I have a sketchbook that I take with me everywhere.  I really pride myself on having a daily practice, but I gotta say I have not made a single drawing since I have been here.  I have been so completely overwhelmed visually that I can't even conceive of how to make a image right now.  I think I am intimidated by the glory all around me.  My friend Linda tells me that I have to let the experience sink in - that I should not be too hard on myself.  For a workaholic painter like myself, that is easier said than done.

What I have been doing diligently is making notes in my sketchbook.  Writing things down as they occur to me or so I do not forget them.  It has been a useful practice for me.  
I stress that I do have to start trying to draw while I am here.  I have taken a lot of photos (so many that I had to buy a portable hard drive to keep from crashing my Mac), but they are no substitute for the drawn experience.  The ability to translate what I am seeing to a painterly realm is only available through my eyes, not through a lens.  The lens is democratic - it includes everything - the eye does not. 
  • The "Splendid Door" at Hagia Sophia is a character in its own right. I want to make a painting called "Boys at the Splendid Door."
  • I understand the effect the bleached marbles of Turkey (Ephesus, Afrodisias, Pergamon) had on LeCorbusier (Chromophobia, chapter 2), but the fact that he found an absence of color is truly astounding. 
  • The grid can be divided endlessly.
  • Pattern works because you see the pattern before you see the individual elements that make it up.  This leads to hidden meaning in patterns that become clear through longer term investigations.
  • Simple tessellation results in complex patterns.
  • Reconsider blue (Aegean, Iznik, sea, sky, ocean, salt, heavy, hard, electric, air, invisible, protein, mavi, denim, headscarf, endless).
  • Intersecting patterns look more complicated than they are.
  • Iznik tile is impossible to replicate but I have to try.
  • If a pattern has an effect on the viewer, does the viewer change because of the pattern?
  • The amount of ornament is secondary to its absence.  (Palace vs. Mosque)
  • Is ornament a sign of overindulgence?  Amazing design show at Istanbul Modern about this very issue.  Adolf Loos Ornament and Crime is noted and I haven't read that in years.  I don't even think I can remember reading it.  Did I read it?  Well, now I have to read it.
  • If the grid can hold anything, what does it hold?  
  • Can the grid hold anything? Does it have to hold anything?
  • I want to paint the light from the chamber of relics at Topkapi.
  • "The Arm of the Baptist" is a great title for a painting.
  • I want to remember that a photograph is just an index.  I have no responsibility to the photograph.  I am responsible to a painting.
  • The grid is the situation.
  • Small things in a big space can be as awesome as the space itself.
  • I want to make paintings of tourists looking at nothing.
  • I want to make paintings.

Cause I'm a wanderer....

This is the view crossing the Galata Bridge looking back at Sultanahment.  That is Aya Sofya on the right on the hill.

Today I walked for about 10 hours and I did not get tired until I put the key in the door of my room at the Grand Hotel de Londres.  It was amazing today.  I have never seen such a place and I have never ever seen such things.  You see these things in books, or in the collections of a museum, but to see them in context.  It completely boggled my mind.  I found it very hard to take photos today because I did not want to distance my self from what I was seeing.  I heard someone say, "Wow, that's a great photo," while he was looking at something.  I thought, does he even see it?  It is right in front of him. (In this case, the "it" is the mosaic of the Archangel Gabriel in the secondary dome of Aya Sofya.)  At that point I really tried not to think about documenting or preserving.  I just wanted to look with my eyes.
I developed this plan.  I would take the time to go through a situation twice. Once without taking my camera out and the second time I would allow myself to take as many photographs as I wanted.  
So many different things today.  The mosaics at Aya Sofya and the Kariye Museum were astounding in their visual power, even in their ruined state.  The massiveness of the Aya Sofya on the outside compared to the empty soaring space on the inside.  The building is like a huge balloon.  I will go back and see it again (and again).  You cannot imagine the airy feeling of the place.  And it is made of ROCKS; lots of them in the Byzantine fashion.  The tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent and the mosque that bears his name.  The courtyard of the Blue Mosque filled with people answering the call to prayer.  Eating on the street just like I do in New York because the food is so good and so cheap.  Tea everywhere and every language spoken all over the place.
I got very lost and I did not care.  I crossed from my neighborhood in Beyoğlu into what I thought was Sultanahmet and got promptly lost in Fatih.  So many full sized billboards of women in headscarves and fashionable clothing that covered their entire bodies.  It was amazing to go from that to the stylish and beautiful women in other parts of the city.  
Tomorrow I have no idea what is to come.  I am thinking of having a tour, but it was so much fun and thrilling to get lost here I may do it again tomorrow.  I think I will stay on this side of the Golden Horn tomorrow and see what my neighborhood has to offer.  Although, I do want to go see the Basilica Cistern tomorrow, since the Blue Mosque is closed.
Leaving the Hippodrome today, a carpet seller chatted me up.  I told him I am from America and he laughed and said that he could tell.  He wanted to know if this was my first time in Turkey and I told him yes it was but it won't be the last.  He said I had a very kind and happy face.  I thanked him and told him that while I would love to see the carpets he had, I unfortunately had no money.  "No money, no honey," he said.  And we laughed and parted.
I think this might explain the staring.  At dinner at an AMAZING kofte house a number of people where staring at me through the window.  The waiter even commented, "Do you know them?"  I told him no, but maybe they want to know me.  He laughed.  Living in America, I am always on my guard against people looking at me the wrong way.  Maybe now, far away from home, I can walk around with a smile on my face and people respond to it.  Go figure.

My city of ruins....

Nothing prepares you for Epheseus.  

It really is a place that seethes with life.  Not just the thousands of camera-toting, sunblock-applying, child-chasing, photo-opping, cell phone-chatting humans around you.  You are really catapulted into the past.  You walk the same marble sidewalks as people thousands of years ago.  You are under the same hard cerulean sky.  Your eyes hurt from looking at so many beautiful things.  Every time you turn a corner something more incredible awaits you.  You think, "Well nothing can be better than this!" and then you turn the corner and see Trajan's Gate, or the Celsus Library, or the Agora Gate.  It is hard to believe that one can see so much and still remain standing.
Turkey is essentially an open air museum of culture from major periods.  It's truly astounding to be here and to see these things.  The thing of it is that there is a strong presence of the Republic here.  You go into Epheseus and the two things that greet you are the Turkish flag and a picture of Ataturk.  You realize that you are in an Islamic country (secular, true, but you do hear that call to prayer, don't you?), that is the custodian of places sacred to the Christian, Pagan and Antique.  The Turks are clear on this: every sign says that this place is being maintained by the Republic.  It is a really interesting way to diminish the power of what you are seeing.  Even our tour guide sort of made fun of us for coming all this way to see stones.  I said to him, "Omer of course you must think it is beautiful."  He smiled and said that they are just stones but "these stones, unlike the ones we will leave, tell of the history, the personality and the mythology of a people."  I wonder what people will think of the ruins of the Trump Taj Mahal?
We saw the House of the Virgin Mary today.  Strange being there.  I went through quickly and was going to make my way back to the bus.  Then I started to think about my Mother and how she would have loved to see the house and how happy it would have made her.  So I went back and got in line to see it again.  I was going to light a candle for her, but I felt very awkward and stupid buying one, as if I was trying to look like a pilgrim.  There was a Christian Turkish woman and her children and she was explaining things.  I sat in a chair in back on one side of the door.  On the other side was a friar (a Franciscan I think from the robe).  He looked at me and nodded and I sat on the straw seat of the chair.
I miss my mother desperately.  I wish I could have brought her with me on this trip instead of bringing her memory and half of her DNA.  I tried to say a prayer, but it all felt rote and stupid, like I was trying to prove that I could.  So I just sat there and thought about my Mother in the house of Jesus's mother and started to cry a little.  It never really leaves you, you know.  It just gets smaller and more intense, like a mushroom cloud inside of that tiny silver ball.  She would have really loved being there so it was the least I could do to sit there and be a little uncomfortable and miss her with my whole heart.