An Unexpected Adventure

2 weekends ago, I hopped on a plane with a few friends and flew a mere 45 minutes to Izmir, Turkey.  From there it was only a shuttle ride away from the town of Selçuk.  Selçuk was the first town that I visited in Turkey, way back in 2008 when I was traveling with a group of college students, all of us learning to draw on location while experiencing a foreign culture.  This time however, I was here for a very different reason…deve güreşleri..or camel wresting.

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Its something I have always hear about…Turkey has 2 kinds of famous wresting..camel wrestling and oil wrestling, and after a 6 year affair with this country, I’ve finally seen one of them.

I am usually not one to pass up cultural experiences, or weekend trips to a nostalgic town.  So very spontaneously, I found myself on the sunny Aegean Coast, just miles from the ancient city of Ephesus, but instead of strolling through ruins I was in the midst of hundreds of picnicking locals and elaborately dressed camels.  The air was thick with smoke from BBQs as onlookers grilled vegetables and meat, passed around mezes, poured rakı and danced to gypsy bands weaving their way among the crowd.

As the day continued, the action in the ring fell into the background as we wandered the area.  We sat for a time and watched a group of men performing a traditional Turkish folk dance, talked with locals who visit the event every year and bought our own camel wrestling scarves…a checkered and fringed type of shawl which usually features an embroidered camel in the center.  We visited the adorned camels, and learned they had names like “Black Uncle,” “Half World” and “Lightening.”

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After some time, we found a comfortable place on the grass, and sat down to sketch one of the waiting camels.  I usually don’t draw animals, because I never seem to have the chance.  But these stoic creatures were standing so still that it was the perfect chance to try it out.  We eventually gathered a crowd of curious festival fans and photographers and pretty soon were tourist attractions ourselves.

At the end of the day, we loaded onto our shuttle smelling like camp fire smoke and grass. Each one of us exhausted and sunburned, our ears ringing from the constant thump of drums and the blaring clarinet…tired and happy.

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Me and Emilie‘s sketchbooks

 

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My sketch of “Demiroz”

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Parting

…is such sweet sorrow.

After 3 days in Istanbul, I departed for my residency in India, and Sarah for her program in Hungary.  We spent our last night drawing dueling portraits among the lively crowds in Kumkapi.  Sarah, I’ll see you this summer in some undetermined place…lets keep the adventures coming for years to come my friend.

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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

Ayder

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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On the Road

I’ve been undergoing some major life changes lately, and I can’t wait to write about it…but, first I need to finish up with some stories, drawings and pictures from last summer because it was just too good to skim over.

So, I left off with Sarah and I driving our little rental araba along the Black Sea coast.  After Rize and the tea garden, we continued east towards the Georgian border.  The mountains grew taller, the air thinner, and the roads windier.  Here are a few pictures from a pit stop we made to enjoy a little corn bread, salad and çay, while meeting some feathered friends…

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Meeting in Trabzon!

Let me start by saying Happy New Year!  2013 was fantastic…I spent 6 wonderful months in my home state of Wyoming, and 6 months traveling and making art in India and Turkey.  I couldn’t have asked for a better year; exciting, humbling, productive and prosperous…lets hope for the same on 2014!

Now lets see, where was I….Ah yes, heading North towards the Black Sea.  It was the end of June, and I had a 10 day period in between residencies.  So, my traveling companion, fellow artist and best friend Sarah met me in Trabzon for a Holiday.  Sarah and I have traveled through Turkey together twice before, but have never explored the Northern Coast.  So we set out for the unknown together, starting with one of the best Turkish breakfasts I’ve ever had!

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More Market Sketching

I have been sketching on location now for…well for as long as I can remember really.  Though there are definite times in my life when it feels as though I am constantly drawing, there are also those times when I let it drift away for a while.  My time in Kapadokya at Babayan was a peak in this artistic cycle, and no matter where my daily activities brought me, I was constantly prepared to draw.

However beginning the process can be a bit difficult, especially in a busy Turkish marketplace.  I always feel slight anxiety as I pull out my sketchbook and pens, trying to capture the rows of color and energy of the market, while the weekly shoppers swarm around me.  As the drawing develops, my self conscious feelings slip away and I realize how endearing people find the art-making process.

I drew in almost all of the Kappadokian markets this summer, and nearly always found myself with a handful of free fruit, a crate or a pile of corn that had been offered to me as a seat, endless glasses of çay and a number of eager models.  Every time I feel slightly nervous to draw, I have to just do it, and when I am sketching anywhere in Turkey, I inevitably end up with new friends, and a satisfied appetite.

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“mısırcı 1” Pen and Watercolor on Paper, 2013

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“Avanos Market” Pen and Watercolor on Paper, 2013

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“Nevsehir Market” Pen and Watercolor on Paper, 2013

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“mısırcı 2” Graphite on Paper, 2013

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