I Try my best to learn at least one new Turkish word every day. About a week ago my word was Melek, which means Angel. And a few days ago, I found myself drawing an angel. One that is mysterious and beautiful, neither male nor female, and certainly not human. I have been obsessed with the face after seeing it last year, a newly uncovered masterpiece, and such a compellingly strange image.
I walked to Hagia Sofia on a crisp and sunny winter day to meet Trici Venola, who is working on some small ink drawings of mosaics. After wondering around in the upper gallery for a while and not seeing my dear friend I spread my paper out over the viking graffiti and started to work away on the melek. Pen work is unfamiliar to me but at the time it felt great. I had the sun shining on my back and the whole interior of the great basilica in front of me. About half way through my session a security guard approached me and began chatting away in Turkish, asking me my name. Gabrielle I responded, Melek gibi. He was quite amused with the fact that I had the name of an angel and I was drawing an angel. He then asked if that was my friend sitting over there, and gestured behind him. I responded in Turkish Evet! Benim arkadasım! Nerede? In other words, where is my friend? He pointed around the corner and I thanked him. He walked away and wished me luck on the drawing. I worked for a few more minutes and then picked up my things and wondered over to Trici, who was perched on the marble and drawing the same angel! The security guard was talking to her now and saying excitedly “Gabrielle! Gabrielle!” I saw her nod to him as I approached and we all laughed when she finally saw me and said, “oh I thought he was talking about the angel’s name!” I was so happy to see her and we drew together until it was too unbearably cold. Our drawing sessions are always followed by coffee, bites to eat and conversation. Hemingway once said that he feels empty after writing a story. I feel the same way after a drawing, so a hot coffee is always appreciated. Drawing the angel in Hagia Sofia felt so good, and I am looking forward to a long istanbul winter of sketching with friends. You can see Trici’s Hagia Sofia drawings and her other works on her fabulous blog. Here are a few versions of my melek!