“Karne” (Report Card

Btw Foça and Yeni Foça
Half-finished Prismacolor sketch of the sea, just north of Foça

Well, all the world’s school children are onto their summer holidays after getting their report cards for the year. In Turkey, the last day of school is the much-anticipated moment when your kids carry home their “karne” and parents celebrate the accomplishments of their offspring.

I have well passed the age when report cards were a thing of pride (mostly) or fear (math, usually). But last week, after all the world’s school children were already involved with swimming and soccer (or sowing and reaping, depending on your demographics), the thought crossed my mind that it might do to write myself my own report card, going back to my List of Ideas and checking to see how well the implemenation was going. Think of it as a mid-term “progress report” for 2017/2018, rather than an end-of-term final appraisal, because, as that great artist Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over ’til it’s over.” ( Or as I said yesterday, “I’m not dead yet.”)

Report Card – Deborah Semel Demirtaş – 2017/2018

1. Sitting down in my studio and doing some more oil pastels of people in the water, using the photos I took in Georgia, Portugal, and the Turkish Mediterranean coast as sketches. NO PROGRESS. (Studio is a mess, greenhouse effect is making it more than a little unbearably hot… but I did manage to clear enough space to sew me up some summer clothing to make the heat a little less oppresive. As they say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the studio!”)

2. Writing and illustrating a children’s book about “The Adventures of Yellow Dog”. In it, the erstwhile Yaprak is transformed into a doggie who had to leave her home for reasons she is too young to understand, but ends up making friends with a chicken and learning to swim. AND 2a, the sequel, “Yellow Dog and Her Friends”, in which Yellow Dog and her chicken-friend, over much objection from their families, end up visiting one another at their respective homes – and nobody gets eaten. PROGRESS. (Okay, this is, admittedly, theoretical progress – meaning I’ve decided that Yellow Dog’s adventures might be more interesting as an animated film than in book form. That’s as far as I’ve got.)

3. Going back and doing some large (for me) oil-stick drawings like the ones in the “swimmer” series I had started a few years ago and then had to abandon because “the princesses” had taken over my “outdoor studio” so there was no room to work out there anymore. NO PROGRESS. (I’ve got a whole lot of paper cut to size, but this has been just another thing that I haven’t gotten around to. For the reason why, see No. 4 below.)

4. A “film project”. (I have this “wild hare” of an idea to organize a festival, or something, of films on “cultural heritage”… please don’t steal this one…) PROGRESS.  (If there’s a whole lot of “no progress” on anything else on my list, this must be the reason why.)

FFG LOGO web

5. Paint some more wooden furniture. (This is not as easy as it sounds – if you place the emphasis on “wooden” – because everything these days seems to be made of pressboard and the like. Boo-hoo.) PROGRESS. (I did one. For proof, see the  photo of the “Camouflage Table” below; bet you have a hard time finding the table leg… designed to blend in with the flagstone…)

dscn0166.jpg

6. Continue making temporary trash sculptures. (This one should be pretty easy; there’s a lot of trash out there.) PROGRESS. (But since I can’t find any pictures, you’ll just have to take my word for it. And by the way, there’s still a lot of trash out there.)

7. Something to do with food! (I’m not there yet…) PROGRESS. (Still not there yet, but undoubtedly there will be some food-related cultural heritage at the 1st Foça International Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Film Days…)

8. An illustrated travel book… NO PROGRESS. (But today I’m going to Kos, with a box of Prismacolors in my backpack and a painter-friend, who might be a good influence on me… or maybe not; we’ll probably just drink a lot of frappes and eat pig.)

DSCN3126 - Copy.JPG
(By Yasemin the Art Teacher – who cannot be guaranteed to be a good influence.)

9. Painting a mural on the top row of kitchen cupboards. (This was agreed with my husband before we got new kitchen cupboards. The choice was not between whether to paint or not, but between what to paint: 1. Beach scene; 2. Abstract painting of the vastness of the universe, with lots of gold leaf and light blue; 3. Tropical paradise. And the winner is… “3, Tropical Paradise”! NO PROGRESS. (But white looks good, too… )

10. Two paintings (oil stick on plywood, 40x40cm, of flower blossoms on a mainly black background with a lot of line drawing done in gold leaf) “commissioned” by my husband in return for making him not hang a painting in a spot that I didn’t want it to be hung in. PROGRESS(One is finished and hung on the wall. One is progress, isn’t it?)

 

There.
A list of 10.
A nice, round number.
“Top 10 Ideas From Amongst Which At Least 1 Must Be Chosen Before Another Idea Is Had”

Ball of Confusion

Spiral 2

Remember my post “Top 10 Ideas From Amongst Which At Least 1 Must Be Chosen Before Another Idea is Had” ? Well, I was working on one of them last night, and it so spiralled out of control beyond my wildest expectations that my head became one big, giant “Ball of Confusion”!

I tossed and turned until I found the answer: “Throw the I Ching!”

I know, I know; that’s so New Age (yuck), or so very Sixties (before my time), and it’s not really an answer.

Whatever.

I find the I Ching is actually very good at providing me with answers, albeit of the obscure kind, like the ones I provide when I read my Art Fortunes. (Note to myself: List of Ideas Goes to 11.)

In this case, the interpretation I can bring to my I Ching reading is this: “Shut up and get back to work.”

Hmm. For that bit of advice, I suppose I could have just called my mother.

Spiral 1

The Atlantic…

water oil pastel 15 Oct 2017If you remember, “more water drawings” was on my list of “10 ideas”, and I have stuck to my resolution of not having any more ideas until I use up the ones on my list.

These two oil pastels are the first I’ve done since getting back from Portugal last month. It was refreshing to be on the Atlantic instead of the Mediterranean (or Aegean) for a change, but I was the only one in the water without a wetsuit – which might explain while I was only in the water for about two minutes.

In fact,  now that I look at these drawings, I realize I had forgotten that I was not the only one in the water without a wetsuit: The man on the left with the green towel also went for a swim for a couple of minutes.

In fact, his towel was blue, but there was already too much blue in his drawing for me. And in the interest of full disclosure, he was facing the other direction when I photographed him. And he was further up the beach. And the guy next to him – wasn’t.

(A digital camera and Photoshop are my 21st-century equivalent to 19th-century sketching in oil pastels… But I still love the oil pastels.)

water oil pastel 13 Oct 2017

 

 

“Top 10 Ideas From Amongst Which At Least 1 Must Be Chosen Before Another Idea Is Had”

P2

You may have noticed that I haven’t written anything in a while, and that I haven’t posted any pictures of nice-and-shiny artwork, or even rough-and-tumble work-in-progress.

Of course, you may not have noticed, because you were busy doing things in the actual, three-dimensional world rather than (how shall I put this?) “spending time enjoying your vibrant, virtual community”.

Although you could be forgiven for assuming that my not posting can be chalked up to my “spending time enjoying my vibrant, virtual community”, you would be mistaken.

In fact, I have also been busy working.

And not just in the dosh-producing sense of the word, but also in the “production of creative material” sense of the word – although mostly, in the “travelling” and “thinking” senses of the word.

Yes, travelling counts as “creative work”, in the same sense that “research on background” and “sketching” count as creative work. In my case, I like to think that it especially counts, because in addition to just taking the opportunity to refresh the eyes and this sorry old brain with new sensory information, I use the time travelling to take photographs that I use the same way that some artists use sketches – and on occasion I even sit down and do some old-fashioned sketching myself.

Portugal - View from the restaurant 1

Thinking also belongs in the “creative work” box. Despite what some people think. (Here I must interject a memory: While visiting a friend at Hacettepe University one day many years ago, I got involved in a conversation that ended in a now-well-known contemporary Turkish conceptual artist explaining to me, “But Deborah, she (a now-well-known contemporary Turkish painter) isn’t a conceptual artist, so she doesn’t need to have an idea.”

On the other hand, even I sometimes “live too much in my head” and forget that just thinking about a thing doesn’t actually get the thing done. (In that way, “art” is a lot like doing laundry and cleaning the house…) So, when that lightbulb-reminder went off in my head again yesterday, I decided that I was not allowed to have any more ideas until I use up the ones I already have. These include:

1. Sitting down in my studio and doing some more oil pastels of people in the water, using the photos I took in Georgia, Portugal, and the Turkish Mediterranean coast as sketches.

more surfers

1a. “Shooting” some video interviews of people and their relationships to the water that I can edit to use in an installation with the above-mentioned drawings; interviews to include “individuals who attempted to migrate from Turkey to Greece by sea”.

2. Writing and illustrating a children’s book about “The Adventures of Yellow Dog”. In it, the erstwhile Yaprak is transformed into a doggie who had to leave her home for reasons she is too young to understand, but ends up making friends with a chicken and learning to swim.

2a. And then there’s the sequel, “Yellow Dog and Her Friends”, in which Yellow Dog and her chicken-friend, over much objection from their families, end up visiting one another at their respective homes – and nobody gets eaten.

3. Going back and doing some large (for me) oil-stick drawings like the ones in the “swimmer” series I had started a few years ago and then had to abandon because “the princesses” had taken over my “outdoor studio” so there was no room to work out there anymore.

4. A “film project”. (I have this “wild hare” of an idea to organize a festival, or something, of films on “cultural heritage”… please don’t steal this one…)

5. Paint some more wooden furniture. (This is not as easy as it sounds – if you place the emphasis on “wooden” – because everything these days seems to be made of pressboard and the like. Boo-hoo.)

6. Continue making temporary trash sculptures. (This one should be pretty easy; there’s a lot of trash out there.)

7. Something to do with food! (I’m not there yet…)

8. An illustrated travel book…

Portugal - View from the restaurant 2

9. Painting a mural on the top row of kitchen cupboards. (This was agreed with my husband before we got new kitchen cupboards. The choice was not between whether to paint or not, but between what to paint: 1. Beach scene; 2. Abstract painting of the vastness of the universe, with lots of gold leaf and light blue; 3. Tropical paradise. And the winner is… “3, Tropical Paradise”!

10. Two paintings (oil stick on plywood, 40x40cm, of flower blossoms on a mainly black background with a lot of line drawing done in gold leaf) “commissioned” by my husband in return for making him not hang a painting in a spot that I didn’t want it to be hung in.

There.
A list of 10.
A nice, round number.
“Top 10 Ideas From Amongst Which At Least 1 Must Be Chosen Before Another Idea Is Had”

What’s going on?

water  pastels 2605 gibi

This is the latest of my ‘water oil pastels’ – water scenes, done in oil pastels.

The scenes are imaginary, a combination of photographs I’ve taken to use as ‘sketches’ and imagin-A-tion.

In the case of these drawings/paintings, this means that you are not the only one who doesn’t know exactly what’s going on.

Neither do I.

And, interestingly, neither do they.

 

 

Indolence…

water pastels boat trip 070516

It’s the lazy season around our house these days.
Next door there’s banging – lots of loud, house-building banging – which is unfortunate, because it’s just the time of year when my ‘outside studio’ is at its most pleasant.

The banging (and the occasional excruciating whine of metal slicing through metal) has been a good excuse for not carting the princesses up to the roof and buying a new piece of plywood to replace the studio table-top that rotted away in the winter rains – the two things that would need to happen to get the ‘outdoor studio’ functioning. But I’ll get it together before the summer heat makes the ‘indoor studio’ the less pleasant of the two workplace options. Right now I’m very happy inside – especially since my discovery of a few pieces of Canson in a lovely shade of blue at my local stationery store, just after I managed to rescue a new order of Sennelier pastels from the Customs…

So I’m enjoying – thoroughly enjoying – making more ‘water drawings’.

And I’m very pleased to say that the two most recent drawings are of ‘swimmers’ rather than ‘drowners’. (Although I am slightly worried that there might be an imminent shark attack below…)

water pastel 070516 swimming lesson shark

“Shoot the Artist at the Right Moment”

There’s some saying I heard once somewhere about how to create a masterpiece:
“Shoot the artist at the right moment.”

Basically, what that’s saying is that artists tend to overwork, never know when to quit, and in the process of going after perfection, end up fucking things up.

I was in the studio yesterday for the first time in what seems like ages (drawing table having been taken over by sewing materials, as it were), and after a couple of minutes, I stopped working, and this is what I saw:

water pastel 300416a

And  I had to work hard – really hard – to stop there.

I actually felt guilty that I could have finished a drawing so quickly. I felt like I was cheating if I didn’t keep going. A mix of Jewish guilt and Protestant work ethic and the sense that I was somehow getting away with something.

Luckily, I managed to overcome all this. Because this is one of my favorite water pastels of all the ones I’ve done so far (series – A4 paper – check out earlier posts if you like).

I’m not sure if I managed to maintain the same sense of spontaneity in this one:

 

water pastel 300416b

Luckily, I had to go cook dinner….

 

 

 

 

Big! Bigger!! Biggest!!!

Foca landscape 4 fishing day

What a misleading title.
But then again, I think these photos are misleading, too.

Foça Fishing Day 1

When I look at them, it makes me want to make BIG paintings.
Which is kind of interesting, because I NEVER want to make big paintings.

Foca landscape 3 fishing day

But I could see making these big. At least as big as a couch painting.
A COUCH PAINTING!

Foca landscape 2 fishing day

How big do you think these are, anyway? Come on, take a guess…

Lone Fisherman

Well, at the moment, they’re big enough – or small enough – to fit in a daypack.
Which is pretty convenient when you’re out for a walk in the woods, or a stroll by the sea.

Thanks to recent technological advancements, I am seriously thinking about making these big. At least bigger than a backpack. After that I’ll just need someplace to put them.

Any takers?

Foca landscape 1 fishing day

 

But seriously, folks…

Whenever I’m asked about who has influenced me, I always think of my undergraduate printmaking professor at Washington University, Peter Marcus, and my favorite quote from him: “Make it big, do it in color, and have 100 by Friday.”

Well, I might not have had 100 by Friday, but I certainly liked doing them big and in color. We were lucky to have a very large press (Peter liked doing large prints himself), and so I was doing prints that were at just about a meter tall – just as large as the press could handle.

Back then it was mostly technology that dictated the size of my work. Nowadays it’s storage space.

Confession: While it may have been storage space that got me started doing small works, it’s the idea behind them that’s kept me going. (My friend Hüsnü used to tell people I was a conceptual painter, after all… )

I like the idea that people have to stop in front of my drawings and get up close to them to see what’s going on in them.

Not that they always do.

In fact, they mostly don’t.

But I’m stubborn, and I will continue to try to get people to pause.

And pay attention.

Buddhist mindfulness, and all that.

Heads Above Water

I think that’s going to be the title for my most recent oil pastel drawing in my series of water drawings.

Water Pastel 010416

When I was finishing this drawing, part of me wanted to paint out the white ‘waves’ so that the drawing would be just 2 disembodied heads in a field of blue.
But I kind of like that there is some consistency in how I’ve drawn water over the years.
Consider this drawing of a Bodrum landscape from a few years ago…

Pembe Sis

And then again, I thought of how the video that was part of my ‘Homesickness’ installation was also basically an image of somewhat disembodied people in the water…

inst13

Maybe it’s time to make some more videos…

 

 

Drawing in /on Milas

So lately, I have been working on a presentation on “Color in Space” that I will use in a workshop I’ll be giving at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (!) at Gediz University, which is a private university in Turkey just a 20-minute drive from where I hope to be moving (eventually), Foça.

One of the things that makes Foça so attractive is that it has been able to retain some of its character as an old Greek fishing village. Local tourism has helped in this – Foça is so close to Izmir that you can live and work in the city and still go out for dinner in Foça and makek it home safe in time to get to bed and then get up for work the next day. But mainly what has preserved Foça is that it is pretty close to Greece – so there’s a large naval base and commando training center there (in case we’re invaded?) that has kept the overdevelopment at bay.

Closer to Bodrum is the village of Çomakdağ, in Milas, which is trying to preserve its local character while generating income from tourism by offering “reenactments” of village life for world-weary “city” dwellers in Bodrum and beyond.

Çomakdağ certainly has character, character comprised of color:

Comakdag painted door

I took the photograph of that door on a group trip to Çomakdağ a few years ago. It’s one of the slides in my presentation on Color in Space. I’m using it as an example of how color is used in traditional architecture. In the case of Çomakdağ, the village houses have painted woodwork inside and out.

In addition to wandering around the village and taking photographs during my visit, I sat with the rest of our group to watch a performance of a village wedding. My friend Annete found this photo and send it to me last week – it’s a picture of me and a budding young artist drawing the dancers. (Notice our matching hiking boots…)

Drawing in Milas

OK, now (in the immortal words of Matt Groening), “GET BACK TO WORK”