I have just returned from 2 weeks in Essen, Germany. It is a very utilitarian city in the Ruhr valley, not too far from Brussels and Cologne. Kind of grey, definitely a place where function tops form. At least, this is the case in the middle of winter. It rains a lot. Although my impression of Essen was a city for automobiles, it is supposed to be very green. One suspects that is meant literally, in the sense of having lots of vegetation, and not in the enviro-social sense of being friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists, recyclers, vegetarians, and so on. In fact, the city seemed fundamentally hostile to pedestrians, bicyclists, and recyclers. I can’t speak for vegetarians; neither of us wants that.
Not having much luck in terms of sitting outside and making sketches of fancy buildings (because the buildings are, generally, not fancy, and sitting outside was a bleak prospect), I mostly worked on some pencil and ink compositions. There were a few people I was able to sketch in buses and coffee shops, but someone kinda sorta tried to pick a fight with me about that on a bus one afternoon, so I abandoned that practice. I have scanned all those sketches, they are available on Flickr. Just click through to that site from the image here, and you can see all the latest in my photostream.
In Essen, I did visit the Red Dot Design Museum. As far as I and my companion could determine, the basic idea was to fill a giant coal processing facility building with examples of award-winning design. As all the awards were bestowed by the museum itself, it seemed to mostly have to do with the museum foundation exchanging a certificate of design award for the item under discussion. Some of the things were quite neat, some were … unremarkable. A few were outright baffling, and a very rarified few were extraordinary. Some of the exhibits were clearly more about corporate sponsorship than about independent design evaluation, but that is OK. I imagine design museums are kind of expensive to operate. The museum shop was a bit of a disappointment, or to put it another way, I saved a lot of money there. I am glad I went, but I am not yet planning my next visit.
I also listened to several audio books in the past two weeks:
Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin. All through this book, I asked over and over, where was this when I was in school? I grew up in the borderlands of the US South, and while I can understand that this was a couple of decades out of date by the time I got to school, I cannot imagine why it wasn’t considered one of the major must-read titles for damn near everyone. (The short story: A white guy goes on walkabout in the American South in 1960 as a black guy, and discovers just how bad things are.)
The People Speak, a series of dramatic readings of historical primary accounts, edited and narrated by Howard Zinn. Many of these pieces were crushingly honest. I especially loved this Independence Day speech by Frederick Douglass.
Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House, read by assorted voices. I had read this (with my eyes!) many years ago, and somehow it did not register as the severe, bleak, dystopian collection I registered this time around. But, hey, I was maybe 20 then. So even the worst dystopia could only be so bad…
Asimov’s Second Foundation. Another I had read long ago. It seemed more interesting at the time, although whether that is because I was younger then, or because my own (internal, mental) rendition was just better. Hard to say.
I also had a couple of pieces published in the The Weekly Alibi:
Badass Lady-Love: Women of Comics soars at Metropolis
Your Secret Celtic Heart: Let Galician musician Carlos Núñez uncover it
(The next thing I write for the Alibi is already in the works, a review of a new book from Carolyn Kastner, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: An American Modernist.
All in all, February was a busy month, and I am … vaguely relieved that it is concluded? I have SO MUCH to do, here on the blog, with the Etsy store, on the business end of things, in the studio, in the local art scene … ! So. Much. While traveling, I was positively seized with the urge to cut a new printing plate. This is problematic only insofar as I am deep in the middle of about 10 other projects…. Sometimes I think I need a project manager to help me focus a little better. And a business manager, so I don’t need to focus on business. And … hmmm. Maybe just a big fab studio so I can crank out designs and other people make it happen. If you wish to set me up in a sweet situation like that, please contact me directly!
My next post should be about Copic SP Multiliner pens, but you can never really tell with me. I mean … I never can. Maybe you are better at this.