SKRIK and the Beast

After doodling on a Saturday evening this guy appeared. I think it portrays my state of mind at the time – being away from home and battling with being by myself. Like battling a monster. He made me smile, and I felt better. His name is SKRIK. I think I’ll call him up again. Afrikaans: SKRIK en die Ondier.

Random Shapes

Random shapes become artworks. I love it when the byproducts of a process become works themselves. I’m tempted to transform them into paintings.

Back to the drawing board

Scene from a new story taking shape about a gang of abalone smugglers who run into trouble.

It’s been three and a half years, but two days ago I made a drawing again. It bothered me that so much time had passed without producing any new work. As time went by I became increasingly hard on myself for not having the discipline and mental stamina to sit down and make a start. Doubts started surfacing: would I even know what to do when I picked up a pencil again?

So on Sunday I got to work. It was hard going at first. Sitting still can be difficult. But after two hours or so I became calm. I guess it’s what you’d call getting into the ‘flow’. Experiencing the flow is one of the reasons I make illustrations. It doesn’t bother me that some of them take a lot of time to make.

So when I was in this state of flow the past three and a half years replayed itself with a clarity that I don’t have in the day-to-day busyness. This is what I had been through: changed company four times, moved house five times, rebuilt one house, had a child, changed countries, and both my parents passed away.

In that moment of clarity I was thankful for the ability to sustain the love of drawing when life becomes too complicated to find time and stillness. And I’m grateful to myself for the time and dedication that I’ve put into the art of drawing, knowing that when the time comes the flow will always be there.

Winter Wonders 2016 Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

At Winter Wonders on 30 June I read from my books Mister King’s Incredible Journey and Mister Sengi’s Very Big Friend. It was a combination of a book reading and a drawing workshop.

Running workshops with adults can be hard, especially if you give them paper and ask them to draw something. Running workshops with kids can be even harder if the group has a spread of age groups. Four year olds are very different to six year olds. Older children can seem sceptical and disinterested, but at the same time come up with sharp questions and observations.

But when you give them pencils and paper it usually evens out – creativity is a leveller if you are as comfortable with it as kids are. Putting pencils and paper in front of adults is another story.

I ran a design thinking workshop with adults recently where they ignored the pencils and paper. Drawing is a form of thinking that is equally as powerful as writing and talking, for some people even more so. I’d encourage more people to pick up pencils and to start drawing!

The lists of Stefan Sagmeister

Yesterday was one of those days – no real focus. I ended up browsing TED talks and found Stefan Sagmeister talking about moments in his life that made him happy. He spoke about making lists – lists are good thinking tools. I am going to start making purposeful lists. Here is a screenshot of one of his slides.

Reading the list made me happy.

Corals and the Antropocene

I’m reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – a book everyone should read. Here’s why:

The way corals change the world – with huge construction projects spanning multiple generations – might be likened to the way that humans do, with this crucial difference. Instead of displacing other creatures, corals support them.

and:

One of the defining features of the Anthropocene is that the world is changing in ways that compel species to move, and another is that it’s changing in ways that create barriers – roads, clear-cuts – that prevent them from doing so.

and this applies to humans too.

Visualising the ancient Karoo

I’m fascinated by dry places that were once at the bottom of oceans. The Karoo is such a place, at least for a period of its ancient history it was under water. During that time rocks formed when sediments sunk to the bottom of oceans and lakes. The sediments were transported from higher ground by glaciers and rivers into the Karoo basin.

Conceptual map of the rock formations, towns, and fossils of the ancient Karoo.

But the ancient Karoo wasn’t always under water. Towards the end of a 90 million year rock forming period, the Karoo became drier, until it resembled today’s Namib desert. Then, at about 190 million years ago, lava flows covered the entire Karoo putting an end to the rock formation period. The Drakensberg mountains being the striking remnant from that event, but the characteristic Karoo Koppies are also a consequence of the upwelling lava (sills) that infiltrated older sedimentary rocks (shales) on its way to the surface. The Karoo today is the result of a 190 million year erosion process that started after the lava flows.

I like to think of the Karoo as a book, the rocks are its pages, to read the story of the Karoo you need to know what to look at, and understand what it means. But the story becomes complicated quite soon.

How to represent the story of the ancient Karoo in a simple infographic? The result of my first attempt is a conceptual map plotting rocks, fossils, and towns. I visualised the Karoo basin as a saucer consisting of 5 layers. The oldest layers are at the bottom, and crop out on the surface at the edge of the saucer. Moving towards the centre the rocks become progressively younger. This is a distortion of the actual geography, but I find it a useful model to understand the order of events, and physical structure of the Karoo.

Interesting facts cropped up during my research that I’d like to explore further: the end of a glacial period led to the formation of the Dwyka Group, and evidence of a mass extinction at the end of the Permian is visible in the rocks of the Beaufort Group.

More to explore, and more to follow.