Back in April, as you may remember, I took a journey through northeastern Turkey. Upon returning, life had picked me up and tossed me about, and I neglected to share with you some of the sketches I drew while there. I realised in the snowy green hills, that I had long been trying too hard to fit the mould of a typical "Urban Sketcher," attempting architecture, which I mostly dread, and drawing less and less of what I truly love; what got me sketching in the first place: people. The people in Trabzon, Rize, Ayder and Çarşıbaşı, were so warm— nearly everywhere we went, we were offered çay as we drew.
It went like this: we sat down somewhere, then pulled out our sketchbooks, picking a subject. Eyes would be drawn to our unusual activity, and within minutes, muttering conversations were being held nearby, with inquisitive stares. Next came the spy— one of the onlookers would slip like a shadow away from the group, and pretending to do something important behind us, would end up peering nonchalantly over our shoulders, and suddenly run back to the group and report what was seen. There would be more discussion. It was then, only a matter of time before we were surrounded by smiling faces and offered a çay. My broken Turkish was praised and appreciated, and I felt a warmth that I had missed— I just cannot interact with a building. They don't breathe; they don't hope, they don't grieve, they don't desire. In drawing people, I feel a connection to them; I feel that in that moment, I know something of them.
In Çarşıbaşı, a little town outside Trabzon, we found a little tea house to rest our feet. A very dapper older gentleman caught my eye from across the street, and I began to sketch him. I was only about a minute into the sketch when he spied me, and came walking over to us, a wolf-headed cane in hand. Without a word, he sat down at our table and stared us in the eye, from underneath a heavy brow. I explained we were artists, and showed him the sketch I had began— this interaction grew a little crowd of the tea house staff and some passersby. The gentleman ordered some tea for us, stretched his neck, and struck a very dignified pose. As we drew, we learned his name was Rıza, and he came from the area. Children stopped playing in the street to come hover around us, and eventually an old lady in a flowery headscarf joined them, barking authoritatively at Rıza Bey, ordering him to tell her just what he was doing with these yabancıs, and how he was speaking to them if they don't speak Turkish. Rıza laughed and confided that this concerned old lady was his wife, and assured her that everything was fine, he was coming home soon. She left with a final declarative: Yunus is waiting for you! I wondered who Yunus was.
When we finished our sketches, Pedro ran off with our books in search of a photocopier, so Rıza Bey could take copies of his portraits home with him. We imagined him arriving at his house, his wife demanding another explanation of what he was doing in the company of two yabancıs, and him presenting her with the portraits. We hoped she would like them. Rıza Bey was pleased with our efforts. Beaming with pride, he thanked us— we thanked him, and went on our way.