Reaching a new level

2019 is drawing to a close, and now it is probably a good time to take a look back to it and evaluate what kind of a year it actually was. Did I do what I planned and achieve what I wanted? Did I even know what I wanted to do or achieve?

In some ways 2019 has been an excellent year. It has most certainly been a year of continuous study and development. I did the Sketchbook Revival Challenge in spring, Ignite video challenge and Fine Art Summit now in November and I’m finishing the last weeks of the Small Works challenge as we speak. All these challenges taught me different things – both about artistic techniques and about myself. I understood that although I can do it, I do not enormously enjoy painting canvases. I discovered that I’m able to get over my self-consciousness and do video. And that I do like doing abstract warm-up exercises in my sketchbook, but even there i feel somewhat of a fake doing them. Abstract in my case seems to come from the surface and not from the depth.

I couldn’t speak about 2019 without mentioning that it was the year when I discovered Domestika. Domestika is an online education platform with courses by well-established creatives, and it’s in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, but I don’t even care. As long as they have the automated subtitles it works for me, and I daresay it’s the best art education I’ve ever had. Many of the ‘specialties’ that I’m interested in like watercolor and portraits are simply not available here in Athens on the level that I’m interested in. So, a big up for online education!

In other ways this year has been a bit strange, as for perhaps the last 6 months I’ve felt stuck. Stuck in a sense as if I was just about to finish a level in a video game and I had just stopped in front of the last puzzle and solving that puzzle would take me to the next level. And that puzzle turned out to be HARD. All the challenges and education this year was part of the process of solving this puzzle – how to continue? What kind of artist am I? What kind of work do I really want to do?

And last Saturday, the last day of November, I solved it. The synthesis came to a close, the process came to a completion and I solved the puzzle. I know now where I’m going and I’m looking forward to the new year and the new level.

I have an Etsy store! – updated


etsy screen

UPDATE. Actually I have decided to phase out the digital clipart and focus on paper products, which I feel are more ‘me’. So, right now there are already three sticker sets and the two Scarecrow President zines available and next week I will add some posters. It will be a part of my New Year’s resolution this year to get this little store going.


Somehow I’ve never mentioned here that I also have an Etsy shop where I sell zines and digital clipart! Well, this mistake is about to get fixed right now.

I’m in the process of re-working the clipart sets, so there are bigger and better sets on the way soon.

Link to the shop here: BonaramisArt

20 graphic novels everyone should read, part 2

So, let’s dive right in and list the remaining 10 in no particular order of preference.

11. “Habibi” by Craig Thompson (Pantheon Books)


A most unusual and captivating love story – and it’s that extraordinary that I won’t even give out any details in order not to spoil the reading pleasure.

12. “La Belle Mort” by Mathieu Bablet (Ed. Ankama Éditions)

la belle mort

A post-apocalyptic survival story that I’m not able to read, but that is exquisitely drawn, from the first page till the last.

13. “La Colére de Fantomas” 1-2 by Bocquet, Rocheleau and Ravon (Ed. Dargaud)

More French comics that I cannot read, but that simply look gorgeous. This one is an adaptation of the series of “Fantomas” by Souvestre and Allain. The style is very dynamic and an absolute pleasure to look at.

14. “Muchacho” part 1, by Emmanuel Lepage (Ed. Dupuis)


Not the only work of Emmanuel Lepage on this list. This story is about a young seminarian Gabriel, a boy from a good family, in Nicaragua in 1970’s, gradually getting to know the life and struggles of the common people.

15. “Rendez-vouz a Paris” (from the series “Monstre”) by Enki Bilal (Ed. Casterman)

bilal rendez vous in paris

Part 3 from the series “Monstre” by Enki Bilal, who is one of my favourite comics artists of all time. I have this one in Greek, but bought at the time I still couldn’t read it on the necessary level.

16. “La Peau de l’Ours” by Zidrou and Oriol (Ed. Dargaud)

la peau de lours

A gorgeously colored story of an old man with quite an interesting life behind him…

17. “Nuit de Fureur” by Matz & Miles Hyman (Ed. Casterman)

nuit de fureur

Thuggish noir, that’s a pure visual treat.

18. “Un regard par-dessus l’epaule” by Paquet & Sandoval (Ed. Paquet)

un regard par dessus

A story of a little boy who gets imprisoned into the wall of the living room and has to find the exit to get back home.

19. “Un Printemps a Tchernobyl” by Emmanuel Lepage (Ed. Futuropolis)

un printemps

22 years after the catastrophe in Chernobyl, Emmanuel Lepage takes a journey through Ukraine to report about the current state of the place…

20. “Voyage aux îles de la Désolation” by Emmanuel Lepage (Ed. Futuropolis)

voyage aux isles

One more stunning travelogue by Emmanuel Lepage about his journey to the Reunion island.


And the last one for bonus is the comic book I grew up with and was allowed to read as a treat on Sundays and holidays as a small kid! As you can see, the book on the picture is just as frayed as mine is.



Portraits, and more portraits

Human faces are fascinating things. You can draw them for years and still find them fascinating and fresh. Technique needs to be shaken up now and then though, as that is surely something that can get boring after a measure of repetition.

I was honestly planning to do the Inktober challenge this year as well ( I almost completed it last year). However, things did not go exactly as planned. I did three black-and-white pieces… and it started to bore me. The strange thing is that my “inherent” (yes it is strange to call it that, but I’ll explain) style seems to be different from the style I’m quite frequently trying to do. Meaning that my brain pushes clean linework, more attention to details, etc etc and yet, those times where I’ve just gone about making a piece without much thought, it’s always coloured, rather loose – even painterly, or mixed media and collage, layers of different media on top of each other.

Occasionally it feels like a dilemma – should I follow one or the other? Or try to conjoin them into an amalgam? I’m still not sure. Perhaps the artistic style is simply the reflection of my way of being – interested in a multitude of things, a natural generalist. Nevertheless, during the years the main interests have crystallized, become reasonably clear; the rest, while still there, has resumed lower priorities. Hopefully the style follows the same route – sheds the unnecessary and keeps what should be there.


Sketchnoting is fun

And just to prove it, I tried to “translate” a conference preparation list into images (+ some words, all right). However, it’s not just a random exercise. I went to THATCamp Lausanne in November 2011 and have been a huge fan of this format of organizing conferences ever since. To this day I’m pretty sure that I was the only participant whose work was not connected to digital humanities at all – at that time I was still working as alumni coordinator at my university.

However, it did not matter. It was fun – as the “outsider” I didn’t need to impress anyone, so I could ask all the potentially stupid questions about things I was interested in. Another extremely fine memory from THATCamp Lausanne was the evening reception – I do not remember having had better food in my life. It was a huge selection of appetizers, most of which I had no idea what they were, besides being absolutely divine-tasting.

Ahem… pardon my digression into salivating…

thatcamp checklists_web

Teaching English with schemes and pictures


As the start of another school year is fast approaching, a quick look back to the last one ought to be useful. Last year I made my debut as an  English teacher with the association Piso Thrania. This group of volunteer language teachers has been teaching Greek and English to refugees and other immigrants for years now and they are rather well-known in the neighbourhood. In the first classes people were sandwiched in the rooms. They were so many.

I remember giving examples about things that are nice to do and ‘going to the beach’ was among them as far as I remember. And then an Afghan man, from deep inside the Eurasian continent, asked: “What is this “beach”? We tried to explain in other ways, noting sand, sun, sea, swimming, lying in the sand… The man’s face remained politely blank until he asked: “What does “sea” mean?”.

We said it’s a lot of water and retreated. Neither of our languages had an overlap in this particular niche. For me it somehow pinpointed the difficulty of teaching with images – either mental or real – our mental landscapes look different and sometimes they might be too different. Nevertheless, despite their shortcomings, images can be very useful in explaining grammatical concepts.

Gathering all the tenses on one page and one timeline for instance turned out rather nicely. It was difficult to say, whether the students directly benefited from it or not, but it was helpful to use, their two teachers in terms of getting a quick overview over the material.

english tenses updated_web


Afternoon melancholy

Some days
darkness comes close
and makes a circle
around me
so I cannot move
I cannot see any way out
I walk in a cloud
Should I cry?
Tears give me headache
for days
There is nothing else
to do, so I whisper
to myself
expecto patronum
expecto patronum
expecto patronum


Life, it seems to me
is like a ship
it starts as a
paper boat
simple origami
turns at any gust of wind
but then it grows
into a rowing boat
fishing boat
but easier to steer
yet more and more difficult
to turn

No such thing as creative block

How easy it is to fall out of a writing habit – especially after solemnly promising to myself to continue writing more often. All of a sudden there’s all this other work to do: comics to prepare, illustrations to finish, paste-ups to colour, and all these things sneak past writing on the priority list and writing plonks lower and lower until it’s left out altogether. Then one fine day you stumble over it as it lies on the floor not forgotten but definitely neglected, pick it up and say: all right then. And here I am.

I’ve been getting tired of music lately. An important reason for this is surely that I hardly ever change my playlists – I’m almost sure that the playlist on my iPad is more or less the same since I first uploaded it in 2011. Minus the songs I’ve gotten tired of along the way and deleted. In a way it’s an inevitability – I cannot concentrate when I listen to something new, so I’m bound to those old favourites. However, sometimes it’s good to take a break, give the ears some rest and clear the mind. So, I’ve been listening to a number of writer interviews instead.

It started with Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech that I’ve already mentioned; also commencement speeches by Peter Dinklage and J.K. Rowling. These three I can listen to on repeat. After listening to them for a while I got curious about what else they’ve said – so I listened to some interviews with Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer and then moved on to J.K. Rowling.

From J.K. Rowling on to Stephen King (whose generous swearing often results in viewer discretion warnings on his videos), John Grisham (who still sounds more like a lawyer than a writer), Lee Child with his dry British wit and Janet Evanovich, whose books I haven’t read, but definitely will now as she turned out to have a delightful sense of humour. Something that struck me as a common thread in several of those interviews, was that these writers do not believe in writer’s block.

Why not? After all, it’s an established part of the myth of the tortured genius – one day the sacred milk of the muse runs dry and the creator suffers, needing to create, yet being unable to do so. All they can do is wait and hope for some new drops – or a stream – one day.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Do I believe in it myself? No.

There is another common trait all these writers share which, I believe, is the main cause of this disbelief. All of these authors are from working-class backgrounds. All of them have had periods in their lives that they have either spent in poverty or just on the brink of it. All of them have held other jobs besides writing. A drive and desire to write that is strong enough to overcome these obstacles indeed does not and cannot know creative block. It only knows it cannot afford it. A step not taken is a step back as the road ahead can be like a treadmill to those starting at the bottom, a current running in the wrong direction. For someone used to doing things it needs to do to survive regardless whether it wants to or not, the sheer pleasure of creation is so great that it becomes impossible to see it as anything but joy. Add to it a solid work ethic and here you go.

And yes, I’m from a working-class background too.

Rain gray

It was dark the whole day today. Grey overcast sky, wet streets, cold… This humidity creeps right into your bones. Fingers turn slowly into a ghastly shade of bluish purple and refuse to warm up no matter how much you rub them together. Luckily steki has heating, so the classroom was warm – I do wonder how they pay for it, when many residential buildings go completely without. The state would do well to subsidize changing heating systems to gas or any other renewables instead of compensating heating oil.But I reckon that it’s too much trouble considering that it’s an issue only about 3 months a year.

Some of the younger students almost fell asleep in the class – many of them live in squats where there’s no heating and keep their coats and scarves on even in class. I remember this feeling – coming in from the cold wet outdoors, perhaps not having slept much, you sit down, it’s warm, the other students’ voices are humming around you, it is so tempting to close the eyes just for a bit – in fact it’s stronger than temptation, it’s irresistible, the body takes over and demands what rightfully belongs to it – sleep. I used to nod off quite often in my Greek classes. I remember how in my first year here, I used to go to work half an hour earlier every morning, just for the warmth – as my tiny old electric radiator managed to warm up only my toes.

Before moving to Greece, I used to chuckle over my Southern university friends’ complaints of cold winter weather. “10 degrees? Cold? Really? Estonian winters are way colder.” Little did I know about the heating issue and neither did it occur to me to ask.

It doesn’t help that I’m trying to have a coffee-free week – black tea doesn’t have the same strength to keep me going… Frankly, I just want the winter to end.

Day 1

Just like there are days when my fingers are simply itching to write, there are other days, days when a mere thought of committing anything to a paper or screen seems abominable. What is there to say? Between what’s too personal, too mundane and too much said already? What can I possibly add to this great tsunami of information called the internet? Why does it even matter what I would say if I said something?

Today is Day 1 of a new world order. How will it be – or rather – how bad will it be? Nobody knows. We’re floating in the unknown, grasping to straws of what seems to be sanity. Women are marching today all over the world – it is comforting to see there’s so many of us. It gives hope – along with the fact that the victories of conservatism were narrow everywhere, a matter of margins, now presenting themselves as sole victors. I believe it was Asimov’s “Foundation” that described a similar situation in the beginning. The Empire, seemingly stronger than ever, had already had the disease of decay planted deep in its heart.

Now, once I started, it got easier. Writing, I mean. I will try to do it more frequently again.