sunset was just too tonal and colourful for a pen— and I must say I'm pretty pleased with the results. While warming up in a café, we decided to sketch each other.

Please click on the images to see them larger.

Friday, March 26, 2010

a day's end

Grand Bazaar closing 4

The Kapalı Çarşı and I have had a long relationship— I've been getting lost in its labyrinthine alleys since I was seven years old. I know almost every street, every shop, and yet if someone were to ask me where that shop that sells the marvellous Afghan bracelets is, I would have no clue of how to get there.
I know the façade, I can see it and the faces of the shopkeepers clearly in my mind, but where it is— well, you just have to end up there.

I met Spanish sketcher extraordinaire Javier de Blas at the Bazaar for coffee and a swapping of sketchbooks. Javier is a professor of drawing for designers at the Escuela Superior de Diseño of La Rioja in Spain, and has come to Istanbul with fifty of his talented students to explore and sketch. While we chatted and sketched, the Bazaar slowly dimmed and grew quieter, as shops shut down for the night. Never, in my years of intimacy with this maze of delights, have I ever seen it close. Tourists vanish like vapour, shopkeepers systematically and precisely relocate their wares from outside their shops to in, and the resident pigeons fluff up on their wires.

Grand Bazaar closing 2
Outside the Kapalı Çarşı, night falls, and hungry people hurry toward cafés and meyhane.


sketches of a friday