Friday, May 31, 2013

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

We used to have a saying in our house, "Never try to make a happy baby happier." The idea was that if everything was going beautifully, tossing in another toy might disrupt the balance. Well, I feel like a happier baby now that I have not only read Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan*, but The Arrival as well.

The NY Times book review online talks of the book's "sheer beauty" and says that "His drawings depict architecture and clothing that are at once historic and futuristic," but that did not really prepare me for the real beauty and wonder I felt turning the pages. "Historic," in this case, means from various countries and times. "Futuristic" means a world with flying booths, fantastical creatures, and ways of getting food out of walls that corresponds more with dreams than daily life. Along with the characters, we too, are new to this place, which feels like the fantastical shadow of New York in the early 1900s.

On his websiteTan shows many images from The Arrival and tells about his process. He writes that his personal background of growing up in Australia with a Chinese father and an Australian mother gave him a "vague notion of separateness, an unclear identity, a detachment from roots…" Both Tan's sense of confusion and longing to understand is embodied in the characters' feelings and can be clearly understood, even without words.

Through his process he researched graphic novels and discovered that they are more like films than comics. He had not set out to produce a graphic novel, but it turned out that the story wanted to be told in pictures and to feel like a family photo album with sepia images. He cited learning about storytelling through sequence from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics as an excellent resource (I agree), and how Japanese manga is quite different from American comics. He also mentioned another of my favorites, Uri Shulevitz's Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books.

This story in images primarily unfolds through sequence, accumulation of ideas, and overall landscapes. I'd like to point out its brilliance on a purely structural level (I hope you will experience the story for yourself if you haven't already). It begins with a series of objects and a family portrait; we learn who this family is through the objects: their economic status, their relationships to each other, that someone will be traveling. In the portrait we see their faces. Next, we see a sequence of actions, like movie stills; the family arising and getting ready for the day. Thirdly, we are introduced to the landscape, what their world is like for them, and now for us. More sequenced actions—told in a grid of smaller pictures—and the landscapes that take up one page or a full page spread begin to alternate randomly. The pages are divided into differently sized squares and rectangles for visual variation. Time slows down and speeds up depending on how much attention he wants us to pay to a particular event. If we are to watch an action in minute detail, we see multiple images: each image only slightly different from the one preceding it. We might see hands packing or a factory worker on an assembly line. His pictures and his pacing are exquisite.

I've been feeling the difference between words and images for awhile now. Reading only images is a quiet feeling, it works on a different level. We have to understand the meaning with our body and through our intuition, which has the potential to be confusing. In this particular case, the artwork and the choices are so perfect that the story is clear.

*previous post about Shaun Tan

Monday, May 27, 2013

Jane Austen and Looking for Mrs. Darcy

Please do not throw your teacups at me; I was not a Jane Austen fan until recently. Friends were stumped by this, but I had spent most of my reading life with the modern language of 20th century authors. Pride and Prejudice was neither required in school, nor did it appear on my parents' bookshelves. I finally read the book a few years ago; my sister had it on her shelf so I said all right, I would try it. I read the first page and started laughing. Who knew Jane Austen was funny? Everyone, it seemed, but me.

Years earlier (1995), over the shoulder of my daughter, I saw my first dramatic televised version in the form of a children's show in which Mr. Darcy was played by a Jack Russell Terrier with a voiceover: the educational program Wishbone. The dog took the lead roles in a number of literary classics of which Pride & Prejudice was one (season 1, episode 25: "Furst Impressions"). I didn't fully appreciate Mr. Darcy, perhaps due to his four legs.

Next up was the Bollywood update called Bride and Prejudice (2004), featuring the divine Aishwarya Rai and a very stiff blond actor whom I will not name (I keep imagining how much more amusing and strange it would have been if Mr. Darcy had been played by Owen Wilson). But we did get the hilarious description of Bollywood dance, "…this looks like you just screw in the light bulb with one hand and pat the dog with the other" from the film. Friends shook their heads and insisted that I see the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice. I got it from the library and said to my spouse, "Watch it with me." He said he would give it five minutes. We both watched it to the end. Finally, the love story with Firth as Darcy hooked me.

This past week we saw the film version of the British t.v. series Lost in Austen, which is a remake of Pride & Prejudice with a twist: Amanda Price (no relation to Mansfield Park's Fanny Price?) is a contemporary young woman who rereads P&P to escape to what she feels is a more refined and wonderful world. She ends up time-traveling into the book itself and her presence changes and rearranges the plots. There's even a nod to the Colin Firth version, which is fun (and Elliot Cowanwho plays Mr. D, is just as "smoldering," a word Amanda uses in the film as well). Hugh Bonneville, now known to us as Downton Abbey's father figure Robert Crawley, portrays Mr. Bennet, also the father of many daughters.

Now that we are in the mood, perhaps this next news will be of interest. The University of Texas at Austin (!  okay, spelled differently, I know) has created a virtual art exhibit, a recreation of one that Jane Austen saw in 1813, a few months after P&P was published. An article in the NY Times called "Seeing Art Through Austen's Eyes" says that the show contains portraits of actresses, aristocrats, mistresses, high society ladies, and pictures by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Also, according to the article, Austen wrote to her sister that she was going to see if she could spot a portrait of "Mrs. D" who "I dare say…will be in yellow." The article goes on to quote a second letter, written after she had attended the exhibit that says, "I can only imagine that Mr. D prizes any picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye." Trying to imagine Mr. Darcy fretting over a portrait of his love is a funny picture indeed. These quotes only reinforce my opinion of Ms. Austen's sense of humor.

I'm not sure that the Austen connection is the most interesting part of the exhibit, but the restaging process certainly is to me. At the U of Texas they used 3D software and referred to a preserved catalogue to recreate the building where the exhibit was held and the 141 paintings shown within "based on precise measurements recorded in an 1860 book." You can prowl around at the website whatjanesaw.org. When you click on a painting, you get a description; and some of them contain references to Austen, such as (in painting #2) that she had planned to see the actress Sarah Siddons. In real life, the portrait of Siddons, "Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse" is currently on display in the Thornton Portrait Gallery at the Huntington Art Gallery (more about the Huntington in this previous post). The descriptions of "Fancies" and "Sentimentals" (#3) as categories and the history behind the pictures are illuminating and add to our understanding of Austen's world as well.

Austen did not find a picture of Mrs. Darcy at the exhibition, but can we find one of Jane? Only a year ago, evidence based on photographs of a painting before it was restored showed that what was believed to be the portrait of Jane Austen at age thirteen was authentic. She is not in yellow; she is in white and holds a green parasol. 

It has been two hundred years since the publication of Pride & Prejudice. And since then, dozens, if not hundreds of homages, remakes, scholarly articles, and parodies of Jane Austen and her books have been created. Along with a fascination for her irresistible love stories and her world, we continue our fascination with Jane the writer as well. Perhaps we wish to understand how and what she saw, or to figure out how she wrote, or to inhabit her world. Perhaps we, too, like Amanda Price, wish to time-travel. 

Cup of tea, anyone?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bound & Unbound: Mendocino Exhibit 2013

My bookworks were invited to a show in Mendocino, and I was invited to give a talk there as well. Janet Self organizes art events at Odd Fellows, an open and light-filled, two-story wooden building up the street from the Pacific Ocean. This show is called Bound & Unbound: Exploring the Art of letter, word & book and it will extend through June 2013.



A broad range of work was included from paintings, quilts, and prints…


To what was labeled "A Bookie's Chair" by Wendell Rickon…Yes, you could sit in it.



And words incorporated into papier mache masks (in the book) and torso…



One section featured books that could be handled (mine are there)…


And one wall showcased the entire alphabet, each letter created by a different artist, and ready to be auctioned off as a benefit (starting bid $50)…


The Hebrew alphabet also made an appearance on small painted canvases…a piece by Alena Deerwater, who also works at Gallery Bookshop, one of my favorite stops in Mendocino.



Upstairs there was An International Print Exchange Portfolio from 2001 titled, "The End of Language" organized by Adam Wolpa. The wall text says, "Displayed together, the prints form a circle that mimics traditional game boards. The prints are mostly two-sided, conceptually intended to be moved, flipped, played." It would be fun to create a set of these that could be placed on the floor and handled during an exhibit.


The highlight of the show for me was its overall display of love for reading, writing, and making. I was also impressed by it as a community event. It is inclusive: works from established artists are shown next to projects done in the schools like this collection of dos-á-dos books upstairs…


Some of the kids' books contained opposite concepts: 
"Sun" on one side, "Rain" on the other.
Others were imaginative like this one, "The Sock Monkey" and "The Girl."


Overview of upstairs. Photos taken by children of children (ages 3 & 4) are on the far wall.


There were "Creation Station" activities, such as helping to write the longest poem ever (you can see part of the paper unrolled above on the floor on the right). And a "Typing Pool" (on the right).


Downstairs, a vitrine held many works by Dayle Doroshow, a Fort Bragg resident, artist, and instructional book author who used to teach polymer clay workshops at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Her clay treatments inspired me to develop a method to distress museum boards for book covers. Dayle has books in the first 500 Handmade Books on pages 192 and 268. (500 Handmade Books Volume 2 , with books chosen by Julie Chen, is due out September 2013.)


A peaceful show, indoors and out.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Growing a Writer

In the previous post, I concluded by writing, "As long as the comments are offered by someone who cares, the writer can continue to grow." An anonymous reader called me out for using the word "cares." S/he writes, "In my experience, caring isn't enough to ensure comments are constructive." Yes, just because someone cares about the writer and the writer's work, the comments may not be useful; there are many more factors to consider. So, agreed. We'll leave the word "cares" aside for the moment. Instead, I'd like to focus on the word, "grow."

Part of growing as a writer is learning how to decide when to ask for input, and then once it is received, if that input is useful. The same anonymous writer asked me if there were "deliberate parts of your creative process during which you are/aren't open to comments?" Some questions to determine when and if follow.

First, I have to look at what I'm writing and why. If it's a blog post, well, I write, rewrite, hold my breath, hit "publish," and let go. A blog, by nature, invites comments: sometimes useful, sometimes not. For my mini fiction/prose poetry blog Sidewalk Story, the layout isn't designed for comments, but I don't feel I want or need them; just knowing that someone might see the stories keeps me posting. Recently, I decided I would plan an artist's book that contains some of the Sidewalk Stories, so I asked my pals in my writing group for a list of their favorites. I was pleased that one person gave me some valuable comments as well.

How did I know those comments were valuable? A couple of times he wrote, "Consider dropping the last line." Why? I wondered. As I explored the stories with his comment in mind, I realized I had tried to tie each one into a neat, explained package rather than letting the ending vibrate on its own. It was nice of him to write, "Consider." Words like "try" and "consider" are much friendlier than demands or exclamations.

But what about more typical work, longer stories, poems that I might send out, work I might present to the writing group? Two main considerations stand out for me: 1) either I have questions about the work that I don't seem to be able to resolve, or 2) I feel satisfied but need to know if there is anything or confusing or unsatisfying to the reader. Sometimes having a distance from the work, say a few months or years, will make absorbing the comments easier. Sometimes I feel secure enough right now to be able to consider them. If you have a commenter that has, as our anonymous commenter writes, "emotional intelligence, a willingness to be vulnerable themselves, and skill at communicating," any time might work out just fine. I hope all of us are lucky to know people like this!

Some other reasons to show work:
  • Check spelling and grammar
  • Opinion on choice of subject
  • Flow
  • Sequence and how the story unfolds
  • Word choices
  • Rhythm
  • General feeling or overall mood
  • Vividness of scenes or characters
In addition to asking for a specific type of comment, when you show someone a piece, you have a responsibility to indicate the style of input you want. You might only want to know about something on the list, above, or you might want to know a few things, or you might just want praise and encouragement. In any case, you should let the other person know if you would rather have a hard or soft critique, and then be open to weighing the comments carefully, whatever they may be.

Input surrounding objective questions is going to be easier to accept than general subjective reactions. To be willing to consider substantive comments of any kind, you will have to try to leave your emotions aside. You might ask yourself, "Is this true?" and "How is this true?" or "If this isn't true how could someone think this?" or "If I don't agree with this, why don't I?" It's also a good idea to have someone simply describe to you what they think is happening in your piece. You can learn quite a bit based on what they tell you, how they tell it to you, and what they leave out

When I was in school we often read our pieces aloud to the class, which was a fast way to get input. Hearing yourself read aloud in front of an audience can help you learn quickly (especially if you are listening to yourself). Did you stumble on any words or phrases? Anything sound bumpy or not quite right, either rhythmically or from a character or plot standpoint? Of course you also get immediate audience reaction: laughter, murmuring, gasping, groaning, and silence.

It isn't easy deciding to be vulnerable and showing work. And it isn't always easy understanding what is useful and what isn't. It will likely vary from piece to piece, from commenter to commenter. Practice and experience helps. Asking objective questions of yourself and about your motivation helps. It's complicated, sure. But challenges like these can help us to grow as writers and as human beings.


Alisa, age six

See more about group comments at this post, "Writing Workshops and Art Critiques," and the link to Notes for a Writing Workshop

Thanks to Anonymous for the constructive comments that prompted this post.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Writing Like Rocks, Writing Like Water

I used to think that my story or poem was like a rock; once I wrote it, it was fixed and permanent. I was resistant to comments. If someone said, "I'm not sure I understand this part," I would shrug. Well, that's how I saw it. I didn't see how it could be any other way.

But somewhere along this creative path, I took a detour. To my astonishment, I discovered that writing was more like water; it could twist and turn, flow in any number of directions. Just because I had imagined one ending didn't mean that it was the only possible one. Suddenly, a story could have hundreds of endings, travel in multiple directions. (An overwhelming thought if you think too hard about it.) The  creative snow melts, and I have to choose which way to channel it.

Sometimes someone says, "This is what really happened, so that's how I'm going to write it." One choice is to try to report an event as accurately as possible, like the phrase before the signature at the bottom of the tax form, "…to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct…." We do our best. Humor, word choices, sequence of events, style, and the sounds of the sentences are some of the tools the nonfiction writer (and any writer) has. 

Another choice is to abandon our desire to report and to decide to write fiction instead; we can shape the story further and reroute the creative streams. The risk here is that we still have to make it believable. The gain is that we can add imaginary conversations or change some details to make the story more interesting, maybe even deepen the meaning. We can still get to the heart of the story and to the depth of the emotions. The main issue, then, is to be honest in how we label it. Even though it is now fiction, who can say that the experience for the reader is not emotionally true?

Accepting the idea that writing can flow here or there can also free the writer to accepting constructive criticism. As long as the comments are offered by someone who cares, the writer can continue to grow.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Recipe for an Artist's Book

At Codex a few months ago, I visited Julie Chen's booth and she told me about a collaborative project with Barb Tetenbaum: a deck of Artist's Book Ideation Cards. Shortly thereafter, she curated a show called, "Ideation By Chance," at the Seager Gray Gallery. The premise: each artist would do a draw from the deck and make a book inspired by the draw. You can see all the books at the exhibit link.

Julie was recently asked to curate another show, this one in November or December in Denver, Colorado at the Abecedarian Gallery, and I will be one of ten book arts educators participating. I asked her to draw for me, and so I'll be working on my book this summer.

Even though I got my recipe, I decided to purchase the Artist's Book Ideation Cards to examine them further. Elegantly designed, the cards are easy to use as well. Let's do a draw together to see how it works. We have two sets of cards: "Categories" and "Adjectives." We'll separate the categories: Structure, Paper, Technique, Text, Image, Layout, and Color. According to the instructions we may "exchange one category card and one adjective card."



Looks like we can start with any kind of accordion for the structure.


Multiple colors of paper…


Our method will be drawing or painting.


Our text will be gleaned from
stream of consciousness, free write, or rant. 
The goal here is to let it flow (my interpretation).


Our image is to be extracted from a single image.
We can choose a complicated picture and zoom in
to various areas, creating multiple images from the single image.


Layout is minimal or restrained.
Each page mostly likely has one focal point and
very little to distract from it.


Our first draw for Color was "Least Favorite," and I've decided to draw again.
Monochromatic: shades of one color, our choice…

We have finished the Categories, so let's look at the Adjective Cards. We get five.


We picked "manifesto-based" originally, but I've exchanged it.
So we have:
descriptive or instructive
complicated or confusing
surreal
colorful
mysterious or coded

Hmm. We have both "monochromatic" and "colorful." So whatever color we choose should have many variations, perhaps stretch the idea by using a secondary color like orange, purple, or green. Or…?

I suspect each of us could come up with our own set of cards based on the things we are interested in, but this one works well as a universal deck. Another idea would be to get a group together to create personal cards and then draw from each other's deck. Barb and Julie's deck has about seven or eight cards in each of the Categories, and 53 Adjectives, which includes three Wild Cards.

The cards can be used however we like: as checklists, as absolute rules, or as jumping-off points. Maybe one or two don't end up fitting in. It would be interesting to see what a group of people do with the same draw. That said, if you make a book using this particular recipe, send a photo and I'll include it in a future post.

You can purchase Julie & Barb's deck from Julie for $30 at Flying Fish Press.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Journal with Colored Paper, Colored Thread


I finished teaching my last class of the semester, and what did I do to relax? I immediately made yet another journal I don't need. But a few new details. Basically, it is the Multiple Signature with Rounded Spine (pages 155-158) from Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms with a couple of twists: the covering material is cut from a worn corduroy shirt, the pages are made from colored pastel paper, and each section is bound with a coordinating colored thread. Note: Since it is so thick, you can use the corduroy as is without backing it with mulberry paper, but you will need to put glue on the boards in this case, not on the cloth. I incorporated some of the shirt's tags into the cover (both by sewing and by using Aleene's Original Tacky Glue). You could use the buttons and/or buttonholes.


One piece of Canson Mi-Teintes paper (approximately 19" x 25," or 483 mm x 635 mm) can be cut into six sheets (grain short). Use two folded sheets per signature for three signatures of each color. 

The sewing pattern is normal for a multiple-signature binding on tapes (I'm out of linen tapes so I used ribbon); all you do is tie off and attach a new color of thread on the outside of the book block when desired. Start sewing with three lengths of thread; when you get to the end, do a kettle stitch, then attach the next color (another three lengths) on the outside, near the spine, before you sew into the fourth signature. I used the Variation with bookcloth supports (page 158)—in this case just the cloth.



The benefit is that you are working with a shorter thread and it is less likely to get tangled. The stitching is either intentionally obvious or invisible, depending upon the colors you choose.


I can't let go of this journal; I gave it sentimental meaning by accident. The endpapers were given to me decades ago by the wearer of the shirt.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Squeak Carnwath in Conversation with Renee Bott

Since I don't make too many flat prints, I have never really considered applying for membership in the California Society of Printmakers, but I was more than happy to be invited by CSP's president and my CCA colleague, Michelle Murillo, to attend a talk sponsored by CSP: a conversation with artist Squeak Carnwath and Master Printer and co-owner of Paulson Bott Press, Renee Bott. When Renee was a grad student at CCA Squeak gave a presentation to a class she was in, which sparked her interest. "I am always learning from Squeak."



Many years went by, and Renee is now the co-owner of a well-established editioning press, and periodically she and Pam, her business partner, work with Squeak to create new prints. Renee and Squeak showed slides and talked about their collaborative printmaking process. "We didn't rehearse this," they said, but they were clearly comfortable with each other as they improvised and joked through the forty-five minutes.

I had seen Squeak's paintings at a show at the Oakland Museum of California in 2009 and the colors and patterns translate very well to the prints. Renee showed a short film of one print being pulled, and it was very sensual watching the band of color move from the prepared plate through the etching press and transfer to the large paper. Squeak said she liked all the layers that a print could create and wished to make about twelve plates per print, but Renee said she tries to keep artists to a maximum of nine. 

Renee explained that she and Pam choose artists both by how well known they are (and artists who have their own marketing in place) as well as artists who are not typically represented in print: women artists, African-American artists and those who are not traditionally art-educated. Paulson Bott also like to figure out ways to make the artists who are not printmakers comfortable with the process. For the women quiltmakers of Gee's BendLouisiana Bendolph, Mary Lee Bendolph, and Loretta Bennett, Renee explained how she and Pam brought in sewing machines and fabric and the women made quilts the size of the paper they would print on. Paulson Bott cut and filed the metal plates, coated them, pressed the quilts into the soft ground, then etched the plates. Renee didn't elaborate, but I assume the color was added in layers after that. A beautiful way to capture the texture of the fabric itself and to make the printmaking process a welcoming one. (Gee's Bend film here.)

When possible, Pam and Renee like to visit the artist's home, "eat and drink and break bread," with them, which I imagine gives them a good idea of who the artist is and how they might work together. I was fascinated by how intimate their process is. They probably notice little details, perhaps even subject matter that the artist lives with but doesn't think about.

Squeak most likely thinks about and is conscious of everything. "I'll put in absolutely anything," she said about her art. She said she likes to watch t.v. while she works, which I take to mean that she incorporates the things she sees there. This was supported by Renee's comment that in 1999 while they were editioning the print "Listening," they were listening to Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel on tape and Renee started noticing how parts of the book were showing up in Squeak's work. In 2011, Squeak created lots of images of candelabras, and she said she was looking at A Dictionary of Symbols by Circlot.

The conversation wrapped up with a dip into the subject of digital prints and how they differed from fine art prints. Squeak said she didn't think digital prints had "the same luminosity as the print or painting," that they were too "smooth, smooth, smooth," and that she liked to see something "slightly flawed" that showed the hand. She likened digital prints to "bus wrappers," which provokes a funny and interesting image. Layers are very important to her and her work and unless you are mixing digital with other printmaking techniques, you will not find layers in digital alone. She said she thought it was a "great tool," but liked better the idea of "weird hybrids." Renee agreed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I Fell in Love with a Book by Shaun Tan

I fell in love with a book again. I know. It happens a lot. But this time I mean it. It always occurs when you are not looking for it. In this case, I went to the famed Fantastic Comics store in downtown Berkeley thinking I would be purchasing some manga for a gift, which I did. But a curious book jumped out at me, Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. I didn't buy it that day, but it haunted me and I went back for it. I later bought two more.

If you appreciate wonderful illustrations, combinations of pictures and words that tell stories, older children's books (age 12+) with a quirky and magical edge, then I suspect you will love this book as well. I was thankful I found it in a store and got to handle it myself since the online customer reviews, while positive, are somewhat misleading. I'd like to briefly address a few issues raised by the comments. 

One person found it "puzzling and challenging" and while her 12-year-old boy liked it, her 9-year-old daughter found it "too weird." I think it is actually a good thing to involve the reader. It is great that we have books to entertain us, that we can passively enjoy when we are tired, and that we also have books that can engage us and make us think (and all sorts of variations and combinations of both).

Another reader said that "the author doesn't really end the stories," which is only true if you have a fixed idea of what you think a story should be. The short story format leaves room for the reader's imagination and inferences: because of format constrictions, not everything can be explained in detail. I found all the endings quite satisfying, and at the same time I feel I could read them over and over again. 

A third reviewer, who actually loves the book, put the word "story" in quotation marks and says she has never seen anything like it. If you are familiar with book art, and even with some kinds of childrens' books, then you may have seen similar approaches. The book I've written about before (my first love!) Arm in Arm: A Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and Other Echolalia by Remy Charlip written and drawn in 1969 is one example. It seems that the general public, even with the graphic novel so prevalent these days,  is still unsure about accepting work for adults or older children that has beautiful pictures. I wish I could say I had a solution.

Lovely page variations throughout are linked by Shaun Tan's iconic style. He explains that he wanted to "treat each story…as a separate little universe…." The endpapers are filled with doodles. The table of contents is made up of imaginary stamps to each of these universes with the postage being the page number. "Water Buffalo" has one page of text facing one illustration, "Eric" has a sequence of illustrations interspersed with the text. "Distant Rain" is written in a collaged style. "The Amnesia Machine" looks like a closeup from a newspaper article. He writes that:
 …all of the stories in ‘Suburbia’ are the products of ‘homeless’ sketchbook doodles and half-articulated ideas – those that I have found especially intriguing, or accidentally poetic in some way. My  favourites are usually the ones I can’t fully explain.
Really magical work can come from the subconscious, the consciousness submerged. It doesn't have to come from our intellect, it can come through our bodies in other ways. Tan tells about his process on his website, linked here, which doesn't explain the stories, but is a wonderful resource that sheds light on each story's beginnings. Most of them hinge on a merging of the landscape and his experiences growing up in Perth, Australia, where he still lives.

If you like this book, you might also like the work of Henrik Drescher, whose work Tan's reminded me of. While Charlip's is lighter, Drescher's is a bit darker, I think.

Tan is apparently most known for his awardwinning book The Arrival, which has no words at all, but documents the feeling of an immigrant coming to a strange city. Interesting review is here. I guess I'll be looking at that one next…

But wait! He won an Academy Award in 2011 for this short film The Lost Thing. The film is a different experience than his books, but it gives you a good idea of his aesthetic and storytelling sensibility. More info about the film here.