I started sketching at night during my stay in Cappadocia last summer, and found it so interesting to compare what could be seen or not seen during the night, as apposed to broad daylight. This fall, despite the dropping temperatures, I found myself outdoors most evenings…doing quick studies, taking photographs or making longer drawings with my fellow artists.
“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
“Ibrahimpasa at Night 1” Mixed Media on Paper, 2014
“Ibrahimpasa at Night 2” Mixed Media on Paper, 2014
Ibrahimpaşa is stunning at night; when everyone retires into their homes, the streets are quiet, and dim lamps reflect yellow and orange hues against stone houses tumbling down the hill.
The last time I did a night drawing was in Istanbul 2 years ago, with fellow sketcher Nicole. We sat awkwardly at a tippy table in Fener, using çay as medium while street cats walked across our drawing paper and the light rapidly faded. I remember how uncomfortable the situation was, but also how all of these challenges brought about unexpected energy to our drawings. For me, another layer of difficulty brings another layer of exhilaration, and I find that my work often benefits from a bit of chaos.
One way to add a great deal of chaos to the drawing process, is to work at night. Finding a good light source, sitting in the cold, trying to capture the infinite lights and darks that appear within shadows, being able to see the colors you are using….all difficulties in the night sketching process.
In the early Kapadokyan summer, I sat under a dim street lamp with frozen fingers. Drawing shapes that had become so familiar to me during the day, and so mysterious at night.
“Gece Çizim/Night Drawing 1” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013
“Gece Çizim/Night Drawing 2” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013
“Gece Çizim/Night Drawing 3” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013
For the past month, I have disconnected myself from my blog and regular email correspondence. The reason being, I have been immersing myself in my first artist in residence experience. For the past 6 weeks, I have been plein air drawing in the heart of Anatolia at The Babayan Culture House. My time away from web, and effort to simplify my life while I settle back into Turkish culture has been important to me, but I feel ready to slowly unfold the adventure. So here is my first post; an announcement of my culminating exhibition from the residency, and first time showing my work outside of the United States. In the coming weeks, I will be sharing the stories of my journey back to Turkey, and effort to connect with a rural village through my artwork. But for now…a simple announcement of the show, and a few examples of the works to be exhibited. If you happen to find yourself in Kapadokya this month, please feel free to join me!
Bizim Köy / Our Village
Paintings and Drawings by Gabrielle Reeves
“Street Scene” Oil on Panel, 7″x5″
Displayed at ‘Seten’ Cappadocia Cultural Center in Göreme.
I don’t think I’ve done a self portrait since high school, but last last year, I began experimenting with drawing my features in a sketchbook. Perched in front of a mirror in my Istanbul apartment, on many cold nights, I sat drawing my image. Mostly because I was obsessed with drawing, and had no internet, but also because I wanted to explore the idea of self identity. In my current body of work, I have completed several self portraits in various forms and mediums, reflecting on the my year in Istanbul.
Before I left for Turkey, I was sure of myself, and my identity. However, during my time abroad, I found, with astonishment, that my identity began to shift. This was a time in my life when I was thrown out of the comforts of home and into a foreign culture, where I experienced emotional and bureaucratic difficulties. I was no longer myself in the context of home, but someone who must acclimate to a society with peculiar ideals and practices. Below are a few examples of self portraits that I will be exhibiting. In future work, as I have more experience in travel and foreign cultures, I will continue explore the effect of place on identity and sense of self.
“Self Portrait in Istanbul” 18″x24″ Oil on Panel
“Self Portrait with Language” 7″x5″ Mixed Media on Panel
“Self Portrait in Viel” 12″x8″ Mixed Media on Paper
Before stepping out I snapped a picture from my balcony. Istanbul has the most incredible sunsets and I am lucky enough to have the best view of them from my apartment. I met my new friend Samantha Zaza at our usual cafe in Cihangir, where we enjoyed a pre-hamam tost and coffee. I have been following Samantha’s blog for months, since before I left the states. Her work is an incredible inspiration for me, and somehow I knew she would be a great person to have in my life. You can see her work and follow her adventures here. We finally met in November and since have enjoyed many fabulous meals and endless coffees together.
After debating on which hamam to go to we decided on Çemberlitaş, but upon our arrival, we found a filming crew inside the front door and realized it was closed for some kind of movie or t.v show. So, we walked back towards my other favorite hamam, Cağaloğlu. Samantha and I both yearn for some kind of life drawing experience and had planned to surreptitiously take our sketchbooks into the hamam and draw the bathers. However, we asked before we went in and were declined, as to be expected. So we enjoyed our massages, the hot marble, the steam and being bathed by lovely Turkish women. The whole experience was much needed for both of us and I appreciated every minute of it. Being in a hamam is like stepping back into time, a surreal experience when two girls can sit in the nude together and talk as if they were sitting at a cafe. After our scrub down we sat on velvet pillows in the…I guess you would call it a locker room, and drew each other in our towels. We were clean and relaxed and we did manage to draw in the hamam after all. There is something about the steam and the hard marble and the scrubbing that takes it all out of you, and we found ourselves famished when we walked back into the chilly night air. What could be better than a fresh fish sandwich after a Tukish bath? So, we rushed onto the tram and headed to Eminönü.
Samantha told me about how she will always get her ekmek balık in Eminönü and never Karaköy. As she was explaining this to me and the whole loyalty issue of going to the same fish restaurant and how she would walk over the bridge from Karaköy toEminönü just to go to her fish place, we realized that we had just missed the tram stop for Eminönü and were now going across the bridge to Karaköy. I have never missed a tram stop, ever! And neither has Samantha. We couldn’t stop laughing about our “hamam brain” as we walked back over the bridge to Eminönü to find Samantha’s favorite fish place. Ahhh, hamam, drawing, ekmek balık and finally a few beers in Taksim to close the night. I think we’ve found a new ritual!My drawing of Samantha drawing me in the Hamam.Samantha’s drawing of me drawing her in the Hamam.
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!