7th SEPTEMBER 2019 — Being in preparations for a move, I only have time for a quick report on this performance I attended in Lahti, Finland yesterday, but I wanted to record it on this blog, as the creators behind it were Icelandic.
At the Lahti Fringe Festival, poet and performer Eyrún Ósk Jónsdóttir read her poetic meditation on peace and love, with Hildur Kristín Thorstensen as director and with discreet music by Viktor Aron Bragason accompanying.
I had actually attended this performance already twice in Iceland over the last year, when it was given at two different churches in Hafnarfjörður. In Icelandic back then, this time in English for the Finnish audience.
The meditation took the form of both conversationally expressed poetic thoughts and passages of poetry, concluding with a poem co-authored by the poet’s son: she made it from things she remembered him saying over the years.
Also part of the performance were recordings spoken by others, including the aforementioned son, whose contribution was charming, with an adorable pause in the middle of the word “people”.
We will be performing our poetry installation/happening at the Lahti Fringe Festival this September. The poet and the performer is Icelandic writer and actress Eyrún Ósk Jónsdóttir and the director is Hildur Kristín Thorstensen. The music was written by Viktor Aron Bragason. The piece is a poetry meditation in which all the poems are about peace and love, and meditation music is played to accompany the recitation.
The performance will be in English.
“It may seem like a contradiction, but it seems to me that nothing is as provocative as talking about peace, love, and benevolence. We are often so afraid of everything that could be considered cheesy and sincere. We even associate it with stupidity and a childish world view. In a world where the normalization of hate speech and the propagation of fear is growing, I shall continue to provoke with my own personal heart- and love-revolution and speak for peace with my head held high.” (Eyrún Ósk Jónsdóttir)
24 JULY 2019 — A few days ago I got to see my artwork for the first time in my life on a really large scale. My current gym (the downtown Tampere WFC, Wolf Fitness Club) kindly allowed me to hang this tapestry on the 3rd floor of their gym to photograph it better than would have been possible in my apartment. The image is a detail from my first book, You Never Know What You’ll See in the Haunted Garden, Vol. 1.
“The Haunted Garden is always changing. With Vol. 2 the series morphs into a deluxe hybrid of comic book and picture book as classic game actor Rex and his friends explore the mystery of the Chessboard Circus. More than twice as long as Vol. 1, it showcases the author’s unique blend of styles inspired by his love of myths, fairy tales, comics, books, games, theatre, cinema, music, and more. And as with the first volume, clues to the future already await discovery in this, our second journey into the dream world known as the Haunted Garden.”
It’s available in both paperback and ebook form. During a free promotion of the ebook, it reached #2 in Two-Hour Comic & Graphic Novel Short Reads, #6 in Science Fiction Graphic Novels, and #5 in Fantasy Graphic Novels.
These are books I create from beginning to end, from writing through drawing every single line from scratch to putting the final pages together and publishing. I use absolutely no premade elements other than the Courier font Rex speaks in and that’s used for the meta texts such as the About the Author spread.
And today “The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water“, about a British 1973 public service short film featuring the voice of Donald Pleasence five years before John Carpenter’s original Halloween.
Plus, yesterday I also launched a full day-by-day serialisation of my first book as a Medium series. This innovative Medium form is designed for viewing on smartphones. You tilt your phone to look from side to side. You can also subscribe to this. Here’s the link.
10th APRIL 2019 — The ebook edition of my first book, You Never Know What You’ll See in the Haunted Garden, Vol. 1, is now available on Amazon.
Everyone who buys the print paperback edition can also get the ebook version for free. The next volume in the series will be coming out early this summer. Amazon description for Vol. 1:
“The first in a series of eerie, beautiful coffee table books suitable for all ages. Rex the former game actor introduces us to the Haunted Garden through 30 full-spread wordless illustrations. These are books for leafing through, gazing at, and perhaps dreaming with, well suited for keeping on a living room table or a nightstand. This ebook is an exact reproduction of the paperback edition, allowing every detail of the full pictures to be seen.”
Amazon’s automatically generated preview ends just before the illustrated pages begin, but I have requested this to be changed to show more of the book. The change has been made and that update will soon be live on Amazon.
The new preview will show 20% of the content. Until then, an equally revealing preview can also be found on my site simosakariaaltonen.com.
29th MARCH 2019 — My first book You Never Know What You’ll See in the Haunted Garden, Vol. 1 is now available on Amazon.
More specifically, the paperback edition is — the ebook version is taking longer to work its way through the system, though it has already passed review, so should be available within some days.
The print edition is a large (8.5″ x 11″) 68-page colour paperback. Purchasers of the paperback will also get the ebook for free.
The Amazon product description:
“The first in a series of eerie, beautiful coffee table books suitable for all ages. Rex the former game actor introduces us to the Haunted Garden through 30 full-spread wordless illustrations. These are books for leafing through, gazing at, and perhaps dreaming with, well suited for keeping on a living room table or a nightstand.”
Creating something beautiful and imaginative for young people and the young at heart has long been one of my most cherished dreams.
I feel there can be few greater things a person can do than give a child something that may spark their imagination and create the kind of joy and wonder I remember from my own childhood when I pored over my favourite books. I still return to them and they thrill me as much as ever.
Works such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice books (late 19th century), the most beloved Finnish fairy tale novel Mestaritontun seikkailut (a really beautifully illustrated book from 1919 whose title translates as “The Adventures of the Master Elf“), and Malcolm Bird’s The Witch’s Handbook (1988).
I hope my first book, later volumes in the series, and items featuring this world and these characters will find their way one way or another into the lives of many children and others young at heart and give them something special and memorable.
Amazon’s automatic Look Inside has unfortunately provided a preview that stops short of the illustrated pages, but a more revealing preview is available on my official site here:
5th MARCH 2019 — Around the turn of the year I got very busy rearranging my life. To my regret, this meant completely putting this blog off to one side. I suddenly got more productive than ever. As a result, several of my creative projects are approaching completion.
This spring I’ll publish my first book and my first sets of sheet music. I’m also getting close to finishing my first symphony, and I’m working on a comic strip and already creating the materials for further books after the one I’ll soon publish. There’s more, but these are the main projects right now that I’m working full speed on.
At noon this Wednesday, 6th of March, I’ll also step onto the stage for the first time in my life since school. I will be drawing and animating things for about an hour with my iPad hooked up to the screen on the stage of a bar called Stúdentakjallarinn (The Student Cellar) on the campus of the University of Iceland here in Reykjavík.
This is essentially performance art in the form of creating in public, as it’s not a presentation. I’ll just draw and animate, and visitors to the bar may observe or ignore according to their inclination. We want to see what the reaction is to this experiment. I was inspired for this idea by the late great Harlan Ellison, who used to occasionally write in public.
I feel really good to be so productive — more so than ever before in my life — and it feels wonderful to set on this road of more active engagement out in the world in connection with art. But I may not be able to continue this blog in the form I originally envisioned. I regret that.
The work I am producing now is the work I had been heading for all along in my life. I feel grateful to have gotten to this point. That would not have happened without all the support I have had over the years from many goodhearted people.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has encouraged and supported me through the good times and bad. Now to make some art.
OCTOBER 18th 2018 — The photo is from IceCon 2018, between panel discussions at Culture House Iðnó in Reykjavík (early October), but it made me think of theater.
Theater is special. There is a magic to it. This post is a small tribute to that.
From the heavy curtains to the wonderfully worn, scratched stage floors, to the costumes and props, makeup and music, light and shadow, real people and things in physical space sharing an experience that will always be new, never exactly the same, and of course the amazing, intoxicating smell that many theaters have, theater engages all the senses and involves us as human beings in a beautiful world of art.
I support the idea that parents should let children discover this magic in one way or another at a young age.
Some things in life simply make for warmer and often — not always, but often — more empathetic souls. And theater is one of those things.
OCTOBER 2nd 2018 — There’s a fresh wind blowing. Some corner has been turned. I don’t know why or how. But that’s the feeling.
I was thinking this with some wonder on my way to the grocery store, and next thing I knew, this book, THE UNASHAMED ACCOMPANIST (1984) by Gerald Moore, fell in my lap — I found it on the free book exchange rack at the nearby shopping center.
Gerald Moore is a pianist whose work I got to know in the early 2000s when I acquired a collection of back issues of BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE, the cover CDs of which featured full, quality performances of classical music. He played on some of them.
(I still have that collection of magazines and CDs. I packed them and only a small number of other important things into plastic storage boxes and asked my parents to keep them for me back in Finland.)
I also remembered an interview with him from those issues. And the thing is, he was already active in the 1920s, so I’m currently coming across his name in the back issues of THE GRAMOPHONE I’m now reading.
To paraphrase from memory one of my favorite writers: We respect serendipity around here. I’ll share the exact quote in a later entry when I come across it again.
Or, for another paraphrase of the general thought, when two meaningful events occur in such close succession, it means something.
Somehow, the things we need seem to find us sooner or later, wherever we go. At least, as long as we follow our hearts. No matter how strange or difficult the road.
P.S. “There’s a fresh wind blowing in THE WILD SHORE,” is what Ursula K. Le Guin said of Kim Stanley Robinson’s debut novel, which I only just realized was published the same year as THE UNASHAMED ACCOMPANIST. Mister Robinson is the only living science fiction author whose work I read.