A Day at Chora

A day at Chora, with my friend Trici.  Drawing, çay, lunch, and beautiful 14th century mosaics, it doesn’t get much better than this…

And of course we had to get nargile on the way home…


“Chora” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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Yeni Camii

Yeni Camii “The New Mosque” was began by Kosem Valide Sultana in 1597, and finally finished on by a later sultana in 1663.  I walked by the structure almost daily, on various trips to the spice bazaar.  Here, I have created an image of the magnificent mosque as I best remember it, on a bright and cold day last February.  The light was exquisite, and I felt a particular pain in my heart knowing that I would soon leave Istanbul.

The pigeons flying over the image, were added to the painting with the intention of creating a surreal feeling.  Living in Istanbul, I often felt as though everything was intensified, giving the city a dream-like quality.  The birds, to me, represent this feeling, while creating movement and life.  Here is the result of many hours of work, which seemed to slip by with ease and enjoyment as I recalled walking by the mosque on that clear day, with Trici by my side.


“Yeni Camii” Watercolor 40″x30″


Detail from “Yeni Camii”

Mutlu Noeller

One year ago, I sat on a sunny porch with dear friend and fellow artist, Trici Venola.  It was my first Christmas away from home, but Trici’s cozy apartment tucked away in the middle of Cihangir, an Istanbul neighborhood, was becoming as familiar to me as any home I had known.

However, I still found it hard to be so far away from my family and found myself desperately searching for the familiar.  So, on Christmas Eve, Trici and I sang carols in a small church by the Galata Tower, and then settled in to watch Its a Wonderful Life while we ate chocolate and wore Ottoman house coats.  Ok, not exactly what I do every Christmas Eve, but Trici was becoming like family and Istanbul was my surreal home.  I fell asleep among Trici’s five rescued kitties and woke up in the morning to fresh coffee with cinnamon sticks, dates and figs with yogurt and the sun coming in through the windows.  We opened gifts and sipped coffee while listening to the familiar sounds of Istanbullus bustling on the streets below.

IMG_5119 In the late afternoon, we wandered to our favorite cafe where we ate a full Christmas breakfast of mini pancakes, Pekmez (a Turkish molasses) with Tahini, cheese, olives, salad, honey with cream and endless cups of çay.  In the evening, I sat in front of my computer where I saw my whole family open their presents in between the broken internet connection.

I am overjoyed to be with them this year, in our familiar Wyoming home.  But, as I look around the house, I see Turkish carpets on the floors, Trici’s drawings on the walls, and Pekmez on our breakfast table.  I know the influence from Istanbul will always be with me, and my Turkish Christmas with Trici will always be in my heart.

Prairie Sketches

Here are a few sketches I did while at the farm this year.  When I wasn’t reading or taking walks, I busied myself with looking through boxes of old photographs and studying strange objects that have been floating around the place for years.  Among them I found my dad’s spur from when he was a small boy, my grandmother’s oil can, and a peculiar spiky item that my aunt explained was once used to ween a calf.  I have seen all of these things before, they lay on selves and window seals, or hang from nails on the wall, but I have never examined them as closely as I did this summer.

I am still discovering new changes in myself upon returning home.  I have been back in the United States for over 5 months but am surprised with the difference in the way I handle problems, interact with new and familiar people, and conduct daily tasks.  One of these changes has come in the form of the way I look at the world around me.  When I was younger, my dad would always ask me “When you look at something, are you really seeing it?”  I never truly understood what he meant until now.  When I was living in Istanbul, I reconnected myself with drawing in a sketchbook.  I carried it everywhere and drew everything; faces, objects, buildings, carpets.  I wanted to study the unfamiliar environment that surrounded me, so I copied it down in my sketchbook.  A new world opened itself up to me.  I saw details, facets and elements that my eyes would normally never notice.

In October of last year, I sat in front of a ruined Byzantine Palace with my fellow artist, Trici Venola.  We talked of this concept as we toiled for hours over the endless detail of our drawings.  Together, we uncovered a world of tiny cracks, carefully laid brick work, delicate vines and worn away marble.   Attempting to capture the incredible variety of surfaces and textures brought to light a new appreciation for every hand that labored in the production of such a structure.

I want to keep this process of discovery active in my life.  The objects and pictures that I found on the farm this year are far less complex than the Boukoleon Palace, but they mean a great deal to me.  They are my childhood, and my father’s childhood, and pieces of my home, and this year I saw them for the first time.
I drew this from a photograph I found of my great great grandmother Sarah Tripp, who homesteaded in Colorado.  The picture is dated around 1900.  By looking at her, I can tell she had a life full of a kind of work I will never know.


One year ago, I was was feeling my way around a staggering city.  Istanbul was inspiring, dark, stimulating, chaotic, full of winding streets and strange smells, and I felt as though I were a speck among its enormity.  I had come for an awaking, both for myself and for my artwork, and as weighty as my experience could be at times, I knew I was embarking on something life altering.  It has taken some time to adjust to life back in the United States. The curious sounds, sights, tastes and occurrences of Istanbul had become home to me.  Daily adventures and struggles were no longer met with surprise, but with familiarity and acceptance.  As I begin to recall and reflect upon this last year, my paintbrush has started its perpetual movement, and I don’t predict it to stop anytime soon.

“Rooftop” Oil Stick on Paper 30″x22″ This image was produced with permission from a photograph taken by Trici Venola on one of our drawing days together.  You can see her work and read about her plein air process here.

“Kanli Portakallar” Watercolor 30″x22″

A Reward

Last week, Trici and I finally had the chance to finish our Han drawings.  There was a day when the sun decided to show itself again and we grabbed the chance to climb back onto the roof of Buyuk Valide Han.  We were greeted by the friendly workers again and offered plastic chairs to sit on while we worked away. We spent about two hours in concentration and just when I felt as though I hit a wall, my drawing was done.  Trici and I then rewarded our hard work with hot cay and nargile at our favorite after drawing spot.  I felt great satisfaction with my work and a great comfort sitting in the warm cafe and still wanting to draw…

Our View

My DrawingOur RewardMy Nagile Cafe Sketches