SPICY METAL is a comics journal published by Mount Analogue and Cold Cube Press. Each issue is centered around two artists and one theme.
SPICY METAL ISSUE I
KELLY BJORK • PHOEBE BULKELEY HARRIS
JUNE 16TH, 2017
The work in this issue addresses, in some way, the feeling of bursting: to be so full that you suddenly break open.
SPICY METAL is a risograph comics journal.
ISSUE I features work by Kelly Bjork and Phoebe Bulkeley Harris centered around the theme 'bursting'.
This tote is super-strong, made of canvas, with pink straps and a screenprinted whole beautiful page from Phoebe's SPICY METAL comic.
42 pages, hand-bound
Limited edition of 100
Risograph printing by Cold Cube PressDesign & cover by Colleen Louise Barry
PLEASE JOIN US !!! • RSVP HERE
SPICY METAL INTERVIEW I
PHOEBE BULKELEY HARRIS
PBH: Kelly, I love your work and I’m so thrilled to be collaborating with you on this project. So thankful to be connected through the magic that is Mount Analogue. As a visual artist working mostly in the worlds of painting / drawing / illustration, I am often overwhelmed by a seemingly endless amount of choices regarding material, process, and approach. Because of this, my work tends to vary stylistically from project to project. You, on the other hand, seem to have really honed in on a tried and true style. Describe your process, your selection of materials, and how you arrived at such a clearly identified pursuit.
KB: PHOEBE! Thank you so much, you’re so sweet!!! I too was thrilled to be working with you; I thought our contrasting styles would pair well together -- Mount Analogue knew what they were doing -- pure magic indeed!
I was introduced to gouache in college and immediately fell in love; however, I really struggled with it at first and set it aside for a couple of years. When I came back to it, I had more patience and took the time to learn how it worked. Now I won’t put it down! I’m the biggest fan of gouache because it lays flat and is oh so opaque. Also, it is surprisingly forgiving. I work old school in the sense that almost all of my work is done by hand -- I need to be able to physically touch what I work with. My brain can’t really wrap itself around working digitally, and I’m totally okay with that! I’ve figured out a way to bring my work into this digital world we live in.
For a long time I worked primarily by doing blind-contour drawings. After a professor told me that “blind-contours aren’t real art,” I rebelled and made them my sole way of drawing. I think from this, I learned to take my style where I wanted because there really are no rules with how you make. And over time, the style I always wanted to be working in came out. I found my art-voice!
PBH: Is this your first time working on a risograph print project? How did you land on a color-scheme and what were the challenges you faced throughout the process?
KB: It is my first time! So, I’m one lucky duck in that our talented printer of Cold Cube Press, Aidan Fitzgerald, is my solid bud. I was so stressed out about how the printing process would work and thinking I would need to do digital things like separate colors, that I immediately reached out to him and requested a tutorial on what he would actually need from me and how exactly the printing process worked. He graciously invited me to the print studio and explained everything. I brought my initial comic idea to him and I was able to make my palette based on all the informative info he gave me.
This being my first comic ever, had me facing challenges the entire time! You know, the usual artist self-doubt, not knowing if my story was worth telling, facing failure. I repeatedly had to tell myself, “There are no rules! Do whatever you want! Have fun!” HA! I definitely had myself pulling out hair and procrastinating big time to avoid dealing. But once I literally had to get going due to deadlines, I got really into it! Again, I was VERY lucky to have Aidan who offered advice and was my personal comic editor -- his comic knowledge is endless (*thank you so much, Aidan!!!*)!
PBH: As an established illustrator, you seem to be on a constant race against deadlines. Is it ever tough to be your own boss? Do you ever feel stuck, or uninspired? How do you get beyond the block?
KB: OOF, yes, so very tough to be my own boss. My boss is such a guilt-throwing asshole who talks terribly to me! And my employee is such a sensitive artist! It’s a weird scene! I feel stuck and uninspired on the daily. It’s interesting because you think you’re alone in those thoughts -- but in reality, I’d be surprised to know an artist that doesn't think like that at least some of the time. It’s helped me to talk to and read about other artists’ practices and their personal feelings about it. It’s eye-opening to learn that we can all be so similar. We all need to be kinder to ourselves, jeeeeeez!
If I’m feeling blocked, more often than not it’s because I’m laying on the pressure too hard. The best way is to get out of the studio, go for a walk, take a fucking break! Working for myself, I have the tendency to think I need to work twice as hard as people with “normal” jobs and setting a routine with hours for me is the hardest thing. I’m still trying to figure that part out -- wish me luck!
PBH: Most of the time when people ask what I am inspired by, I am inclined to answer with something art-related. While it is important to draw from other artists work, I know that sometimes what I am most inspired by is manifested elsewhere. What inspires you beyond the realm of art history / other artists?
KB: That’s funny because my response to inspiration questions are usually not art-related. It’s really the people in my life that I’m inspired by; but I guess most of them are artists so maybe it is art related, har har! But really, it’s the special little moments in life that inspire me. The little things. Living modestly and simply is the dreamiest to me, and I feel I can definitely achieve that by making my work focused on those things. That way, maybe I can manifest exactly what I’m after!
PBH: Draw yourself in ten seconds. Draw yourself in thirty seconds. Draw yourself in one minute. Place them side by side for us to see.
KB: This is the best interview “question” I’ve ever seen!!!
PBH: What’s your sign? Okay this q is way overdone-- but still, I gotta know.
KB: Libra, babyyy! All about that balance ;)
PBH: Give us a quick rundown of your favorite Seattle must-sees. Could be restaurants, bars, parks, hikes, coffee shops, record stores, thrift stores, hidden gems, etc!
KB: Fav outdoor spots to hit up: Volunteer Park, Discovery Park, Alki Beach, and Golden Gardens. In the summer, Denny Blaine is excellent for that nudey swimming -- so fancy free!
Indian Summer is one of the most beautifully curated thrift stores -- a DEF MUST-SHOP!
I would definitely check out Interstitial, a gallery in GeorgeTown -- they show new media artists from all over the world, which gives Seattle some very fresh work to view! And the owner, Julia Greenway is a hoot!
And if you’re here, you should probably get a burger at Dick’s. Vegan? Try a vegan slider at Freddy Juniors, but don’t forget to add the pineapple! Both places have excellent fries. Oh! So does Katsu Burger -- oh man, I love that place too! Happen to be in SODO? Check out Pick-Quick Drive-In! Can you tell I like burgers and fries?!
SPICY METAL INTERVIEW II
PHOEBE BULKELEY HARRIS
KB: Your work at first glance is very abstract and poetic, but I feel there are personal stories behind the abstractions. Does your work function like a personal diary? Do you keep a diary separate from the illustrations? If so, what does that look like?
PBH: I do not keep a personal diary -- I’ve never been able to do it successfully. As a pre-teen I was really determined to keep one, but after a few dedicated pages of complaining and recounting, I always just ended up collaging and drawing instead. I do keep a sketchbook, but not religiously.
I think this particular comic does tend to read like a diary in that it feels emotional on some level. Some of the text for this project was pulled from news reports which tend to feel quite unemotional, but sometimes I come across a beautiful observation. In the midst of making this comic I remember reading a news article about the massive death & stranding of pilot whales on farewell spit. It really is a profound image. Whales are a remarkable species, and we almost never see them. Then, suddenly hundreds wash ashore and die. It seemed like a bad omen, or some kind of warning sign. The article I read was relatively static, until I came across a quote from a witness. She described the sounds she heard at the whale stranding and it really caught my attention. Whenever that happens I try to preserve what I’m reading or hearing. So, I suppose that’s what this comic is -- maybe less a diary, more a celebration of noticing.
KB: Relating to the first question, is there a particular story you’d like to elaborate on with your Spicy Metal comic? I’m so curious to know your thoughts behind this work! And feel free to say “no” here too -- a little mystery is totally cool!
PBH: My comic, like much of my work, does not follow a linear format. There’s no beginning middle or end, but rather a constant circling. It is an expression of searching, of listening and wondering. A collection of questions, notes, and observations.
When I was working out what this project was going to look like, I remember furiously researching “bursting” -- trying to approach it from all angles, all meanings. I started reading about when stars explode and that’s where I began. The rest kind of came together organically. Research can be so stimulating to our creative minds, sometimes I really need to investigate before I can begin to paint.
KB: It seems like almost all of your work pairs images with text. I’d love to know what comes first in this process. Do the images inform the text, or vice versa? Also! How do your words come to you? I noticed a little Neil Young in The Complete Dramatic Works, and I sure loved that!
PBH: I collect words, phrases, things heard in passing that feel somehow relevant or meaningful and regurgitate them in some sort of visual expression. I notice dialogue in everything: books, movies, television, songs, the news, radio, social interactions, etc. Sometimes when a line of text is stripped away from it’s original composition, it becomes something else, or takes on a new life -- isolating these words and giving them a new context can function as a gentle reminder to stay curious. Typically the images come first, and later I pair it with text, but i’m usually shuffling things around until the very last minute, or until things find their place.
KB: I rely heavily on reference photos for my work; what about you? Do you work from life, or photos, or out of your brain?
PBH: Typically, I work from photos, but it depends. The photos that I work from tend to be my own, or more recently, my mom’s. She was a little camera crazy in my early years, so she has albums upon albums of old film photos that I like to work from. I do try to challenge myself every so often and draw from memory, I think it’s good for activating creativity and relying less on what’s right there in front of you.
KB: It feels like you’ve cultivated a certain touch and mood in your work. It feels light and somber at the same time. When did this begin? Are there particular influences you can point to that have affected you over the years?
PBH: I think that I was socialized to be a cheerful person, and for so long sadness felt so shameful to me. Eventually, I started seeing it, identifying it in the world around me. In songs, novels, and the lives of others. Somewhere along the line I realized it was my greatest teacher, but also the foundation to my so called “lightness”. Can’t have one without the other. Now, instead of neglecting it or hiding it, I memorialize it, which feels a little more honest.
KB: I’m going to copy this question from you because it seems only fair, and it’s awesome: Draw yourself in ten seconds. Draw yourself in thirty seconds. Draw yourself in one minute. Place them side by side for us to see.
KB: Show me your favorite music video!
PBH: Well, my first reaction is to panic in the same way I panic when someone asks me what my favorite movie, book, color, food ANYTHING is. Given that it’s nearly impossible for me to answer this in a real way, I’m going to go ahead and toss out a handful of my most favorite/memorable music videos…
The Lemonheads- Hannah & Gabi
Aluna George - I'm in Control
Stevie Nicks - Wild Heart (Live)
Solange - Cranes in the Sky
Angel Olsen - The Waiting, Live
Nicki Minaj feat. Beyonce - Feelin’ Myself