Sunday, May 24, 2009

Exhibit at the Family Pizza Pie Place, May 23-24

Ahhh! It's over! Big sigh of relief. 

A special thanks to Tarih and Virginia for allowing us to take over the walls of the Family Pizza Pie Place in Sultanahmet!

Four hooks, people, four hooks!

Friday was hanging day. Armed with some strong durable fishing line, I surveyed the walls of the FPPP to see how we could hang 21 pieces of art work of of eight collective hooks and nails. We also couldn't remove the carpet (firmly nailed up) from one of the walls.  It took me a few hours, acrobatics over the chairs of the restaurant and a lot of web weaving, but after a few hours it was all hanging in place, much to the amusement of Tarih, who watched my elaborate plan unfold as he whipped up pizza for the hungry customers.

The morning of the show, before the visitors arrived.

And soon the guests arrived. The first day, many friends popped by, some ladies from the Canadian Consulate in Istanbul, a group of American ladies on holiday from their consulate job in Jordan, a children's book editor living on the Asian side. We polished off the day with a few beers with Virginia and Boris and toddled home in preparation for the next day. 

There it is, paintings, prints, and ladies eating pizza! The dream has been realized!

Sunday was a lot busier, and we sold quite a few pieces - mostly prints. At one point the joint was packed- mostly with familiar faces stuffing themselves with pizza, leaving with a print tucked under their arm. 

From left to right: Guy, me, Virginia, Boris and Rene, at the end of the first day.

Day 2 wound down with a group of ladies drinking tea and chatting - women we've been lucky enough to call friends over here in Istanbul. Thanks to all of you for coming out- Rene and I really appreciated the support! 

Virginia telling a riveting story to Helena, Reena and Rene.

The show will be up till Wednesday In case any of you missed it but would still like to see it. In the aftermath, Rene and I found it quite strange that we pretty much sold one of everything. It must mean we had something for everybody. The art was well received and we have our wheels turning for the next idea/gig. 

Virginia working the crowd during a particularly busy time!

Part of June and July will find us working again for a brief stint in the Emirates, if all goes to plan. We will be packing sketch books and ideas, and so I will hopefully have some more exciting pieces to offer from the desert. 

Thanks again! 

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Day Has Arrived!

The preparations are done, the show is hung! 
Time to wash the paint and ink off our hands and get pretty!

This is where all my guache paintings begin! On this little white piece of plastic. I have a bigger one, but working off this one is comfortable for me.

Well it's the morning of our show, and my arms are so sore from hauling all the pieces down to the Family Pizza Pie Place. I spent most of the day with Tarih, co-owner of the Pizza Pie Place and his Romanian assistant, Elena trying to figure out how to hang the show without having to drill more holes into the concrete walls. we were going to have to put two by four planks up and hang the pieces off of those but it would have looked terrible. I managed to spin a spider's web of fishing line across everything and hang from that. Quite a feat in itself and it took me hours, but I think I have done my father (the king of figuring out stuff like this) proud. 

Sheherazade's Plate, name inspired by our creative friend Boris. 

After we finished hanging everything last night, Elena gave us a little Romanian "cherry vodka." I slept very well last night! Whew that stuff is strong! But a nice cap to a long day.

We do our mother proud.

Our flat is a mess. A complete and total disaster, which Rene proudly announced one day was really on the bring of catastrophe. Rene tends to enjoy working under the wire, I not so much. But at this point it's all done and Rene has come up with some really creative ideas in the past forty-eight hours! 

Still working two days before the show! Sheherazade's plate has been haunting us for weeks- what to do with her? We both weren't happy with the first ideas, but Rene came up with an idea that excited us both. She works well under pressure, even if it makes me gain a few more grey hairs.

Sheherazade gets dressed! 

Time to get clean, put on a dress and go down to the show. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

From Today's Zaman, one of Istanbul's Daily English Language Newspapers!

Expat Zone: A Sister Act: Sister Artists!

Canadian sisters Melanie (R) and Rene Mehrer, who moved to İstanbul after traveling around the world, will open an art exhibit of their interpretations of İstanbul's sites in the city's historic Sultanahmet neighborhood this weekend.

Two Canadian sisters, each a world traveler and an artist in her own right, recently have settled in together in a cozy apartment in their “favorite world neighborhood, Sultanahmet.” 

However, Rene and Melanie Mehrer spend little lounging time there as they are much too busy exploring what the entirety of our fair city has to offer them in terms of adventure and art.

    Hailing from Naramata, a small town outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, in the early '90s, the sisters moved to Victoria on Vancouver Island to complete their university studies. There they both studied visual arts and art history, fields which fostered their love of painting and print-making and also increased their understanding of and interest in Islamic art history. That growing interest spurred their individual over-a-decade long explorations of the world. Their pursuit of art landed them eventually in İstanbul.

    They speak fondly of their native home, informing us that it is part of the wine region of Canada, producing fine wines that rival those in France. Melanie comments that Naramata, known as "Napa North," has become a haven for gourmet “foodies” and wine connoisseurs alike. Interestingly enough, she also states that the landscape there bears a striking resemblance to the area around Ephesus.

    Older sister Rene, first to leave home by five months, was also the first to move to İstanbul in 2005, with Melanie arriving only months ago after a two-year stint teaching in Abu Dhabi. Their adventurous spirits have led them through many countries, in each of which they stored up photographic and graphic memories of the cultures encountered and enjoyed. This dynamic duo's peregrinations have led them through the Dominican Republic, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, the US, China, Mexico, Bulgaria, Greece and, of course, Turkey! The only places that the sisters have not experienced together as residents or visitors are Cuba, France, Germany and Spain.

    Their travel lust perhaps began when Rene visited Egypt in 1995 and was “blown away” by the art, architecture and ancient culture so visible there. Initially drawn to pharaonic art and architecture, her close-up encounters with visual expressions arising from Islamic culture caused her to pursue an intensive study of Islamic art. In the meantime, Melanie kept up with her own Islamic art history studies. She mused, "In my last year, I took a course on Ottoman architecture and we covered the buildings of Sultanahmet. I had no idea I was studying my future backyard at the time!"

    After three years of living in Asia, the sisters decided to venture on a three-month overland trip from Egypt to İstanbul. After some interesting but hard traveling through Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the tired Mehrers safely arrived in Cappadocia. They wound their way to İstanbul, where they put down their bags and relaxed for two-and-a-half weeks. "We loved it so much that we determined to come back!" exclaimed Rene. Their tales about the trip and the following adventures make up a story yet to be written and illustrated.

    Teaching English in Taipei and exercising their artistic muscles in order to relax after long school hours, the sisters could not shake off their memories of Turkey. In 2004, the sisters returned to take a two-month plunge, bathing themselves in the history and culture of Konya and Edirne. Apparently, that short trip was but an all too brief a shower. Now they soak themselves in the glories of İstanbul, past and present.

    Despite joint years of overseas experience, which have made adjusting to life in İstanbul relatively easy, even seasoned expats can be surprised. Melanie commented with a giggle that: "After living in Abu Dhabi, I was amazed to see people smiling and holding hands in the streets. I saw people kissing in the park and I couldn't believe it! I took a picture and sent it to my friends back in Abu Dhabi to show them how free and liberal İstanbul was!" Apart from dodging about in traffic and avoiding the advances of over-eager merchants, a major challenge has lain in learning yet another language. Having three years of practice, Rene admitted that her Turkish isn't too bad, but new arrival Melanie is still struggling with the getting past the basics. It also helps that they have a wide circle of expatriate friends.

    When asked the usual question about their current choice of residence in such a “touristic area,” Rene responded, "Some people think we're crazy to live over here, but there's nothing like walking past the Aya Sofya to the tram in the morning. We love it. Everyday it amazes me that these buildings are so old and so beautiful. In Sultanahmet, with every step you wonder what hidden secret is below your feet. For a Canadian, this kind of history is unbelievable.”

    Living together again, Rene and Melanie find their artistic juices twice as stimulated. Everywhere the siblings have traveled and taught, they “did” art. Now they “do” art here with each other's encouragement and cooperation, creating works inspired by encounters with the vibrant life in and the culture and characters of İstanbul. While working individually as print-makers, they often collaborate on a particular work. Melanie often creates the carvings with Rene producing the actual prints. All the while, they maintain their own directions and mediums; Melanie's specialty is gouache painting and Rene's is collage. Yet, their vision is the same.

    For such creative souls, İstanbul holds a special allure. The sisters' curiosity lures them to explore the city's fascinating nooks and crannies equally on European and Asian sides. Summing up the wanderings, they said, “We find the city inspiring. You step outside and there are beautiful old buildings and lots going on at street level. It's easy to be inspired to create art in İstanbul because there is interesting subject matter every few feet.” It is noteworthy that these artists' subject matter is not limited to the obviously historic and magnificent. Many of their renderings reflect a careful observation of the minutia of Turkish daily life, of the ordinary characters that populate the back streets and of this city's cultural oddities and standards.

    The newest chapter of the sisters' saga is their first joint exhibition ever. On the weekend of May 23-24, a special show entitled "Paintings, Prints and Pizza" is open to the public at the Family Pizza Pie Place in Sultanahmet (below the Arasta Bazaar, across from the Sarnıç Hotel). Their colorful and sometimes whimsical interpretations of the “usual sights” will either take your breathe away or make you laugh with joy.

    Melanie's invitation: "It's a great time for us to show what we've done and see what the interest is in what we love to do. Come by for a peek at the artwork and for a slice of pizza. We'd love to meet you." Do take advantage of meeting these two artistically productive wandering women between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
    A view of these sisters' art promises to be a true Turkish delight.

Family Pizza Pie Place: Küçük Aya Sofya Cad. N. 39A, Sultanahmet
Phone: 638 8156
Show times: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 12 p.m. to midnight

21 May 2009, Thursday

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Our first On- Line Announcement!

The Fish Mongers of Kadikoy
Our First Online Plug!

Istanbul Live
Canadian artists Melanie and Rene Mehrer are presenting a special show entitled “Paintings, Prints and Pizza” at the Family Pizza Pie Place in Sultanahmet on May 23 and 24. Melanie and Rene will be there from 13:00 to 17:00 both days. It is well worth your while to pay a visit to view their colorful interpretations of life and culture in Istanbul and eat some pizza. The FPPP is located at Küçük Ayasofya 39A (just a block down from the Arasta Bazaar and across the street from Sarnıç Hotel). Tel: (0212 638 8156)

You an see the original posting at:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Highlights of Istanbul

To say Istanbul is a city of history is a giant understatement. Layers upon layers of three different empires is what really makes this modern city alive in my opinion. I love hearing stories about how Vlad the Impaler's head is somewhere under the pavement of Bank Street, or that this spot in the Hippodrome is where the Jannisaries were executed in the thousands for trying to revolt against the sultan. Recently, a new found friend told me the birds flying around the mosques are thought to be the souls of drowned concubines. Personally I'd like to think the concubines were set free with their death and not confined to flying for eternity around the mosques of Sultanahmet, but I do appreciate a romantic tale. (And if you are going to be a seagull why not be one in Sultanahmet?)

Night Birds flying over Hagia Sophia 24x32 cm

You may have noticed this painting is similar to one that appeared a few blogs back. That was a sketch executed for this one. There was a great deal of interest in the sketch, so hopefully there will be just as much interest in the new and improved version! Hagia Sophia (also Aya Sofya) is an extremely difficult building to get a grasp of- It's huge, and the pinkish paint is peeling, revealing cream or even stone walls, making some walls dark and some light, with no rhyme or reason to receding light and the like. I just decided to throw caution to the wind with this one and paint it as I liked. I think it worked!

A Day on Galata Bridge 24x32 cm

People watching on Galata Bridge is one of my favourite pastimes. On top with the tram and traffic there are scores of fishermen keeping each other company as they fish off the bridge. Below are the numerous fish restaurants that do a mean business selling grilled fish baked in rock salt. You've never tasted such delicious fish! What a great place for a restaurant, right there under the Bosphorus. If you were any closer, you'd be swimming! It's also a nice place to walk and avoid the traffic and the hooks from fishermen that occasional fly back as they cast out in search for more fish.

Picking Tulips at Galata Tower

Alright, I admit it, If you go to Galata Tower, there aren't any Tulip fields. But who knows what was there five hundred years ago? Okay, I admit a little artistic license here. This is one of the first paintings I did here in Istanbul when I arrived.
Cirkece Train Station.

Both Rene and I love this little train station, almost forgotten in Cirkece. (Pronounced Sirk-e-jee) The Orient Express Train still pulls in here once a year! It is one of my favourite buildings in Istanbul because of the little details and the notion that beginnings of romantic train travel novels started in places like this. Apparently whirling dervishes perform inside sometimes. I'd love to see that.

The Mosque of Whimsy

One afternoon I had no idea what to paint. so I just began, and this was the result. Sometimes I can get caught up in the little details so this is a nice little painting where I let it all go and allowed it to be perfect in it's imperfections. It's not based on any mosque in particular, but it's got all the solid information of what makes a good mosque in my humble opinion!

We are less than two weeks away from the show at the Pizza Pie Place in Sultanahmet!
Hope to see you there!

xx Melanie

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Art of Printmaking!

This week is all about printmaking.

Gyspy Woman, 2008

I really got into print making in University when I started making books to sell in markets. I made my own stamps, carved out of "cleancut", which looked like a big sheet of eraser. I got most of the images out of art history textbooks I happen to be studying at the time. When I first began selling the books, the Celtic and Egyptian images sold the fastest When I finally sold my last book, a good six years later, the Chinese ones were flying off the tables, and I couldn't give the Celtic ones away. Kind of like tattoos these days. ; )

How to Make Sushi, 1999

In Taiwan I really got into the prints, and made quite a few images inspired by a Japanese comic book I took away from two little boys in class one day. This sushi print comes from that book. Sadly the other ones are packed away in a box in Canada and so at the moment I have no record of them.

Page from the Cambodia Travel Journal, 2000

Prints crept into my travel journals. This rare little Angkor Wat print is one of the only prints I have ever done where the colour is paint and not collage. (and yes, that's me in amongst the actual ruins!)

Page from the Middle East Travel Journal, 2001

Handprints are prints too! (and a quick way to spice up a page!) this particular page is from my Egypt to Istanbul Journal of 2001.

Middle Eastern Mosque, 2008. I drew this mosque on a bus from Abu Dhabi to Dubai one day and later made it into a print.

In Abu Dhabi, I had some time on my hands in the villa so I started collaging little mosques with gold leaf and acid-free Canson paper. I still have to finish these. So far I've printed only this one, just to see what it would look like. It's very small and precious, fitting in the palm of my hand. Rene loves it more than anything else I have done lately. (I might have to give her one!)

Elle Decor, eat your heart out!
I also made this little belly dancing silhouette. Rene threw it in this frame and it now adorns our little flat here in Istanbul. She's alot of fun. I imagine her wiggling along on silk scarves.

Gyspy Lady trying to find her purpose. 2009.
And on to the Gypsy lady. I drew her out and carved her out of a heavy chunk of Cleencut I carted with me from Canada to the Emirates and now here to Istanbul. She has potential, but the perfect idea hasn't hit us yet. Yes, these prints have become a collaboration between sisters. Generally I do the carving and Rene gets into the printing.

Here is a collaboration:

Islamic Wheels. Originally Carved for the journals I made, but Rene resurrected the carving and made it much better.

And a few prints by Rene. I am a huge Rene Mehrer fan. She's got a chunky, spontaneous feel to her work that I wish I sometimes had. I tend to get right into the perfect details. But she admires me for that, so we really do compliment each other in the end!

Grand Bazaar Coffee pots, 2008

Four pots, 2008

You can see more of Rene's prints over at her blog,

Fall Seeds and Pods, 2009

Wish me luck with the printing this week! I'm off to see the gypsy festival!

XX Melanie

Friday, May 1, 2009

Birds Birds Birds!!!

"Everyone wants to understand painting. Why is there no attempt to understand the song of the birds?"
Pablo Picasso


This was a little sketch I did months ago of birds flying over Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia). I wasn't really that pleased with the painting, but many people love the energy of this one. I may try to repaint this one before the show if I am inspired enough to do so! this week I've picked up the paint brush and gotten back into birds.

This week, the Webbs parted for Greece. It was sad to see them go. Parents of a high school friend of mine from my hometown, having them around Istanbul was like having family visit. I gave Jan a copy of the Blue Mosque print. Ralph, looking at a few other pantings, observed, "You sure like to paint birds."

I hadn't really thought about it before. In fact, I am quite scared of painting birds. If you get them wrong, they look really really, tragically wrong.

But lately, watching birds come and go from the roof next door, I have been observing seagulls, pigeons and crows, and a few sparrow like birds as well. I never really noticed that pigeons have red eyes, or that seagulls fly with their legs flopping down, not like the little airborn torpedos sparrows can be.

So here are two paintings this week, both including birds. Thanks for the inspiration, Ralph!


At night, the mosques are illuminated all around Istanbul with big spot lights aimed upwards along the walls. It apparently confuses the seagulls however, who, suffering from light pollution don't understand that it's time to sleep. When the call to prayer comes, there is usually a giant burst of seagulls fleeing the roof, where they may have found a dark corner to rest.


Next to the Blue Mosque in the Hippodrome, there are a group head-scarved ladies that sell bird feed in little dishes to tourists who in turn feed the numerous fat pigeons who gather there. These women can be found all over Istanbul in front of mosques and squares, wherever pigeons gather. I have never seen seagulls gather along with the pigeons to peck at the bird seed on the ground, so there is a little artistic license included here! this painting gave me a lot of trouble, but Rene's artistic guidance and critical eye helped me save it. But like children, the ones who give you the most trouble often end up your favourite.

XX Melanie