Monday, January 30, 2012

Coming This Week

I am several days away from putting up a revised Spartan Holiday site with ordering machinery. Once that's up the mag will begin to appear in stores. Distribution is evolving.

There's plenty of excitement in my house about the enterprise. To be frank, I've struggled to find the right format for my work for a number of years now. In 2008 I made a turn toward reportage, having very rarely ever maintained a sketchbook. I couldn't say why it happened, and I didn't know what to make of it at the time, but I started sitting in the waiting areas in shopping malls, among the bored boyfriends.

It all felt–and looked–so provisional. But I kept at it, having nothing better to do.

Early on I wrote:

I am learning, or trying to learn, to shut up. I have gone back to drawing the world... The act of showing up, of looking and listening, has been revealed to me as a wonderment. I expect to enjoy what comes next. I don’t know what it will be, of course. But I do know what it’ll be built out of. This. Now. Here.. I don’t need a studio. I need a sketchbook, pencils and brushes, and patience. A kitchen table. A sink...

But it turned out I did need a studio.

Of necessity I put it all in mothballs for about a year and half as we worked our way toward selling a condominium and buying a house. The sketchbook work stayed provisional under those terms. But when we moved into our new place just over two years ago, I began to feel more grounded. I began to project a future for my reportage work. I can't say I was extremely confident about it, but at least I could name it, in a way.

I think I wrote the name Spartan Holiday in a sketchbook for the first time at some point in 2009. The words captured something modest and serious and fun; they evoked the spirit of something-from-nothing that I recall from childhood.

I began to write this blog in 2007. I had a decent sense of what I wanted to do with it from the beginning. The informally serious style–which I associate with the form–came rather easily to me. My combined efforts in criticism, curating and drawing converged in the blog, though the relationship between my studio postings and the material I otherwise wrote about often seemed unresolved to me.

The insight that turned Spartan Holiday from awkward dream into fluid reality was the integration of the sketchbook work and the voice of the blog. All I had to do, I suddenly realized, was to write as if I were writing Graphic Tales. The rest would take care of itself. And it has. The visual vocabulary of Spartan Holiday in the early going includes brush-and-ink drawing, gouache painting, some digital color, monochromatic photography, machine type and hand drawn lettering.

I had the great good fortune of working with graphic designer Scott Gericke to develop the typographic approach, as well as the wordmark and identity.

Excited to have the publication out on the market, and even more excited to get No. 2 ready (summer 2012).

As soon as the site is up and taking orders, I'll announce it here.

Images: D.B. Dowd, Eventually the air cleared, Spartan Holiday No. 1: Shanghai Pictorial, February 2012. Dowd, Cosmetics Counter, pencil and gouache, 2008; Dowd, The paradoxes are everywhere, Spartan Holiday No. 1.

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