Two artists, one big bang.
Amanda was on tour with her wild bunch and they stopped by Neil's while I was on a work visit out there.
Neil took them to a trout farm to pick out our dinner.
I remember they had to park their tour bus down the street, we trudged through the snow.
Neil and Amanda both wrote pieces about this time, this magic early time, and both had working title of Trout Heart Replica, in a tip of the hat to that delicious Captain Beefheart. Neil changed the title of his piece to Conjunctions.
here is a video of Amanda singing her side of the story:
When we asked our Finnish superstar, Jouni Koponen to illustrate Conjunctions,
I sent Jouni a few reference photos that I had taken from around the time Neil was composing this beautiful, heartwrencher of a poem.
Here is the treeline view of the actual conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that cold December night.
and here, Neil cleans a rainbow trout in his sink:
they signed the inserts for Who Killed Amanda Palmer? at the big kitchen table.
Here is our Fabulous Lorraine with her still-long hair and her backstage laminate, after we had returned from seeing AFP in Chicago and we picked up The Bengal Royals on the long drive home.
Amanda posing for the Graveyard Book tshirt that we had just put out (get the Graveyard Book shirts HERE.)
Limited numbered edition of 750 print run, these will be sold unsigned, I have a few signed by Neil. Get them HERE!
and here is Neil's poem:
Conjunctions by Neil Gaiman
Jupiter and Venus hung like grapes in the evening sky,
frozen and untwinkling,
You could have reached and up and picked them.
And the trout swam.
Snow muffled the world, silenced the dog,
silenced the wind...
The man said, I can show you the trout. He was
glad of the company.
He reached into their tiny pool, rescued a dozen, one by one,
sorting and choosing,
dividing the sheep from the goats of them.
And this was the miracle of the fishes,
that they were beautiful. Even when clubbed and gutted,
insides glittering like jewels. See this? he said, the trout heart
pulsed like a ruby in his hand. The kids love this.
He put it down, and it kept beating.
The kids, they go wild for it.
He said, we feed the guts to the pigs. They're pets now,
They won't be killed. See? We saw.
Huge as horses they loomed on the side of the hill.
And we walk through the world trailing trout hearts like dreams,
wondering if they imagine rivers, quiet summer days,
fat foolish flies that hover or sit for a moment too long.
We should set them free, our trout and our metaphors:
You don't have to hit me over the head with it.
This is where you get to spill your guts.
You killed in there, tonight.
He pulled her heart out. Look, you can see it there, still beating. He said,
See this? This is the bit the kids like best. This is what they come to see.
Just her heart, pulsing, on and on. It was so cold that night,
and the stars were all alone.
Just them and the moon in a luminous bruise of sky.
And this was the miracle of the fishes.
Here, to get his side of the story, I interview Jouni via email from the land of Vikings, Finland.
1. This is a very different style than your piece SAUCERS. How did you arrive here?
Pretty much the same way I arrived to Saucers before, or to The Study in Emerald before that, or to any other project before those... by stepping out of my comfort zone and wanting to try something else. I always felt that Saucers was quite light on emotion and relied more on "technical cleverness" both in text and in illustration. With Conjunctions I wanted to try doing something that would be as much as possible just "raw emotion" illustrated with some very basic techique.
2. English is not your first language. How do you go about translating Neil’s words to Finnish and/or do you?
Now that you mention it, it seems I do not conciously translate English into Finnish in my head anymore. So, in some extent I'm apparently capable of processing English data as it is in my head. Weird... However that DOESN'T mean my English is perfect or anything, merely sufficient.
3. Did anything lucky happen to you during the process of illustrating CONJUNCTIONS?
Lucky? Does the fact that Neil really seems to like the illustrations count as luck?
4. If you could meet any of Neil Gaiman’s fictional characters, who would you like to have a conversation with? (or a fist fight -- or any interaction?)
I really love Dream of the Endless, but I'm sure I'd end up seriously f***ed up after meeting him (somehow pretty much all interactions he had with mortals seemed to end up with the mortal dying, or bein' banished to hell... or both... or something even worse). Wednesday, perhaps... or Silas... or Matthew the raven... or Fiddlers Green... or...
5. Who would play you in the movie version of your life?
Hmm... The problem with "A-list" actors is that they are too good looking to play me. Of course it would be fun to have Johnny Depp doing the part. I'm sure it would do marvels to my illustrating career and it would be interesting to have Johnny crashing at my home for two months trying to get into the role, but there's not much of resemblance between the two of us, I'm afraid...
On the other hand, Edward Norton did a real good job playing a chronically tired and confused person in Fight Club... yes... Ed, you got the part.
I've also been told that In Return of the King, in the scene where the elves are re-forging Narsil, the one who is wielding the hammer looks like me. Personally I think he is too good looking too.
6. Did the success you met with on SAUCERS change your artistic outlook in any way?
I don't think the success did anything per se, but as an Illustration project, Saucers was/is definitely very significant for me. The whole visual idea of the poster (the zooming out thing) is probably the coolest gimmick I've ever come up with.
7. Can you share here some of the best advice you ever got as an young artist?
I personally think all visual arts are skills of the EYE more than skills of the hand. You have to train seeing... everything else is just making smudges on some surface with some technique.
8. What upcoming project on the Jouni-slate are you most excited about?
Right now I'll take a little breather and concentrate spending more time with my wife and kids, but in the deepest corners of my soul of souls I know Odd and the Frost Giants comics (a project I started couple of years back... and never finished) deserves another shot. I know I owe it to him.
9. Here is a chance for you to answer a question you wish that I had asked: (fill in blank!)
OK. The Question would be: “Is there any truth to the rumor, that as a young art student you once tried doing sigil magic after hours of reading Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and drinking beer... and, that the results of the ceremony were quite dramatic and still affect your life?” And my answer is: “Who told you that? I... It didn’t... Umm... No comment.”
*note from Kitty, Jouni always signs off with Cheerio, which i have told him is an American breakfast cereal. He remains steadfast.
CONJUNCTIONS is now in pre-sales, while it is at the printer this week, I will have it at $38.00.
It is the same size as the SAUCERS piece, 10" x 28" printed here in Hollywood, US of A. on a creamy silk stock.