Since the March-April issue of 2014, a new and original piece of art has appeared on the cover of The Guide Istanbul, with each city vignette drawn by Sedat Girgin. The young illustrator not only creates whimsical visions of the city but is also an up-and-coming children’s book artist who is taking Turkey by storm. Sedat Girgin's imaginative drawings of Istanbul have a handcrafted look that reflects the old soul and new spirit of the city.
Meet the artist
“My first arts and design education was at fine arts lycée in Istanbul. I passed the practical exam for a place at the school, and that changed my life. Then I studied in the industrial design department at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University,” Girgin recalls. “In the meantime I had started drawing, and I met children’s authors and started doing illustrations for magazines. Then the Internet came along and I realized that ‘illustrator’ was an actual career.”
The artist works from his home studio in Üsküdar, a district most famous for the iconic Maiden’s Tower. This is also one of the many landmarks that he transforms in his covers for The Guide Istanbul. But like any creative work, inspiration does not always come easily. “Galata Tower, Maiden’s Tower… Istanbul has a lot of iconic sights, but after a while you start going round in circles and the creative side becomes more difficult. So I try to make it more interesting by adding wit and humor. Once I’ve thought of the idea behind the cover then the rest is easier,” he says. In fact Galata Tower is one of Girgin’s favorite subjects, appearing on many of the covers: “I like the image of that stone tower on top of a chaotic pile of buildings.”
And at only 31 years old, Girgin has already illustrated more than 80 children’s books. His distinctive illustrations grace the pages of books such as the lauded Sefa the Lazy Fish by Tülin Kozikoğlu, recently included in the International Youth Library’s White Ravens Catalogue. After winning several awards in Turkey and abroad, Gigin is now a nominee for the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Awards – the world’s most prestigious prize for children’s authors and illustrators.
The growing popularity of illustrations
The illustrator is also positive about the growing popularity of this art in Turkey, especially among young people. His success is certainly a light for them to follow. “The interest in illustration now is good because that’s how it will develop. The older generation of illustrators are very few and had a limited market. But it’s opening up now to more people,” he says. As for himself, Girgin identifies his art with a long and precious tradition. “Illustration is an art that appeals to more people [than gallery art], and it’s more comprehensible. But actually, we can think of Biblical paintings from the Renaissance as a kind of illustration. In fact, even cave paintings can go into that category – the cave artists used pictures to tell stories from their lives.”
Whether we’re admiring cave paintings from thousands of years ago or painted works about our beloved Istanbul and Turkey featured on our magazine cover, the power of illustration to transport us to new places of inspiration is certainly an ever-present feature in Girgin’s works.
Girgin's personal favorites
Upon asking the illustrator about the favorite works he's contributed to The Guide Istanbul magazine, he states that his personal favorite so far is the March-April 2016 issue, which shows Galata Tower overgrown with flowers, like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. What could be more appropriate for the spring issue?
A second favorite is November-December 2014. This shows a street vendor pushing diners up a hill on top of his cart, reflecting the meyhane feature in the magazine.
Girgin told The Guide Istanbul about his cover for the magazine’s 150th issue, September-October 2016: “I made a little joke by drawing 150 stars that had fallen across Istanbul. The stars symbolize the ‘star spots’ that The Guide Istanbul writes about. At the same time it shows that every issue of the magazine is valuable like a star.”