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September's inspiration

As the second instalment of my new feature, here’s what I’m inspired by this month.

September is usually the pinnacle of my summer-induced creative energy. After getting to do some amazing travelling, I'm settling down to work and starting on some new projects. For most of the summer, I’ve been getting up between 4:30 and 5:30 am to do an hour or so of illustration work. My internal clock seems to be set to natural light time, so it’s not too difficult for me to get up when the sun rises around that time in the morning (the downside is nearly always zonking out at 9:30 pm and missing the second half of every single TV show or film I watch).

I’ve started thinking about Björk’s song ‘Hyperballad’ as the soundtrack of my morning routine, especially the lyrics ‘I go through all this / before you wake up / so I can feel happier / to be safe up here with you’. There’s not really the element of destructiveness and relationship troubles like in the song (I don’t recommend throwing things off the top of a council estate, that’s pretty anti-social).

Usually with the time change in October, I suddenly want to hibernate all the time.

Enough of my rambling, here’s September’s inspiration:

The occult and podcasts

Around this time of year, I usually get really into supernatural and occult stuff. I think it’s something about the change of seasons and finding a way to cope with the decrease in daylight. One of my final year projects for my illustration course was a series of illustrations based on Martin Booth’s biography of Aleister Crowley, A Magick Life.

The 316 Devils
Lord Boleskine

I also did a series of book covers inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. Two of my favourite covers have still made the cut for my online portfolio, Pickman's Model and Herbert West: Reanimator.

I have some print designs planned for the next couple months inspired by El Día de Muertos and a series about famous cemeteries, including St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans (which we visited last September and I wrote about here), Père Lachaise in Paris, and London’s own Highgate Cemetery.

I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Ironically (because I’m a librarian), I have trouble finishing a book because I can’t look at anything else or do anything with my hands while I’m reading.

I recently came across Into the Dark podcast from Radio Free Brooklyn. It’s oriented towards young, lefty people (like those found in Brooklyn) interested in witchcraft, magic, and the occult, delivered in a very accessible way that’s still based on scholarly research. Host Cooper Wilhelm interviews a variety of people for the show, from a rat called Sheila, to authors, and regular practitioners of magic. I quickly listened to all the available episodes, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

I also started listening to a few other occult podcasts like Occult of Personality and Rune Soup.

For general (not only occult) bite-sized portions of trivia, I’ve also been listening to The Story Behind podcast. I especially enjoyed the episode about the history of Mexican sugar skulls.

Strictly-speaking unnecessary technical details and musical references

I’m still plodding along with my children’s book, trying not to get too distracted by other projects. I probably spend far too much time worrying about minor technical details like how a sloth could listen to a vinyl LP on a wind-up gramophone (he has to duct tape a modern stylus to the arm, otherwise it would scratch the record).

record player stylus

Or what kind of bat meerkats could use to play cricket (a ping pong bat, although as I have recently learned from an episode of Occult of Personality, this would add a lot of spin).

Meerkats playing cricket

I also probably spend far too long adding in obscure musical references intended to keep myself and my potential niche readership of Radio-6-Music-listening parents entertained. Last summer, I was drawing a badger version of 101’ers-era Joe Strummer with a balalaika for the back cover, which amused me to no end.

Joe Strummer as a badger

For the last week, I’ve been busy with a 12-panel page of spider monkey versions of the hardcore punk band Refused from the 1998 ‘New Noise’ video. In post-apocalyptic London, this is exactly the kind of thing that young punk sloths will travel to see. Of course, I’m hoping that besides mildly amusing any readers that remember the ‘New Noise’ video and Dennis Lyxzen’s upside-down swinging, kids will more generally be entertained by images of a bunch of spider monkeys jumping around on stage.

Spider monkey Refused

Unfortunately, Alexej and I haven’t managed to come up with good pun names for the band members. We even looked up what the word for ‘spider monkey’ is in Swedish (spindelapor). Because the story is only told in onomatopoetic words, it’s not like the band members’ names would even come up in the text, it’s just for our own amusement.

Admittedly, we spend a lot of time thinking up stupid puns for our own amusement.

I’m hoping I’m not alone in enjoying stuff like this, after all, Sesame Street has been making pop-culture puns for decades. Most recently, Alexej and I have been enjoying Ernie and Rosita’s version of the summer hit 'Despacito'.

So there you go, September’s inspiration spans everything from Crowley to Rubber Ducky.

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