Good things

Let's make some great art illustration

I stumbled upon this book, Let’s make some great art by Marion Deuchars, at the Museum of Modern Art here in Malmö last summer. I finally ordered it a couple of weeks ago and today it arrived in the mail. It’s got lots of simple and exciting exercises, like drawing upside down and making characters out of finger-prints. I feel energized when flipping through the pages. Certainly a good thing.

A few other good things:

Bright January days (sun and snow, even here in the south).

The latest album from Patrick Wolf, Sundark and riverlight, with reworked versions of some of my favorite songs of his.

Rereading Keri Smiths vision for a better world in this interview from 2007. A few examples: three-day work week, playgrounds based on using the imagination installed everywhere – for adults and kids, playtime implemented into work schedules, technology free days and complete reworking of the political system, making it based on human needs.

DIY planner for 2013, process pictures

Dummy planner

So, I made my own planner this year. Above is a picture of the scrap paper dummy version that I made, while thinking up how I wanted my planner to work. Calculating the amount of sheets I needed was fun, as well as sketching out the spreads and planning the content, but what I was most excited about was making the cover.

Here’s a few pictures. I decided I wanted to cut out the digits for 2013 on the front cover board:

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Once I had made the cut-outs, and let the cover boards dry, I decided I’d like to have a pattern or an illustration behind them. I ended up using a print-out of a collage that I made a few years ago. Before I glued it on I added adhesive plastic film on top of the print-out in an attempt to make it last longer. (I don’t really know what kind of challenges I need my book to be prepared for. Maybe this will prove to be a good move, maybe not.)

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For the pages themselves I used regular 90 g paper. I made 10 signatures consisting of 3 sheets each. The binding technique is basic codex (the same I use to make all of my journals) with copper-colored end papers.

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Every spread is hand drawn and I’m actually not finished making all of them yet. 53 weeks takes a bit of time. I’m pretty pleased with the lay-out of the weeks though, I like having a bit of space to write things down that has to do with week and not a particular day. (Or draw.)

I made a few more spreads than what was needed for the 53 weeks of this year. I plan on making room for a list of great reads during the year (not every book, just really significant ones) and I’ve already made a menstrual chart.

This is what the current week looks like. (I watched a documentary film about the Great Barrier Reef the other day and feel excited about colorful fish.)

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I’m curious to see what it will be like to use this planner. Will it hold up okay? Maybe it’s better to make the spine longer rather than having a wide book like this? Perhaps a plastic cover will hold up better than this fabric one? Will I love the layout of the spreads and the hand-made feel? Maybe I’ll never want a store-bought planner again. :)

Hello new year

2013 Planner

For the last few years I’ve had the privilege of using a beautiful planner called Alma made by Sepidar Hosseini and Moa Schulman with lots of illustrations by their classmates and freelancing friends. When I found out there wasn’t going to be one for 2013, I must admit I felt a bit sad. It was hard to figure out what to replace it with.

Well, sometimes the answer is simply do it yourself. So I did. I made a planner from scratch. Above is a photo of the cover. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. I’ll show you a few more pictures soon.

Imagination poster (part 4, the finished version)

Imagination poster

Final version of the Imagination poster. (Click to enlarge.)

This project has essentially been about flexing my imagination-muscles, and my ”in spite of contemporary opinions”-muscles, actually all components of that sleepy, dusty optimism that is in there somewhere, reachable, though seldom called upon. And I’d like to take the opportunity to state (to myself, if to no-one else) that a just, sustainable, beautiful and fun future is possible. What makes it seem impossible are the stories we’re surrounded with (ideology).

One thing that fueled this project was reading this interview with British writer and activist Mark Fisher (in Swedish here), in which he talks about the current paralyzation of our collective ability to imagine alternatives (as well as a bunch of other interesting and important things).

In the new year I’m going to have this printed poster-size. It’ll function as a reminder to keep dreaming and experimenting and making good use of my ability to imagine a better world.

Behind the scenes (part 3)

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes photos from the poster project. The process included (among other things) a foam mat, painting with watercolor on cotton, disappearing day-light stress (pretty common for me, since I work a lot with my camera and natural lighting) and lots of Internet research on ideas and possibility and activism.

One thing I found while roaming around the interwebs was this article on a Transition Town workshop in London: ”[O]ur collective design task is to bring together visions, ways of knowing, and ways of collaborating. With Transitionville, we achieved most of that in half a day.” Inspiring.

An early sketch and a few challenges (part 2)

This is an early sketch for the poster I’ve been working on. Roughly, I knew I wanted some sort of representation of present cultural/political problems in the background, and in the foreground someone focusing on future possibilities. (I also considered having several people dreaming, for the sake of dissolving the myth of independence, as if anything can be done by any human being without the direct or indirect help of others.)

The big challenge for this project has been the representation of the possibilities. This came as no surprise, really, since it’s the very topic of the project – the difficulties and the necessity for dreaming big. So I needed to take a look at the elements that are part of a better future in my mind. Most of those are pretty abstract, I know we need change in areas like food, transportation, energy, housing, time/work and more, but how was I going to take those thoughts and turn them into symbols, clear and communicative, yet open enough for the mind to use as spring-boards? This has been an exercise in creativity, for sure, one that I’m still working on and will be for the foreseeable future, I’m sure.

There were also technical issues to consider, as there often are (I just recently got a working scanner, for example). Often-times I find these restrictions inspiring though. If there were hundreds of alternatives available to me, then I probably wouldn’t get as much done. Plus, I get to teach myself new techniques and work-arounds.

More to come on this project. :)

Imagining a better world (part 1)

One thing that I seem to be returning to, in art and life, is the importance of being able to envision a better world. Or, put another way, the importance of stepping out of the story that we live in and consider a whole new take on things. It’s about the stretching-beyond, curious, willing mind; the imagination. I’d like to suggest it is our greatest tool when working to change the world for the better.

In my early twenties I read something that spoke about depression as a sort of inability to position yourself in a different corner of the room so to speak. I guess, a lack of vision, being stuck with an outlook that only allows for a small part of the picture to be seen. I had a strong feeling then that it was important to stay open to the possibility that things could change. Being on the look-out for change mattered, being able to picture a place where you would like to land mattered. Even just wanting to be able to picture it mattered.

In later years, my interest in the imaginative mind, has had a lot to do with a sense of a collective depression, especially among people who care a lot about the world. It’s no surprise, really, because our eyes are so much focused on the things that are not okay, the things that not enough people speak about, the social injustices, the pollution, the suffering of animals in factories, just to name a few from the top off my head. And that view should be enough to make anyone, if not depressed, then at least severely discouraged. Especially since it’s so hard to spot progress in any field, at least if you keep your eyes and ears peeled to the mass-media (even the alternative sources).

There is a great need, I think, for a view that includes more. For me, that means using my imagination, the part of me that tries to see beyond the current state of things and picture something else, something other, something better. Even if I have no idea of how, or when, or in what way these changes would occur. We benefit, I think, from trying to picture what we’re working to reach, instead of just seeing all those things that are wrong. It’s exhausting to only take in the disasters and it doesn’t make us better activists.

I believe that even just the trying to imagine a better world matters. You might find yourself, like me, bumping up against the walls of your imagination, trying to grasp something that seems out of reach. And really, how are we supposed to envision something that we have never even heard of? Where would we start? My mind seems cluttered with the stories from my upbringing, my culture, the stories of the mass-media (often about violence, conflicts and the lack of money for human needs), I feel them blocking my view, there are things behind them, I just know it. The world could be arranged in so many other different ways, this world-order is not the only one possible – - and so I keep trying.

I’ve been working on a poster on this topic, and I’ve decided to stop waiting for the Perfect Idea of Perfect Ideas, and just finish it. And really, what’s important here is not delivering an impeccably shiny product that couldn’t ever be improved, what matters is the the trying, the starting somewhere and having something to start from again – just creating one version. So I’m going to post a few things about this project over the next few days. If you have any comments, bring ‘em!

The importance of being in-sane

I seem to always be surprised at how fast those last spreads in my journal fill up. It’s not uncommon that I’ll try to fit in a week over one spread when I realize it’s the last one and I’ve yet to start making myself a new book. (Usually promising myself to make the next one well ahead of time.)

Above is a photo of the journal I made over the weekend. I found I had more energy than usual and decided to put a little bit of extra effort into the decoration part. I cut out circles in the back and front and spine and put small images in them. The left one on the front has an excerpt of the lyrics from the song It takes a fool to remain sane by the Ark. After having written about in my last post, I found myself falling back in love with the sentiments of it. I wanted to have a piece of it on the cover of this book as a reminder to keep focusing on the things are important to me (like sensitivity, critique of the capitalist world-order, self-reflection, rest; sustainability, compassion), even when those things are not considered cool or cute or market oriented. Others may think what they will about it, I will be misunderstood and that will sometimes feel unpleasant, and I can still keep going. I know in my heart how important it is to be in-sane in a culture that has some pretty weird understandings of what it means to be sane.

Fifteen years ago today

Whenever I think about true creative happiness, my mind goes to a room in a house in Växjö. I’m seventeen years old, Amme is sixteen. It’s the middle of the night. We’re sitting on a mattress on the floor eating candy, listening to Leonard Cohen, writing (and, in between, talking and probably giggling our asses off). On those nights we would grab a book, preferably one that felt special to us, or a dictionary, randomly choose a page, pick a word or a sentence, put our pens to the paper and just go.

The poems that came out were sometimes pretty good, for two teenagers anyway, but it wasn’t about that. At least to me, it was about sharing the joy of artistic expression, and trusting someone else with experiments and risk-taking, and connecting through what we wrote, commenting, referring, asking, supporting. There was also the absolute feeling of being outside of time. The only thing that mattered was that space. And there was nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.

When she died, about ten years later, there was a pretty long period of time when I thought those feelings had gone with her. That joy, and the trusting, the togetherness I’d felt, and the looking forward to the future, possibilities. My mind linked those things to being with her. It took me quite a while to realize that those feeling were inside me, and still are. They will be accessible to me for as long as I live.

I am very lucky to have had that experience around creativity, artistry, whatever you want to call it. No matter what I put my energy into – poems, homepages, online journal entries, handmade books, drawing – I had someone out there, a recipient, that cared about my art and found it meaningful. I felt the same about her. Basically everything she made touched me in some way.

Today is our anniversary of sorts. We met on November 21st fifteen years ago. I am very fortunate to have had her come into my life. With her my life became bigger and more meaningful and filled with possibilities. Still, when I hear the lyrics to The Ark’s song It takes a fool to remain sane – Do do do what you want to do – I think of that time when we were on the phone (me lying on my back in my bed in my old room), I was contemplating making a rather big change in my life, and she quoted that line. Do do do, do what you wanna to do, don’t think twice, do what you have to do.

The manifesto-project-process

Scrap paper collage in my journal. (Click to enlarge.)

Working in/on my new zine has given a lot of energy to the manifesto-project. I’m filled with thoughts about being an artist/illustrator and all the why’s and how’s and the putting things together. I’m re-reading my old journals (as mindfully as I can, and skipping over lots and lots of the heavy stuff), looking for patterns and ideas that has stuck with me. Right now my favorite year is 2006. That was the year when my creative journaling really took off. I had a lot of energy and you can really spot the progress (or: change). I’m also re-reading print-outs that I made several years ago from Keri Smith’s blog.

I need to take lots of breaks to not overwhelm myself with this, enthusiastically figuring things out, jotting down notes while riding the bus, and I intend to let it take some time.