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.

Advertisements

Drawing the Boukoleon Portals 4

Friday 23 September 2011 • 2:00-3:00/4:30-6:00

RENT

A hot blue fall day, perfect for drawing. But I had to pay the damned rent. Not that I mind, I’m glad I have it. This means a trip to my bank in Cembelitas, all the way up by the Grand Bazaar. Gabrielle, who is here from Wyoming, painting her socks off, is trading art time for blog-lesson time, and we were meeting at the Boukoleon. I rode the tram up to Cemberlitas, but the angel who helps me was at lunch, since it was lunchtime. I walked down the hill and bought potato chips at the Hippodrome, kept going past obelisks and arches and out through the Cadladikapi Gate and around the corner to the Boukoleon. Set up in record time and sweetly sank into drawing. Using a pencil, which is like soft shoes after dancing pumps. Too sweet. I had to abandon it and go for the pen. I almost never use pencil anymore, it’s too easy to erase and change stuff, it feels like cheating, and if you go too long it means drawing everything twice. But this drawing is so complex, and it’s already a good seven hours in, so– a little pencil, dammit, I told the art demon as it hissed “Pencil is for pussies.”

Gabrielle showed up and set up. She’s gorgeous, so I made her drape her scarf over as much as possible, button up all the purses and carryalls and sit on them, and we started. And then I had to run back up the hill to pay the rent.

Why do I have to do this? The only way it’s legal to pay is via a bank. Just putting it into my landlord’s account over the counter costs 28 lira, and I’m already paying too much for the apartment. So I learned how to do the Internet Banking thing. It worked fine, and then a year ago I got hacked and lost my email account. Oy Vey!! Every single thing in my life was tied to that account! Had to change everything, including both bank accounts. And the next time I tried to pay my rent, I couldn’t get it to work again. Lots of boxes popping up, Turkish in red with exclamation points, scared hell out of me…so I went to my branch and pled my case.

This is Hasan at Garanti Bank. That little delirium tremens on his shoulder is actually an icon of his surname, which means Lion Sword. And boy, does he cut through all the problems. Paying my rent is now a pleasant ritual involving conversation, tea drinking, catching up, and so forth. This is one of the more civilized aspects of living here, that such things can happen.

So back happy down the hill to the Boukoleon. Gabrielle drawing, we’re talking, and guys showing up– a big friendly galoot watching us draw. A tent regular stumbled by, loaded, carrying his dog. The galoot said he was bad news, kept talking, trying my Turkish and my patience until I finally indicated needing to work and he mercifully left. Another guy lurched up, startling Gabrielle, but he’s okay, he’s the affable guy from the service station. Around here it’s really if they’ll hurt you, and I never met one down here who would, although they hang around the periphery. Then before I could blink it was six, and the bricks beginning to blur up there on the portal.

Then Turkish coffee at the teahouse in the wall, the clouds blowing peachy across the light sky over the water. A hike through the Stable Gate and up the hill, and eventually home. Now I’m looking at the drawing and wishing I was back there, the Art Demon in teeth-gritting fury at being diverted, thwarted…it’s a nasty beast, it hates everyone and everything but creation, all the lovely moments of society mean nothing to it, it won’t listen to reason, even when I say look, these things can’t be helped, there are responsibilities in my life, people in my life and I’m glad of it, but it won’t let me rest or sleep, I’m dog-tired now but I just trashed the entire note and had to write it again but it doesn’t care. It says, “look at this pitiful bit you did today, I rest my case.”

Tomorrow I’m getting out there early, I swear.