Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Well my friends, I've got a plane to catch in ten hours— I'm finally going to Barcelona! See you next week!
(Please excuse the lousy scan of this drawing— my scanner and I seem to be having irreconcilable differences. Better image to come, I promise!)
Friday, May 21, 2010
The smell of wool,
Tea on your tongue, the heat of the glass in your hands,
The thunder of a carpet unfurled,
Dizzying patterns, exquisite colours— vegetable, synthetic,
Knotted by knotted hands,
Foot-worn, or pristine.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Mmmm... delicious, fresh balık ekmek and warm, sweet lokma— a perfect treat for a mere five lira. If you have a hankering for grilled fish sandwiches, walk over to the foot of the Galata Bridge in Eminönü and order a balık ekmek (bah-luk ek-mek) from one of the men in embroidered vests standing by the bobbing grill boats. Once you've got your paper-wrapped sandwich, look for a seat under the tarps— you might have to share one of the Liliputian tables with some tourists or locals, no big deal. You'll all be so into your fish, it'll feel like you've known each other for years. Drizzle on lemon juice from the table's squeeze bottle, sprinkle on some salt, and dive in. There might be a bone or two, so be prepared, but don't let that ruin the experience.
Need some pickles? Those plastic cups of veggies in pinkish liquid gliding past on metal trays carried by swift-footed young men are pickled radishes, cabbages and possibly carrots. It's pickled and yummy, so who cares what it is, right?
How about dessert? Warm, sticky, syrupy lokma dusted with ground pistachio hits the spot. Lokma is a ball of fried dough reminiscent of a doughnut, but drowned in syrup. I highly recommend sharing these dangerously sweet treats— you might end up bouncing off to Asia from the sugar rush!
Friday, May 14, 2010
I love ink.
I love the smell of ink. I love the way it bleeds into beads of water. I love how an ink can so perfectly hold to the nib of a pen, drawing out the most exquisite line. This love of liquid, line and meeting of surface extends to skin— I'm mad about tattoos. I am the proud canvas of seven, and I have plans for more.
Finding a good, talented tattoo artist that you can trust is always a challenge. Not everyone with a tattoo gun is an artist, as I learned with one of mine (I won't tell you which). When you find the right tattooist, it just clicks, flows—it feels right. Leaving San Francisco not only meant leaving my friends, neighbours and favourite taco truck, it meant I left behind my tattoo artist Cedre. Cedre inked one of my favourite tattoos, a pen-stealing sparrow. I love her punchy, colourful style— and I highly recommend that if you ever find yourself in the Bay Area in need of a tattoo, you look her up at Diving Swallow in Oakland.
While there are plenty of inked people in Turkey, tattoo culture here is in its infancy. Many tattooists are inexperienced; they don't have the craftsmanship of someone who has been honing their skill for years, they don't consider the curves and angles of human anatomy when placing a tattoo, and some of them just can't draw. I personally can't trust a tattoo "artist" who doesn't like art. Last year I went on a little expedition, visiting several shops in Istanbul, checking out portfolios, asking to see autoclaves and watching their inking process to see if he (they were all male) washed his hands after blowing his nose, sterilised his gun, etc. Needless to say, I saw some scary things.
I finally found a tattooist with beautiful clean lines, impeccable shading, and a vibrant sense of colour. After feeling safe with his concept of sanitary practices, I decided to try him out by getting a little piece. After we started, he began complaining about inking small pieces. Awkward. Then he proceeded to rave on and on about how he was the best tattoo artist in Turkey, that all of the other guys suck and steal his pieces. Hm. He also added that he didn't like to draw on paper and— here's the best part— he told me my skin was too dark to get any good work done. What?! Whose skin is too dark for a tattoo?
I was shocked, appalled and angry. To make a long story short, the guy isn't Turkish and isn't fond of anything Turkish, including Turkish skin— and yet, he lives here. I never went back. I have a very low tolerance for asses, and none for bigots. At least the tattoo came out well.
I had pretty much given up on getting any work done in Istanbul, and figured I could wait until the next time I was in the Bay Area to see Cedre, but on one freezing January afternoon, I stumbled upon something that intrigued me.
I noticed a sharp-looking tattoo sign outside the Mısır Apartmanı building on Istiklal street and decided to investigate. As I stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor, I was met by a black door, a doorbell and another sign. I rang the bell, and was greeted by a smiling inked guy, then two others. The studio was a beautiful space under renovation— and from the looks of it, it was going to be spectacular. Most tattoo studios I've seen here are cluttery dark spaces that reek of "guy"— this place was spacious with great light, and even though it was still being painted, I was in love with the pigeon grey colour being applied to the high-ceilinged walls. I ended up talking to an artist who introduced himself as Emrah. He showed me his portfolio, which was bursting with colour and life, and to make things even better, he and the other resident artist were the nicest tattoo artists I had met in Istanbul.
Months passed, emails were exchanged, text messages sent, and designs were drawn. The studio was renamed Lucky Hands Tattoo Parlour and got some swanky décor. I had an appointment with Emrah for 14:30 today, and it seemed as though the city was doing everything in its power to keep me from being on time— the minibus took twenty-five minutes to show up, we ran into traffic, the metro decided to sit in the station for an inexplicable twenty minutes, and every person I ended up behind on Istiklal was either elderly or in love. Finally I arrived, a sweaty red-faced mess, and Emrah was kind enough to offer me some water and an iced coffee. Then we drew.
The stencil was made, stuck to my skin, and once I was happy with the placement, I sat myself down and relaxed.
It didn't really hurt. In fact, I had to try not to laugh at times— I found the buzzing of the tattoo gun humorously appropriate with what was being inked on my inner arm. Emrah took his time and asked if I needed a break, which I always appreciate being asked. Some tattoo artists seem to forget that you're sitting there with needles punching in and out of your skin, and it's always nice to be considered.
Ladies and gents, behold lucky number seven: The Bee— all fresh and swollen with ink. Isn't it marvellous? A satisfying blend of stylised and realism. I have a feeling this little bee will soon have some friends. If you're in need of some ink in Istanbul, you've got to take a walk down to Lucky Hands Tattoo Parlour and ask for Emrah Özhan. Seriously, this guy is mad talented— not only can he tattoo beautifully, his drawings are beyond cool— fine lines, a great sense of composition and humour. Never trust a tattoo artist who doesn't draw.
Lucky Hands Tattoo Parlour
Mısır Apartmanı, fourth floor, İstiklal Caddesi / Beyoğlu / İSTANBUL
0212 251 52 91
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sketching seems to have absorbed my hands and mind for the past year and a half, keeping me from using my imagination or drawing in a stream of consciousness, which I loved to do. I think it sort of unlocks parts of the brain and taps into something you can't find or use when drawing from life. It's drawing from a different side of life; an inner life unseen until it's on paper. A dear friend just gave me the most wonderful gift— two lovely sketchbooks that I have decided will be dedicated to the random and the unseen. Thank you, Lisa!
And away we go.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
On the way to Galata Tower, stretches a colourful row of fresh juice vendors. Their tables of expertly peeled pomegranates are as sumptuous looking as the juices are tasty. A few lira will get you a large cup of yumminess, perfectly refreshing on a warm day.
I always dismissed the restaurants at the foot of the tower as being tourist traps, suitable only for sketching people in, but when Yelda told me that Kiva Han is a gastronomical joy not to be missed, I happily followed her inside to inspect what was being offered.
Savoury rice-stuffed artichokes, meat and green plum dolmas, sweet irmik— which is a crumbly semolina cake topped with a pine nut. My goodness, that artichoke was petaled perfection— a little sweet, a little olivey, a buttery heart. One of my greatest pleasures in life is eating an artichoke. What better way to follow the visual treat that is the Botero exhibit?
Galata's cats bank on the kindness of strangers. Just look at that brightly coloured fur— they don't eat from trash cans!
Mr. Botero, if by lucky fortune you ever read this, I would love to have a coffee with you. I don't want to talk about anything in particular, I just want to share a cup and watch the light change with you.