Making new words, illegible writing.

Fig.1 A form of asemic writing – a design for sounds of conversation (Ann Kiernan 2017)

During the past few months I have been on a great journey of exploration, and I feel more excited each day when I unearth a nugget of information I had not read before. One of these exciting discoveries is the visual art form of ‘asemic writing’. This is a graphic art form of storytelling without words or recognisable images. There are some exceptionally fine artists who have used this art form. Ideally the art should need no explanations, so I’ll allow the work speak for itself.

Fig.2 Martha Dermisache – Malba retropective 2017

Fig. 3 Max Ernst, Maximiliana ou l’Exercise illegal de l’Astronomie 1964

Fig.4 Léon Ferrari,asemic writing, visual poet


The Archive of Mirtha Dermisache[online]

Tim Glaze – Asemic[online]

Asemic Front[online]



The Sound of Snow

It was snowing here in Berlin when I walked the dog this morning. It makes me pause when she rambles slowly about the park. I conjure up in my mind the pictures from school books of Berlin in the early ’80s, most of those photos we saw were stark images and many were snow covered to emphasise the bleakness of the living situation in East Berlin, the snow never looked soft and fluffy and fun, it was heaps of grey hard slush.

Fig.1 The big snow, Ireland, 1982 – user ‘spokety’

The streets are quiet on weekend mornings at this time, but a car passes on the street behind, the sound of the engine is muffled because of the snow, that sound brings a rush of memory to my mind of the winter of 1982 in Ireland. A big snowfall arrived just after Christmas that year and schools stayed closed until the middle of January. It was the first time I had a proper snowball fight, we used socks on our hands because all our gloves were soaked through and lined on the radiators drying. I had never before tobogganed and the kids on the road gathered at the big hill every day with heavy duty plastic fertiliser bags to be used as sleds and a glassy runway was quickly established. I remember the cold clean air, the ‘wet dog’ smell of damp duffle coats. I remember the atmosphere, the quietness snow brought to everything. The sound of snow never fails to bring these memories but also because of these memories my present experience is richer.

Sound brings back memories, especially music, which triggers highly charged emotional memories. How the information is brought in by the senses and retained in limbic areas of the brain, which are connected to emotions, creativity and daydreaming is fascinatingly complex. This is fast becoming an obsessive subject matter for me, this connection between sound and image, whether the image is in the mind or on a page I’m eager to explore this and see what it might stir up.

References (Aug 27, 2011). Sensory Memory. [Retrieved Dec 01, 2017] from 

Written by Bergland C.[december 13] – world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist. [online] also





Ink and paper

Fig.1 Conversations on the train – Ann Kiernan (2017)

I love ink , it breathes and flows and creates organic shapes that are so pleasing to me. When it is added to paper, I can get lost in it’s unpredictability, and that beautiful crisp edge it offers when it finally dries on the thick paper.

The Chinese black ink stick dates back to approximately 12th century B.C, when monks found that the soot of pine needles or burnt vegetation which was caught in the ovens for firing porcelain, could be mixed with animal glue and moulded into a stick form. The ink stone is used for grinding the ink stick on with some water to become fluid, depending on the amount of water used it can take between five minutes to thirty minutes. In this period the monks would use the time to meditate, contemplate the painting and warm up fingers and wrists. The Ink stick, ink stone, brush and the paper make up the set of what known as the ‘Four treasures’ of East Asian painting.

Of course the ink was a result of a need to make more permanent marks on paper which had been around for quite some time by the 12th century. In Mediterranean parts a material called papyrus was used but is not considered real paper, it was strong but rough. The first know paper making process was recorded in China by Cia Lun some time between 25 and 220 AD. This invention was probably one of the greatest achievements for civilisation. Great treaties, great literature and great art have all been put to paper, holding records of historical events in safekeeping for generations.

The tooth of paper, that little bit of resistance when using pencil or dip pen triggers in me many happy memories of getting lost in drawing right throughout my life. For me my process will always begin on paper, like the monks it’s my form of meditation, a warm up, but also it brings a focus that digital sketching can not, and that is the fact that it is not so easy to ‘undo’.


Jaranson C. Traditional East Asian Brush Painting[online]

Lityuga, M.A. The invention of paper [online] / M.A. Lityuga ; EL Adviser A.M. Diadechko // To Live in a Safer World : materials of the eighth scientific practical student`s student`s, postgraduate’s and teacher’s of LSNC of the foreign languages department, Sumy, March, 28, 2014 / Відп. за вип. Г.І. Литвиненко. – Sumy : Sumy State University, 2014. – С. 151. A history of paper[accessed December 2017]

Chinese Ink and Inkstone[online]


Hearing sounds in silent images

Fig.1 Skipping Pylons – Happy Toast (2011)

So twitter has been going crazy this week over an electricity pylon jumping rope. Why?  Even though the GIF has no sound, viewers are hearing the sound of a thud as the happy pylon lands, or, are they just seeing sound and their brain is filling in the blanks?

There have been many articles in the past few days written about why this can be heard (by some people, not all) and Happy Toast Animation, the creators, are over the moon. Getting featured on international news channels and international newspaper websites.

On reading an article written about the phenomenon on the science based Illusion Index the author suggests there are a couple of possible reasons why we can ‘hear’ the thud. One is the McGurk and McDonald study.

“McGurk and MacDonald hypothesise that the effect is due to the fact that the brain is trying to make a “best guess”, given the information that is coming from different senses is contradictory. The effect is reported to be particularly salient when the quality of auditory information is poor, in which case the visual information trumps the auditory information (Massaro & Cohen 2000).”

Fig. 2 Documenting sound (2017)

The ‘skipping pylon’ GIF is a version of what I am endeavouring with my ongoing project to document sound in a visual sense. My goal is to create a dictionary of sorts for use in images which I can include sound or make reference to sound. Sound is an interesting subject to settle on illustrating because if you are a hearing person, you certainly have witnessed occasions when you believe you have seen the sound, be it a heavy bag dropped on a dusty floor or a whip cracking. Now to capture the visual essence of it, that is my challenge.


Happy Toast Animations. Retrieved from   

Macpherson, F. in F. Macpherson (ed.), The Illusions Index. Retrieved from

Baysan, U. (July 2017) “McGurk Effect” in F. Macpherson (ed.), The Illusions Index. Retrieved from


Akvariet Trio – drawing jazz and free improvisation

Fig.1 Akvariet Trio playing live at Theatre Unterm Dach.

Jazz is not my bag, usually I find it too conflicting and it becomes just noise to me rather than identifiable music. The Akvariet Trio though, are different, they work under the ‘jazz’ label but they are not jazz as I define it. The music is hypnotic and intense and there is a definite musicality which feels like its surrounding you as the set becomes more fervent.

Akvariet Trio present themselves as “deeply rooted in jazz and free improvisation”, making “music full of melodic beauty, rhythmic intensity and exuberant joy of playing” and you feel it. The potency of their music flows up and swirls enveloping the room and everyone present seems under the spell. Including the three musicians, who huddle over their instruments to a point where it’s difficult to know where one begins and the other ends.

So this is where my final piece was conceived, my end goal for my first project was to report on a live event and include some of my explorations of sound into my image. The venue is small and intimate and also quite dark. I found the best position for me in the room so that I would be out of the eye line of the audience and settled in. The music and performance were intoxicating. A fog machine belched out white breath which seemed to gather in the crouched form of Rieko Okuda, the piano player, who rocked back and forth on her stool, each time releasing a plume of fog which looked like it carried the notes she was playing with it toward the lights above.

The bass player, Antti Virtaranta  hypnotized me. His hands moved up and down the strings so deftly as he held the instrument like a lover, he plucked the strings and bowed them, rubbed the belly of the instrument and tapped and created sounds from a double base I never new it could emit. It felt at times we as an audience were watching a private intense moment, and then, suddenly it becomes light and we can look away.

Wieland Moeller on the drums played the rhythm like he was dancing, it is no surprise to discover he is also a contemporary dancer. Such a gentle sound came from these kettles and cymbals and once in a while a slow build gong flowed over the audience.

This was the perfect performance for my piece with repetitive rhythm allowing me time to build the image in ink and capture movements and more importantly to visualise the sound. Researching reportage and sound regularly brought me back to the work of Jenny Soep (who I have mentioned in a previous post) who ‘Draws the Experience’. She began drawing live gigs around Dundee Jazz festival in Scotland back in 2000 while studying, and has developed into a respected reporter and finder of new musicians and bands. She uses anything to make a mark even human hair and the results are energetic and lively compositions caught in the moment. Making notes in the drawing of important lyrics or comments she hears.

For my piece I wanted to not include side notes as she does but to just mark the sound and using my inks to create a fluidity that reflected the music. My process involves painting sections – for this image the first stage was making the black backdrop –  using water and dropping the ink in which causes a very fluid looking effect as the ink finds its way to the edges. I set this aside to dry and begin some pencil sketching to get a feeling for the music and movement of the musicians. I also began making experimental marks for how the sound looks to me. This process is repeated, inking, allowing to dry, sketching and repeat until I have the full stage set-up as I want it. The hardest part for me was putting the marks of sound over an image I was quite happy with, but this was the goal. So I bit my lip and closed my eyes and followed the sound with my pencil.



Akvariet trio website biography

Sketching the Scene – Jenny Soep – The Scotsman, Lifestyle (August 2008)

Jenny Soep: Drawing the Experience