The Drawing On Istanbul Project



STATESIDE: Available now through Editor’s Choice at 

Available through AMAZON.COM at 

HERE IN ISTANBULSigned copies in Sultanahmet, at Jennifer’s Hamam in the Arasta Bazaar. …………………………….. Grand Bazaar: Ak Gumus near the Post Office………………………

BOOKSTORES: Robinson Crusoe, Molly’s Cafe, D&R, Remzi Kitabevi, Mephisto, Türku, Kitabevi, Inkitap, Ara, and so many others I can’t keep track. We like this. 

STORIES OF ISTANBUL TOURS: You can book a group tour with me through UNISON TRAVEL in ISTANBUL. Wander through history hearing stores of intrigue, romance, seduction, mayhem and redemption that make the monuments come alive.

Sketchbooks tweaked

ENTIRE SKETCHBOOKS FOR SALE.  During the Gezi Park Demonstrations, as sirens went off outside my apartment and gas crept up around the balcony, I decided to sell the these old friends, the original sketchbooks. I’ll continue to create them, and to use the art in this blog, working from scans as I always have. But I want the original work to be safe, loved, and out in the world. I will find a person or persons who will cherish this work and protect it as I have. These books contain all but a few of the drawings that appear on this blog. Each drawing has a title; each sketchbook has a title and a theme. If you are interested in owning a part of this journey, drawn on the spot as it happened, unedited and with the original comments and notes intact, contact me through the comment section on this blog.

NEW STORE ON ETSY.COM. Signed limited edition prints from the Drawing On Istanbul Series available at the DrawingOnIstanbul Store at Gorgeous prints on thick rag paper. Sketchbook centerline removed. I do all my own pre-press, and I supervise print production. When I sell an original drawing, I hang up one of these, and my eyes don’t know the difference. Prices $120-200 through PayPal. Do your bit for the arts!


Balkan Strip w 1

THE PROJECT Since 1999, I’ve been creating an ongoing documentation, in drawings augmented by written vignettes, of life in Turkey. There are now about 2000 sketchbook and free-standing drawings, with about 100 polished written pieces.  Turkey’s growing recognition as a pivotal world power, tourist destination, and host to the genesis of much of Western culture makes this work increasingly relevant. In addition, much of the subject matter has been irrevocably altered or destroyed since I drew it, so the Drawing on Istanbul database is  a unique record of the way Turkey looked during this shifting, changing time in world history.

Balkan Strip w 2

The drawings are by no means limited to Istanbul. I’ve drawn as far north as Plovdiv, Bulgaria, down the Western coast of Turkey along the Aegean and Mediterranean, a whole lot in Cappadocia, and as far East as the drowning city of Hasankeyf. I’ve drawn in village kitchens, ancient ruins, by the side of the road, out the window of the train. I’ve drawn in the dark, at the beach, on the plane and bouncing in the back of the bus. I haven’t stopped drawing for the past fourteen years and I still haven’t drawn enough. I do this project with a combination of love and stubbornness.  There is no official funding of any kind. Then again, nobody asked me to do this.  And it’s been damned expensive, involving in the early days catastrophic illness, financial ruin, and a broken heart, all now repaired. The clients I have I consider art angels. And there are many of them, helping to keep this project going. Everyone who buys a print or commissions a piece is continuing this project.

Balkan Strip w 3

I’ve felt many times as though I traded a fine full Los Angeles life for a pile of sketchbooks. Yet the work just keeps happening. I find myself compelled to continue despite all obstacles. What keeps me going? To draw something is to own it. I’m uncomfortable around something fascinating until I’ve drawn it. Then I have it forever, inside and on the page, and I’m at peace. I draw things that I love because I can’t protect them. When they are threatened or destroyed, the drawings are my comfort. If something frightens me and I draw it, I get over my fear. And mostly, it’s a celebration of what I experience. No matter what happens, I just keep drawing.

Balkan Strip w 4
Photos of TV drawing in the park © 2013 by Selen Balkan.


The main body of artwork exists in sketchbook format. Each sketchbook has a name and a personality. Their timespans range from three weeks to eighteen months. The drawings include a lot of annotations, which I am told add greatly to their interest.

The scans from these sketchbooks, organized by book, form an entire database illustrating my life in Turkey: each drawing titled, dated, and numbered according to sketchbook, along with all of the standalone drawings. This is a monster project and I do my best to keep up with all the scanning and uploading, but I’m many drawings short of scanning everything.  On my website, I’ve organized the work according to subject: i.e.: Istanbul People. If you don’t see something on the site, let me know and I’ll try to get it up there. The website, which includes a fair selection of my digital work, is always expanding.

Stand-alone drawings measure 35 or 50cm X 70 cm. These also include an exclusive recorded voice description of the site. The drawings are portraits of a place at a particular time, both evocative and accurate, taking up to 45 hours of on-site drawing.

There are 30 sketchbooks at present, with between 30 and 70 double-page drawings in each. These double-page drawings measure 18 X 52 cm. For shows, and for clients, I create prints, with a very few originals ripped from the sketchbooks. The prints are same-size C-prints, with the centerline removed. I do all my own pre-press work and supervise all print production.


DOI 1 Cover Scan

The first collection of  drawings, DRAWING ON ISTANBUL / ISTANBUL IZLERI, was published by a small Turkish company in Istanbul in fall of 2006. Despite almost no promotion, this little perfect-bound paperback book received a great deal of attention. My project and I have been interviewed in Zaman, Hurriyet, The Guide, Turkish Daily News, Time-Out, Swissper, Amazon, Gate 04, and many others, and by Turkey travel writers Tom Brosnahan, Kathy Hamilton and Pat Yale. I’ve appeared on Turkish television to the extent of getting recognized in the street. People tell me that my work inspired them to come here, and to come back. Turkish people and tourists alike love this work. When I’m out drawing, people are so flabbergasted to see an artist, they stop and exclaim and take my picture and send it to me on Facebook, they buy my book and put me up on blogs and call their relatives at the news agencies. It’s wonderful.

We moved 5000 copies of Drawing On Istanbul.


Papzoglu Han 72HANS: People in the workplace. Drawings of people in their work area, with equal emphasis on portrait and surrounding.  Papazoglu Han, 2011. Osman Abali takes the money for the washroom at this plastic-festooned antique han (workplace) near Rustem Pasha Mosque in the Spice Bazaar. These hans are listed in guidebooks as 16th century, but the herringbone-pattern bricks above Osman’s head are Byzantine, possibly 5th century. The flat brickwork above is definitely 16th century Ottoman. Osman’s Adidas hat is dates the drawing to now. This multiplicity of eras in a single glance is particular to Istanbul, worth any amount of drawing time.

Brokedown Palace: Drawing the Boukoleon. You can follow this one on this blog. My client Donna Perkins of Alberta, Canada, is funding a series of extensive standalone drawings of this crumbling, endangered 9th-century Byzantine palace, vibrating with each train that runs through it, fenced off, dreaming by the sea. Kudos to Donna for making this project possible.

Brokedown Palace 72


TV 2012 full
TV 2012

Los Angeles artist Trici Venola comes from a background of hi-profile digital art creation. Words like groundbreaking and cutting edge are used to describe her work from1984-1999, when she was a premier digital artist, lecturer and MacEvangelist. In the early days of the Macintosh, she authored a series of art software programs that raised the industry standard and attracted the attention of clients such as Disney, Apple, Super Mario and Paramount Pictures. During the changeover to digital art in the entertainment industry, she was asked into the studios to teach their artists how to create art on a computer. She was one of the first digital artists to show her work in galleries, and her digital fine art was featured in magazines and exhibitions worldwide. In 1999 Venola left the digital world to travel and draw in Turkey. She still creates art onscreen, and applies her computer art skills to doing her own pre-press work on her analog drawings. Her stories about Turkey have been published in Tales from the Expat Harem (Dogan, 2005), Best Travel Writing 2006 and Encounters with the Middle East (Travelers’ Tales, 2006 and 2008.) She lives in Istanbul.

–Swissper Magazine 

Trici at Buyuk Valide bxwTrici Venola drawing Buyuk Valide Han appears on page 79 of ISTANBUL, The Ultimate Guide by Saffret Emre Tonguç and Pat Yale

“Meeting you is like getting hit by a binary bullet. Your work blows me away.” -Wesley Agor-Bell, young British musician touring Istanbul.



  1. Ann Marie Mershon


    I had no idea you were still in Istanbul–so sorry! I am back only one day, Sunday, February 12th, and i leave the next morning. It was just a semester this time, and it went quickly!

    Your web site is AWESOME! (as is your artwork) It’s great to see you’re still doing all this. If there’s any way I can sign up to get notices when you post, I’d appreciate that. I don’t see that I can.

    1. tricivenola

      Thanks, Ann! High praise indeed coming from you. I love YOUR blog. I think you can “follow” this. As we’re Facebook friends, it should show up in your News Feed. You can also follow on Twitter. Good luck in Taiwan and hurry back!

    1. tricivenola

      Thank you for your kind words! Actually Drawing On Istanbul is a 12-year project…so far. Stay tuned, another blog coming this week.

  2. David Ferguson-Sharp

    Hey Trici,

    I don’t know if you remember but I was one of the australian boys who chatted to you at the Hagia Sophia. You asked me to email you the photos of you sketching but I cannot find your email address here.

    If you send me one i can reply with the pics.



    1. tricivenola

      Say, thanks, David. Check your email, I sent it!

  3. Petar Garbelli Milan's University Science of Architecture Course.

    Good morning tricivenola i see that you spent a lot of time and a lot of energy drawing istanbul views, so I wuold ask you some information about istanbul.
    I am making a research about istanbul, i found a lot of information on the web, but i want to enrich my research adding some picture and a little description of the sensation or emotion you experience during sketching or drawing process.
    If you are agree i would ask your email, in order to explain you better my resarch.
    Thank you very much.

  4. Barbara Nadel

    Trici, you know I’ve always loved your work and I can’t wait to see the new book when it comes out. You really capture the joy of Turkey for me. I love the connections you make between people, art, architecture and culture too. Keep on keeping on!

    1. tricivenola

      Thank you Barbara! High praise indeed…Wonderful to know this blog has friends in high places.

  5. Latéfa Skali

    J’ai été enchantée par votre rencontr, en plus dans ce musée tellement chargé d’émotions et d’histoire… J’espère vous revoir chez moi au Maroc où ailleurs. Bien cordialement! Latéfa

    1. tricivenola

      Je vous remercie pour vos aimables paroles, Latefa! J’ai aussi beaucoup aimé notre rencontre. J’espère que vous trouverez au Maroc, en Octobre. Best, Trici

  6. Osman

    Hello Trici,
    how are you. This is Osman, from Turkey – Istanbul Kalamar Restaurant.

  7. Arun

    Hello Trici, hope your sketches are coming along well. its been about a week since we’ve been back.
    I took a look at my pictures from the trip…and i must say they are dull compared to your sketches. The book is a prized possession. wish you much enjoyment with sketching and story telling. keep them coming. if you have plans of visiting Germany, please let us know.

  8. Eat with Me Istanbul

    I am always envious of artists. I love people doing out of the ordinary things, not conventional things. I am a quite unusual foodie, who blogs about strange themes. I discovered your blog while looking for inspirations. Thank you.

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