Drawing the Boukoleon Portals 12

Thursday 6 October 3:30-6:00

THANK YOU, STEVE JOBS 

 

Another day of splendid weather, but an odd new world without Steve Jobs in it. I am so grateful for my former life as a digital artist and MacEvangelist. I got to participate in the computer revolution, which was a technological wave crashing over the whole world, with some of us zipping across the face of it. It was a privilege to observe Steve Jobs evolving into a hero of the age. Things that were impossible dreams just a few years ago are now unconscious extensions of our lives, like this ability to draw by hand, scan it, write about it, and share it that night. Sharing is what Macintosh was always all about. A pirate flag flew over the buildings at Apple when it was being developed; the software never liked limitations, didn’t perform well when the money boys had put in copy protection, Shareware was a Macintosh concept. Sharing information globally. My best friend recently participated in the Libyan Revolution, Twittering to the world after reaching behind the lines from a place where the hackers and murderers could not get to her. Instant communication, unlimited information at our fingertips, and a painting of my little cat Rex, incorporating an entire digital studio, done onscreen in 1993 in about ten minutes, and preserved, glowing, to this day. I’ve given this drawing away a hundred times, sent it all over the world for years, and I still have it. And every copy is exactly the same as the very first one. Computer art, the gift that keeps on giving, having my cake and eating it too. All possible because of Steve Jobs. What a legacy.

No matter what goes on in the world I have to keep drawing. Today I got down to the Boukoleon at 3:30 and picked up the trash. It took five minutes and made me feel better. I finished off the lines for the far right side of the drawing in about twenty minutes. Moved to the other side, left of the Left Portal. Left of the left, story of my life. Immediately caught a near-disaster and switched to pencil. I was blocking out the big marble support for the vanished balcony and about to draw everything too small. Measured everything by units and saved it. I do this by holding up a pencil or pen in front of the object in question– in this case, the hole in the wall with the kitten in it– and holding my thumbnail to the edge of where it comes on the pencil. I move the pencil and thumbnail to another part of subject, in this case the top of the portal next to it. What a shock: All that wonderful detail: the arch-topped hole in the wall, the bush, the support, the chunks of desiccated marble– it’s all about twice the size I thought it was. It just looks small because it’s surrounded by bigger stuff. When I was sure the size was right, I went back to the pen. The kitten in the hole is real, impossibly cute as it is. The little head popped up right before my eyes.

Here’s what the drawing looks like now.

Notice the fine detail on this scan, the exact copy of the hand-drawn kitten. And up top, look at the beautiful wash tones in that digital painting of Rex, done in Painter on a Mac in 1993. Here’s another cat drawing, this one done in 1985, with a mouse and MacPaint. Steve Jobs is everywhere. The first tiger took awhile to draw in that earth-moving, groundbreaking pixel-shoving MacPaint, but I was able to option-drag it into four tigers. This was revolutionary! Nothing remotely like this had ever been possible.

A world of possibilities opened up, so intriguing and entrancing that I spent the next fifteen years like this:

THANK YOU, STEVE JOBS!! This is my alter ego, Fred Nerd, back in 1985 in his virtual trance. I worked nights for years and years. Finally, in honor of Steve Jobs, here’s a page from the first underground comic done on a computer, Astral Byte, created in 1986 for the MacUnderground, a precursor to the Internet. It took a week to draw, onscreen with a mouse in SuperPaint, and all the copy was typed in Helvetica and augmented and crawled by hand. Back then we lived pretty much hand-to-mouse. Forgive me, it’s late. Anyway, Jobs ushered in a whole new world, and here’s a little piece of what it looked like back then.

(above) Rex at Sundown ©1996, Boukoleon Portals ©2011, Running Tigers ©1985, Fred Nerd ©1986, On Sale Everywhere © 1986 by Trici Venola

Advertisements

Drawing the Boukoleon Portals 10 & 11

Sunday 2 October 1:00-4:30

INVOKING THE CROSS

Yesterday I put in the big lump of roundy brickwork at the top of the far right arch. It was not at all where it seemed it should be. I invoked the Cross: the method of lining up what I ‘m trying to draw with something I’ve already drawn. I do this by holding the pencil out in front of me, so that it makes a line across what I’m looking at and… NOOOO!! Couldn’t be that low… you can’t see it here, but that pencil is all over the drawing. That pencil  I was only using in emergencies…well, this was an emergency. A perspective perception emergency. Everything in me told me that big brick lump was WAY HIGHER than it actually is. Wrestled with this awhile when Gabrielle showed up. She’d come the day before, when I was home working, and her ink-wash drawing is now wonderful, dark and solid and mysterious. She decided to leave it alone, and about that time the affable guy, the one who works up at the gas station, turned up. His name is Ahmet.  I asked him if I could draw his picture. He was bewildered, actually pointed at his chest and looked around as though he stood in a crowd and I had beckoned. Then he stood rock-solid, without a trace of self-consciousness, for ten minutes until I said he could move. Here he is. For portraits I do a tight but light drawing as fast as possible, using my own code to indicate what’s black, plaid, etc. as people need to move. Then I darken and finish it up later. I meant to scan the preliminary since many people are curious about how to draw a portrait. But I forgot and finished, so I’ll have to show that another time. Afterwards he kissed my right hand and put a small handwoven multicolored bracelet on it. He told Gabrielle he would give her a necklace. Youth!

After a plan to meet later and play How To Blog, Gabrielle left to go do stuff on the apartment she’s fixing up. A friend from the first day. What a bright, talented beautiful girl with her whole life ahead, and a solid resume besides. I remembered where I’d been at that age, barely on my own radar, hadn’t even gone back to school yet.  I worked for awhile longer but my head, that old enemy, had started up like a rusty old engine. I started worrying about getting my work out while I’m still alive. If I live as long as I’ve been living, I’ll be 122. Hm. How hard I work, moan whine, and look at how little I make. Piss, grind. When my head really gets going I completely forget things like choosing to do what I love, choosing to do without other things to make it possible, having friends who act like angels…Then I noticed the slant on the bricks had gone all wrong and I quit while I could still fix it.

 Monday 3 October 1-3:00

DISTRACTIONS

Today was a short one.  I showed up at one fully prepared to draw my ass off for five hours. Ha.

Took the route down from Hagia Sophia along the Topkapi Palace/Gulhane Park wall and out the Ahirkapi, the Stable Gate, to the highway. Another beautiful day! So beautiful that when I walked through our tea garden in the wall and saw Osman sitting there smoking nargile (waterpipe, apple tobacco), I asked him for a hit. Staring out at the water and smoking was just what I wanted, and I got up to leave…and then I found myself going back to draw him and the cafe…just a few lines…

Forty-five minutes later, I got to the Boukoleon and started to draw. As always, the first look is clearer than any other. I tackled the Cross Hell Mess from yesterday and got some licks in.  Straight across, yes, it really IS that low on the page. Should I use the pencil again? I’m tired of all this backing and filling, I just threw the ink on.Looks like a pine cone, not like bricks. I drew what I saw and not what I thought I saw, and yes, it looks exactly like a pine cone. Why?  First the marble sheathing was removed or fell off. Then the wall began to erode. The mortar went first, from the surface backward, leaving the edges of brick exposed. Then the brick itself began to erode. So now there are these edges, curved from rain and wind patterns, sticking out like wafers, tongues of flame…a pine cone.

Just then, a mere hour and a half into the session, a group of truculent teenagers came striding up, through the gate in the Belidiye’s fence, and over to the little tree and the site of the bum tent. They carried pillows and rugs, and set about shouting and shoving each other and hanging the rugs to make a tent.  Five skinny guys and a lumpy big girl with a mean face, a dog on a leash. I wondered if they were going to draw lots. These kids looked angry. They punched and screamed at each other, particularly at one kid. He stormed out the gate and over past me, then came up too fast and close and demanded… a potato chip. He got it. Thanked me in English, too. Well, the dog looked clean, actually I think it was the same dog as the second day, when kids were emerging from the tent straightening their clothes, and the police stopped by and said I should be careful. So this time too I kept drawing.

A woman with winesores came up with her companion. She wanted me to know she’s Romanian and her mother was an artist. She kept petting me all over, wanting to be friends. She looked like she had been pretty, in an elfin kind of way. She looked like she lived under a bridge somewhere.  I didn’t wince away, she was harmless and I didn’t want to hurt her. But I was glad when they wandered away.

I started delineating the actual end of the wall, a time I’d looked forward to…but now I was just slamming it down there as fast as I could. Never know how long I’ve got with these things– can’t come tomorrow… drawing a little tree growing out of the wall up top, the dark of the wooden house behind it. I fixed the slant on the bricks. No white pen this time, just a lot of shading.

The group by the tent got louder and uglier. Years ago in my experimental youth I hitchhiked all over Greater Los Angeles, developed some street sense, and lived to tell the tale. Maybe these kids were just kids, but I didn’t know what substances they were ingesting, so I got out of there.

Back to the tea garden and drew some more, smoked some more. Osman told me he and Asim are buddies from ‘way back, started this place together. He did this by crossing his two fingers and shaking them emphatically.  I drew the boats across the highway, up in dry dock. I drew some trees and the water. What I didn’t draw was the traffic. Cars bumper to bumper, slowly moving, so I had to draw real fast and then wait.

Went home, carrying far too much since I stopped and bought cans of cat food. Walked up the Istiklal, the huge walk street down the top ridge of Beyoglu across the Golden Horn, on my way home. Saw a demonstration, women in photos with hangman’s nooses, etc, a petition for women who were under sentencing for murdering their battering husbands. I said I’d sign it, although I didn’t know if it would do any good since I don’t vote in Turkey, I’m just a resident. not a citizen. A woman passing by said, “You don’t vote? Where are you from?” When I told her she said, “Ha, you should go home and vote against Barack Obama.” A brisk exchange, and  I sorta lost it. They were all laughing. So I said, OK, fine, insult my President and my country, to hell with it. And walked off. Why can’t I ever remember to say that if one is going to trash America, then one should trash those Nikes and jeans. And toss that iPhone too. Go home and sever the landline, and while you’re at it, rip out the electrical box and toss that. And the refrigerator-it seems to me that this, too, is an evil American invention. No more Facebook either! Finally if one owns a car, get rid of it and never ride in one again. Most especially, no more American dollars, which I notice are quite high here right now. But I didn’t think of any of those things in time to say them, and they wouldn’t’ve cared. It’s fun to hate America. It makes the world kin. And here I am being political in an Art Blog. What do I know? There’s nothing I can do about any of this, not the battered murderer wives, not the trashed ruins, not my spent youth, not my hated motherland. One thing we don’t have in America is the Boukoleon, or anything remotely like it. All I can do is draw it, draw it all, make art out of it, make sense out of it, make sense out of something.

Drawing the Boukoleon Portals 1

 Friday 16 September 2011 *  3:00-4:30

INTERLOPERS

Showed up at the Boukoleon today where I was greeted by barking dogs. Awful, trash everywhere, weeds, and a new bum lean-to at the wall under the high Byzantine portals I’m drawing, rowdy guys in there. Police showed up, said Be Careful but don’t seem to care about the tent or the trash, nobody seems to care about this palace but me, drawing like a fool. A dramatic frenzy of brick shards radiating around the arches, marble posts and lintels bowed with age, muscular blackened spines of brick arcing up behind the portals. Then a shock, tourists actually walking around up in there. Had to be tourists, nobody else wears those bright machine-embroidered satin pillbox hats. One girl stood right on the threshold of the Center Arch. Right where I’d dreamed of standing. She probably never even heard of the Palace before today.
How dare they? Spent years! Staring at that arcade of arches and could never get in, days and nights imagining what it looked like from there.

Here’s my litte rescued cat Callista in the old apartment with the Boukoleon in the background.

Here’s winter and summer, hours spent staring out my windows at that arcade of arches, wondering.

And here are pages from an entire childrens’ book I set there back in 2005, months visually speculating what the Palace would have looked like if things had been a little different and people had fixed it up, lived in it in, say, the 1920s–  A place, a Palace, so

ingrained in my consciousness for so many years– how DARE they? I wanted to rip them right out of there. Of course, feelings like this are best not acted on. What I did instead was to

From "The Princess And The Pea" ©2005 by Kieran McGovern (words) and Trici Venola (art)

pack up all my paraphernalia, hoof it up the hill and around to the property adjacent to the Palace which has always been blocked

esolebooks.com/easyreads/princessandthepea.html

off by the owner of the house there. It’s open now, but I had to walk over a broken gate and someone’s garden. It’s forbidden to block off these places, but they didn’t exactly put up a sign either. But finally there I stood at last, high in the center portal looking out towards the sea, just where I’d drawn and dreamed so many times. The marble on those portals is ten inches thick, the mortar still holding over a thousand years. Back in 2008 around this time of year I sat on the table-sized balcony of my old apartment, hanging over the railroad, and drew this. It’s sheer bliss to know I’ve stood there at last. The view is the same, only closer, with the huge marble presence looming all around. A flat pounded dirt floor, sprung filthy couch, big pile of construction materials. I’d rather see it like this than turned into kitsch with “restoration.” Nobody can build like the Byzantines; ruins should be fortified, yes, but left as ruins. I want to know that what I am looking at is what was placed by fingers like mine. Built by hands now dust, like the place where there once were marble floors.

Boukoleon Twilight ©2008 by Trici Venola