Friday 30 January 2015

Memento Print Artworks

I've been gaining limited fame as an artist for a while, and I was making little sketches for friends and acquaintances left and right. Between December 2014 and January 2015, I had an idea to make memento prints, little original works that I could hand out to friends and other people I met in life. I thought such prints could take the "art gift" idea to the next level.

When I was younger (and single-) I used to make similar DIY gifts, not of my artworks, but of the cheesy B-Movies I'd made with my friends. I'd lovingly package them as VCDs (now a dead format,) with original cover art, and after loading twenty or more into my backpack, walk down Istanbul's busiest avenue and hand them out to all and any attractive ladies I came across, ripple-firing them like an attacking airplane on a strafing run - packets of information and narrative shot out in a swashbuckling quest for lust and social capital. But back to the prints now - here is how I designed them:

I started with a simple, A5-sized sketch. I had no idea about the main design - I mostly wanted to see which details I should include in the area below it. I wanted my prints to have blank areas I could fill out for their recipients, their date and edition numbers. I also added an official-form-like section which I could sign, or imprint with my personal stamp.

 I then started working on the design. I first sketched out this toothy, crocodile-like beast.

Over successive versions, I turned the creature into a six-legged, dragon-like beast with many eyes, and added other details such as the moon, and a black-winged angel figure.

In this version, I cleaned up certain excessive details, such as the many horn-like protrusions on the creature's back, and parts of the hair and the face of the winged figure, which had caused her to look unintentionally like Cher or Nicki Minaj. But the image still looked too cluttered.

In one bold step, I returned to my original sketch and got rid of all the excess figures around the monster. The print was much more impacting this way. I also added my website to the bottom of the card. 

Next, I went to an old-fashioned print shop and produced an aluminium plate to print my cards.

 I had over 1600 copies of my memento print produced. 

Since printing them two weeks ago, I've made a habit of carrying several dozen copies of my prints, as well as a log book of their editions, on my person at all times. The prints work amazingly as social ice-breakers and conversation pieces, and are becoming very popular among my friends. If you meet me in person, I may give one to you as well.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

An Unusual Sheep in the Middle of a Blizzard - Winter in Istanbul

Last week, in January 2015, cold weather and heavy snowstorms descended upon Istanbul. For one week, the city was covered with a blanket of snow. 

During one such snowstorm, I went out on a walk to Istanbul's now-famous Gezi Park, which was the flashpoint of massive public protests two years ago.

Under blizzard-like conditions, the park was transformed into a surreal place - a winter woodland dropped in the middle of a chaotic megalopolis. After walking around the park for a while, I had a bizarre encounter with this guy, accompanied by a cute, friendly-looking sheep, dyed with bright coat of orange henna paint.  

The sheep looked like it was very well cared-for. It was also acting quite intelligently, following its owner like a pet dog.

The guy then let Arab tourists take pictures with the sheep in exchange for a little cash.


It is a rural Anatolian tradition to dye a sheep with henna and parade it around before slaughtering it for its meat. I first thought the man was doing the same with his pet. However, it seemed a bit strange to do the henna-parade in the middle of a blizzard, in the busiest part of the city. At any rate, the sheep and the guy seemed too happy and too well-accustomed to each other for their relation to be a purely dietary one.

A brief web search confirmed my theory - the sheep and its eccentric owner were photographed by another expat blogger in Istanbul a few months before. I was happy that this cute animal was not destined for ritual slaughter.

Update (2016):

I later learnt that this gentleman's name was Lokman Kürşat - and in July 2016, he sacrificed his longtime companion "amid sounds of prayers to honour the survival of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Chief-of-Staff Hulusi Akar" after the cryptic and brutal coup attempt that summer. According to a local news report Kürşat said the following about his cathartic decision:

"My henna-sheep was my closest friend. I had four children, and she was the fifth. For more than five years, we were together on our travels. When the coup took place, I was at the airport. I said to myself: 'If we make it through this coup, if our statesmen survive, I will sacrifice her'. The coup was then averted, and I sacrificed my friend as a gift to everyone who died that night."