Last weekend, my father took me to a concert. I’m not a particular concert-goer, but this was special: it was the performance of Canto Ostinato, a piano piece that has been the soundtrack of my life since I was about thirteen years old. Only later I learned it is a great example of fundamentalist minimalistic music, tonal and harmonious. It was written in the late 1970s by Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt and you can click here if you want to read more about him and the many facets of this fantastic piece.
But the best thing is just to listen it.
It has been performed in numerous settings and with various instruments, of which the four-piano version is one of the most impressive and entrancing. Here’s a great rendition, with images of symmetries in Dutch landscapes as an added bonus:
The version my dad and I saw was for two pianos. We sat in first row, so the sound was really close and enveloping. Plus, I got a good view of the subtle footwork of one of the pianists, Polo de Haas. I brought a small leather notebook and drew this:
I find this music evokes a lot of imagery for me – mostly abstract but also natural – like the rhythm of breathing, or breaking waves.
So I drew this:
Then I realized I had drawn this before, and a lot better.
In 2006, on a holiday in Ireland, I found the CD of Canto Ostinato in the house I was staying in, and I listened to it in one long session and drew and drank port the whole time, trying to capture every shift in the music. It became a very long illustration. The picture beneath is part of it. If you click on it, you get the full version. Best viewed with the music from the video above playing in the background.
By the way, the translation of Canto Ostinato is ‘stubborn song’. Isn’t that great?
What is creativity? Where does it come from? Is it something you have inside, or something you can tap in to?
I personally lean towards the latter. My most creative moments are when I’m in the bath tub, where I get the distinct sensation of “windows” opening in my mind, through which ideas are flowing…
My Dutch book ‘Wetenschappen in Beeld’ gets a second print run! It has only been in stores for a few weeks, so I’m very happy!
Especially for the english-speaking followers of my blog, I have translated a few pages of the book to showcase here. In time, it will probably be published in English with the title ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’.
Here’s a page from the chapter about Isaac Newton. It seems he was a rather grumpy man, which made it great fun to make a comic about him.
The book also has a few spreads about subjects such as the Middle Ages, Electricity, Quantum and Genetics. Two of those, Genetics and the History of the Earth, have been made into huge posters which are sent to schools as promotional material:
Here’s the full History of the Earth in English, click twice on the picture to enlarge:
Here are some more cat comics I drew for my daily webcomic in 2005. The practice of a daily comic made me learn to draw quickly without bothering too much about perfection (which shows) – I hope you enjoy them anyway!
My book Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics has been spotted in several locations! Friends and fans were kind enough to send me these pictures:
I had a great time yesterday, drawing in the window of local bookstore De Nieuwe Boekhandel - here’s a graphic report of the day:
This Saturday is 24 Hour Comics Day! Comic artists all over the world will attempt to create a 24-page comic in as many hours. It’s a great event in which I have taken part a few times – the last time in 2008 in comics store Lambiek, where I drew this:
This year, I won’t participate because I am sitting in a bookshop window for most of the day. So it will be a sort of mini-24-hour-comics-day for me; a 6-hour-comics-day probably. I’ll draw comics and cartoons for all to see, and sign my books if anyone comes to purchase them. The venu is De Nieuwe Boekhandel, Bos en Lommerweg 227, Amsterdam – if you’re in the neighborhood, come by and wave!
Working on a creative project, like a comic book, can be a bumpy ride. With a bit of luck, you get in the “flow”. But what happens when the project is finished and the flow just ends…?
Last Saturday my newest book was launched, the Dutch ‘Wetenschappen in Beeld’, a 192-page comic book about science. It is the third book in the series of which ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ is the first (the second is about religion).
The presentation took place in comic store and gallery Lambiek in Amsterdam, and was framed by a mini-expo I organized with twelve fellow comic artists, who made amazing banners on the theme of ‘Comics and Science’.
VIP guest and speaker was “math-maiden” Ionica Smeets, who is a doctor in mathematics, science journalist and comics lover – she was so kind as to receive the symbolic first issue of the book.
But first, Klaas of Lambiek welcomed everyone and passed the book to my publisher, Esther van der Panne of Uitgeverij Meinema.
The nicest cat I ever lived with (apart maybe from Siamese Boris) was Bloem, a feisty, sociable, intelligent small black female who had all but literally clawed her way out of the garbage cans of Amsterdam as a kitten to set up home with me, in 1999.
In 2004 I drew her into a comic adventure for my (then) stepdaughter Ellen, on her ninth birthday. I called it The Riddle of Nine and later translated it into English, giving Bloem (which means “flower” in Dutch) the name Daisy.
You can read the full story when you click here – it is a mix of elements from a number of children’s books, movies and comics I love, all drawn together in a tale of nine riddles and set in Neil Gaiman’s world of Sandman, the Dreaming (post-Morpheus, for those who care, it’s a story featuring the Daniel-Dream). I was delighted when Neil Gaiman himself read the comic online and commented on it in his blog: “As far as Sandman fanfiction tributes that are also excellent kids’ comics go, this is the bees knees.”
But I was even more delighted that Ellen loved it, and has read and re-read it many times since.
Now, eight years later, it has also become a story of remembrance of Bloem, who sadly died in 2007, only eight years old.