I sat in Sultan Ahmet Park and drew exterior of the Hagia Sophia
It is nearly 1,500 years old
It was built as a Christian Orthodox church
Then it served as a Latin Christian church
Until it was converted into a mosque
It has endured many conquests
Every conquerer found it too sublime to burn
It has housed everything
People fleeing invasion
Prayers of every sort
MG 08 machine guns
The ruins of pagan artifacts
Remains of royalty
Remains of the peasantry
Runic inscriptions
Greek crosses
Great medallions of Arabic calligraphy
A man came up to me and asked
"Why don't you just take a picture?"
I was 20 at the time
The drawing was rushed and not very good.
I was studying Islamic Art & Architecture
I asked to come to Istanbul because I became fascinated with Constantinople
The shapeshifting heart of four massive empires
I had never been to a mosque and had seen Hagia Sophia in photos
When I stepped inside, I covered my head and lost my breath
"The House of God" popped into my mind.
I was humbled to step foot in it.
I told him,
"I draw so I can see things better."
That's not really it
It is a monument worth lingering on
Eye, hands, and minds are unruly tools
But it was a joy look carefully and ask:
Just how tall is that minaret?
Why is one red and other others white?
What's the exact slope of that dome?
What is in those rounded chambers?
Is it older than all the surrounding trees?
Can I commit this to memory?
If not, can I commit this moment to paper?
I recall the certainty that I did not want to take a picture
One that would look worse than the hundreds of post cards for sale
I didn't want to prove that I had been there
Drawing is not about capture
I recall I almost said something like,
"I want to honor this place"
"I can't know it from a picture"
"Taking time is a form of worship"
"Drawing is sometimes like praying"
"Why would I want to leave?"
But none of those were right, either.
I've never been good at talking about art without being pretentious.
He smiled, nodded, and left.
I often think about this exchange when I'm making things.
Why not do it faster? Better?
Why make 100 silly, broken websites instead of making something useful?
Why preface everything I make with "it's just a stupid thing, for me"?
No good answers, other than:
I think I just like to make things the slow, awkward, wobbly way
and I should work on not being so shy about it
because I think it's worth doing.