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DOORS OF BYZANTIUM: Drawing the Boukoleon Palace Portals

5 LINING IT UP Sunday. The park is full of people picnicking. They’re so glad to get out by the water they don’t even notice the highway, families sitting two spits from the cars whooshing by. I got there late, just two hours to work, but these days I’m so excited about the project it’s sheer joy. At this point, the stuff is filling in fast. The weather is delicious, breezy and warm, crisp in the evenings. Bliss. And then, the first bloody insurmountable problem…

Normally I draw by finding the center and radiating outwards.  I draw the first thing and use it as a unit by which I measure everything else. The first unit on this drawing was the distance between the top left corner of the far portal and the iron strap wrapping it just below the first hole in the marble. Everything is either the same size or half or twice that distance. For positioning, I mentally think of a cross, for when I’m trying to find where the next line goes, everything is above or below, to the left or the right, of something else. In this way, the perspective comes out perfectly each time. And I’m working in ink.

The first Unit.

But did I trust this? No, I had to go and use pencil for this big fat drawing. Pencil, not too much, just major sweeping horizontal perspective lines. The one at the top of the portals, and the one at the bottom.

The top of the portals. Well, they’re not lined up. The center one has a lower lintel than the other two. And it has lost its top as well. The far right lintel- not drawn yet- is much smaller, but originally it lined up with the far left one.

So I recklessly drew that perspective line in pencil, because I could, and used it to determine the perspective of the center lintel. But it never looked quite right. Now I discover that the center portal is NOT the same perspective at all. Because, in its 1200 years it has… pleated slightly, in an accordion manner, and straightened out again by the right portal. Dayumn. Something– the railroad running through it, so it vibrates with each train, or the many earthquakes it has survived, or maybe when that top storey came down with the building of the highway– anyway, it ain’t straight. So I’ll have to see about chewing on those lines a bit, to make them look more like the thing itself. Rather than ripping it up I darkened the arch.

Just as the bricks began to get blurry, the affable guy appeared behind the fence, staggering and carrying a bottle. When someone walks like that they are drunk enough to get ugly. I started to pack up, I was done anyway. But he stopped. He stood on his side of the fence, staring with such longing, longing to be friends. I know that feeling. I could see myself through his eyes. He knew he was drunk and he was ashamed, and it was all hopeless. I wanted to tell him I understood, but I could only salute him. With his whole body he gestured back: What can we do? Like watching the tide go out, so sad. He turned unsteadily and stumbled away, past the scarred old stone window, past the crumbling Lighthouse, down the highway that used to be the sea.

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