My Heroes: Tove Jansson

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VP_ToveJansson

Our Sketchbook Skool teacher Jean-Christophe Defline‘s first homework assignment for us was to draw quickly, in about 10-20 minutes, a picture of a person. I took me slightly longer than that, more like 45 mins. I’m sorry. I got carried away. But I do have a good excuse.

I recently visited our nation’s capital Helsinki and popped in at the national gallery Ateneum‘s bookstore where I found an adorable postcard of Tove Jansson, the mother of Moomins. You know, the white hippopotamus-nosed creatures that live in Moominvalley. Tove – we all call her by her first name here – is one of my all-time favourite creative persons. She is one of the most versatile artists I have ever come across. She was not only an excellent drawer – just look at her Moomin illustrations – but also an excellent painter. She wrote one of the best ‘children’ books of all times but she also wrote equally enthralling prose for grownups. She wrote Moomin-plays, designed the costumes and the stage sets.

I think her popularity has much to do with her personality. She always appeared to be open and content. She was really nice to her Moomin fans even if she was annoyed and little disappointed that she became famous for Moomins and not for her ‘serious’ art. Not that she felt that Moomins were in any way less serious or important, I’ sure. It’s just that she was much more than just the Moomins. Anyhow, she tried to answer every fan letter she got from kids herself by hand and those few thank you -letters I have seen are all very thoughtful and personal. There’s something very Santa Claus -like to her. But she was also a little rebellious. She enjoyed her wee dram and she smoked. She was defiantly independent and egalitarian – much like many of her Moomin characters. Her partner in life was Tuulikki Pietilä, a graphic artist and a fine sculptor, who, I just found out, was born in Seattle. Interesting! She and Tove lived openly together without anyone ever making a fuss about it publicly. I think that too was down to Tove’s and Tuulikki’s personality who simply disarmed everyone with their non-judgemental, mindful attitude. There’s a great picture of them two here.

Tove has a really well made, interesting and informative virtual museum. There you can not only read about her family, see lots of photos of her life and of her works and watch home movies (she and Tuulikki filmed a lot) and listen to her read from her books – in Swedish. One of the best such sites. Really, really well made in IMHO. Her Moomin-art has a real life museum too in Tampere called Muumilaakso, Moominvalley. Definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the neighbourhood! They too have a virtual version of their exhibition.

And do read a Moomin book. Any one of them will do. 🙂

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.

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.

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