I was raised in a commune full of intellectuals and artists and moved out early, into the Queen W 80s underground art scene, so I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been hanging around with crazy, weird and wonderful artists for my entire life. I love all kinds of people with all kinds of ideas and interests, but there are some nifty conversations and interactions I can have with creative people, that are generally unlikely elsewhere, because of the strangely common experiences, passions, eccentricities and challenges we run into.
Of course there are greater and lesser resonances, even when you share the same very general vector of original creation – but what I especially love is the way you can discover a single clue, and with it, acknowledge a whole library of shared pleasure and fascination.
So with my most extraordinary old boss Newton, who caught my casual use of “Sweedack” a piece of fake slang (contraction of “je suis d’accord”) made up by the brilliant John Brunner, in “Stand on Zanzibar” (which along with “The Sheep Look Up” and “Shockwave Rider” should be required reading). That we both adored those now obscure works in particular, gave us a whole range of subtle understandings and perspectives on the world which we could build upon – and said a great deal about our spiritual resonance. Cool and fun both – like an instantaneous friendship level-up!
I first encountered the inexhaustibly brilliant Andrew Foerster when he was a student in an illustration class for which I was modelling at OCADU, taught by the now retired (and very much missed) Bob Berger.
I like to talk to students on the breaks, my weirdly broad range of interests means I can often point them to specifically helpful source material, but far more importantly, I really like to hear what younger people are thinking about and interested in. Too easy to get stale in our thinking, without this vital contact.
In Andrew’s case, he Sweedacked me right away with a fabulous space illustration he was working on – a gigantic space-station constructed drawing by drawing, each new section connecting to the ever more fantastical whole. It wasn’t just the “spaceshipness” of it that grabbed me – there are plenty of perspective-shot geniuses and “rivet men” (equipment perfectionists) out there – and I do adore that work unabashedly. But as I say, from Milton Caniff to Metal Hurlant, that turf has been covered.
I spent years working on a Graphic Novel that never quite happened – set on the old Mir space station – so I too have been obsessed with space station drawing – my weird goal was to impart a bit of the humanity of a contour line, to a usually fully-alienated subject (manga are particularly funny on this schism – often inking humans with expressive brushstrokes, and cars, buildings and objects with pure precision technical line-work).
I could already see that Rewfoe was going to another level altogether – by managing to impart simultaneous qualities of genuine active cuteness AND coolness, everywhere (still not sure how he manages this very difficult balance quite so well – but it shows up consistently, and is deluxe, every time). Our Venn overlap, of course – the underlying humane spirit!
Since graduating he’s gone from triumph to triumph – creating superb prints for ultra cool gallery shows Catherine and I have much enjoyed, and especially as a first-rate animator (which subject he now teaches, too). He’s so prolific and gifted on that front, that I am frustrated at how many genuine gems I have to ignore, to bring you this still wide selection, and give you a small sense of his range, wit, excellence and truly wonderful underlying compassion.
Go and visit his own website full of wonders – even his exercises and in-progress projects are super-cool – you’ll go back and visit again and again for more fun. It really is that good (and his output, that vast).
And do yourself and Andrew both a favour, and click full-screen when you’re watching these, so you can fully enjoy the visuals!
Tin Canyon is a small masterpiece of perfect charm. The balance of writing, narrative rhythm, animation pacing and music is exquisite. Best of all, it is as accessible and unpretentious as a masterpiece can be – underground and otherworldly – and funny!
When it comes to doing professional work – it’s really hard to beat being paid to increase human understanding. But you have to love someone who takes an assignment like this (a TED talk) as a serious communications responsibility, and then also adds so much humour and warmth to it! Sum greater in every possible way.
And TED talks go all around the world – presenting a huge array of artistic challenges. I enjoyed this talk, but even more, I really love the way Andrew paid such loving attention to the light and space. Very tough assignment, done beautifully.
Pretty cool gig, right? So what could be even more fun than illustrating an excellent explainer? How about a popular and first rate philosopher! I was utterly amazed when Rewfoe began to work with Alain Botton – but every one of these “School of life” pieces they’ve done together are lovely.
I like this one in particular, not only because it gives both Alain and Andrew a chance to show their emotional and sentimental depth – but also because my own book, “Structural Happiness” is very much based on this same idea – that what can reach us best are tales not of triumph, but error owned and gradually overcome. Hope with an honest, not a boastful, face.
This Botton piece is about something important that a lot of my more melancholy friends have struggled for years to get across to others. Incredibly helpful insights for understanding and being able to be a better friend to folks who are low. Also outright beautiful as art.
Here is another un-commissioned (or as I always think of them, self-commissioned) work – this one especially challenging, and a really exciting piece of philosophical art work, also. Thinking about the world post-collapse is a very sharp culture-split I’ve mentioned before. Boomers never find it comfortable to play there, but everyone since has had to find a way into this subject matter, somehow, because we’ve never been so deluded as to be able to deny its absolute (rather than merely satyrical) likelihood. (Which is of course still increasing rapidly).
Watching “Girl Wolf” again, I feel as if it’s a poem I’ve struggled to write myself for years, and the revelation of tragedy in tiny detail, scale and musically directed focus is profound.
I love that Bill Nelson line, “Hendrix gave the world a whole new alphabet, and ever since then, everyone has been repeating the same phrases!” Likewise, I think Miyazaki wouldn’t want others to try to draw like him – but rather express like him – with full heart-torque, imagination and courage employed. In other words – like this.
Full disclosure – yes of course this is the guy I asked to illustrate the Young Adult manuscript I just finished (set in a not entirely dissimilar version of Toronto).
But I swear I loved him and his extraordinarily diverse and energetic work a long time before he waved-off my handshake of greeting and insisted on a hearty hug instead. Sweedack, dude!
– And finally here (because it really is lovely) is a mere taste of the huge and deliciously elaborate “Ready Player One” print, of which the header is a detail. Endlessly fascinating (and surprisingly affordable) art!