Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I have been absent lately due to a rockin' freelance illustration project that I hope to share with you soon. It was loads of fun and I'm really pleased with the outcome. I had lunch with a friend today in the über-trendy Tünel area at Delicatessen— a fabulous café with delicious open-faced sandwiches (pecorino with quince and walnut jam!) and a divine breakfast. We did a quick tour of Tünel's sidewalk café packed tiny streets— I will have to be back in the next few days. I so badly want to sit at an outdoor table, have a snack and a lager and draw people all afternoon. When I go, I'll take some pictures of the beautiful old buildings and narrow streets— it's really a lovely area.

With a warm spring sun in the sky, I wanted to get on the tram to Kabataş and hop on a ferry. Any ferry, I didn't care— it was a perfect day for it. I took a wrong turn and ended up crossing the Golden Horn to Eminönü, where I accidentally boarded the ferry to Kadıköy on the Asian side. I had intended to take the Bosphorus tour boat, but I think I was so dazzled by the weather that I completely missed the big signs for Boğaz Turu, the Bosphorus Tour. As I was sitting on the boat looking at this ferry:

I realised I should have been on it instead. I considered jumping off to switch boats but it was too pretty a day for running and changing ferries. Plus, Kadıköy has a ton of art stores that I've been wanting to explore.

If you head straight up the hill when you get off the wharf in Kadıköy, you'll come across a network of little streets full of fish restaurants, bars, fish and vegetable stands, natural soap shops, charcuteries and— art stores. I bet it gets packed at night, and must be heaven in the summertime.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

illustration friday

Illustration Friday is a weekly online challenge for illustrators of all levels to exercise their minds and show off their work. A topic to illustrate is posted on the IF site each Friday, then artists have one week to submit their interpretation. I haven't entered for a long, long time, but when I saw this week's topic "subtract," I was intrigued and came up with this.

The heart/vessel tree imagery has been a part of my work for about ten years— it came from a dream I had in which my blood vessels grew out of my arms into trees. About two years ago, a small, harmless hole was found in my heart which inspired me to carry the theme a little further, as you can see:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

tired feet

I was in a town today that I am not familiar with and decided to hop on a bus that was going to Mecediyeköy— not knowing where exactly Mecediyeköy is. I figured it would put me in the general direction of downtown Istanbul. I rode the bus to the end of the line and got off without recognising where I was at all. The bus shelters read "Mecediyeköy" so I thought, well at least I'm in the right place! I figured if I followed the crowd of people walking from the bus stop, I'd end up at a central area at some point. I had an iPod full of music, a gorgeous sunny day— there was no better time to get lost.

When the road I was on ran into Büyükdere Caddesi, the road where I saw the Atatürk Muzesi the other day, I was excited. I followed Büyükdere Caddesi intending to visiting the museum, but when I tried to take a picture of some people on the street, my camera battery died. I had planned on taking lots of photos inside the museum when I visited it, so I decided instead to keep walking and see where I'd end up. The weather really was wonderful.

I walked past Cevahir, Europe's largest mall— apparently there's a small rollercoaster inside along with the largest clock in the world. I am seldom in the mood for a mall, so I continued all the way down to a street called Rumeli Caddesi, which is a great place to visit for deals on clothes. I hopped on the metro at a station called Osmanbey and went to Taksim to try and find an area called Cihangir, that I hear is something to be seen.

Cihangir is indeed lovely— charming sidewalk cafés abound with one of the most beautiful views in the city, as Cihangir is on one of Istanbul's highest hills. It is considered a Bohemian and intellectual neighbourhood, compared to New York's East Village by some. I can't wait to go back and sit in one of those cafés and draw.

Continuing down the same street, I suddenly saw Topkapi in the distance and knew where I was. I walked down to the water and ended up right by Istanbul Modern, Istanbul's modern art museum, which houses a fantastic collection of Turkish contemporary artwork. There's a lovely mosque in front of the museum, Nusretiye Camii, that I decided to sketch. As I sat down on a short wall on the side of the road, a kind-faced old man started speaking to me and I actually understood him! Of course I didn't know what to say back except "hello" and "ok"— merhaba and tamam. He had been walking for a while and was tired, seeing me sitting on the side of the road made him want to sit down for a rest. We sat together for a while, I sketched and he thumbed his black and white worry beads. Then he got up and wished me a happy day.

Kabataş is one of the many ferry hubs in Istanbul. I absolutely love ferry rides— if I could take a ferry boat everywhere, I would. Conveniently, ferry boat is feribot in Turkish, so I was able to ask the İskele (port or quay) ticket man if there was a boat headed towards my town. Not only was there a boat headed there, there was one leaving in five minutes. A Bosphorus boat trip is one of the most magnificent ways to see the Istanbul. As the sun was colouring the sky orange, we passed by Dolmabahçe— which looks even more massive from the water— cruised by Rumeli Hisarı fortress and enormous cargo ships coming from the Black Sea. This is the only way see all the old wooden coastal houses that you can't see from the road. If you are ever in Istanbul, a boat tour is a must. It was a terrific way to end the day.

Please click on the images to see them larger.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


A most delightful afternoon was spent having tea at the Çırağan this afternoon in celebration of my middle sister's birthday. Tea and dainty sandwiches, macarons and baklavas, a pen and a Moleskine.
What more could a girl like me want?

On the way back, I noticed this little building in the Osmanbey area which turns out to be the Istanbul Atatürk Museum. I Googled it and discovered that the museum was a building that Atatürk and his mother once lived in, and that many secret meetings were held there before he left to begin the war of Independence. The museum houses a collection of his personal items as well as some photographs. I'm looking forward to visiting the museum next week and writing a post about this important man.

Yesterday I was thinking about the renaming of Constantinople to Istanbul in 1930, and remembered a funny story. My great-grandfather was a famous Danish parachutist and stuntman in the 20s and early 30s. He did all sorts of crazy things like jumping off the Eiffel Tower, riding motorcycles off cliffs, playing tennis on airplane wings— while on tour, he had some free time and decided to take a train to Constantinople, a city he longed to visit. When he tried to buy the ticket, the ticket man emphatically said "No. Stamboul." My great-grandad explained that he didn't want to go to "Stamboul," he wanted to go to Constantinople. I forget which country he was in— I believe there was a language barrier to add to the confusion. After a lot of back and forth, he finally got so fed up he decided to go elsewhere. He never got to see Constantinople or Stamboul.

And now for something completely different:

This was the only real drawing I could get done during the Dolmabahçe tour.
I was sad I couldn't do more, but as I mentioned in the previous post, the only way you can see Dolmabahçe is with a guided tour. I drew it in what felt like two and a half minutes, then darkened some areas while out in the garden.

Here's a little preview of what I'm working on for Moleskine Exchange 64, the sequential art exchange:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

dolmabahçe sarayı

Dolmabahçe was built between 1843 and 1856 by Armenian architect Garabet Balyan and commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid I, the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The palace design and décor reflects the increasing influence of European cultural standards on Ottoman culture. Neo-Classic, Baroque, Rococo and Ottoman styles all blend together into glittering opulence and grandeur. The 45,000 square metre palace cost a mere five million Ottoman gold pounds, the equivalent of 35 tonnes of gold— 14 tonnes of which went into the decoration alone!

Previously, the Sultan and his family lived at Topkapı Sarayı, but as Topkapı was lacking in contemporary luxury and style, Abdülmecid decided to build Dolmabahçe. When you visit both palaces, the differences are quite clear— Topkapı has exquisite examples of Iznik tiles and Ottoman carving, Dolmabahçe has gold, gold, gold. And crystal. One thing I love about visiting Topkapı is that you are free to wander the palace at your leisure, whereas the only way to see the inside of Dolmabahçe is with a guided tour. There's hardly any time for a sketcher like me to get anything down on paper. But you can take loads of pictures.

Past the famous Crystal Staircase, enormous Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers heavily hang from gilt ceilings. In fact, Dolmabahçe has the world's largest collection of crystal chandeliers which includes the largest crystal chandelier in the world at 4.5 tonnes, a gift of Queen Victoria. Sadly, I was unable to see it as the Ceremonial Hall or Muayede Salonu, was closed for a private function. It's a truly spectacular space— light streams in from windows high above, bouncing off gold and crystal, making the whole hall glow. I was looking forward to the experience of feeling small, the grandeur and the height of the ceilings are so impressive that you can't help but feel tiny. It's wonderful.

Since I couldn't take any pictures of the Muayede Salonu for you, click here to see the one on Wikipedia. The next three photos are in the Sultan's hamam, his bathroom.

Aren't the walls gorgeous? They're made of carved Egyptian alabaster. The fabulous ceiling pictured above was functional as well as beautiful, the small circular windows poured light into the hamam, but also allowed for privacy.

Harem. The word conjures up all sorts of images, but what the harem was, was in fact where the Sultan's family lived. The harem is connected to the main palace by a long hall that was carefully guarded to ensure that no man entered except the Sultan— and the eunuch servants. The following photos were taken in the harem.

Our guide told us that up to 300 women lived here at a time, this included the Queen Mother, the wives and favourites of the Sultan, his concubines, children and maids. The building seems to be divided into separate apartments for the women that consist of a little bedroom, sitting room and bathroom. There are beautiful and showy main meeting and eating halls, and a very humble little kindergarten.

I like the harem— it feels more personal than the rest of the palace. You can really imagine people living here, eating breakfast, playing cards, reading stories to their children.

This fairly modest room pictured above, is the Sultan's bedroom. I love the little footstool!

I will eventually have to write a post all about the fascinating man that was Atatürk. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was Turkey's first president, the founder of modern Turkey. The two pictures above were taken in rooms he personally used after abolishing the Caliphate. Ownership of Dolmabahçe was transferred to the new Republic in 1924, when Atatürk was in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople until it was renamed in 1930), he stayed here in the palace and continued to work on transforming his new country. Among so many of the important changes that he made, he sought to integrate women into society (from which the Ottomans kept women quite separate), established secularism and introduced an entirely new alphabet, creating the Turkish language.

The first picture is of his desk in the corner of the room, and the second, of his deathbed, with the Turkish flag laid upon it in his honour. Atatürk passed away on November 1oth of 1938 after battling a long illness. After his death, the palace was turned into a museum. The clock in his room remains at 9:05, the time he died.

From Dolmabahçe's waterfront gate, you can see Topkapı Palace at the point where the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus meet. When the weather is warmer— it actually started snowing this morning— I'd like to spend an entire day in the gardens sketching the architecture and tourists. I wonder if I can get one of the resident peacocks to eat out of my hand.