Stay Sharp – A Present

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VP_linkkari

I have always wanted to have a real Swiss army penknife and now I do. I have spend the last few years researching and writing my Ph.D. in aesthetics and museology and now it’s done. The theses has been published by the university (that’s part of the process here in Finland) and I defended my dissertation two months ago on the 16th of August. Yep, we call it a theses defence where I face my opponent. Really, that’s what we call the person examining my dissertation and questioning me about it. My opponent was professor Yuriko Saito from Rhode Island School of Design and she told us that her mates at her department teased her about the title telling her not to shoot he down etc. Ironically, a friend of mine gave me two wooden tai chi swords as Ph.D. present. No, we still didn’t duel, Yuriko and me.

According to the protocol, in the evening after the thesis defence there is a more or less formal dinner in the honour of the opponent. It depends on the traditions of the department how formal the dinner is but there always is toasts and thank yous. Luckily my department, the Department of Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä, is not too keen on strict formalities. There was 20 of us and I was pleasantly surprised at how many wanted to say a few words. A bunch of my oldest friends present gave me the Swiss army knife with an engraving on its larger blade reading: “Stay sharp, Kaisa.” That was so cool and so nice of them! One of the best presents ever.

I’m currently enrolled on the third semester of Sketchbook Skool called ‘Storytelling.’ Koosje Koene had us draw a manual of something as homework and this is what I did. I thought about rewriting the text on the upper right corner but nah, it’ll do. Next time I know how to make the layout more pleasing.

And, by the way, the blades are really, really sharp.

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First Semester at the Sketchbook Skool

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Danny Gregory and his friends founded Sketchbook Skool earlier this year and I signed on for the first semester called The Beginnings. The semester lasts for six weeks and each week we have a different teacher and, of course it being a skool, homework. I thought I would be past homework as I just left my PhD. dissertation in but I guess not. I’ll be posting my homework here so you too can see it. Besides, posting it everyday will help me to turn drawing into a habit. So here goes. Our fist assignment was to draw everyday and this is what I drew on Monday:

VP_aika_äijä

He, a Finnish wrestler Rami Hietaniemi, was on Monday’s newspaper on the front page of the sports section. He had just won silver in the European championships which is quite an achievement for a guy who lost feeling in his fingers on one hand after some medical mishap. He was told his wrestling days were over just like his everyday career as a builder. But guess he didn’t hear that. When I saw the photo I immediately thought that if I were the casting director of the HBO series Vikings I would be in the phone calling Hietaniemi and asking if he would be interesting in appearing in the series. I think it’s a silly show in many ways but, boy, would he suit its aesthetics! He even has the haircut for it!

Danny G. himself was our first teacher and he had filmed a few videos showing his sketchbooks and a demo for the first assignments. I followed his example and used a brush pen (Faber-Castell PITT’s indian ink dark grey) and sumi ink for this one with some watercolour for contrast. Interestingly the paper worked really well with the inks but the watercolour did not sink in so well. Ach, well. Live and learn. I like how the picture turned out. Danny’s demo was really helpful and using the brush pen made me slow down so that I thought more about the line and less about the picture. But what I liked most was Danny’s comment on not to mind too much whether the picture is perfect or not: after all, it has been filtered through me and it is my human imperfections that show up in it. You can see how the shoulders and the arm are a bit too big but that is how I experienced the photo, I guess, as a picture of a really big, powerful guy.

BTW, the title of drawing is the title of the article, “Quite a Bloke”. Or something like that. Äijä doesn’t quite translate into English but it means both an old man but also a manly man.

My Heroes: Danny Gregory

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MatkaHesaan

About two years ago I was leafing though Amazon (Can you do that, leaf though Amazon.com?) trying to find something that would encourage and reassure my desire to get back into drawing and art. I went though book after book, ordered some – most of which were quite good and inspiring – before I came across Danny Gregory’s Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are. I don’t know if I can say that I have ever read a book that changed me or my perspective, but Creative License certainly was a starting point for the change I’m going through right now. Danny’s style of drawing and writing spoke to me. I especially liked the fact that he accepted that it is hard to return to a practice you have previously judged to be a “not proper career”. His book solidified my determination to draw more and to be serious about it, to give it the time, effort and role I want art to have in my life. It’s been a slow process but I will get there.

I did not get myself a Moleskin – well I did, but I didn’t like the feel nor the colour of the paper. It took awhile to find that perfect, inspiring sketchbook, but eventually I did and I took up the habit to carry it in my bag. The first pages filled up very slowly but I did finish the book last autumn after almost two years. I have a new one now but I try not to put any pressure on filling it up though I definitely would like to draw daily. One day (not someday, mind you) I will.

I mostly draw when I’m away from home. I don’t know why, really. I have all these excuses at home, but while I’m on the road or in a museum they disappear. These I drew last August, the clouds on the train on my way to Helsinki and the two men playing Go in a beautiful, peaceful small park (much like a garden really) in southern Helsinki. I still had a cold and I was about to give a presentation in a conference in a few days, but the weather made me forget my tiredness. It had been raining for days but while traveling south the low-hanging rainclouds turned into magnificent cumuli and sunshine. Thanks to Danny I had the tools to capture them.

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