Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Painting: The Blue Mosque... Again!

Either I conquer Istanbul or Istanbul conquers me.
Fatih Sultan Mehmet

Seagulls over The Blue Mosque, 2011

I've thought about doing larger paintings for the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque ever since leaving Istanbul and now I have! The best part of doing larger paintings is that I can get more detail in without struggling with a teeny tiny paintbrush. Okay, I still struggle with the teeny tiny paintbrush but I can get more finicky with the details and there is a lot less swearing going on. (Appropriate to have blue air around the Blue Mosque, I suppose!)

The Blue Mosque from the entrance to Topkapi Palace.

When my sister and I lived in Istanbul, we lived behind the Blue Mosque. From our rooftop we could see the minarets peeking above the buildings above us on the hill. The call to prayer competed with all the other calls to prayers in our neighbourhood. I always wished I'd taken the time to zip up to our roof at sunset and record the calls to prayers going off all at slightly different times. It was a hell of a lot of noise that scared the feathers off the seagulls but I loved it!

Zoe warning me not to pick up a paintbrush again without taking her for a walk first.

When Obama came to visit, we spent a lot of time hanging around the fenced off areas around the Blue Mosque in preparation for his visit. It paid off though, we caught a glimpse of the president but more importantly, I got some great photos of the Blue Mosque from a buffet restaurant on the roof of a hotel. (And we weren't even eating there, but none of the staff cared. They even offered us tuliped shaped glasses of tea while we waited. Gosh, I love the Turks!)

Obama day! Turks on the next roof waiting to catch a glimpse of the president. In the top of the right minaret you can see one ofthe snipers in black.

I'm proud to say that with our stealth, Rene and I were the first two people in the Blue Mosque after Obama left. We were there to watch the snipers come out of the minarets, dust each other off, take a bunch of photos with their cell phone cameras of the interior and whizz out the door in their riot gear, laughing and smiling that nothing had gone down and the job was now done.

Seagull framed by the Blue mosque- on the ferry on our way to Iznik.

I won't bog you down with too much history but The Blue Mosque is one of only two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets. At the time the Blue Mosque was built, the only other structure to have six minarets was the Kaaba in Mecca. It was taken as a challenge to Mecca, so the Turkish sultan sent a crew down to Mecca to build a seventh minaret to appease the Meccan Rulers. There is one other mosque in Turkey that has six minarets and it's in Adana. I haven't seen it... yet!

"One of the most notable features of the Blue Mosque is visible from far away: its six minarets. This is very unique, as most mosques have four, two, or just one minaret. According to one account, the Sultan directed his architect to make gold (altin) minarets, which was misunderstood as six (alti) minarets.

Whatever the origins of the unique feature, the six minarets caused quite a scandal, as the Haram Mosque in Mecca (the holiest in the world) also had six minarets. In the end, the sultan solved the problem by sending his architect to Mecca to add a seventh minaret." (Stolen from this Sacred Destinations-Click here.)

Here you can see the sky pattern.

I find it very hard to get even skies with watercolour (It goes against the very nature of watercolour! So I painted this shell pattern in black over prussian blue- it's very subtle but ties the painting together tightly. It took me a long time to do this, and most people who saw the painting didn't notice it without me pointing it out. But I think sometimes its little details such as this that make a painting zing!

Blue Mosque sunset from the Asian side.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Newest Painting: The Simit Bakers!

The Simit Bakers, 10.5 x 7" March 2011

I did this little sketch when I lived in Istanbul. it probably would have been my last painting done in Turkey but I ran out of time. I am not sure where the original sketch is now, but I happened to take a photo of it for some reason, and came across it one day when I was rooting through pictures.

My little Simit Bakers sketch done sometime in 2009.

Turkish simit is similar to a bagel, but crispier and not so dense. a staple of Turkey, it's available every ten feet throughout the country. Simit bakers are up in the middle of the night preparing simit to be sold all over Turkey in the morning. Simit is best straight out of the oven. By afternoon the bread cools and starts to become chewy.

Mmmm nothing better than fresh simit!

Before I moved to Istanbul, I would pop up from the Emirates to visit my sister who happened to live above a simit bakery. The upside of this was that her apartment was kept warm by the simit ovens blasting below. The down side was that it was a bit noisy for those wee early morning hours. But all was forgiven when in the morning we got fresh simit free of charge- The old guys were good fun and invited me in one day to take photos. I wish now I hadn't been so shy and papparazied them at the time. But that's the great thing about Turkey, if I walked down there tomorrow they'd invite me in, give me some simit and pose for pictures, like we were old friends ad hadn't skipped a day of visiting.

Early morning simit baking.
This guy threw a simit at me like he was trying to play horseshoes with my head. Okay, okay, they aren't wearing aprons and their little jackets are much more Turkish, but I thought it would be odd to paint them in jackets.

Just writing this makes me wish I had a nice hot simit slathered in sesame seeds and a glass of strong Turkish tea!
SImit vendor loading his cart for the early morning breakfast rush- out of my sister's bedroom window.

Anyway, I tried to be a little more adventurous with perspective in this painting. As you know I am a big fan of Rie Munoz and I like how she works with wonky perspective. It brings a whole new playfulness to the work that I think would work in my own paintings too.

Sultanahmet simit vendor.

Diyarbakir simit and tea.

These simit look bigger and thinner than the Istanbul variety.

Mardin: Rene and I woke early to catch the sun rising over Mardin, and I caught this little simit exchange in the cobblestone street- This is what you call fast food. This guy didn't even get off the horse to buy simit from the donkey guy.

Simit simit simit simit simiiIIIIT!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hagia Sophia... Again!

Ahhh, Hagia Sophia, how loyal you are. No matter how far I go or for how long, you patiently wait for my return.

Hagia Sophia-aholics, Anonymous meeting in session now!

This fall I've got a spot booked in at the Penticton Art Gallery for a retrospective of my work- hence why lately some old works have been creeping into my Facebook page and blog. It's been fun tripping down the lane of past works- it almost makes me wish I still had my sketchbooks from high school. But alas, when you move as much as I do you can't keep this stuff around.

Looking through my photos for Hagia Sophia pictures I never realised how much documentation (Inside, out and historic) I have for this building:

Once the seat of the Byzantine Empire, then the Ottoman Empire, now the tourist Empire.

This little painting is quite simple, and doesn't really look like the Hagia Sophia I know, but still, I think it's cool. If I ever move back to Istanbul I might have to paint this map on a wall in my living room.

The Hagia Sophia as depicted in a mosaic found- inside the Hagia Sophia!

Old Ottoman Coin found in the Archaeology Museum next to Hagia Sophia.

This is the first Hagia Sophia painting I've ever done, and weirdly enough, it's the one that has grabbed most people's attention. So I decided to paint a proper one. You can see my other Hagia Sophias in this blog post here.

So as a painter, you paint the work and put it out there, and some work sells and some doesn't. I'm not complaining, this is the highest praise anyone can give you for your work. And sometimes I've been surprised at how sad I've been to let go of work, but this is the business. So sometimes, I've got to paint these things again, like I do now, because I can't have a show with a section on my Turkish Paintings and not have the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque represented.

Hagia Sophia 2011! Finished in my kitchen last night. 31.5 x 42 cm.

On a personal note, this is rather cliche to a person living in Istanbul, but this is the truth- I love Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya as it's called in Turkey. I felt blessed to be able to see it every morning on my walks around Sultanahmet; its shabby pinkish exterior showing off how mammoth this building really is. I think the reason I love it so much is that it's like a time capsule, a gift from people 1500 years ago to us now. It's one of the places I can stand in this world and look at and be proud to be human because humans made this. 1500 years ago! In never ceases to boggle me.

And it never ceases to keep on giving to us. Restorers are still restoring walls and finding mosaics and passageways an and things (including people) buried under it's floors. On the Mezzanine inside one day I stepped on a cobble stone that was loose; I could have lifted it up if I wanted to; no one was around and it was one of the dark corners of the buiding; but I didn't. because I was too afraid of damaging something and getting banned for life from Hagia Sophia, and that wasn't something I was willing to risk!

Seagulls! At one point I was a little afraid these were going to look like vultures, but once they were painted in they looked like seagulls.

First thing's first: I decided that I wanted to paint the Hagia Sophia bigger. with more detail. I also wanted the birds to have more personality. This painting so far is the biggest one I have done. Believe it or not, the hardest part of doing these paintings is getting a clear even sky; and this one is satisfactory. I have some new ideas of what to do with the next painting I tackle; the Blue Mosque. But I've still got two more Turkish painting ideas brewing (two brand new ones!) So I may tackle those first.

Front of the building detail.

Stay tuned!


Friday, March 4, 2011

At War with Winter: The Daisy Helmet!

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
~Mark Twain

What is a sure fire way to make spring come quickly? Start making winter hats! Murphy's law turned on itself. Ha! Strategic move by Melanie and the weather is looking nicer out there.

So hat number two: needle felted while watching American Idol. I have a ball of 100% Wool yarn and used it to outline the daisies. (Synthetic fibres can't be used in felting.) I think it gives this hat a rather cartoon feel.

Like the other hat, it's really thick. I'll try to needle felt it down bt I don't have great hopes of that making the difference I would like it to make. The brim of this one was really raggedy so I decided to stitch around the brim for added strength and to reign the brim in a little. It seemed like a really good idea at the time, and it probably is, but when I put it on my head, I can't shake the feeling that it's a helmet! It if were less thick it would feel like a hat but right now I feel like I should be off to Spring girly boot camp in this thing. Oh well. In the dead of winter next year I'll be the last one laughing!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Here's to the Last Blast of Winter! My New Hat.

When there's snow on the ground,
I like to pretend I'm walking on clouds.

Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata,
Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005

Wet felted hat on a form, then needle felted for the design, Merino wool.

Okay look, it's March 2nd and snowing like a demon out there, so I had to try to find some positivity about the fact that spring hasn't quite arrived, and so there it is, the most positive winter quote I could find. When I go out there later on my daily trip to the coffee shop I'll try to pretend those are clouds I'm walking on and the snowflakes are little packages from heaven that in a few short weeks will be helping the daffodils grow.
If that ain't positive thinking, I don't know what is!

Two reluctant models.
I do have to admit right now it's quite pretty out there.

Side view! Werk it!

Anyway, it also gives me an excuse to wear one of the two felt hats I've been working on. I still don't have felting down perfectly. I decided to try to do more layers this time around to see if that might hold it all together better, but I still had gaps here and there and so I needle felted over the trouble spots. It's a pretty puffy hat but it's warm! Not quite a spring hat.

Not sure if I'll do anything with the very rough brim or not. Depends how much wool I have left! I'd like to line the inside though. My hair gets tangled with little fuzzy black bits without a lining.

So here it is! Cocoon has a similar one which I might need to splurge on. The trouble I think is that I'm using Merino wool and it's soft light, fluffy and likes to pill. In the future I'd like to try felting with a harder wool. (Like the stuff Coccoon has.)

Yes, Zoe, we are done the photo shoot and we can go back inside now.

My very warm and seasonally appropriate hat! Zoe likes it. It means more walks for her when I'm warm enough to take her for a Winter Wonderland Walk! (Good thing she's got a bright red jacket- I often lose her in the snow!)