Since 2014, a new and original piece of art has appeared on every cover of The Guide Istanbul, each city vignette drawn by Sedat Girgin. However, the young illustrator not only creates whimsical visions of the city for The Guide, he is also an up-and-coming children’s book artist who is taking Turkey by storm.
By Joshua Bruce Allen
Since the March-April issue of 2014, The Guide Istanbul has had a special guest on the cover of every issue. But unlike those inside the magazine, we do not see the cover celebrity’s face – because he is the cover artist, Sedat Girgin. His imaginative drawings of Istanbul have a handcrafted look that reflects the old soul and new spirit of the city.
His personal favorite so far is the March-April 2016 cover, 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 from November-December 2014. This one 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 they shows that every issue of the magazine is valuable like a star.”
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, Girgin is now a candidate for the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Awards – the world’s most prestigious prize for children’s authors and illustrators. But he hadn’t always dreamed of being an illustrator. “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 illustrator is also positive about the growing popularity of this art in Turkey, especially among young people. “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 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.”