Monday, December 14, 2009

Happiness is...

Living far off in Sweden, I sometimes question whether my work has any impact at all. But then there are days like today.

From Edson, in Alberta, Canada:

Wildwood School's annual Christmas concert will be held on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. The whole school performance is based on a story entitled Mrs. Claus Takes a Vacation, and will prove to be a world-wide performance with stops in Hawaii, Australia, Louisiana, Ontario, and of course the Holy Land.


It's just...unspeakably gratifying.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Picture Book Economics

Here's an interesting piece by an agent about picture books, and the difficult economics involved...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Great Pumpkin



Well, it's definitely November. There's been so little actual sunlight, my skin is becoming translucent. No, not the deathly pale skin that seems to be all the rage. More like Mr. Goodbody.

But Halloween went pretty well this year--every year, it's apparent my favorite holiday is becoming bigger and bigger here in Stockholm. There were costume parties all over, and pumpkin sales were brisk. Speaking of which, here is how the selection of pumpkins looked at my local grocery store:


Let's zoom in on the price sticker on the misshapen, top pumpkin, shall we?


Yup, you're seeing it correctly. 1000 kronor. Which is equivalent to about $140. For that freaky, not particularly large pumpkin?! Needless to say, as someone who grew up in Ohio with a pumpkin farm just up the road, I was horrified. I was going to boycott buying one out of principle, but then we found a more reasonably priced, smaller pumpkin at another grocery store on the way out to the country house, so I caved. Jan carved it, and I realized that other than sugar overdose, the pumpkin is the most essential ingredient for making an authentic Halloween. Clearly, my almost-namesake was onto something.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Object of Jealous Rage: Rene Engström

At dinner on Friday, a friend recommended I check out Rene Engström's Anders Loves Maria--about which, as usual, it seems I'm the last person to know. So of course I spent all afternoon yesterday reading all of it. So, so great! And how much do I love that she experiments throughout with different styles, like this one? Just...awesomeness. And so much work!


Of course, my friend recommended the strip because it takes place in Stockholm. The main characters have an apartment in Gamla Stan, as Jan and I did until a year ago, and it's such a treat to recognize the streets they walk. Reading the comics, I felt so relieved to totally participate in something artistic and cultural taking place in Stockholm--in English, that is. Of course, there are plenty of ways to get local Stockholm culture in Swedish, but I find it much harder to connect with it. (Comic strips in Swedish are often totally incomprehensible to me, even if I understand every word. Just as with picture books here, it seems that the shorter the artwork, the harder it is to "get" in a foreign culture.) I got a little bit of a "connect" watching the first Stieg Larsson movie, but that didn't have as many Stockholm city scenes as I'd hoped, and the serial killer storyline seemed so completely outlandish and un-Swedish, it wasn't delivering the recognition goods for me.

But Rene Engström's strip really got my brain spinning, thinking about the importance of artwork--especially the power of stories--in establishing an emotional sense of place. I've been thinking a lot about the idea of "place" in different ways ever since high school, and especially since moving here from New York almost five years ago. There's something about Sweden which seems so *blank* to me, which is really frustrating and hard to articulate. Have I just been too isolated from the cultural and artistic life all around me, to really see what Stockholm *is*? Can I create my own cultural and artistic work to help myself frame Stockholm in more emotional terms?

Am I making any sense?

*sigh*

But go check out Anders Loves Maria, though I suppose I should be all prudish-American and warn that it does contain sex and nudity...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Going Once...Going Twice...

It's really autumnal in Sweden right now--crisp air, changing leaves, the whole bit. So Jan and I spent the weekend out at the country house, and it's a lucky thing, too:


We had forgotten, but Sunday was the auction date for the farm estate at the end of our road. Tragically, the farmer had killed himself on Midsummer's Eve, and he apparently didn't have any heirs. We didn't really know the man, we had only ordered firewood from him once, but we saw how carefully he had cared for his extensive property--which at this point has become mostly a parking lot for island-dwellers who take the ferry nearby.

In any case, and despite a sudden cold, this was my chance to see a Swedish country auction in action. I have seen and participated in auctions in Sweden before--Metropol and Kronofogden, for example--but never one like this. Many of the people there were our neighbors, so in my cough-drop-addled state, it was hard to decide if this was a disturbing moment of long-awaited scavenging, or a comforting attempt to have the farmer's heirloom possessions spread as locally as possible.


His various buildings were like museums--barely anything had changed in at least fifty years, from the looks of things. Yet it was all tidily cared for--even the antique toys had their original boxes, in mint condition. The spread of objects constituted a revealing, deeply personal look at the farmer's life, his family, the past. Especially in the context of his suicide--and having almost no information about him--it was both fascinating and depressing to think of what the preservation of objects around him might have meant to him. Were they long-cherished memories of a longed-for era, or oppressive reminders of an inescapable past?

In any case, my morbid musings didn't stop *us* from pillaging his misfortune...







At least the objects will remind Jan and me of him, whatever that's worth...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We've All Got Baggage

My sister was in town for my wedding recently, and I went to pick her up at Central Station. While waiting for her, I couldn't help but admire the illustration on this safety sign:


Watch out, Don Draper! An oddly misshapen hand is after your latest presentation! (Inspired by The Fugitive, perhaps?)

But then I noticed another sign nearby, apparently geared toward Asian (Chinese?) tourists:


Why is it so fugly? And what's with the yellow (!) giantess hand with Flo-Jo nails? Come on, Swedish police, surely you can come up with something better.

Books on Display

Passing through Sturegallerian a few weeks ago, I came upon this store, just outside the entrance toward Stureplan:


Yup, that pillar is made of books.

I'm of two minds on this--on one hand, it's sort of sad to see books emasculated and relegated to the status of "clothing-store decorative element".


(Okay, I don't *know* that they have damaged the books in creating this pillar, but I'm guessing they've probably stuck a rod or two into the column, or glued the books together somehow, to keep it all safe for shoppers.)


On the other hand, knowing how many books are destroyed ("pulped") all the time in warehouses when they don't sell fast enough, I'm not so bothered by the idea. I guess they might as well be repurposed for something like this, and heck, having books on display in public spaces is fundamentally positive, no?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Counterproductive Ads: Pigeon Fingers

I see so many wrong ads around the city, I figured I'd start pointing out Ads That Need Not Exist.

Well, here's one I saw yesterday at Fältöversten:


Really? Creepy hand-pigeons are good for selling luxury watches?

*rinsing my eyes with bleach*

Monday, August 17, 2009

Momondo: The Underground Art Scene

Just FYI, another piece of mine has just gone up on Momondo, this time about subway art.

(Oh, and I think I forgot to mention this one about Stockholm's urban beaches, too...)


Friday, August 14, 2009

Like Sands Through the Hourglass...

I love this YouTube clip of Kseniya Simonova's sand-art performance on the Ukrainian version of "America's Got Talent" because it collapses so many aspects of the picture-book process into a live, short segment. Not only do we see the creation of the artwork (and how amazing is it that she can create the desired facial expressions with a mere flick of the wrist?), but the artist must think about structuring her series of images in a deliberate design. And she effectively tells her story about Ukraine's experience of WWII, clearly moving her audience--yet another aspect of the process that we get to witness, all within 8 and a half minutes.

Enjoy:


Friday, August 7, 2009

Object of Jealous Rage: Sophie Blackall

I've harbored a continuous jealous rage over Ms. Blackall's books since Ruby's Wish--I mean, simply check out the Complete Awesomeness of the cover:


But now Publishers Weekly tells me that she has a mind-blowingly genius blog illustrating real "Missed Connections" posts from Craigslist?

*Excuse me while I stomp around my studio, fists raised, cursing the fact that I didn't think of doing that first.*

Ahem.

But seriously? How gorgeous are those paintings?

Also, please join me in checking out her gorgeous website--and feeling completely worthless in comparison.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What I Did Over the Summer

Okay, so here's (largely) why I've been MIA for the past couple months:




The Big Day is approaching, and we're getting close to being ready...


But as I heard someone say somewhere at some point, "Excuses are lies for when you don't try."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Life in Sweden: Secretive Suffrage

On Sunday I reached a happy milestone as a new citizen--I voted for the first time in Sweden!

EU parliamentary elections were held, albeit with a disappointing turnout continent-wide. The process was similar to how I've experienced it in New York, except that you use little sheets of paper, a different sheet of paper for each different party. Here's the slip of paper for the Moderate Party (conservatives):


I've found political culture here to be superdifferent from the US, where people are very vocal and public about what parties and political issues they support. Here, it seems to be the height of rudeness to ask whom people are voting for, and you certainly don't see any bumper stickers around town.

So if you don't want other people to know how you're voting, you take a whole bunch of different slips from different parties. Then you go to an unsteady privacy tent-thingee where you mark your vote on the party of your choice, put it in an envelope they provide you, and hand it in.

Easy peasy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Momondo: Swedish National Romantic Architecture



My latest momondo.com contribution has just been published, please check it out! This time, it's a sampling of some of the most intimidating buildings in Stockholm, all borne out of nationalistic sentiments, long ago...

Also, be sure to drop by Monica Wellington's blog, where she has a roundup of recently-published books by those of us who have taken her fabulous class at the School of Visual Arts (both GAY AMERICA and BOB are listed). 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sprucing Up

This weekend, Jan and I were out at the house, pouring concrete for our patio-type-area in the back, when I made an earth-shattering, two-part discovery (that will undoubtedly prove that I'm anything but the sharpest tool in the shed). 

Did you know that spruce trees have blooms that look like this: 


?!

Okay, I know that in the photo it looks like that could be a regular cone, but it's so not, it's bright red. Kinda magenta-ish.

I will freely admit that I did not know that spruces bloom like that. And yes, I am turning thirty years old this summer.

BUT, also, did you know that if you shake the blooming branch, it's like a pollen bomb? Good times were had, Linas walking around tapping random branches to make gymnosperm clouds.

Like I said, good times.

Life in Sweden: The Cavalry Arrives

Okay, so I'm going out from the apartment/studio to grab some lunch, and lo and behold:


Sweden has been invaded by Kaiser Wilhelms

As uniforms go, you have to admit these are pretty lame (sorry, Jonas!). But at least it's just the cavalry that mosies around this neighborhood--downtown, they're constantly closing down traffic for the martial marching band. When I see them, it always makes me feel like getting a hot dog--I mean, it's halftime, right? 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Momondo: Patricia

I've been lucky/cursed with a whole deluge of freelance work these past couple weeks, so I'm still struggling to get back to this blog. Of course, in just a day I'll be heading off to southern France for a wedding (congratulations, Delphine and Sige!!). After that, I'll be enjoying a whole week in Barcelona. I canNOT wait--it's been so long since I've been to Spain (not counting the Canaries, um, illogically), and I've never been to this part of it before. Bert and Francisco will be going with us, and they know their way around town, so it'll be my favorite kind of trip: the kind that requires no planning or effort on my part. 

Meanwhile (and speaking of Bert and Frasse), I am pleased to direct you all to one of the several freelance pieces I've been working on: Momondo just posted my latest contribution, "Dancin' till Dawn on the Booze Cruise". It's about Patricia, naturally. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ready to Engage

Sorry, I've been a bit MIA this past week, it's been a crazy-busy time for me--new contracts, a load of freelance work, more potential gigs, the works. It almost makes me long for my doldrums of 2008. 

Almost, but not quite.  

And can you believe the past month's developments for marriage equality?! From the first day of this month with Sweden's announcement, then Iowa, then the nail-biter in Vermont, and now the media buzz about New York--and did you see Frank Rich's piece in The New York Times? Goodness, to think it's only the 19th.

Has public opinion shifted so radically, so quickly? (It's about time Pres. Obama embraced the issue, his lame position on this is so beneath him.)

*ahem*

Well, it must be in the air. You knew this moment would come, it's been inevitable since the start: 

So hear ye, hear ye! As of this weekend, Jan and I are now officially engaged to marry.

*cue orchestral swoon* 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lost in the Amazon

So, have you heard about the whole Amazon hubbub? The whole thing is odd and disturbing.

And it turns out that Gay America is part of it, too!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fame!

One of the perks of being a Very Famous Person (*snort!*) is that every once in a while, the mailman brings you a packet full of Awesomeness. 

Behold:


All the way from the library at Lincoln Heights Elementary School in Spokane, Washington come these amazing illustrations and letters about Peanut. Was I nearly as talented as they are? (Am I now?)

Reading through them, I am reminded of the incredible visit I enjoyed at Reilly Elementary in Austin, Texas back on Halloween of last year:


The kids there made me feel like a celebrity. (After all, this was for the "Reading Rock Stars" program run by the Texas Book Festival.) From the snacks waiting for me and fellow author Elizabeth Singer Hunt in the "green room" to the huge reproductions of images from my book (thanks to dedicated parents), I was given the full red-carpet treatment.


And one of the best parts of the trip was getting my copy of Peanut Goes to Reilly, an absolute masterpiece.


I will treasure it always, right next to the new letters from Lincoln Heights Elementary.

So it's on days like this (as opposed to, say, when I'm doing my taxes) that I realize I truly do have the best job in the whole world.

I'd Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus*

So I was all excited yesterday because I looked out my studio's window...


...and it appeared that two pigeons were occupying a preexisting nest in the tree below! How fun! Just think: a bird's-eye view (sorry, couldn't resist) of little eggs hatching, tiny peeping chicks, the first clumsy attempts at flight...!


Back in New York, I used to dislike pigeons (the whole "flying rats" thing), but I have to say, parrot ownership has totally melted my heart toward all members of the bird family.


But there are no pigeons there today. Maybe they foreclosed on their mortgage, too?

:( 


* For those who missed the reference, buy this book. Immediately.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Momondo: Stockholm's Sexiest Statues

My next piece for momondo.com was just published: "The 7 Sexiest Statues in Stockholm."


I'd say it's NSFW, but it's...all out in public!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dear Friends at Kulturhuset

When I saw the subway poster for the current "Dear Friends" exhibition, I was floored: more proof that it's a small, small world. 


(This isn't the subway poster, but it's close.) 

You see, when I first got an editorial assistant job at Abrams in 2002, Dear Friends had just been published, and it was one of our most popular gay-interest books. 


I've always been fascinated by this book--basically, a collection of images (daguerrotypes, photographs, etc.) from the turn of the 20th century showing men in incredibly affectionate poses. So it's not a gay book, exactly. (But it is, really.) It's fascinating to think how quickly culture changes, that we really don't have a good way of understanding what these images mean.


When my friends David and Eli got married, I used one of those daguerrotype images as inspiration for the wedding gift I painted:


Later, when I was putting together Gay America, I was superpsyched to have the opportunity to share a few of the images that haunted me: 


(Go on, get out your copy, they're on pages 12 and 13.)


(And also this image of Walt Whitman with his "friend" Pete Doyle, from page 18.)

I didn't realize that the collection was ever even displayed as an exhibition, and the fact that it followed me here to Sweden makes me very happy indeed. Plus it was so gratifying to see Stockholmers there, all fascinated by these intricate, curious little windows into a history we may never fully understand.


And if you go to the exhibition--and you should--don't forget to go see Loretta's creepy children upstairs!


At the very least, you can bring your own dear friends to simply enjoy the view from her exhibit.



Friday, March 27, 2009

Swedish Optimism



It's snowing outside. 

Hard.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What Shamelessly Boring People Do

It had been a few weeks since Jan and I were last able to go our little house in Stockholm's archipelago, so we were jonesin' to get back there this weekend. Plus, with spring becoming more and more palpable*, I was getting stressed out: we had bought birdhouses, but we still hadn't put them up! 

Fear not, Jan to the rescue:


We were really psyched the next day because there was a nuthatch that kept checking them out, hopefully scouting his/her new nesting site...


Plus, I'm really hoping that bats move into the bat house we put up last year (photo from July):


Our friend the roe deer came by, as usual, with his strange, fuzzy antlers.


Also, we'll soon be getting new, improved power lines, so we had to figure out exactly where we want the new pole--the existing location is a total eyesore. 

It was nice to see a woodpecker trying to get rid of one of the old ones (I hear ya, buddy). 


We just got a new camera recently, so we were playing around with it. (But you guessed that already, didn't you?)


Mostly, we just chilled. Here's us taking in the view of our little valley while listening to public radio podcasts:



And Jan napped on The Most Comfortable Couch In The Universe.


love it there.


* What? I'm choosing to ignore the snow outside. If it doesn't get the attention it wants, it will go away.