Drawing with Trici

I have recently befriended one of Istanbul’s greatest artists.  Her name is Trici Venola, a digital artist from Las Angeles who has been living in Turkey for the past 7 years, reconnecting with plien air drawing.  You can see her digital and traditional work here.  Before I made my move to Istanbul, I found her website through my professor Doug Russell.  As it turns out, she illustrated a book I was reading at the time about living in Turkey.  I contacted Trici a number of times before leaving and after arriving in Istanbul, but our schedule’s were so busy this summer that it was too hard for us to meet up.  Although, I am quite surprised that we never ran into each other as we were both drawing outside all summer.  Trici and I finally met about three weeks ago when she called and invited me to her house for coffee.  I gathered my travel drawings and headed over to her lovely home for a warm afternoon of chatting on the terrace.  We drank iced coffee and ate melted chocolate with dried apricots while we looked at my drawings and discussed life in Turkey.  I felt an instant friendship with Trici, as though I could share with her all of the ups and downs of my experience living in Istanbul.  Ever since our first meeting, I have been helping Trici build a wordpress blog.  In exchange for my time on the computer with her, she has been spending time with me out drawing at the Boukoleon Palace.  This experience has been quite fascinating.  As an artist who sketches outdoors, I am always influenced by my surroundings.  When I am drawing in solitude, my work has a completely different feeling that when I am drawing in company.  All summer long, Nicole and I would lug our drawing bags around the city and sit down for very quick, gestural and energetic work.  Drawing with Trici is equally as wonderful, but a very different experience.  Her work is incredibly detailed, and takes a great deal of concentration.  Trici seems to go into a deep meditative state when she works and I felt directly influenced by her method.  Though I am always compelled to banter on when I am drawing with a friend, Trici has made it clear that her work involves silence and extreme concentration.  So, for two drawing sessions, I have sat with Trici, working on an ink wash drawing that is becoming very detailed.  Trici looks at my work from time to time and offers great feed back and answers the questions that I have about responsive drawing.  After our last drawing session, we walked from the Boukoleon to a tea house overlooking the Marmara.  We sipped on our Turkish coffee while Trici talked about her life as an artist in Las Angeles and Istanbul.  When the coffee was done we flipped our cups and gazed at our fortunes.  Turkish coffee comes with a tick layer of grounds at the bottom of the cup.  When you flip your cup over and let the grounds dry, they make swirling designs.  I have no knowledge of coffee fortune telling, but I love looking into my cup and making out shapes.  Its the same as if I were looking up at a sky and recognizing figures in the clouds.  I had the most beautiful design in my cup…Trici said that it looked like my heart was full.


After fortune reading, we walked from the seaside through Sultanahmet where Trici took me to a ruin I had never seen before, the Corridor of Lords.  This Byzantine structure lies underneath a carpet shop, and seems to be off the beaten path for tourists.  I would love to draw down there, but Trici told me it is full of spirits…so I’ll save that one for a time when I have a drawing partner.  We slowly made our way back to Arsah Carpets, having several glasses of tea along the way as we stopped in to see Trici’s friends who work in Sultanahmet.  By the time we reached the carpet shop we were famished and Huseyin took us to dinner in Kumkapi, which was as busy as ever and full of gypsy music, tight cloths and delicious mezes.  Trici pulled out her sketchbook and began to draw the musicians and people sitting at tables and walking down the street.  It was lovely to watch her work.  She is so confident in her mark making, hardly hesitating or making any timid movements.  Trici drew her portraits quickly because unlike the Boukoleon, people are bound to move eventually.  I worked in my sketchbook as well, and I realized the improvement I have made in the past few months.  I aspire to be at a level like Trici’s someday, and I know what I have to do to get there.  Ah, Istanbul is full of such inspiring people!


Sketching Süleymaniye

A few days ago I visited the Pera Museum.  One of my favorite sections of the museum contains orientalist paintings depicting daily life during the Ottoman Empire.  After spending several hours with these works portraying the “Capital of the Orient” I headed down to Karaköy where I sat on the water’s edge staring across the Golden Horn at Süleymaniye Camii.  Keeping in mind the panorama paintings I had seen at the Pera Museum, I worked on a two hour sketch while enjoying several çay and the music from my ipod.  A strong breeze blew across the water and I was struck by one of those moments of complete amazement.  There are some days when painting comes to you as easily as if it were already done and you are simply the instrument fulfilling the task.  This was the feeling that washed over me and I let it in.

ink, guache and çay on paper


Its amazing how in times of need certain unexpected people can appear in your life.  One of the things I love about traveling is how close you can get to someone in a short amount of time.  Living and traveling in Turkey is inevitably dramatic, stressful and emotional.  However, when you share these experiences with someone you have only known  for a few weeks, it is easy to develop a friendship that is incredibly strong, reliable and full of love.  Here are a few pictures from my birthday weekend with Nicole Hanim.

A quiet family beach in Heybeliada
My ink tray, where we were drawing in Greece
Our traveling studioSketch from Greece
Nicole on the boat to GreeceA lovely Greek dinner by the sea
The boat we almost got on by mistake!