Illustrator Andrea Popyordanova is Asymptote’s guest artist for the July 2016 issue. Her beautiful collages reimagined scenes from thirteen texts in our Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, Writers on Writers, and Multilingual Writing Feature sections. Guest Artist Liaison Berny Tan interviewed her about contributing to Asymptote and how she develops her unique imagery.
Berny Tan (BT): The illustrations you created for Asymptote have this wonderful effortlessness about them, even when they’re composed of so many elements within a single frame. Could you take us through your process of conceiving and executing each piece?
Andrea Popyordanova (AP): I usually look at the most powerful descriptions in each text. I trust my intuition—if I vividly remember a particular expression or moment in a text, I visualize that. I start by composing the image in color, and then lay down the details that complete the whole. It’s all very quick, all about recreating a feeling or a striking image in my head. There isn’t really a process; it’s more of trying things until there is an image that works.
BT: You have a great way of visually setting a scene that feels almost like a memory of the narrative itself. In your editorial work, what are the challenges of balancing image and text, especially when you have to capture the text in a static image?
AP: I try to be slightly more analytical. I focus on the point of the text, and emphasize or extend it with my piece. An illustration in a magazine functions as a highlight of what the illustrator thinks is important in the text. I also try to figure out what’s appropriate for the readers of the article, and to match the style of my work to the publication.
Illustrator Gianna Meola is our guest artist for the April issue. Her effortlessly succinct images capture poignant moments in sixteen of our texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, and Drama sections, as well as the works of our Close Approximations Contest winners. I interview her about her experience contributing to Asymptote, and delve into her processes as an illustrator.
Berny Tan: I really appreciate how you were able to distill every text into one distinct image. Could you take us through your process of conceiving and executing each piece?
Gianna Meola: I’m pretty straightforward—I read the text and thumbnail any ideas that come to me as I go, and then add notes and corrections before moving on to cleaner sketches. I also like to do some research into what I’m drawing if I’m not familiar with it; for instance, I ended up learning some truly useless information about constellations while researching ‘Anathema.’ It was great.
Illustrator Samuel Hickson is our guest artist for the October issue. His meticulous and haunting images, often composed out of thousands of small dots, bring to life eleven of our texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Multilingual Writing feature sections. I interview him about his influences and his experience contributing to Asymptote.
Berny Tan: Your work is usually inspired by “satire, horror, sci-fi and psychedelia,” but not all of the texts you illustrated belonged in these genres. How did you generate ideas for those texts?
Samuel Hickson: Most of the texts featured details or events which immediately conjured images in my mind as I read them. I’d sketch these initial ideas down and then develop the image which portrayed the overall atmosphere or emotion of the text in the most succinct manner.
Photographer Cody Cobb is Asymptote’s guest artist for the July issue. His poignant snapshots—a departure from the breathtaking landscape imagery that defines his practice—grace nineteen of our texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Multilingual Writing feature sections. I interviewed him about his artistic motivations, his affinity for landscapes, and his experience contributing to Asymptote.
Berny Tan: I’d like to start with a question about your own photography practice. You describe your photography as “attempts to capture portraits of the Earth’s surface, devoid of human interaction and interference.” What motivates and informs this approach?
Cody Cobb: Finding quiet places to be alone on a planet with over 7 billion humans is my motivation. This seems to be getting harder, so I end up trekking way out into the mountains and forests. READ MORE…
Remember Isle-to-Isle? Chief executive assistant Berny Tan and Sher Chew’s collaborative data visualization and experimental reading project based on Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island? (Now say that three times fast!). Well, the yearlong project is going strong, and the two collaborators reflected on their first five weeks with Mr. Verne in the Parsons Journal for Information Mapping. In this fascinating read, they delve into the trials of imagining the novel in map and diagram form.
For all you D.C. and Austin theatergoers: drama editor Caridad Svich’s Spark will receive its world premiere at theTheater Alliance, Anacostia Playhouse, on September 4–28, 2014, in Washington, D.C., under Colin Hovde’s direction. Likewise, her play Guapa will be produced at the Austin Community College-Rio Grande Campus on September 25–October 5, 2014 in Austin, TX, under Tomas Salas’s direction.
As the guest artist for Asymptote’s summer issue, Singaporean visual artist Robert Zhao Renhui contributed our cover image and illustrated 15 texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Latin American Fiction Feature sections. I interview him about this experience, as well as the relationship between image and text in his art practice.
I’ve been following your trajectory for quite a few years, but it’s safe to say that the Asymptote summer issue is presenting your work to an audience that is largely unfamiliar with your practice. How would you explain your art, and the Institute of Critical Zoologists, to our readers?
I am interested in both photography and nature, so in my work, I use photography to investigate our dialogue with nature. The Institute of Critical Zoologists (ICZ) is an umbrella concept under which I create and present my work. The meaning of the ICZ takes shape with each of my projects and exhibitions, which create different realities and fictions.
Could you describe the process of creating/selecting images for this issue?
There was a tension between choosing images that were too literal a representation of the text, and pictures that encapsulated a very personal connection to the text that regular readers may not get. My guiding principle was that my images should be in a jazz-like dialogue with the text, and occasionally surprise the viewer. I submitted a few pictures for each essay, leaving it up to the journal to do the final selection. In some cases, I didn’t know what was chosen until the issue was published. READ MORE…
Aditi Machado, Asymptote poetry editor, saw her poems appear in the April issue of MiPOesias and the new issue of Transom. To read her poetry is a pleasure; to hear it a delight – so check out a video of her reading at Counterpath, Denver.
Asymptote’s chief executive assistant Berny Tan and Sher Chew launched Isle-to-Isle, a collaborative data visualization and experimental reading project based on Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island. Pictured above, it’s a yearlong project with weekly updates – an exciting endeavor that will ultimately become “a mammoth illustration of Verne’s adventure classic.”
Is foreignness an inherently fertile imaginative/observational state for you? contributor Brittani Sonnenberg asks in an interview-essay published in The Millions. Deeply related to notions of diaspora raised in Asymptote’s April 2014 issue, the interview is in depth and worth reading. To her question, past contributor Jeremy Tiang answers that he thrives on dislocation, so maybe now is the time to take that trip you’ve been putting off (it’s for your writing, after all).