Andreja Brulc's Blog

World Book Day 2021: X-Sketchbook Project

Posted in Uncategorized by andrejabrulc on 26/04/2021

Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

To commemorate this year’s World Book Day (24 April), I thought I would share some artworks from my X-Sketchbook Project. The sketchbook was made for the Experimental Typography course (2004–5) at the London College of Communication (LCC, University of the Arts).

The brief of the project was to pick up a letter and explore its negative and positive space. I seem to remember I had tremendous fun placing the letter X in all sort of settings of my “imaginary” world (above: The Map of London, Indian ink, paper cut-out) while exploring different methods and materials (below: World, Printing inks and paper collage).

Source: The visual diary of India

You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

The idea for the X-Sketchbook Project developed from my Indian Sketchbook, which I had been doing while travelling around India for three weeks during Christmas 2004, or more precisely, along the path of the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur), although our independent trip of Rajasthan, which had ended up in Mumbai, had covered much more, and off the beaten track, than the classic ‘triangle’ tourist trap. Among many things I had fallen in love with had been the tracery stonework of the Mughal architecture in Dehli (Red Fort), in Agra (Taj Mahal and Agra Fort) and in a ghosty town of Fatehpur Sikri, just south of Agra, as well as applied to many city palaces of Rajasthan and its fortified hill forts, which litter a very arid sandy landscape of this western Indian state that borders with Pakistan (below: The desert landscape of Jaipur, concertina, paper cut-out).

As someone who had spent a lot of time studying Gothic architecture on both BA and MA History of Art degrees, the tracery stonework of Mughal architecture had been extremely fascinating to explore in the visual diary. In fact, the Indian Sketchbook had been my very first travel sketchbook in which I had gone obsessed with collaging various textures and patterns. The trip to India (2004, 2008) and Mexico (2002, 2010) had had a profound impact on my process of work during the formative years of my becoming a graphic designer and illustrator from the mid-2000s onwards, and is best explained in the following statement from my website (About, Biography):

I have a strong interest in typography, layout and colour, and in mixed media, combining illustration with photography, drawing, silhouette and traditional craft techniques (hand-printing, stitching, embroidery, patchwork, knitting, and crocheting), as well as using various papers, textiles and industrial materials (sandpaper and scrim tape) for textures and patterns. 

One of the nicest memory of the Indian Sketchbook is in fact the making of it while on the go, on trains and buses, as well as at train and bus stations and other public spaces, while locals had been curiously overlooking my shoulders trying to find out what I had been up to. It had naturally felt a bit uncomfortable at times, but if I think about it now those occasions had been the only moments in my time in India in which I had been able to strike up a conversation with the locals independently of my Brit, and particularly with women. If one is not part of the same historical heritage as my Brit and not quite accustomed to such a rigid caste system as in India, – no doubt the legacy of the British Empire as consolidated through “a policy of divide and rule”, as recently pointed out in a very informative article ‘But what about the railways…? The myth of Britain’s gift to India by Shash Tharoor, published in The Guardian (8 Mar 2017), – then such human behaviour, which requires the social etiquette that ‘one speaks when one is spoken’, or what would translate into an Indian context of the social hierarchy as ‘do not mix outside your caste’, is quite a culture shock for an outsider in the 21st century.

Tracery: Architectural element of piercing in stone

Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone.
‘But which is the stone that supports the bridge?’ Kublai Khan asks.
‘The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,’ Marco answers, ‘but by the line of the arch that they form.’
Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: ‘Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.’
Polo answers: ‘Without stones, there is no arch.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

The Mughal tracery looks to me like a very delicate and intricate lacework in stone, as, to my eye, it appears even more elegant and graceful than what I have experienced through my European heritage. In architecture, tracery is used decoratively in windows or other openings, as well as for similar forms in relief, such as wall decorations (blind tracery), hence, the term is often figuratively used to describe any intricate line pattern. The term is applicable to the system of window decoration developed during the Gothic period of European architecture, as well as to the pierced marble screens, common in Mughal India (1526–1857), – as shown in the two images (left, top right and bottom left) used as covers for a mock-up travel magazine Kitbag, the final project for the Magazine and Publishing Design course at LCC, – and to the pierced cement windows of Persia, Turkey, and Egpyt. To what degree the stonework of the Mughal tracery has really influenced my X-Sketchbook Project is best seen in the artwork of Union Jack (below), made out of vegetable-based printing inks and using one of my favourite printing techniques, potato printing. 

According to Britannica, “European tracery probably originated in Byzantine work, in which pierced marble screens and groups of two or three narrow, arched windows were placed close together under a single, large arch. After the Romanesque period, during which the tympanum (section of wall between the tops of the smaller arches and the great arch over the whole group) was pierced for decorative effect, tracery flourished. In plate tracery, found in early French and English Gothic work, the tympanum is pierced with a single circular or four-lobed opening. Later, the number and complexity of the piercings were increased, adding size and beauty to the entire unit. The climax of plate tracery appears in the magnificent windows of Chartres Cathedral (12th century) and in the rose window at Lincoln Cathedral (c. 1225), known as the Dean’s eye. After 1220 English designers began to conceive of the tympanum as a series of openings separated only by thin, stone, upright bars (bar tracery). In France, a developed type of bar tracery with cusped circles (having pointed bars of stone projecting in toward the centre of the circle) was executed in the apse chapels of Reims Cathedral (prior to 1230). From about 1240 on, bar tracery became common, and it quickly exhibited increased lightness and complexity. In contrast to earlier tracery, which had mouldings of only one size, French Rayonnant tracery used two moulding types, differing according to the size of the mullions, or ribs. Notable examples of French Rayonnant tracery can be seen in rose windows such as those of Notre-Dame de Paris (c. 1270). By the late 14th century in England, the Perpendicular style, which was based on a striving for verticality, replaced the flowing lines of curvilinear tracery with mullions that were straight and unbroken from bottom to top. At intervals, they were connected by horizontal bars running across the windows. The climax … was reached in windows such as those of King’s College Chapel at Cambridge (1446–1515).”

In Islamic architecture, tracery was, on the other hand, “generally constructed by filling the window area with a pierced sheet of cement and inserting pieces of coloured glass into the openings, a technique that yielded windows of jewel-like intensity and brilliance. Typical designs consisted of floral and leaf shapes that were arranged to give a sense of flow and growth. Fine examples are the jewelled windows in the 17th-century Mosque of Süleyman, in Istanbul. In the great Mughal palaces and tombs, large, pointed arch openings are filled with sheets of white marble pierced in elaborate patterns. The most delicate example of this tracery is the sarcophagi screen in the 17th-century Taj Mahal, at Agra, India.”

Visual Diaries: A source for inspiration for Book Covers

When a man rides a long time through wild regions he feels the desire for a city. Finally, he comes to Isidora, a city where the buildings have spiral staircases encrusted with spiral seashells, where perfect telescopes and violins are made, where the foreigner hesitating between two women always encounters a third, where cockfights degenerate into bloody brawls among the bettors. He was thinking of all these things when he desired a city. Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

My Indian Sketchbook is most strongly associated with the artwork for the book cover of The Nonexistent Knight (1959) by Italo Calvino (below), which I did for the Slovene translation, published at Beletrina Academic Press in 2014. I wrote extensively about it in another article, the article of which is accompanied by all visual material that inspired me along the way in the making of the cover.

Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.
― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

Some of the artworks from the X-Sketchbooks, shown below, were later on also incorporated into or reworked for various book cover designs, including that of The River Thames, used on the cover of The Clay Dreaming by Ed Hillary (below), which was published by Myriad Editions (2010). The ‘river’ stands for both physical and symbolical: the River Thames and the Rainbow Serpent from Aboriginal mythology.

The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

The meandering snake-like artwork of The River Thames was later on reworked into a ‘real’ Rainbow Snake (below, 2008), which was used on three book covers, a trilogy of Uroki polne lune (Eng. transl. The spells of the Full Moon) (2008–10) by Marjan Tomšič (below). In these three works, the author, the only Slovene representative of Latin American magic realism, deals with the folk tradition of Istria (mythological, folklore and fairy-tale motifs).

Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. “There is the blueprint,” they say.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972


Day 54 [8 May 2020]: 8h Day after COVID-19 Lockdown: NEVER FORGET: VE Day, 75 years of PEACE [an exract from my diary]

Posted in Covid-19/Lockdown Diary, Things of the Past by andrejabrulc on 08/05/2020

Cowards die a thousand deaths, but the brave only die once.
– Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

PEACE should not be taken for granted – NEVER FORGET.

Today – 8 May – is a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day, when western Allies won WWII against the evil forces of Fascism and Nazism. VE Day, as it is usually called in the UK, is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces – the signing of which, known as the German Instrument of Surrender, took place in the evening on 8 May 1945, thus marking the end of WWII in Europe. Following Adolf Hitler‘s suicide on 30 April during the Battle of Berlin, Germany’s surrender was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The act of military surrender was first signed at 02:41 on 7 May in SHAEF HQ at Reims, but a slightly modified second document, considered the definitive German Instrument of Surrender, was signed on 8 May 1945 in Karlshort, Berlin, at 21:20 local time (after midnight, thus on 9 May Moscow Time). The second version was due to the fact that Stalin was not present when the first was signed, which made him angry and demanded the modification and the signing in Berlin.

Due to the time difference with Moscow, the Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin. For this reason, Russia (formerly SSSR) and the former Soviet bloc countries – which now represent Eastern and Central Europe – celebrate on 9 May. Slovenia – which used to be part of ex-Yugoslavia – celebrates the victory on 9 May, too, although it was never part of the block, as Tito’s Yugoslavia broke away from Stalin in 1948 (Tito-Stalin Split), which led to an intense period, known as Informbiro (1948–55). Under Yugoslavia, the victory celebration was known as Dan zmage (Victory Day), while since its independence, it was renamed to Dan zmage nad fašizmon in nacizmom (Victory Day Over Fascism and Nazism).

Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square (below) and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds.

I shall be ever so grateful for the 75 years of PEACE given to us and to many generations before us by all those ancestors, brothers and sisters, soldiers and guerilla fighters (partisans), who sacrificed their lives for justice and freedom so that we now enjoy our careless lives.


My grandfather’s cause for Europe: ‘Pass’ towards PEACE and FREEDOM

I am very proud of my maternal grandfather – to whom I already dedicated the EU referendum article I’m IN for PEACE – who joined the guerrilla fighters after he had been put into a forced labour camp in 1943 to dig the Loibl Pass, a 1570 m long tunnel under the Alps between Slovenia and Austria. The tunnel was ordered by the command of Austrian SS Friedrich Rainer to make a military passage into the Balkans as fast and as easy as possible. While researching the historical context to his life as a partisan, I learnt – on the very day of the assassination of Jo Cox, Labour MP, by the far-right extremist Thomas A Mair – that he had witnessed the Holocaust at the labour camp.

My grandfather managed to escape and joined the resistance to fight the war against the Nazis! I knew about his involvement with partisans while he was still alive. But he never really liked to talk about what had really happened in the war when I asked him questions for my homework – he preferred to reply by singing the Yugoslav version of the Internationale, as he loved singing more than talking, while I went on to invent a heroic story to satisfy the Communist educational establishment! – from “I’m IN for PEACE”

Despite all the trauma he must have gone through, I am extremely grateful to him and his contribution to the 75 years of peace of Europe. And above, all that he survived – so that we could have 31 years together.

My cause for Europe: Hope for PEACE

I want to remember my grandfather in life with six images – from I’m IN for PEACE:

– One, BIRDS – peace – him singing while imitating birds and inspiring my knowledge of various species that entered his back garden of beauty that he knew so well;

– Second, BIKE – resilience – while complaining that he could not go on (he suffered from rheumatism) and pushing his bike for a support, the next minute we saw him while cycling off happily as soon as he disappeared behind the house, thinking we would not see him;

– Third, FIELD – passion – him tendering potatoes in his field in a stoic manner that he cared for so much in his retirement, while my mum and I tried to rescue him from Yugoslav military planes flying over his head on the way to bomb the Ljubljana airport and the Krvavec RTV Slovenia transmitter. He could not hear them anymore;

– Fourth, HATS – obsession – him wearing different kinds of hats, even while tending his field;

– Fifth, PLANE – freedom – him longing to see the world from the above, the dream that finally came through on his 91st birthday accompanied by his brother.

– And final, TUNNEL – reconciliation & forgiveness. It was our last journey together at the end of August of 1999 before his death. While returning to London from Klagenfurt via Vienna, he wanted to accompany me to the airport and, as he said, to visit the Loibl Pass for the first time since ‘his digging job’. When we arrived at the border crossing – Slovenia was then not yet part of the EU – we realised that his ID was still from Yugoslavia, so he could not go through ‘the tunnel’ to Austria. I still see him standing there on the Slovene side of the border transfixed in his time and space, waving his graceful goodbye, while I wept like a child, knowing that was our last parting.

Although being able to disguise his disappointment exceptionally well as he would always smile, I knew then that he felt very sad from the inside as he was unable to accompany me. But only on Thursday did I realise that his ‘real’ desire to enter into ‘the tunnel’ was his hope to let go of the past – ‘the tunnel of darkness to see the light on the other side’ – and to forgive all those that had caused him harm and injustice. His ‘pass’ was for him a symbolic bridge for desire towards the light, a hope for freedom and peace!

So PEACE should not be taken for granted – NEVER FORGET.

Dr Paolo Giordano: We Must Not Forget

In view of the above – WE MUST NOT FORGET – I thought it would be appropriate to share the below extract from my diary in the form of a quote – as a reminder that there has been a rise of authoritarianism in Eastern and Central Europe, yet again, and needless to say in Western Europe, such as the toxic Brexit, and so on. The evil forces of ultra-rightwing looniness of hate speech have no space in the EU or anywhere in the world. Dictatorships happen on both extremes of the political spectrum as, for example, the rightwing loony Pinochet of Chile and the leftwing loony Maduro of Venezuela. They also do happen in peace times: the rightwing loony Orban of Hungary.

Dr Paolo Giordano, Italian author and particle physicist from Turin, in discussing his new book How Contagion Works on Slovene national TV (Globus) last night — one of the first books written on the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic, in which he warns the danger of authoritarianism — answers [sic] the following question “What is important for the future?”:

The most important is that we do not leave the difficult times behind. WE MUST NOT FORGET them.

The thing that always happens after war, for instance, that people try to forget everything as soon as they can — because such memories are a big trauma, there is too much suffering, so we need to forget it and move on.

But this is exactly what we should not do. This is why I keep on writing notes, and that is why I wrote this short book, and I am constantly talking about things, which I do not usually do.

There are so many things that this virus is showing what is wrong in our society, things that need to be fixed [and] that need to be reflected upon.

IF WE JUST FORGET THEM all [mistakes] and start again [as before], I think we will be the one to be blamed, if these mistakes come back again in the future.

Day 19 [3 April 2020]: COVID-19 Lockdown: Politics/Arundhati Roy [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Books, Covid-19/Lockdown Diary by andrejabrulc on 03/04/2020

And even while the virus proliferates, who could not be thrilled by the swell of birdsong in cities, peacocks dancing at traffic crossings and the silence in the skies? – Arundhati Roy, Financial Times, 3 April 2020

I find the first three paragraphs in the introduction to the article ‘The Pandemic is a portal’ – a compelling personal thought by the novelist Arundhati Roy on how coronavirus threatens India published today by Financial Times – a total masterpiece of prose writing as very poetic and sublime. I really loved the style of her first novel The God of Small Things (1997), and I have been meaning to read her second The Ministry of Utmost Happiness since the announcement of the book in 2017 after 20 years of gap. There is no place for me to comment on the politics of India on my personal blog, but the first three paragraphs are so universal as humane, as words express exactly what everyone, no matter of religion and political point of view, has been going through right now. The introduction is definitely worth reading as well recommended.

[PS: I thank Financial Times, to make this article ‘free to read’. According to the newspaper’s copyright policy, I am allowed to publish online (my personal blog), “the original FT headline and a link to the article and the first 140 characters of an article (what we call teaser text)”. The quote above is exactly 140 characters – but it is from the third paragraph!]

Day 15 [30 March 2020]: COVID-19 Lockdown: Politics/Restriction of movement [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Covid-19/Lockdown Diary by andrejabrulc on 30/03/2020

As of today, people in Slovenia have to follow the official rule on a restriction of movement between municipalities. For someone, who has spent all adulthood among the population of nearly 10 million people – in 2018 the population of London (the City of London + Greater London) was estimated at 8,908,081 and concentrated in the area of 1,572 sq km, with a density of 14,670 inhabitants per sq km [Wikipedia] –, this new governmental imposition will be a huge challenge how to breathe within the confined borders! I am, now, ‘stuck’ in a tinny municipality of Komenda (the map on the left and the image below of me at the western point of the border) with 6,354 inhabitants – or a total of 6,712 which includes temporary residents at the beginning of March 2020 [the municipality’s official site] – spreading over 15 villages. During my time of growing up in the 80s, Komenda – the village, the seat of the municipality, in the centre of the map – had less than 500 inhabitants. But it has grown massively during the last decade due to a new housing redevelopment and to its proximity to the capital city of Ljubljana, as young families moved to the countryside because housing costs became too high in towns, like elsewhere in Europe. The area of the village equates to 2.40 sq km, while that of the municipality to 24.1 sq km, and has a population density of 240 people per sq km (the fact is from 2013 when a total population was 5,788 [Wikipedia]).

If I only think of nearly 1 million people in North London, estimated at 911,000 with a population density of 7,900 per sq km in 2018 [Plumplot] – or, even, specifically of my area with 15,989 inhabitants, according to the last census of 2011 [Wikipedia] –, the population of North London equates to nearly half of the population of Slovenia (currently a total of 2,078,880 living on the land of 20,140 sq km with a population density of 130 per sq km [Worldometers]). North London is not defined here as the area lying north of the River Thames but how it is officially defined as a sub-region, consisting of 3 boroughs (Barnet, Enfield, Haringey), and used for the purpose of the London Plan since 2011 [Wikipedia]. Such statistics would normally make me feel being mentally confined into a shoebox of village life – in many ways just like the ‘packed like sardines’ syndrome of the London underground!

But, in view of all the suffering and losses of so many lives in areas with such a high population density, being ‘stuck’ in a small village is right now an utter privilege for ‘a Londoner’ – so, by no means, a complaint as the above statistics is only for comparison to understand how lucky I actually am! And, above all, if I was in London, I would be immensely worried about my elderly parents – are they doing everything ‘right’ to protect themselves, from the list of these extra precautions that have even for me become an utter bore!

My ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ has been a daily routine of self-employment working from home since 2007 – as I had to compromise fun for projects many times due to deadlines or I had to work when a job was available, something most of my closed friends and family took for granted, so the aspect of the lockdown has never really worried me in all honesty. In fact, I have imposed the social distancing deliberately since mid-February when horrid stories started to come out of northern Italy. And, as I sit nearly next door to the epicentre of European pandemic, I really wanted this nightmare of the fast-spreading virus to finish from the start and will keep on going ‘staying at home’ so that we can protect vulnerable loved ones, those who save lives and other key workers like food suppliers, so that hopefully, our working lives can go back to normal as fast as possible! Also, even if I did not have a project to get on, I would not be worried about getting bored as boredom like fear is self-constructed as a human condition. But for now, I imagine the quarantine as what would the life of a nun be like within the confined walls of a nunnery – if only our time was less stressful!

Yet, the idea of the restriction of movement, imposed by the new Slovene government, will be a huge psychological test for me. This – imposed all because of some selfish people who could not stay at home and treated the quarantine time as a kind of holiday! On the other hand, critics believe that people did not flock to tourists’ spots en mass as web cameras did show social distancing being observed! Who does one believe in? But one thing is certain: we live in dangerous times, and I fear that the coronavirus, causing so much uncertainty in our daily lives, may get exploited for the wrong kind of political ideology – as already discussed by Anne Applebaum in relation to Italy’s response to the coronavirus (see my blog post on Albert Camus’s The Plague) – that may curtail many aspects of our lives which we have become so accustomed to and have taken them too often for granted! And I am saying this, as someone who had lived for 20 or so years under communism, where, in Yugoslavia, there was never a restriction of movement, like in Eastern Europe, at least in my time of growing up, as people could freely travel around the world if they had money! Of course, most did not!

I really do hope this strict measurement – which I believe was absolutely essential to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus – is only temporary! If only we can come out of the lockdown as humane as the good and intelligent apes from the Planet of the Apes, but I fear I am not far from thinking that the idea of state control, under the surveillance, based on misinformation and propaganda, is too close to the dystopian and post-apocalyptic world, known from science fiction books and movies! Perhaps we may soon become the inhabitants of Panem from The Hunger Games, or of Chicago from The Divergent Series, and, heavens forbid, of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale!

At least for the time being, I feel like a Bird on The Wire – like the picture of myself on a bike (above), with an excellent 80s bird’s nest hairdo and with the village at the background, taken sometime in autumn 1986, 5 years before I permanently moved to London – or, more precisely, a Bird on The ‘London‘ Bike – like the picture (below) taken recently at more or less the same spot nearly 34 years later!


Day 12 [27 March 2020]: COVID-19 Lockdown: Politics/National Identity/Dual Citizenship [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Covid-19/Lockdown Diary by andrejabrulc on 27/03/2020

Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places. – Italo Calvino, The Invisible Cities

With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. – Italo Calvino, The Invisible Cities

I have always loved maps – and especially those imaginary maps with no borders. How silly of me – when global citizenship falls prey to the COVID-19, borders become like walls!

How really convenient of Facebook to have reminded me today of a fine memory from 5 years ago – ​a plan ​how to get back home from my parents’ house by walking — now very useful to know since no commercial flights are available between Ljubljana and London! But would I take a flight if one was available since I have been deliberately avoiding flying for over a month now! I even decided to give up on the idea of attending the London Book Fair, as the visit was not worthy of taking a risk – which then, eventually or inconveniently, got cancelled in the last minute!

Now reflecting upon the memory of the past, I could potentially cycle considering that my London bike ‘exiled’ to my parents’ ​village last summer after it had been collecting dust while being stored in my parents-in-law’s garage for over 15 years. I used the bike only 5 times since I bought it in early 2002, but decided that London was just too aggressive for cyclists. Last summer it needed to be moved out of their garage – my mother-in-law died in March 2019 (her husband in April 2013) – in order to make space for new stories of the new owners!

But there is now an additional trick – how to overcome the hurdle since the EU borders are now being closed: I might be called an ‘illegal border transgressor’ by Schengen countries, or even an ‘illegal migrant’ by the UK Border Agency. Who knows.

Yet – where on earth do dual nationals, legally speaking, belong in such situations under the current circumstances as mine, when ‘stuck’ outside the country (i.e. UK) to which they economically contribute most (i.e. pay taxes from world income), as, to me, it does feel a bit like that I am ‘stuck’ in ‘no man’s land’ – not in the true sense of the word as used in literature to describe the good and the bad of the trenches during the WWI – but more in the sense of being a Citizen of Nowhere. How convenient, or ironical at best, as we, Remainers, have recently been pointed out as such by the ex-Prime Minister of the UK. Perhaps, after all, she was right, how dare she, really!

Now I am sitting on the terrace 10 km​s​ away from the airport observing the plane arriving and leaving the airport, waving ‘welcomes’ and ‘goodbyes’, as Slovenia and the UK are doing the repatriation flight of their nationals!

It is utterly surreal – in the UK, I am called “immigrant”, while in Slovenia, I am “British”! All I know, and what I feel most, is that I am European, but that’s about it!

Perhaps the only solution is — to follow the British attitude ‘keep calm and carry on’ and the Slovene official warning ‘stay at home’! Perfect – so there you are, all sorted! Inhale, exhale, inner peace!

Day 6 [21 March 2020]: COVID-19 Lockdown: Survival kits/Home-made Remedy [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Covid-19/Lockdown Diary by andrejabrulc on 21/03/2020

I thought it may be useful to share this extract from my diary, as I have just made a second batch of home-remedy this morning – to boost the immune system. My parents and I have been ‘on it’ for the last two weeks!

Prevention is better than cure.

If you are a “gingerholic”, “lemonholic” or “honeyholic” – this is it! According to BBC – under the section of ‘Will honey, lemon and ginger ger rid of a cold?’ – “for those of us keen to keep our cold cures natural and delicious, a hot drink containing honey, lemon and ginger has to be top of the list.” The common cold weakens the function of the immune system – and one needs to keep it up now more than at any other times!

1. Ingredients

If you fancy doing it, all you need is:
– fresh ginger
– lemons
– honey

My proportions can be seen from the picture above: I do not follow a recipe – it is a word-of-mouth recipe – and I balance the proportions based on what I have available. This time I had approx half a kg (a pound) of ginger, 3 and a half large lemons, and there were about 7 large spoons of honey left in the jar. One could add more lemons and honey!

For the final result, I got out two smaller jars and a bit leftover, which I mixed into the honey jar.

2. Method

1. Peel the ginger with a potato peeler.

2. Use the grater – not for lemon (left-hand side in the picture) but for parmesan (my London one does not have the parmesan option, but I have a separate one for that – if not available, use the side you do Chedder grating. It will come out in bigger bits like my first attempt some years ago, but it was drinkable).

3. Grate lemon peel, and then squeeze the lemon.

4. Add honey to the mixture.

5. Put the mixture into jars, and store them in the fridge (the last time I did this stuff was 5 years ago and it was fine in the fridge for a month, by which time we drank it all).

3. Use

1. A teaspoon or two – depending on how strong you like it, as ginger has a burning sensation like horseradish – mixed with a glass of water.

2. We do one glass at breakfast time!


And when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

My morning drink is matched by my mum’s home-made remedy (see below) every morning: a ration of one teaspoon of the ‘stuff’ as a leftover from 2 years ago, while she is preparing a new batch as an emergency relief! My parents and I started ‘this habit’ two weeks ago – at 10 am – but every day it gradually became earlier and earlier – today it was 8 am! It is a lockdown after all!

Such types of home-made remedies are prepared over the summer months – so that they are ready for consumption when colder weather comes in later on in the autumn! The ‘stuff’ is actually based on schnapps – the Germanic and Central European alcoholic beverage made out of different fruits as many people distil it at home! It is what people have been doing for generations! My parents buy schnapps from a local farm, but then they turn it into various medicinal liqueurs by soaking other ingredients in it, such as herbs, meadow flowers, fruits (blueberries), nuts (walnuts) or honey and so on. As in this one (below) – flowers and leaves of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) are soaked in and exposed to the sun for a while before being ready. One makes anise-flavoured spirits out of this flower, like the French absinthe, but, in these parts of the Alps, it is very popular to produce home-made pelinkovec. Unlike the absinthe, schnapps and pelinkovec do not get beyond 40% alcohol (I think!), but the mixture, with wormwood leaves, is used as a home remedy for various medicinal uses, including indigestion and for infectious diseases!



Day 3 [18 March 2020]: COVID-19 Lockdown: Design/Why Fonts Matter [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Books, Covid-19/Lockdown Diary, Graphic Design, Workshops by andrejabrulc on 18/03/2020

I finally did some useful work today as I wrote a short review of Sarah Hyndman’s Why Fonts Matter for Amazon — this book is for everyone, for design professionals and those who are interested in visual culture and want to learn in a fun way ‘why fonts matter’!

I had purchased the book so that it could join other art material that travelled from London (just on time) by the kind help of my ex-colleague Marko – with the intention to have a sneak-peek into Sarah’s work while I was getting ready for my type-led workshops based on poetry in association with the International Day of Poetry (21 March), which was meant to take place today. Hopefully, we can find another slot, should I happen to be in Slovenia then!

Sarah Hyndman’s book is amazing! I’ve known about Sarah’s passion for and knowledge of typography since attending her Experimental Typography classes at the London College of Communication in the mid-2000s, and as I have recently been preparing two sessions of lectures and workshops on hand-made typography-based on poetry for school and university students, so I thought it was high time I got hold of a copy of this book.

I was more than eager to find out more about Sarah’s extensive research by experiment on how type can set the mood, reveal one’s personality and appeal to our senses. I was especially intrigued by Sarah’s innovative approach of looking at the type ‘sideways’, which is similarly how people respond emotionally to works of art through sensory perceptions without knowing the context. Who would have thought that type can cry, laugh, shout, smell, and can be sad or happy, or even aggressive or calm?

I love in particular the section on the edible type, as that is exactly the kind of idea my two workshops will emphasise: the importance of bringing life skills from all areas into the design process. I often hear kids asking, ‘why do I need to learn this or that, it’s of no use, it’s so boring, whatever!’ With such an excellent book on hand that shows everything from the punk and grunge to the neat and tidy, they may perhaps believe me when I say that design is important!

Day 1 [16 March 2020]: COVID-19 Lockdown: First Day of No School/Happy Doodling/My nephew [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Covid-19/Lockdown Diary, Sketchbook by andrejabrulc on 16/03/2020

A doodle is when you’re making something intuitively and you’re not quite sure what it’s going to be, but you feel good about what it is you’re doing. – Jon Burgerman, The Art of Doodling

It is the first day of the lockdown. My 14-year-old nephew Luka said that he would never ever have expected his school to be totally closed due to something like ‘a’ virus — of course, he honestly added, and I do not blame him, that he often wished the school to have been shut for other (fun) reasons! I reminded him of our time during 10 days of the war for independence in June 1991, when our lives came to a total standstill, and, in particular, how badly university students, including myself, were effected as the conflict happened in the middle of the examination period! The exams were all postponed — but I told him that in that period 7 students (official statistics, as one will never forget that!) at the University of Ljubljana committed suicide due to this enormous extra external pressure that was put upon us. I know, a very morbid discussion with a teenager, but the comparison was the closest to what I imagined he has been going through now in his immediate environment — he took this onboard very well indeed as the war is part of his national history.

Children at that age are emotionally vulnerable as they are trying to fit in with their mates as searching for their place in society, but they need to be gradually prepared for such life disruptions, of which we have no control of, as they are bound to happen now even more often! Such disruptions can happen overnight as Brits have experienced with Brexit, as they can turn one’s life upside down. So adults ought to prepare kids now more how to learn to cope with stress, as they are bound to be more exposed to the news because of social media, then our generation ever was when we were growing up! One needs to remember that panic is stress and that stress leads to lowering one’s immune system, and, therefore, a bigger risk to fall prey to our common enemy: COVID-19!

At least we both agreed, even if not ideal, that now his friends can communicate via social media for free (not in our time) — and parents should NOT stop them from doing so, given the current situation as these are exceptional times! And that they can carry on with their school work conducted via long-distance learning, the practice of which is an experiment for many European countries and only the time will tell whether it works or not for that age group.

And — he departed as a happy boy, with a bag of 80 colour markers for his doodling plus fineliners, which arrived with my other art material from London last week JUST ON TIME! Who knows — in my case — when and how I will be able to return! The markers were going to be a present for his Confirmation at Easter, now cancelled, but I thought why not gift him prematurely as so much time now to keep his passion growing! He told me that he kept thinking about the markers ever since they arrived last Thursday! So, this made me very happy, too!

The time of social distancing may well prove to be the best time to think about one’s personal growth — the luxury most of us, adults, can not afford in our normal hectic lives — as one can concentrate on improving one’s existing skills or learn something new while keeping oneself occupied at home!

Happy doodling time for him! He has been doodling for a few years now, creating all sorts of weird robotic and fantastic characters – he loves the fantasy world of Hobbits and Harry Potter as well as science fiction world of Avengers to name a few. This time he has been following Instagram tutorials on how to use colour by markers. But it may now be sometime before he can get a Sketchbook delivered.

[PS: He received the Sketchbook a few days later – and has since sent me some examples of his doodling.]

Day 0 [14 March 2020]: 2 Days before COVID-19 Lockdown: Art Material Delivery/Work At Home [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Children's, Covid-19/Lockdown Diary, Workshops by andrejabrulc on 14/03/2020

Thanks to my ex-colleague Marko from Slovenia and his brave trip to London last week, I was delivered extra art supply​ on Thursday​ — for a now already cancelled two sessions of lectures/workshops ​next Wednesday, ​as the country is ​preparing for a lockdown starting on Monday​ due to the Covid-19, and for my ​(first) ​children’s book project, ​as ​very handy to get on with while in self-isolation!

I am in Slovenia since Christmas — I arrived with 3 suitcases full of art material needed to complete the children’s book — a book of poetry​ on 4 seasons, which​ I wrote in 2011 as part of a sketchbook projectfor the Brooklyn Art Library, NY.​ I have a better workspace in my parents’ house, as my London ‘office’ at home does feel a bit claustrophobic for art-making!

​Some areas of the country ​have already been in a pre-lockdown mode​ since Thursday, when the first two patients, a doctor and a teacher from two different places, tested positive for the coronavirus after their return from a skiing holiday to Italy! Like all other EU countries, Slovenia is also two weeks behind in having made up an official decision to shut down the country, as the government should have stopped people travelling to the already badly affected areas of northern Italy during the half-term!

As it were – I am stuck, deliberately or not deliberately depending on from which perspective, in no man’s land. I do hope that my travel insurance covers me in case of the most black scenario!

In the meantime, I have, in fact, been self-isolating​/social distancing​ ​since mid-Feb, when bad news started to come from Italy, which, in all honestly, felt like next door! It became increasingly impossible to turn left (​go skiing) or right (return home) – so I decided to stay put and to carry on! It is a real fortunate that I did not take a short trip to London due to the uncertainty of the London Book Fair, as there would have been higher chances that I could have got stuck at home while all my art material was at my parents’ in Slovenia!

Day 0 [12 March 2020]: 4 Days before COVID-19 Lockdown: Football/Team Spirit/My Niece [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Books, Covid-19/Lockdown Diary, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 12/03/2020

This post is dedicated to my niece Živa, a 16-year old and a half teenager (the photo from her last birthday in July 2019). She LOVES football, and — as a goalkeeper for her club (U17) — football has been her life outside school since she was bearly 10. 3 to 5 training sessions per week, plus 2 matches at the weekend when the football season takes place for the 1st youth and women’s leagues. She is also the second goalkeeper for women’s team in her club as of last September, plus, the second goalkeeper for the national team (U17). What a lovely achievement at her age due to her dedication and, needless to say, many sacrifices that she had to make during all these years! 

Slovenia where I am currently ‘stuck’ at my parents’ house – is getting ready for the lockdown. IMHO it is two weeks too late, if not more, considering that the country borders with Italy, and skiers, who were the first tested positive for COVID-19, were/are still holidaying in the Italian Dolomites. As of today, two schools in two different places have already closed down as a teacher and a pupil in each of them tested positive – both went skiing to Italy during the half-term!

On the other hand, the UK is still being extremely and worryingly ‘slow’ in making any coherent decision how to protect its citizens, despite the warning of some European leaders to take Italy as an example, and, above all, ignoring the fact that the country has such a dense population per small area! As reported on Monday, around 25,000 Brits were in Italy last weekend (some tried to travel back to the UK via Slovenia as the airport is still open) and around 20,000 Brits are in the French Alps! And, even scarier, UK football stadiums are still full of people!

My niece who is currently staying in my parents’ house as she is doing her work experience in the local kindergarten as part of her school curriculum – asked me while we were watching evening TV news how come English football was still allowed to go on, while her international UEFA competition was cancelled. Thanks to a fast decision of the President of UEFA from Slovenia, Aleksander Čeferin, who placed the well-being of players FIRST. He said that UEFA had plenty of money in its reserve to cover its losses! Not being biased, but I have such high respect for him, as, according to the Wikipedia, “the investment in grassroots and women’s football has been at the core of Čeferin’s mandate and while record grants for the development of football were announced at the 42nd UEFA Ordinary Congress in February 2018, UEFA also pledged to increase the funding of women’s football development projects by 50% in October 2018. He also oversaw the signing of UEFA’s first-ever sponsorship deal dedicated entirely to women’s football in December 2018.” His dedication to women’s football really proved when he had decided that the UEFA 2019 Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool would be in charge of the French referee, Stephanie Frappart, who became the first female to officiate in a major men’s European match. My niece’s generation is literally the pioneering generation of female youth in Slovenia, as the interest in playing football among young girls have started to grow significantly in the last decade – and it is fairly obvious how he influenced this new trend!

Early on during the day, she had learnt about the sad news that her team was not going to travel to Portugal in two weeks time to play matches against the host country, Spain and Turkey in the next stage of qualifications. She had so looked forward to attending this competition for months – she had even treated herself to a new pair of professional goalkeeper’s gloves which came by post from Germany today. Of course, her family and, even herself, is relieved now, as it has become increasingly obvious that her health and that of her team and opposing teams come first. The matches are postponed to 2021, but she will no longer qualify for that age. It breaks my heart to see such a personal loss for youth at that age, where her dream, built on hard work of training of many years, can disappear over the night by something as mundane as ‘a’ virus! And, of course, having a place as a goalkeeper in a national team is even more difficult than in the case of other players as not many goalkeepers are needed in such teams!

In difficult times as ours, I thought I would dedicate a post to her to give her emotional support through this crisis as I am sure it is very disappointing for her. I remembered our time together from around the same time 10 years ago how supportive she was – I had to design a series of 10 book covers for Pocket Beletrina in such a short time with a tight deadline. The series was for the World Literatures – Fabula Festival 2010, the central event of Ljubljana’s time as UNESCO World Book Capital 2010, in conjunction with the project called A Book for Everybody. While I was really struggling to get ideas together on time, she, then as a 6-year old and a half, was sitting for hours at my desk while making her own drawings. This was the time that she kept on saying “perhaps I will be a book designer like my aunty when I grow up”. She loved using my Faber Castell Pitt Pens! It was also the time in her age that drawing HEARTS in school notebooks was a popular thing! And bingo – her HEARTS became a leitmotiv for one of the book covers, LJ kot LJubezen: Pesmi o LJubljani [Eng. transl. LO as LOve: Poems about LJubljana (Ljubljana as a place cannot translate but one can see the point from the original or from the cover below)]. I do hope her resilience will help her get through this global humanitarian health crisis, as now she will have to put the time to her training by herself, and although guided by her trainer, training in quarantine will never be the same – football is, after all, a team spirit. Therefore, she needs plenty of HEARTS, in hope that one day “she will become a professional goalkeeper when she grows up”, or, even, as she dreams, a medical doctor. HEARTS. HEARTS.HEARTS. And more HEARTS.

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