Illustrator interview: Jade They

incidentalAll images © Jade They

London-based illustrator and printmaker Jade They provided the powerful illustration for the issue 10 Incidental column ‘Loft of Hidden Dreams’. We spoke to Jade about her art background and her method for approaching commissions. More of her illustrations follow below the fold.

Can you say a little about your art background?
I studied at the University of Westminster and graduated with a first in Illustration and Visual Communication in 2012. My work has appeared a number of publications, with recent features in Boneshaker, Lost in London, Strike! and Delayed Gratification magazine, amongst others. I have taken part in a number of shows and exhibitions including  2013 Design Junction, 2013 Members Summer Show at London Print Studio and 2012 New Blood D&AD.

How do you approach illustrating a piece of writing generally?
Generally when illustrating a piece of writing I need to make an analysis of the imagery described in the text as well as subjects and atmosphere. I then develop an idea based on those three things. Then I make a working rough using hand-drawn elements, which gets refined along the way. I cut the final from lino and print it. Sometimes the image will then go through minor changes in Photoshop, but I try to keep to the original print as much as possible. Continue reading

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Evie Wyld competition

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Issue 10 has just been released online to read for free, and to celebrate we are running a competition to win a copy of Evie Wyld latest book, All the Birds, Singing, as well as one of the first ever Structo tote bags. The bags won’t even be available to buy until the new year. Exclusive I tell you.

All the Birds, Singing is a remarkable book, and if you want to get a taste of what to expect you can read our interview with Wyld in the newly released issue here.

To enter the competition, email competitions@structomagazine.co.uk, with ‘Evie Wyld competition’ in the subject line and your name and address in the body text. The draw closes at midnight on December 31st. We’ll choose somebody at random from the entries on January 1st and let you know if you’ve won soon after.

Rules/notes: The draw closes at midnight GMT on December 31st; UK addresses only please; we won’t use your email address for anything else (unless you’d like to be added to our mailing list, in which case let us know in the email).

Update 1/1: The book and tote bag have now been won – congratulations to the winner!

Issue 10 now online

An early Christmas present: the online version of Structo issue 10!

Click on the preview above, or head on over to Issuu, to read the issue for free and in its entirety. It features 10 short stories, 10 poems, two interviews (author Evie Wyld and poet/translator/author/editor David Constantine) and an essay about hereditary book addiction. It’s a great issue, even if we say it ourselves.

There are also a few print copies around if you would like to read it on paper.

Happy Christmas on behalf of the entire Structo team.

— Euan

Birkensnake

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Back in April I was tugged into the world of Kickstarter by Birkensnake, one of my favourite literary magazines. Based in the States, they produce gorgeous magazines, and always have the content to match. Their Kickstarter project was to fund the sixth annual issue, to be produced in seven separate editions by seven separate editorial and art teams. It sounded too good to miss.

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My copy arrived last week. Edited by Benny Lichtner and Elan Lafontaine and produced by Nicole Trigg and Michele Chun, it’s a thing of beauty, and is—predictably—full of great stories and poetry in that special, slightly off-kilter, Birkensnake way. You can read the issue/issues in-full and buy a copy/copies over at their website. There are more photos of this edition below the break.

– Euan

Continue reading

Review: The Swimmers by Joaquín Pérez Azaústre

Under the water (CC BY NC)

Photo (CC BY-NC): Aristocrats Hat

Jonás Ager is a photographer, restless in his work and recently separated from his long-term girlfriend. He is also a swimmer. His regular trips to the pool have become therapy, helping him deal with the challenges of an increasingly isolated life just as they once helped his young body heal from an incipient deviation in his spine.

It takes fifty pages or so for the plot to emerge in Azaústre’s novel, but in those first few chapters, following Jonás through his regular routine of laps at the pool and post-lap drinks with an old friend, we have time to get to know him; to figure out who Jonás is. Much of this insight comes refracted through the water of the swimming pool.

It’s when he comes into contact with the water and his body gains definition as it adjusts to the temperature of the pool, as he begins to sense his shoulders and back, his hands and feet, stimulated by the pressure, that his head begins to slowly clear. As he counts off the meters and time, another, deeper kind of time begins to swell up inside him, a time that moves in every direction at once: north and south of him, east and west of him, in a succession of dormant images which awaken then, only then, after this surreptitious contact with the water, and attach themselves to a meaning, falling into a sequence and gaining lucidity.

The language in The Swimmers is beautifully drawn. Azaústre has an eye for those small details which encapsulate a particular place or character. It would be easy for this style of prose to come across as detached, or at the very least a bit off-putting to non-swimmers, but it’s neither of those things. Azaústre’s light stylistic touch forms the core of a quietly hypnotic novel; it keeps hold of that early familiarity as the narrative subtly shifts and changes beneath the surface. This effect is partially due to the nature and structure of the book—a detective story at heart, made up of short chapters—but those early passages give us such familiarity with Jonás that it is easy to be carried along. This subtle naturalism lends enormous power to the unnatural events which gradually emerge.

No small amount of praise for this must go to Lucas Lyndes, who translated the novel from the original Spanish. The Swimmers was published earlier this year by Frisch & Co., a new publisher based in Berlin. Their focus is contemporary fiction in English translation and, interestingly, they publish exclusively in (DRM-free) electronic formats. This single-mindedness of form carries through into the well-thought-out design of the book itself: the physical act of reading it is a great experience.

The Swimmers isn’t perfect of course—there are a couple of scenes which feel tonally misplaced—but on the whole it’s easy to understand why this was sent to us for review. It occupies that fertile hinterland in-between literary and speculative fiction; a world at once familiar and at the same time increasingly strange. Superbly written, but not at the cost of an interesting story and authentic characters.

If you enjoy Structo, you will probably enjoy this book.

— Euan

Awards season

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Photo (BY-NC-ND): Ana Kelston

Two exciting awards-related things to report today.

Back in April we posted a brief interview with Siobhan Harvey, who had just had her issue eight poem ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’ selected for the Best New Zealand Poems anthology.

Today we’re delighted to announce that Siobhan has gone one further, as she has been awarded this year’s Kathleen Grattan Award, New Zealand’s largest prize for poetry. The prize is for her collection Nephology for Beginners, about a boy with autistic spectrum, which includes ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’. You can listen to the excellent announcement interview here and read her contribution to issue eight here. Many congratulations Siobhan!

While on the subject of awards, we made our first ever Pushcart Prize nomination this time last year. After lots of re-reading, this year we’ve decided to nominate three poems, one essay and two short stories. They are:

‘Bales’ by Daniel Galbraith
‘Woodvale’ by Phil Callaghan
‘Lunch in Ars en Ré’ by Lucy Furlong
‘The Loft of Hidden Dreams’ by Keir John Pratt
‘In a Foreign Town’ by Christine Stroik Stocke
‘A View of the Moon from the Moon’ by Matthew Kabik

These nominations are currently winging their way to New York, and we wish them all the best of luck.

Crowded Isolation: an interview with the photographer Terence S. Jones

CC BY Terence S JonesAll images (CC BY 2.0): Terence S. Jones

The cover of issue ten went through many iterations. We wanted to capture the theme of isolation which threaded its way through a number of stories, but without the whole thing coming across as downbeat or sad. Eventually, a late night search on Flickr turned up the image above. It’s entitled Crowded Isolation, and was taken by Terence S. Jones, an American photographer based in Atlanta. Happily, Terence had licensed the photo under a Creative Commons licence, and so the final cover came together quickly soon after. We talked to him by email about his photography and about capturing his Crowded Isolation.

What drew you to take the picture which ended up as Crowded Isolation?

The picture was taken at a train station in Germany. I was travelling for some time by then and I was quite frustrated with some of the hassles that come with travelling. It was winter around the time when many of the German trains had to be cancelled due to heavy snow, etc. I then happened to look down into the main hall where I saw the guy standing with his luggage staring at the announcement board with all the cancelled trains. All the other people were rushing by and it created this weird contrast of an absolutely calm and isolated element in a high-paced crowd.

Did it capture what you hoped it would?

That’s a hard question. Often I feel that photos develop their full potential only some time after they have been taken, in particular the photographer needs to get some emotional distance. Otherwise the photo is overloaded by external emotions and one cannot really judge. So to answer your question: yes it does. In fact it has certain imperfections that I hated right after I took it and now I believe that they add to it (for example, the slow shutter speed blurred some of the people).

CC BY Terence S. Jones
A lot of your work is travel photography. What came first, the love of travel, or of photography?

That is very easy for me. I did not like travelling very much before I got into serious photography. Now I can motivate myself to go almost anywhere. Even if I expect to hate the location I can still capture why I don’t like it. Of course this approach comes with some serious risks – Susan Sontag wrote about those in her ‘On Photography’. Among one of her more popular statements was:
“The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.” On a more serious note: photography turned me into an explorer. It brought me to places and let me experience things that I would have never gone to beforehand, because I could not answer the question “why should I go?” It is weird, for the very special places and experiences I do not even share the photos with anyone as I rather want to keep them, and what they stand for, to myself.

CC BY Terence S. Jones

If your Flickr stream is anything to do by, you move between portraits and still life, landscapes and cites, candid and posed shots. Do you have any favourite subjects?

I think at this point my Flickr stream is not very representative any more. At some point Flickr just did not work for me any more and there are time where I try to reactivate my Flickr-life but then fall short again. I think style wise I am really drawn to either ‘people shots’ be it staged, candid, fashion, or portraits and ‘geometric shots’, e.g., urban photography where geometry and strong composition are dominating – the latter however is more on my personal work side and not really for business.

CC BY Terence S. Jones

Any parting words?

I feel that all types of art have been severely threatened by the ‘likes’ and ‘hits’ driven evaluation and I urge anybody in any creative endeavor to free themselves from these very one-dimensional outside evaluations and rather find a circle of ‘friends’ to discuss their work with.

For more of Terence’s photography, head to his website.