Brown Paper Drawings

In order to get more drawing in, I have been carrying a 5×7 inch brown paper sketchbook with me everywhere.  Sometimes life in the city goes so fast and when I look up from my daily activities, I realize it has been days or perhaps weeks since I have drawn.  Although I am painting, stretching canvases or working on some project nearly everyday in my studio, drawing from life introduces a different element to my artistic practice.  While studio work is meditative, something about the call and response of sketching on location makes me feel connected and engaged in an incomparable way.

As you can see from my recent drawings, I can’t seem to get away from this brown paper.  The push and pull of black and white on top of a mid tone seems to work so well with the layers of Istanbul, and I hardly seem to be starting from an intimidatingly white page these days.

If a mere 15 minutes opens in my day, it is enough to keep up with consistent drawing.  I have found through this practice that working within the limitations of my time and materials, can often provide the most creative results.


Sketching the Asian Side from Besiktas



A sketch and a poem in Karakoy



Topkapi Palace on a sunny day


An elaborate column from Hagia Sophia


Sketching home objects in Trabzon



In the Snow

Earlier this month, we took a long weekend trip to the Black Sea.  Nearly 2 years ago, I traveled this region by car, camping, swimming and driving into the cool mountains and high plateaus.  This year I was anxious to see the Kara Deniz during these cold winter days, as the last time I visited had been in the hot and green summer.

I was picturing snow everywhere up to our ankles, so naturally the only shoes I brought with me were snow boots.  However, when our plane arrived into Trabzon late on a Thursday night, the air was warm and dry, a high contrast to the rainy Istanbul we left behind.


a quick sketch of Ozgur on the flight to Trabzon


Central Trabzon during the day was sunny and pleasant, yet as we drove further into higher elevations, our view was blinded by snow.  Our first excursion into the mountains was to Hidirnebi Yaylasi, where there is an impossibly beautiful view to the sea.  Yet alas, because of the thick fog and falling snow, we could only see a few feet in front of our us.  This obscurity served as a completely different kind of beauty, and we walked among frozen trees and hanging icicles as if in a dream.  After a walk though the deep snow, we warmed our red faces and cold feet by propping them in front of a burning stove in a local cabin.  We were served our own çaydanlık, or tea kettle, and sipped glass after glass of black tea.  Later on, we ate honey on toasted bread and olives and more çay as it brewed on the stove beside us.  I could barely make out the images of huts and homes outside of the window, but did a little sketch regardless of the ambiguous view.


A sketch from Hidirnebi̇ Yaylasi

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On the the following day, we drove again up the winding mountain roads to a village by the name of Zigana.  The snow was just as deep, but the air remarkably clean and the landscape luminous.  The fog of the previous day had lifted and we could see onto neighboring mountaintops for miles.  We walked through the village, analyzing animal tracks in the snow, taking pictures of the view and feeling the cool bright air on our faces.


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Sarah in Babayan

Due to some visa confussion, Sarah and I had to reroute our journey back down South to Ankara.  I was leaving for India in less than a week and the Embassy still had my passport!  I could go into this stressful side story that involves leaving Sarah at the bus station, jumping into a cab and speeding to the Indian Embassy minutes before it closes, dodging cars as I make my way to the embassy across the street while my taxi driver somehow convinces them to let me in after business hours…..and after all of that, I did make it back in time to catch the bus, but my passport and visa had to be sent to me later on.

This was all a major inconvenience.  However, because we were so close to Kapadokya, I ended up taking Sarah back to Babayan where we spent 2 blissful days.  We loved our time on the Black Sea, but felt as though something was missing.  We had fallen in love with the unrivaled hospitality of central Turkey on previous adventures, and though it had been fascinating to visit a new part of the country, we missed the warm heartedness of Anatolia.  In Ibrahimpaşa, we were reminded of why we return to this country again and again.

We spent our short time in the village visiting friends I had made during my residency, getting invited into homes for tea and sweets, taking walks with the resident donkey, sketching as the sun went down, having dinner with artists, and attending an open studio at BCH.  Time went so fast and before I knew it, we had to be on our way to Istanbul.  Though it was short, I was so grateful to share this special place with my dear dear friend from home…and nothing can replace it.


Sarah sketching in the village at night


A page from my sketchbook, Ibrampasa as the sun goes down.

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Sinop in a day

After returning our car in Trabzon and riding a very scary night bus, we arrived in Sinop around 6am.  Our Pension was almost too good to be true…20 lira for the night, a beautiful view, and the first beds we had slept on in days!  Oh, and we could also use a shower that wasn’t at a rest stop or camp site.

We only had a full day and night before departing from the Black Sea, but we used our time in Sinop to eat ice cream, sit by the sea, have great food and relax before our next leg of the trip.  1174569_10100190532099393_938525333_nIMG_2159 IMG_2160 IMG_2162 IMG_2166 IMG_2167

Sumela Monastery


We found a camping spot late at night and curled up in our car, Sarah in the front seat and me in the back.  The night was colder than anticipated, and because we didn’t have blankets, pillows, or any other camping necessity, we covered ourselves on T-shirts, tank tops, skirts, and whatever else we found at the top of our bags.  It was the best camping spot we had found on the trip, and the worst nights sleep.  In the middle of the night, a  camp ground neighbor knocked on our window and asked politely why we were afraid to sleep outside in a tent.  We explained that we had no tent, or sleeping bags.  He looked confused and receded back into his warm camping accommodations.   Yes, two girls sleeping in their car at a camp sight must have looked strange, but what else are we to do on such a spontaneous adventure?  Sometimes making due with what you have is more fun anyway, especially because it makes a good story to write about.

After shivering under thin layers of clothing for the entire night, we woke with the warm sun pounding its way through the windshield.  We had a home cooked breakfast, made by our lovely campground owners, packed up our makeshift sleeping arrangements and headed up into the mountains once more….this time to see Sumela Monastery.

IMG_2110 IMG_2114 IMG_2121 IMG_2124 IMG_2133We could just catch a glimpse of Sumela from where we parked the car.  A magnificent structure, clinging to the cliffside of Melá Mountain and surrounded by lush forest.  Though it was originally founded in the 4th Century, Sulema fell into ruin and was reconstructed several times.  According to legend, a miraculous icon of the virgin Mary was discovered in a nearby cave by two priests, and thus inspired them to create the monastery.  Its present form was established in the 1200s, and after it was abounded in 1923 due to the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, Sumela became a museum.

The path was roped with tree roots, and when we could see through out the thick forsest, the view was breath taking.  I was lucky enough to get a few shots of the path without the crowd of visitors walking to or from the site.  After dodging tourists on the trail and walking up many steep stone steps, we entered the monastery.

Behind the stone facade of Sumela, we wandered amoung the crowds of tourists, exploring chapels, kitchens, monks’ quarters and the main church which is carved directly into the cliffside.  The walls inside the church were painted fantastically with biblical stories, saints, angels, lions, and images of the virgin Mary and Christ.

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We processed the experience with a Turkish coffee from the museum cafe.  Gazing out over the intoxicating view, we discussed where our little araba should take us next.


We were told that Ayder is a must see destination on the Black Sea, and though this small village is entirely touristic, we were overwhelmed with the beauty of this place.  Surrounded by terrifically green scenery, and an eery fog descending upon the towering mountaintops, I imagined Ayder as the Switzerland of the Middle East….although I have never been to Switzerland.

We stayed almost the entire day, laying in the grass, eating sweets, sipping çay, and basking in our surroundings.  The air was chilly and smelled of camp fire, grass and roasted corn…I’ll never forget those smells.

After watching some sort of dance circle, buying a few gifts (including a scarf with a pattern I have only seen on the Black Sea) we rolled out little car down the mountain, out of the fog, in search of our next camp sight…

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