Painters at Painter’s, Campbell River

Every year art aficionados gather at Painters Lodge in Campbell River on Vancouver Island to rub shoulders with local artists. This year, the 21st year of the Painters at Painter’s art extravaganza, saw yours truly and seven of the Turkish Ten converge on Campbell River for this event.

The Lodge is very nice, situated on several waterfront acres facing Quadra Island, with gorgeous gardens (and flowers blooming several weeks ahead of schedule – global climate change, anyone?) and several buildings worth of rooms. Another nice feature is the pool, a real sun trap on what turned out to be a fabulous hot summery weekend.

Lidia was kind enough to invite us over for drinks and nibblies to her waterfront room on Friday night and we convened at Kathy’s home on the hill overlooking the ocean on Saturday night. While the art work on display at Painter’s was mostly not of interest to me, I did appreciate the skill evidenced and some of the technical info dispensed at the various workshops.

The weekend consisted of presentations, demonstrations, and panel discussions by painters, mostly local and mostly associated with the Federation of Canadian Artists, held in several different venues around the grounds. First up, in the big tent on the tennis courts, was “Face to Face”.

Four artists demonstrated their varying approaches to portrait painting, with fellow artist Rick McDiarmid the willing model and Andy Wooldridge the MC. Kiff Holland opted for pastel, while David Goatley & Catherine Moffat used oil paints and Alan Wylie acrylic. The tent was very well set up, with two large screens on either side of the stage displaying close-ups of the paintings as they progressed.

It was very interesting to see how each artist began the project. It was obvious watching David that here was a man who does this for a living. He very quickly drew out and blocked in the bust of his subject, using swift and sure brush strokes.

Catherine was more tentative and worked from the outside of the face in with light, grey strokes.

Kiff’s pastel portrait began with what looked to be a not very promising sketch of the model’s features but soon resolved into something finely realised. From my vantage point it was not possible to see much of what Alan was doing.

Master of ceremonies Andy Wooldridge was both amusing and informative as he commented on the proceedings and answered questions from the audience. In fact, the commentary seemed to me like that heard while watching a snooker championship or a poker game.

That this event continues to get such a large audience every year is testament to the abilities of these folks to engage onlookers in their process.

Up next was Country Mouse, City Mouse, an account of the careers and studios of Nanaimo artists Grant Leier and Nixie Barton, whose work I do enjoy.

Nixie works in encaustic, executing semi-abstract images of flowers and patterns. Grant’s work is unabashedly decorative, highly detailed and colourful; his intent is to give pleasure and that obviously works for the many people who buy his paintings.

Ten of us convened for the famous brunch in the main building and consumed quantities of seafood, roast lamb, salad, roasted veggies, and a vast array of sweets – fabulous.

The afternoon saw several of us poolside, baking in the heat and dipping in the water, after checking out a few minutes of Keith Hiscock’s still life demo and before a panel discussion with six of the artists moderated by Nicholas Pearce.

Since I have heard, and participated in, these sorts of discussions about art more times than I can count, their conclusions didn’t particularly grip me. However, the rest of the audience seemed to appreciate what these artists had to say and gave them a warm round of applause. It must be very satisfying for these folks to have such an enthusiastic following of art lovers.

On Sunday morning three of us took the water taxi across to the April Point resort and had a stroll around the grounds, with a nice view of the islands and mountains of the coast, before another fabulous feast, after which we rolled back down the highway and onto the ferry.

In the waters around April Point orange sea urchins are very plentiful, but very few starfish, only a couple of ten-armed orange seastars clinging to the rocks.

See more photos here  Painters at Painter’s.

Turkey Art Adventure Sept 27 to Oct 10, 2015

I am really excited to have been asked to lead a small group tour to Turkey this Fall with Finisterra Travel. See the itinerary here.

See my blog posts here for my 2014 painting trip to Turkey here.

Read about my month as artist in residence at the Babayan Art House, Ibrahimpasa, Turkey in March 2009 on the blog here.

Read about my month as artist in residence at the Gumusluk Academy on the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey for May 2009 here.

Rockin’ art show and carpets

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Alison had suggested to Eljay that we have a show of our work at the Tuesday Gokcebel Market; that wasn’t a go but the man who runs the village store and tea house agreed to let us have an exhibition under the pergola in the teahouse, located just outside the store at the top of the village a few steps from the Stone House. Everyone was pretty excited about it and Eljay went around the neighbourhood drumming up an audience for us.

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At the appointed time, 11 am on Saturday morning, we grabbed our oil, acrylic, and water colour paintings, collages, and drawings, as well as easels and boards to display them on, and headed up the road in an art convoy. We arranged the easels and boards around the periphery of the space and sat down with a cup of cay to wait for the art-loving hoards we were sure were just about to descend on us.

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Our first visitors were an archeologist and his wife who were very pleased that we were bringing culture to the small village; he and Eljay arranged to meet later on to discuss collaboration possibilities.

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Everyone was very enthusiastic but the most engaged visitors were a group of young boys who spent quite a long time looking intently at everything and pointing out details of the paintings to one another. They were especially interested in the things they recognised – views of the mosque, mostly – and the Ebru paper marbling.

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One young boy was very taken with Su’s Ebru work and she kindly gave him a small piece.

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Lidia and I gave the store proprietor our oil paintings as a thank you for letting us show in his space. He seemed pleased and told Eljay that he was going to put them up on his wall.

For our last afternoon and evening together, Eljay had arranged for us to go to a carpet village in the hills not too far from Hikmet’s place so we all piled into a dolmus hired by the carpet man after taking the show down. Our driver, an experienced dolmus dude, drove very quickly down the highway, too quickly for my liking (but then I am a bit paranoid), particulariy considering that as we went along a storm gathered and it started to rain buckets.Our man zoomed through huge puddles, throwing up gallons of water from the wheels as he sped along. Needless to say we made good time to the village, arriving in one piece as the rain subsided.

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We were met at the end of the line by Hyati, the village mayor, carpet purveyor, and money man, a very lively gentleman who showed us around the town. First we had a look at the wares for sale in the local store, all a bit dusty, then he took us up onto the roof to appreciate the view out over the valley. After Hikmet accidentally hosed him down with water he explained that next year, this rooftop area will be a restaurant and bar where he intends to hold dancing contests for women – he invited us all to come back and give it a whirl.

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This village seemed much wealthier than Hikmet’s; each home had a tractor and several farm animals, either in a separate out building or in the basement of the main house. There were also quite a few abandoned old stone houses, some very old, in amongst the newer ones.

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This cocky fellow walked busily back and forth crowing as we inspected his pen.

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Hyati explained how the villagers dyed the carpet wool with various vegetables, each giving the wool its characteristic colour.

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We had a look inside one of the village houses where a young teenage girl was more interested in the game show on TV than in the visitors to her home. I wondered how many people Hyati had brought trudging through this house over the years.

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We passed the teahouse full of men all staring at us and entered the mosque after donning head scarves; inside Hyati explained how the mosque functioned and gave both Su and I the Imam’s gear to wear.

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I thought it was a pretty good look, especially the fancy hat.

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When our village walkabout was complete, we walked to Hyati’s home and sat ourselves down in the large chill out area where his wife had prepared dinner for us. She looked none too thrilled to be hosting this group and Lidia inquired as to whether we could invite her to join us. However, that was a definite no go.

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When our dinner was concluded, we were ushered into the carpet showroom and the dance began. While Hyati described each carpet, his helpers, including Osman, the carpet co-op director, and our bus driver, brought out the merchandise one piece by one piece.

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As the carpet pile got bigger, and the booze was flowing, our group got more and more excited. Su broke the ice with the first buy and then it was off to the races.

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Carpets were flying and a buying frenzy ensued, with almost all of our group emerging with a treasured purchase. Liz was hesitating, wondering about the size, and the men tried to encourage her by wrapping her up in the prospective carpet but unfortunately it ended up being too big for her space. Great fun was had by all!

Watercolour in Gumusluk

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One of our last painting excursions here at the Stone House was the afternoon trip to Gumusluk for water colour painting of water and reflections to practice the techniques Eljay had discussed in the morning. The fourty minute drive took us along the coast around the peninsula from Yalikavak to the small former fishing village of Gumusluk, in antiquity the Carian city of Myndos, ruled by Mausolus, he of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus fame.

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Gumusluk is lovely and, because of its heritage status, relatively unspoiled. No mega developments are allowed here and excavations are ongoing. Some of the old city walls and foundations can be seen under the water in the bay and archeologists are excavating Rabbit Island, just over the causeway.

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Maggie, Janet, and I picked a spot at the first beach loungers we saw, and set up our painting gear there with a great view of the headland and the Greek islands beyond. On the beach I was delighted to see several gigantic korek plants painted white festooned with hanging kabak lanterns.

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After a hard afternoon of watercolour painting, we assembled and straggled into the beachside restaurant for a nice fish dinner before rolling back to the ranch satiated.

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Boating from Bodrum

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Eljay had planned a boat trip for us with her friend Burhan but we had no idea that the boat would be so fantastic. Everyone was amazed as we were escorted to the dock to see a seventy foot teak two masted gulet docked and waiting for us. I loved seeing the smiles on the faces of the group as they boarded the gangplank.

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The boat had several levels of seating area, all with pads and padded seats for lounging, and a huge covered deck area with a large table around which all of us could fit for lunch.

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After pulling away from the Bodrum harbour we cruised past the castle and around the coastline to Aquarium Bay, a protected cove with many small colourful fish. A few boats were already there when we arrived but our captain proceeded to come in close to shore and take the best mooring spot in the bay.

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Almost everyone jumped into the incredible cerulean blue water here and enjoyed a swim in the very salty water. Maggie, Su, and Liz did a few little synchronised swimming moves to the delight of onlookers.

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As we cruised over to Karaada (Black Island), the clouds massed above us and it looked like rain but when we turned the corner of the island, the clouds dispersed and it got very sunny and hot. Passing several tourist boats, we anchored at the island for lunch.

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Our captain was also the chef; he used to cook for a restaurant in Istanbul before becoming a boat captain and was his food ever delicious. Lunch consisted of cigar borek, pastry with cheese and spinach, rice pilaf, a green salad, and whole grilled sea bream fish – delicious!

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After lunch we were lounging deckside and what should pull up but a small runabout, the ice cream boat. Barb was kind enough to buy me a Magnum bar for dessert.

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A great day out on the water was had by all.

 

 

Magical Ebru

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Today we were introduced to a wonderful art technique – ebru, Turkish paper marbling. Hikmet laid out all the supplies on our outdoor dining table and explained how the procedure worked. A kind of sizing or gum Arabic is mixed into water to create a thickish gluey liquid paste which is then poured into shallow trays of various sizes. Hikmet had several small jars of coloured inks made from animal bile, an oil-based medium, and brushes, metal pokers, and paper.

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Into the bed of liquid she flicked brushes loaded with ink; these ink drops then spread open on the surface of the water. Into these drops she flicked other coloured drops, building up a layer of colour covering the shallow surface of the bath. A sheet of paper was then carefully put onto the resulting patterning, pressed down lightly, and then dragged through the water and pulled off, the coloured pattern coming off the surface of the water onto the paper – magic! The results were really great.

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Each of us made several sheets of ebru using various techniques to build up the patterning. The small metal poker was used to draw onto the surface of the ink, causing the circular forms to become hearts or wavy lines. As well, we had three small rakes to draw through the ink, making other kinds of patterning.

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After the paper is drawn out of the bath, it is then washed and hung up to dry. A bit unfortunately, the day was really, really blustery so the pieces of paper were swinging and dancing around quite violently on the clothes line. Barb and Maggie both printed onto their clothing, with good results. See more info on paper marbling here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_marbling

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From Acrylic Painting to Ephesus

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Monday’s art activities included “breaking the rules”, fauvist still lives a la turca. Eljay broke out the kits of bright acrylic colours and everyone proceeded to revel in the sun and the glory of unadulterated colour. Several people made more than one painting; it was very enjoyable to spend the sunny day in the garden painting.

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Tuesday morning dawned grey and not too hot, a perfect day for experiencing the large ruin site of Ephesus, the crown jewel of Turkish ancient cities, billed as the best-preserved site in the Eastern Mediterranean. I have been here on a couple of previous occasions; this time the somewhat poor weather meant a more pleasant visit, with fewer visitors and less discomfort from the heat and blazing sun of previous years. We boarded the bus at eight am and hit the road heading north, with a stop in a Guvercinlik village harbour tea shop for tea and pastries.

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After a drive of about two and a half hours we arrived at Ephesus and spent a further two and a half hours wandering through the ruins, spending some time atop the highest rung of seats in the bouleterion and the great theatre. I saw a few more areas of the site this time, including the inscription museum section. Barb and I also spent a bit of time in the Church of Mary, where the octagonal adult baptismal font fascinated me. It was a keyhole shaped pool with stairs at either end, allowing the person being baptised to immerse herself in water up to about neck depth. Surprisingly, Lidia and I both ran into Mete, our guide from a previous visit to Turkey, now based in Kusadasi and leading day trips to Ephesus.

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Our ruin visit concluded, we drove to Selcuk for lunch, scarfing down a huge pile of pide, kofte, and tea while watching a beautiful and large van cat, white with one blue and one green eye, watch us. After lunch shopping was necessary for most of the group, including purchases of jewellery and green leather boots. Overhead we could see gigantic storks winging their way around the city. Selcuk is known for its storks; the huge birds roost on almost every tall post, including light standards and mosque minarets.

 

 

 

Gobbling Down Gypsy Chicken in Gokpinar

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People continue to put out some great stuff here at the Old Stone House – here are some samples of the collage work our group executed on the theme of the four seasons of our lives, led by Hikmet.

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Another day, another great feast of food – Eljay treated the group to a typical Turkish village breakfast at the local Kahvalti Yeri (Breakfast Place), an eatery know far and wide for its great big breakfasts. We were there right when the place opened at ten in the morning and seated around one big table were fed dish after dish of tomatoes, cucumber, olives, cheese, bread out of a stone oven, borek, eight different kinds of jams, and eggs. When finished with this, we were whisked off in a midibus for the ride out to Hikmet’s place in Gokpinar (Green Spring in English), in the hills past Mumcular.

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Gokpinar is definitely well off the tourist track, up and down a winding path through farming terraces and pine trees. Although our driver had to stop several times to ask for directions, we arrived without incident at Hikmet’s Guesthouse at the end of the road through the village. Her place is also an old stone house which she has fixed up for guests; it includes three bedrooms, a beautiful big dining area and a sitting area with many colourful rugs, kilim, Hikmet’s bright abstract paintings, and lots of different objets d’arte.

The house faces west and is situated on a terraced property overlooking the rolling hills dropping down to the Aegean Sea beyond. Below the house, which has a lovely outdoor eating area, is a large garden and chicken run. Our plan was to make and eat some traditional Turkish food. Her neighbour Gunda came over to show us how to make “Lazy Ladies Baklava”, a dish which involved rolling out special dough into very large thin circular pancakes, topping them with crushed walnuts (which we crushed ourselves), and then popping the rolls into a large pan, drizzling them with sugar water, and baking them in the oven.

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While we were waiting for the baklava to bake, Hikmet took us on a tour of her small village. Just past her place is an enormous new home in the process of being built, a marble palace with pseudo-Greek pillars and a huge marble wall encircling the entire property. It is ghastly, in terrible taste and completely inappropriate for the area. Lidia and I wondered what the neighbours thought about it.

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Just across the path from this monstrosity we visited the oldest house in the village, a small, dark, very humble abode in which a one-eyed man sat carving wooden implements while his ancient wife watched.  I was very surprised to be told that she was seventy-seven, since she appeared to me to be at least one hundred and fourty. Several of our party purchased some of his wares and then we were off down the road to look at the old Roman walls, a couple of big rocks that Hikmet thought might have been graves, a village woman chopping wood with a gigantic ax, and a female shepherd with her cattle.

Once back at the house, we gathered vegetables from Hikmet’s huge garden – peas, potatoes, peppers, cucumber, and eggplant – and made cold mezes by chopping and grinding the vegetables into different purees for dipping. At one point there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm with torrential rain, at another point the power went out and we cooked in the dark, and finally the piece de resistance, Gypsy Chicken, was ready to be prepared. This involved creating a fire pit, pushing three multi-pronged sticks into the ground onto each of which was pressed a whole raw chicken, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Over top of these food pillars Nihat put three very large metal olive oil cans which were then surrounded with grass set alight. Usually this meal takes about 20 minutes to cook, but because the ground and grass were wet from the rainstorm, the whole process took about an hour. In the meantime we sampled the local village vintage and chowed down on mezes. The food flowed non-stop, each person getting a quarter chicken and veggies, as well as a generous helping of meze. Fantastic! Finally, we took pity on the poor old bus driver who was waiting all day for us and headed back down the dark highway back to town for a midnight arrival.

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Art in Iassos

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Friday morning we had an all day excursion to the ruined Greco-Roman city of Iassos, about an hour and a half north of Gokcebel. We rolled out in a convoy of two vehicles, heading through Torba, past Guvercinlik, past the atrocious monstrosity of an illegal hotel put up by Erdogan and his people, up and over a mountain, down the other side to the back of beyond – Iassos – passing forests of dry brown korek plants on the way. A former Roman city with a small harbour, Iassos is only partially excavated. Apparently it will rival Ephesus when it’s finally done many moons from now. We had a cup of tea at the fish restaurant fronting the harbour, with a view of the Byzantine Palace floating on the water, and then headed with all our painting gear to select a site for the next painting project.

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People stationed themselves throughout the agora, picking a place from which a good perspective view could be seen. Eljay wanted us to execute a small thumbnail sketch, and then a painting or pastel drawing focusing on perspective.

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I found a spot under an olive tree facing the bouleterion, a small theatre-like space used by the senate in Roman times, and did a painting of the recession of columns and the green hills in the distance. Most found this assignment a bit tricky, perspective being something that usually does not come easily. However, everyone gave it a go and it was interesting to see the variety of results. A couple of small tortoises wandered through our group and I saw several black lizards darting among the rocks; while walking across the stones, I was stung by some kind of insect but luckily it did not swell up – just hurt for a few moments.

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Due to its location, its marble and fishing, Iassos had been inhabited since the earliest days of the history. The city was founded by Greek colonists coming from Argos in the 9th century BC and then inhabited by immigrants from Miletus. In addition, Italian archaeologists have found Minoan houses and Mycenaean pottery which indicates that the site had been inhabited at much earlier date than arrival of the Greeks.

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The digs started 1960s reveled that oldest part of Iassos was on the top of Acropolis hill, later taken over by the Byzantine fortress. These show some similarities between the Crete, Greece and Anatolian cultures. The chief divinities of Iassos were Apollo and Artemis. One of the inscriptions discovered in Iassos mentions Artemis Astias, apparently a mixture of the old Carian deity Goddess and Artemis the hunter. Her temple had an unroofed cella. As well, the theatre and festivals arranged for Dionysus show the importance of the god Dionysus in Iassos. More info and pictures of Iassos here.

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Later in the afternoon, after a huge meal of meze, salad, fries, and fish, some people walked up to the acropolis to see the mosaics, others dipped their feet in the harbour, and Lidia, Eljay, and I drove to the little museum, hoping to get a look at the artifacts removed from the ruin site; however, it was closed and no-one about to open the door. After gathering everyone up, we were off down the road in the setting sun to close another great day here on the peninsula.

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Out and About on the peninsula

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After a hard morning of finishing up our oil paintings onsite, we rolled out in three vehicles in the direction of Ortakent for a visit to Dibeklihan in Yakakoy. This place is a modern building constructed in the form of an old Ottoman Palace – it is much like the Bodrum Castle except on a smaller scale, with towers, turrets, and terraces overlooking the valley.

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On its premises are contained two contemporary art galleries, a small Ottoman Museum with artifacts from the sultan era, three café-bars, and several shops, including some very nice silver jewellery. We saw a very interesting exhibition of paintings by a local artist named Fatih Urunc, an alcoholic who died of booze poisoning at the age of 46.

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Hikmet knew him and told us that he used to wander through Bodrum, paintings under his arm, and sell them for a few lire whenever he needed another drink. The work reminded me a bit of Basquiat, very colourful and full of crazy characters, including a smoking grey cat with blue eyes who resurfaces in several visual narratives.

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In the other gallery an exhibition of work inspired by the Gezi Park demonstrations of last year and the Soma mine disaster was installed. Carnation images were used to memorialise the dead. After viewing the art, several of us had some lovely white wine in the Film Bar upstairs, seated in chairs inscribed with the names of various movie directors – I was John Ford.

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Today the entire group took the dolmus down to Yalikavak Market where we wandered through the various stalls and sampled some of the local cuisine. I tried to bargain unsuccessfully for a few jewellery items and ended up with a small scarf instead. After a cup of tea at a ringside seat we hustled back to the otogar for the minibus home; unfortunately a couple of members of our group were kicked off the bus because the driver would not take any standing passengers, likely because the police were there and he was afraid of getting a ticket.

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The afternoon’s life drawing exercise by the pool was a great success. We drew several 5 minute poses by Hikmet and Eljay, then a couple of ten minute ones using charcoal sticks. The improvement in everyone’s drawings from first to last was quite substantial.

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Finally, to complete the day the ten of us were driven down to a seaside restaurant, where a beach table had been reserved for us for dinner. Unfortunately, the weather had changed and it was looking a bit dark so we opted for a table inside instead. Cold mezes, coban salata, and a main course of sea bass and shrimp was consumed along with copious quantities of red and white wine. Being the only people in the restaurant, we got quite raucous and gave the staff quite an interesting time, I’m sure. Janet played Mary Poppins on the beach with Maggie’s five lire Istanbul umbrella which blew inside out and broke after about ten seconds. After cavorting on the beach in the rain, we were escorted into two taxis for the ride back to the ranch.

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While we were gone, Eljay had a terrible fall while running on the wet pavement to put our art work inside so it would not be damaged by the rain. Luckily, she was only bruised rather than broken, but it will take a few days for her to heal.