Are You, like, into Math?

gastown_72Here’s the latest reportage drawing I did at Gastown, it’s really one of my favourite places to draw in Vancouver. I tried to include as many iconic symbols that represent Gastown as I could – cobblestones, bricks, the beautiful Victorian lamps, the Flatiron-esque building, people eating and drinking, the statue of Gassy Jack, the metallic chains and posts, and the gorgeous Vancouver fall foliage.

A stranger stopped to watch me draw as I carved the cobblestones on the ground and laid bricks on the buildings. She asked me if I was into math because she thought my drawing was “clean and precise”. I thought most random strangers would’ve said my drawing was spontaneous or messy, so that was a very flattering and interesting thing to say, it totally made my day!

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MEow MEow

meme noun
: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture

 When I graduated from high school and left home to go to art school, I was one of those kids who ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. My diet consisted of fast food, pizza, ramen noodle packs, tacos, hot dogs, ice cream, sodas, and beers. I was on my own for the first time in my life, and I did things I couldn’t do before, just because now I can! Of course, that was just a phase. Eventually I came to my senses and cleaned up my act. I had things to do, places to be, and goals to accomplish, and to do all these I first needed to learn to take care of myself.

The information we consume is not unlike our physical diet. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same. We are what we eat, and our minds are made of what we see, hear, and read everyday – a “cerebral diet”, if you will.

Thanks to the Internet, we are now entering an era when we have the ability to obtain any information we want, whenever we want. Like that kid who left home for college, many of us went directly for a cerebral diet of junk food, just because, for the first time in human history, now we can! “Epic fail” compilations, cute animal pictures and clips, Farmville and Candy Crush, just to name a few. Yes, they are fun and harmless, and did I mention that they’re fun? But then what? At some point we’ll have to realize that if we want to propel ourselves in life, it might be a good idea to add some broccoli and carrots to our cerebral diet.

The Internet likes memes. The Internet likes cats. The Internet likes memes with cats. Now, if the Internet learned something about string theory, the Internet might like it too!

I leave you with this inspiring TED talk featuring String Theorist Brian Greene. He’ll tell you why our universe possibly has 11 dimensions 😉

Rainbow Connection – Put the “Wonder” Back in Wonderful!

Science is great! Science is exciting because it is an attempt to fulfill our primitive curious impulse – the impulse to understand and explain how the world around us works. Science is inquisitive and unprejudiced; it teaches us to solve problems, to think critically, and to be intellectually independent – traits that lead to success in life, even if we don’t all grow up and become scientists.

Yet, it seems our general education places very little emphasis on these wonderful, beneficial qualities science can offer us. By the time we graduate from high school, we are practically trained to regard ‘Science’ as a school subject in which we memorize numbers, letters, and formulas so that we can spit them back at exam papers. Now, where’s the fun in that?

To promote scientific literacy, Urban-FairyTales.com is thrilled to present a series of illustrated posters for k-12 classrooms. These posters won’t merely try to convey scientific facts. In fact, they won’t be trying to do that at all – there are teachers and textbooks for that. Instead, through the power of art, these illustrations aim to kindle, foster, and remind us of the fire that lit up in our eyes when we learned about dinosaurs, meteors, stars, rainbows, and many more of nature’s wonders.

The first of these illustrations is inspired by this quote about the beauty in nature:

“Knowing how the rainbow works doesn’t make it less beautiful. It makes the rainbow MORE beautiful.”

Richard Feynman

I thought it would be appropriate to begin the series with the imagery of a rainbow – a symbol of connections, connections between heaven and earth, between human beings and a higher divinity, between reality and imagination, between Science and (Urban) fairy tales (hah!). We might each have our own opinions and beliefs, but that shouldn’t stop any of us from appreciating the beauty of a rainbow and understanding how it works!

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I hope this illustration made you wonder about the wonderful world we live in. I will leave you with this little excerpt of a very inspiring interview with Richard Feynman. Make sure you check back soon for the next instalment of Scientific Literacy Illustrated Posters Series!

Japanese Tea Ceremony

I had the pleasure of experiencing a traditional Japanese tea ceremony a few weeks ago at Vancouver’s Nitobe Memorial Garden. The ceremony took place at a tea house located in the garden called Ichobo-an.

01“Ichibo” in Japanese means “one view”. Whereas the experience of the garden was meant to symbolize a journey through life from birth to death, the tea house offers a perfect view of the garden – a view of the journey of life from birth through death! Here’s what the view looks like from Ichobo-an.

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 We got to the ceremony relatively late, so we ended up getting a terrific view of the back of the tea master’s head.

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Everything in the ceremony had a symbolic meaning, from the decorations of the interiors to the tools and cups to the gestures of the tea master and the participants. There was a very particular way that you had to turn the tea cup before slurping the tea.

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The Japanese ladies serving the tea were very sweet.

04Here’s a look at a couple of other participants at the tea ceremony.

03Lastly, when in Rome… here are some drawings done at the Nitobe Garden.

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Well, that wraps it up for the Haikucomics related blog posts! I hope that the blog posts have increased your appreciation for the comics, and vice versa. It definitely was enjoyable for me making them. 🙂

Aidan Koch Interview

Most of the people I know who draw comics would tell you the same story: they grew up reading comic books and learned to draw by copying their favourite panels of their favourite comics obsessively. After a while, they began creating their own characters and stories, and the next thing you know, they became adults and making comics has become a part of their lives. I have a hunch that’s not exactly how it went down for today’s special guest Aidan Koch.

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Several months ago, a friend of mine pointed me to Ms. Koch’s work. Although it was unique and refreshing, I regret to say that it didn’t wow or dazzle me at first sight. It wasn’t until later when I began working on My Eurydice that I developed a much deeper appreciation for the intense emotional quality and delicate sensitivity in her comics.

Aidan has graciously accepted a 5-question interview to help us spread the word about her peculiarly wonderful world of art. Let’s hear what she has to say!

 

Your take on the medium really stands out from what the world’s comic readers are used to seeing. What are some of your qualities that separate you from other comic artists?

Koch (K): I guess I just didn’t approach comics as ‘comics.’ Its true I never really read them growing up, except for some manga. The constructs and characteristics normally associated with the medium were just something I was not familiar with. So when I started putting my drawings into panels and sequences I just did it using intuition as a guide. As much as I’ve been building my style and approach, every comic I start ends up working totally different. I’m always interested extending the language I apply and learning new ways to make comics.

 

What made you decided to create comics? What are some of the characteristics to this medium that appeal to you?

K: I mean, it was kind of accidental that I began creating comics. I was making zines with a lot of drawing and text already, so they just kind of morphed into sequences. This really felt like the ‘next step’ in the work I was making. There’s an inherent dynamism to the medium that I think is generally underutilized. The audience is given a set of images which they process as connecting or related be-it in relation to time, story, or subject. The possibilities   and outcomes of this arrangement are infinite! I guess its just so much more engaging than single image art to me. I still do a lot of that, but it always feels like it has less heart than my sequential work.

 

It seems you are very practiced when it comes to drawing from life, but when it comes to comics, be it the characters, the dialogues, the emotional qualities, or even the actual drawings, how much of it is extracted from life?

K: Probably quite a bit, but in a really understated or abstracted sense. I often work with the ideas of isolation, self reflection, and nature, all of which are very very personal to me. I suppose I would say I use the themes from my life but not necessarily in any particular events or characters. My characters are more representational than as I imagine whole people with set backgrounds and histories. I tend to approach comics with the necessity to convey a tone over a ‘story.’ As for direct depictions, I regularly use photobooth on my computer to get positions for people and objects and plants that I own! I think visually, one could easily connect them to the environments I surround myself with.

 

What / who are your artistic influences?

K: I am a real sucker for classical beauty: impressionism, the figure, landscapes, marble statues! As for comics people though, I’ve found such an amazing group of inspirational peers, people like Ward Zwart, Anthony Cudahy, Blaise Larmee, Austin English, Martha Verschaffel, Johnny Negron, Ines Estrada, Lala Albert, Jason Overby, Dunja Jakovic, oh god, the list goes on…

 

It’s not easy making a living as an artist (especially one that makes comics). What do you aspire to achieve as an artist, and what can our blog readers do to help you get there?

K: On a very basic level, I’ve been operating as a self-employed person for almost two years, though I’m often confused on how I’ve managed. Though its often left me financially insecure, I can’t imagine losing this freedom. Certainly I hope to maintain myself at a larger scale than ‘breaking even’ but also I just want the ability to think and craft and develop my art on my own time. Comics are very consuming and though I’ve done a lot in the past couple years, I’m definitely hoping to expand my focus and do bigger more elaborate projects and stories. For anyone who hasn’t, check out my books!

 

And there you have it! Many thanks to Aidan for making this happen. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out her website: http://aidankoch.com/!