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Shauna over at Quail by Mail tagged me a week or so ago while I was wandering through snowy German forests and eating knödel (yum!) and it has taken me a while to respond. This tag requires me to tell you seven random things about myself – I generally try to avoid these sorts of things… but I guess it won’t kill me to play along :)

So, seven random things:

1. I have been told on numerous occasions through my life that I “have a problem with authority”, sometimes by people in positions of ‘authority’. I haven’t yet been persuaded to see this as an entirely bad thing…

2. When I first heard Bonnie “Prince” Billy‘s 2008 album ‘Lie Down in the Light’ I was disappointed – it just didn’t seem to compare to earlier classics like ‘Ease Down the Road’ and ‘I See a Darkness’. But it grew on me over the course of the year and would now certainly be in my ‘top albums of 2008’ list (if I had such a list – there’s a good one here), particularly for the sweeping track ‘You Want that Picture’.

3. Approximately two and a half decades ago, while reading Hergé’s ‘Tintin in America’, I had a childhood epiphany and decided from that moment onwards I would be a vegetarian. The epiphany was induced by the following two frames – I think it was the ‘nose to tail’ and ‘it’s completely automatic!’ that got me… that’s no way for anything to live or die.

frames from Hergé's 'Tintin in America'

So, comics really can change lives and be a force for good!
(and, although there are plenty of opinions on the subject, now’s not the time or place to get in to the real or perceived colonialist & racist undertones of Herge’s oeuvre!).

4. We currently live sans feline companionship – this makes me sad and I hope to rectify the situation at some point in the not too distant future.  The last feline we shared our home with (± 12 years ago) was a magnificent beast – his name was Albini (after the great Steve Albini!). He was not a vegetarian, and spent his nights bringing his own special brand of law and order to the alleyway between the flat we lived in and the next-door restaurant. No rat was safe and I spent many a morning before rushing off to work clearing up dismembered rodent body parts from the bathtub (Albini’s point of access to the flat was via a small window left open in the bathroom, and he obviously felt the clean white bathtub was the best possible place for arranging and displaying his victims… but sometimes he left a trail of gore on the outside stairs to the front door too). Although this story makes Albini sound like an evil, mean-spirited sort of creature he wasn’t at all, he was simply a cat and, it could be argued, was providing a very useful public hygiene service.

Here he is looking damn handsome…

Albini Supercat!

5. The last book I read was ‘Red Colored Elegy’ by Seiichi Hayashi. It is filled with long inscrutable silences and an overwhelming sense of yearning and left me feeling strangely adrift. Not to deny the book’s potential power but I was deep in the throes of this month’s flavour of cold/flu bug while reading it so that might’ve had something to do with the uncomfortable floating feeling…  (and just to clarify, I do also sometimes read books without pictures).

6. If I had to choose between tea or coffee as my ‘desert island’ drink I’d have to go with tea. Sorry coffee!

7. When I was a kid growing up in the Southern Hemisphere I loved to swim (pools, dams, oceans, rivers, lakes, any body of water would do) and, in that ‘all or nothing’ way kids think, thought I would do so every day, rain or shine, for the rest of my life.  Now, over two decades later, I don’t really remember the last time I went swimming. Several years ago I started drawing a comic about that, and other, of my ‘lost’ childhood habits / beliefs / feelings. I never got around to finishing it but here’s an excerpt from the swimming bit…

swimming...

I liked the final frame (but pretty much nothing else about this) which is meant to represent all the weird microscopic squigglings & wrigglings you see trapped in the water droplets on your eyelashes when you almost-close your eyes against the sun just after emerging from the water…

OK, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – thanks for inviting me to play along Shauna.

The ‘rules’ of this tagging, amongst other things, require that I tag seven other people. But I’m not going to play by the rules (see point 1. above) as I don’t feel entirely comfortable with the slightly dodgy chain letter/pyramid scheme feeling I get from passing the responsibility on… so anyone who feels like playing along is welcome to, and I would love to read seven random things about you a whole lot more than I liked writing seven random things about me.

You don’t… what?!

 I Don’t Like Chocolate - A graphic novel by Jesse Breytenbach

If you’re in Cape Town this Friday (8 February) you should definitely make your way over to the Albert Hall in Woodstock for the launch of Jesse Breytenbach’s graphic novel “I don’t like Chocolate“. The original artwork will be on exhibition (and for sale) and it’s bound to be beautiful! I wish I could be there, but sadly I’m 9674.79 kilometres away (give or take). 

Do you feel lucky, punk?

Amy over at Whistlepea Knits very kindly sent me a ‘You Make My Day Award’ – thanks Amy, I really appreciate it! There are so many talented people out there making beautiful things and writing intelligently on interesting subjects (see the ‘inspired & inspiring’ links over there on the left!) so I’m not going to follow the rules and “pass it on to up to ten people” but simply point you in the direction of those ‘inspired and inspiring’ links… yeah, those ones over there on the left. I’d also like to say thank you to all the visitors to this site and especially for your positive and encouraging comments on some of the work I’ve shown – these have frequently ‘made my day’. Thank you!

Animator vs. Animation

For anyone who has ever done battle with a Flash animation project, check out this great little animation by Alan Becker. (thanks to .e for the link) 

And while on the subject of animation, I’m really looking forward to seeing the ‘Fear(s) of the Dark‘ film (I’m disappointed I missed it at the Rotterdam Film Festival last Friday!). It includes work by the great Charles Burns (amongst others) and is described on the film’s website as follows:

“Six of the world’s hottest graphic artists and cartoonists have breathed life into their nightmares, bleeding away colour only to retain the starkness of light and the pitch black of shadows. Their intertwined stories make up an unprecedented epic where phobias, disgust and nightmares come to life and reveal Fear at its most naked and intense…”

A’right! (thanks to BrunoBanani for the heads-up on this one!)

Stills from ‘Fear(s) of the Dark’

The above images are stills from the film; they are copyright Prima Linea Productions and the respective artists (Charles Burns, Blutch, Pierre di Sciullo, Marie Caillou, Lorenzo Mattotti and Richard McGuire)

Well, this packing lark certainly is time-consuming, and I’ve also been trying to finish up various work commitments before ‘closing up shop’ for the move, and so have had precious little time for blog posting. A few days ago was ‘officially’ my last day at work so I have a small window of opportunity to post about some more ‘treasures’ I’ve packed away recently…

Charles Burns - Monster Teens

I love comics. Many an adult would no doubt say that it’s unbecoming for a self-respecting grown-up to read and enjoy comics – I’m immensely happy that I’m not one of those adults! My list of favourite comic artists is long – Jim Woodring, Jason Lutes, Jesse Breytenbach, Erik Kriek, Jason, Chris Ware, Craig Thompson to name but a few. But today’s treasures (boxed for transit to A’dam!) are part of the Sony Japan Capsule Toy series (produced some years ago) and designed by the inimitable Charles Burns… who is up there near (or possibly at!) the top of my favourites list. His drawing style is superbly clean and detailed and (perhaps paradoxically?) highly emotive, and his images and stories contain a good dose of the peculiar, the dark, the slightly disturbing, while still being poignant, thought provoking and relevant.

His Capsule Toy series is entitled ‘Monster Teens’ and consists of six figures (incompletely shown in the image above!) and a three frame mini-comic accompanying each figure. He masterfully manages to evoke whole angsty teenage lives and personalities in just three frames, and the figures themselves are wonderfully detailed and very finely crafted (but we’d expect nothing less from Japan! :-).

Charles Burns - Monster Teens mini-comics

Charles Burns - Monster Teens mini-comics

(Who can honestly say they didn’t know a Cob at school!?)

Burns also produced a limited edition screenprint of his motley crew (which I was lucky enough to find at Lambiek on a visit to Amsterdam some years ago) – it is quite beautiful in its colour minimalism.

Charles Burns - Monster Teens screenprint

(The print folds out and includes an illustration of each ‘monster teen’ – I’ve only uploaded a ‘detail’ of the full image: Rudy and Rae-Rae!)

If you’re a fan of comics (and you like ’em a little… peculiar) and you haven’t read any Charles Burns rush out immediately and acquire his magnum opusBlack Hole‘, or his brilliantly perverse and noir-ish ‘El Borbah / Hard Boiled Defective Stories’, or anything else at all from his oeuvre!

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Elegant step-gables and spring sunshine in Amsterdam #gable #step_gable #trapgevel #canal_house #singel #grachtenpand #spring #sunshine #new_growth #green #pattern #symmetry At the Melkweg last night for some RTJ music and mayhem... #melkweg #runthejewels #RTJ #ElP #KillerMike #livemusic #neon #typography #stars #milkyway I ❤ tree skeletons… soon to be bursting into new leaf, so I’m enjoying these graphic lines while I still can #dawn #silhouette #treeskeleton #graphic #filigree #pattern #colour #gradation This magic has just started to unfold in the ‘garden’ on our little roof terrace. Methinks spring has most definitely sprung! #spring #lente #blossoms #plum (?) #pink #petals #stamens #delicate #growth #seasons #cycle_of_life #roof_garden #haarlem Dawn colours #dawn #silhouette #dome #cathedral #kathedralebasilieksintbavo #studio_view #rooftops #haarlem Dressing W-A-Y out of my comfort zone for the “glitter and glamour” themed wedding party of friends tonight. Gulp… they say it’s good to step outside one’s comfort zone now and then, right?! #shimmery #sequins #glitter #festive #ottodame #not_black #colour #pattern #texture

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