How I started my art journey?

General / 02 October 2018

I am sure, most of the people who are reading this have drawn most of their lives, but my story is quite different. Even though I sketched casually from time to time, I didn't put serious effort into art until the ripe age of 29. I am from Turkey and in Turkey art is frowned upon, seen as a waste of one's time. You can watch tv all day, play games all day; no problem. They are basic and common ways to live your life. But if you start putting pen on paper, people start criticizing you for wasting your life. Strange. 

I have spent the majority of my youth reading. I'll digress a bit but it is believed in Turkey that if you read a lot you will definitely go crazy. But I have never seen a crazy guy who admits that he had gone crazy, so I might actually be one. Crazy or not, I believe that we humans organize our lives based on a story we form about the world around us. In my opinion, what reading does is expanding your horizon, adding new elements to your story. As your story grows and gets more complicated, you might start losing the common story elements of your own country, and your story, your way of living start seeming weird. 

Even though my story started contradicting the general story of Turkey at a young age, I ignored the mental dissonance and followed the common path successfully: although I hated every second of it, I went to business school, got my degree and started working at an insurance company and had a pretty good career path. I became a successful cog and worked hard to be an irreplaceable one. If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it, right? Right. I couldn't see a way out of the common path so I followed it blindly. 

Then something tragic happened. 

My father's nose started bleeding almost incessantly, and I forced him to go to the hospital. Standard procedures. Blood tests. Different diagnostic treatments. Then, the doctor wanted to talk to me privately. Strange. Melanoma. Six months. If you take good care of him that is. My father and I spent the next five months on different hospitals, different ER services. His organs started failing one after another and we battled. Battled hard. Over time, living in hospitals without a break started to take a toll on my psyche, and I didn't know how to release the stress. Father had to take intensive care, so I gave myself permission to walk around just half an hour per day. Didn't do much good, but I had no other way to cope with the stress of watching my father die one organ at a time. Walk, walk in circles. Try not to think. Fight another day. Fight harder. One day, I wandered into an old building next to the hospital we were staying and welcomed with a batch of paintings: State Museum of Painting and Sculpture. I lumbered around and around, not caring even a bit. Then I glanced at this: 


All the stress, all the pain, all the fear I have been carrying around broke lose. There was a chair nearby to enjoy this magnificent piece but instead of embracing the painting I slouched and cried for the first time. I didn't know back then, but this was the defining moment for the rest of my life. A new beginning...

For the next few weeks, I spent my personal half-hour in the museum, in front of this painting by Osman Hamdi Bey. I didn't care why, I didn't know how, but the painting spoke to me, lent me the power to continue fighting. So the little room that hosts the magnificent painting, which is called "arms dealer", became my mecca. I went there whenever I had a little time to spare. The museum guards got used to my haunting presence, became my friends; didn't bother or let anybody else to bother me... 

Father never left that hospital room...

I returned to my job, tried my best to fit back in. I couldn't. Forced myself to go on even though I despised everything. I became a resentful man. Lost the smile I always carried around. Unbearable. Then one day, I stumbled upon a youtube channel called Draw With Jazza, then found Schoolism, then Syncra... My interest in arts has never stopped growing since then. One day, six months prior to my thirtieth birthday, I finalized the decision that was lurking in my brain since the moment I burnt in front of the painting above: I was going to give up my previous life and start building a new one as an artist. No plan B. 

This was 28 months ago. Rebirth. Since then, I resigned my job, sold all my possessions and went to Florence to get an education. I returned back to Turkey with an empty pocket but a head full of knowledge, knowing that I still have a hard road ahead, working, thinking, laughing, training, and hopefully improving every day. I hope all those effort and sacrifices aren't in vain, I hope that I can make it and survive as an artist one day. 

If you are a similar soul, working hard to master the arts, young or old, please do not refrain to reach. I am sure we have a lot to teach each other. I believe no matter how tough the road, it becomes shorter and enjoyable with good company. I would love to share this journey with you. 

Happy drawing! 

P.S. While I was searching online for the painting to put into the text, I learned that the figure in reds was Osman Hamdi Bey, the painter himself and the guy in blue, standing with the sword was his son Ethem. Osman Hamdi advises his son to stay away from arms. The standing figure in the background is the arms dealer and is handing a burial robe to the sitting customer. They say the painting is meant to be read as: Everybody is mortal, but the ultimate winner would be the one who educates himself instead of wasting his youth with weapons. So fitting. 

Thanks for reading.