A Separation

A couple of months ago I read Katie Kitamura’s novel A Separation. I was impressed with Kitamura’s writing, and the way she wove her themes of absence and death, searching and frustration. I liked it so much, I decided to try to make a book cover for it.

Kitamura’s story is told by a female narrator, who is detached and opaque throughout. She and her husband have separated, although they’ve largely kept that fact to themselves. Her mother-in-law, unaware of their separation, asks the narrator to travel to Greece to locate her now-missing husband. She does so and finds a smoking, ruined landscape, destroyed by a fire a few months previous. Her husband is a ghostly presence, seemingly just out of reach. She always just misses him. I won’t say anything more (spoilers!), but I was intrigued by the images Kitamura described, of the blue, blue waters and the black, still-smoking hills, and of the husband’s ghostly presence.

The first one I did focused on Kitamura’s unforgettable Grecian landscape.

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But that didn’t seem quite right. While it got the setting, I couldn’t get a sense of the dislocation and distance of the narrator: her strange, clinical detachment. I wanted a little…more. So I made one of the narrator. Kitamura made her a frustrating one, telling a story and then negating or qualifying in the next paragraph. She withholds, and is always turning away from other characters as well as her own feelings. I thought if she were on the cover, it should show her back, turned away, or even walking away, anything to avoid a confrontation.

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But once I’d done that, I missed that sense of place, that ruined, smoky landscape. So I brought it back in combination with that frustrating narrator. I decided to focus on that ghostly husband. But once I’d done that, I was annoyed. Here was a story told by a woman, why was I erasing her to feature a man’s silhouette on the cover? She was, in her way, almost as absent as the husband. In the end, I think I like them as a set: equally missing from their own story.

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Have you read the book? What do you think would make a good cover?

Debate Night

Monday night, I watched the Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. At first, it seemed like we'd see a different Trump than the "tangerine trash can fire" that won the primaries. He sounded like maybe he had an argument about trade, rather than the word salad strewn with casual lies he usually employs when speaking publicly. For a second, I thought, maybe he did prepare, and I got a smidgen worried. Not for Hillary exactly, because she's had a lot of debate experience, but for America. I thought if he could make himself sound halfway plausible, he might be able to reach some voters that have so far been undecided.

Trump sounding halfway plausible for two seconds.

But then, as the debate went on, and Clinton needled him on some of his past comments, the old Trump emerged, the one who can't let anything pass, the one who keeps smearing people even after it'd be to his advantage to move on. He melted down like a CheezWhiz volcano, and Hillary Clinton got to look at America like the cat that got the cream.

Nevermind, CheezWhiz volcano in full effect.

You may not love our choices, but if you have to cross a chasm, do you go with the bridge that you don't totally trust, or do you just throw yourself off the precipice? The thing that makes me really sad is that even after this election, after Hillary wins (I really hope she wins), Trump and the ugliness he's brought out in our national discourse won't go away. He's legitimized conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, and alt right nuts and made a place for them in the mainstream conversation.

Whatever you think, please do register today, and VOTE on November 8th.

The High Line

I went to the High Line a few weeks ago to spend some time drawing the unique combination of people, city views, and flora. I really don't know of anywhere else where the three come together in quite the same way. I think it's one of the nicest places in the city to spend an afternoon, and judging from the crowds, a lot of people agree with me!

Below the High Line, the new Whitney Museum offers bright green chairs for people to hang out, check their phones, and take a break. It's a pretty stylish crowd.

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And when I saw this crowd of servers from the Whitney's restaurant Untitled having a meeting, I couldn't resist trying to capture the rhythm of their black pants, grey aprons, and red straps.

Early Spring at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

It's finally starting to warm up here in New York, but it was still a little chilly when I went out a couple of weeks ago to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with Carly LarssonEvan Turk, and Siyeon Lee. We still managed to find *something* in bloom: crocuses!

They're supposed to be the first flowers to poke their buds up out of the cold, cold ground in early spring and there they were! There was even a bee rooting around in one of them, picking up as much pollen as he could. Go little bee! Pollinate!!

I'm sure it was pretty hilarious to see three illustrators (before Siyeon joined us) clustered around the little spot where the crocuses were blooming.

We headed to the Japanese garden next. While it's too early for cherry blossoms, the Japanese understand the beauty of evergreens, bare branches, and the texture of rocks.

I have it on good authority from a friend studying horticulture that spring is going to hit fast and hard in the next week or two. She claimed everything would shoot out into bloom! Be ready, she said. I am!