A Background Story for a drawing

As I was finishing up another drawing of the “Magic Tea Party” series, I figured it might not hurt to have a background story. So, I made up one for this particular picture. So, here it is – Ashtagnan and Sterdior. (you can expect either A4 prints or cards or both to be available in the near future, I think)


You know there is a land high up in the mountains, but with a coastline, although it is so steep that getting down to salty waters is a several days hike down narrow passages, stairways and even caves. This land is called Agnashia, and it’s located in a fantasy world you have never read about, yet.

These people, Agnashians try to see and preserve what they perceive as goodness in everything. Don’t mistake them for a bunch of defenceless sissies, though. They’ll fight evil, they have stern laws and there is not turning the other cheek. But they hate mindless destruction and they do not glorify revenge and holding grudges. It’s the deed (or intent, or state of mind) that is bad, not necessarily the whole person.

Some centuries ago this land was really suffering a pair of seriously deviant (by local standards) mages – a man called Ashtagnan and a woman named Sterdior. There was something very wrong with those two – the seemed to have no care for anyone else, but themselves and empathy must have been a strange and empty word for them with a meaning really hard to grasp. But somehow a miracle happened, and the two of them met and somewhere in the process of nearly killing each other both of them suddenly realized that they really really would like to keep seeing this entity of another person around even if it meant a risk as great as trusting someone they barely knew not to betray or kill them. In short – they fell in love. This was not yet a blessing, though. At least not to anyone but the two of them. They continued to be as cruel and indifferent to suffering and paired up as a team they were even more clever and even more dangerous and dark ripples of pain and suffering broke the smooth surface of peace and happiness of Agnashian society. There was more mistrust, deceit, selfishness and fear in this beautiful mountain kingdom than there had been for a millennia. Eventually the wisest of the sages tracked the pair down. They were identified and things fell into the place. Books were written, leaflets were sent out and the source of so many troubles and grievances were found. Thousands of mindless and cruel deaths were upon those two, and it was quite certain there would be no avoiding the final sentence – which had not been used in a thousand years – the death sentence. Because these two were too powerful and wise (although that wisdom lacked any benevolence or empathy as we know it). There would be no way to safely contain them or it would be even less possible to ‘help them learn better’ as there could be no-one that much advanced in knowledge, wisdom and the understanding of human soul and mind, as to take the role of a teacher. And more importantly, neither of these two had even a slightest sliver of regret over anything they had ever done.

As I already said, Agnashians did not believe in revenge and holding grudges. They believed in finding out all the facts and making informed decisions, though. So these two were carefully and impartially studied, before they had to reach the unfortunate conclusion that there just was not enough material of “goodness” (at least the kind of goodness needed to function in a human society) to work with in either one of them, and therefore their continued existence would be too great a threat. In this process, however they found a one preciously good thing held in high regard in the society – the most dedicated, kind, selfless and overwhelming love between these two, and there was not one person in the country who didn’t feel that this was a thing of goodness worth preserving.

The sages did find a way to do just that. Mages and those of higher spiritual learning had a special place for meeting up, communicating, meditating and dreaming – let’s say that it was a sort of spiritual plain you could consciously enter and move about only when you reached a certain level of training or awareness. Among other things, one of the characteristics of this plane was a certain level of detachment of things that usually motivate or concern people. And sages made it so that even though Ashtagnan and Sterdior were completely destroyed in their physical form their mental projections (or at least partially) were set loose to wander about the mental plain. It made sure that they never again have the ability to influence anything other but themselves, and so they wondered about the spiritual plain meeting up for a cup of tea to tell each other everything that they had seen that day each evening. That is what they have done for hundreds of years. Quite often Agnashians who have just acquired the ability to reach the plain join in one of the guided tours to find their meeting place for the evening and observe the tea party. Ashtagnan and Sterdior always have eyes only for each other, though and they can listen endlessly to each others stories of everything and anything as long it is the other one telling that. Sometimes Agnashian lovers go in pairs and look them up to bask in the brightness of their dedication. At other times a scholar goes and spends even months observing them every night as they are writing an article or a dissertation on the nature of love or about the coexistence of good and evil in human beings, just so they can have a fist hand observation of the (in)famous example.


I would really like to visit Agnashia now – that climbing down to the ocean thing and the whole society sounds like a really great tourist experience. Too bad I only just made it up …

In the drawing they are obviously just conjuring up a tea-party. It appears that they manifest as wisps of steam rising from the cups – how curious. I wonder if everyone visiting that plain must lug a cup and a saucer with them everywhere they go or is that tea-party thing just a peculiarity of these two …


PS: Pointing out just in case that please do not use the story and/or drawing anywhere without my permission. You know, there’s this thing called copyright and all.

The post with cute cats on postcards

I attempted to sketch a cat birthday card the other day. I had a cute idea behind it – can you guess what it was? What the cat is trying to do on the picture?

B-daycassObviously it’s trying to make a cute letter B with it’s paws! Right? At least that’s what I thought. But the first two people I showed the drawing to didn’t find it obvious at all. The basic response I got was the polite “What a cute cat” or “Nice drawing”. And I could sense a question hanging in the air – “Is there a point to this random cat on this card?”.

So, I was kind of successful in attempting to be cute with that cat paw letter B, but unfortunately it was just me cutely failing to convey my intended meaning …

But enough about me and my failures! One of my sister’s most adorable and awesome cat cards got some awesome feedback today:

“Pretty expensive with shipping, but the art is fantastic and sincerely charming. The recipient of this card really loves it.”

I keep prodding her to make a post about her cat art and most of all – about the five furry, cuddly purr-balls of inspiration she has around the house. It would be an excellent chance to make a contribution into the global pool of cute and beautiful cat photographs and drawings!

As for the comment about our cards being expensive – well that’s the back side of selling things on line. Shipping expenses can’t be avoided. Another reason is that our cards are still very much hand-made and sold on a very small scale. At some point in the future, it may happen that we get into actually having some of them professionally printed, but at this moment we rely on our little brave desktop ink-jet printers, cut and measure paper by hand feel proud and happy over every single individual card we make. And you can be certain that with each purchase you’ll be directly supporting the artist and getting something really unique in return.


A short one on good advice

Have you ever asked for an honest opinion while actually wanting to hear only positive feedback, because you really don’t want to work any more with the thing you’ve already spent so much time with and you want someone to tell you that it is okay as it is, despite you yourself knowing that it still could use a lot of more work?

I know I have. I’m just lazy as that.
And that’s one aspect where putting things I make up for the whole word to see in the hopes of another person actually spending their hard earned money on acquiring said item, has taught me a real good lesson about persistence, hard work and not refusing to see the obvious if the obvious does not suit you.
Attempting to draw things while not being good at it at all, is a good way to learn about persistence and taking advice too.
A friend or a family member who is willing to take a good critical look at what you do and give their honest opinion is an incredibly valuable asset. Have you got anyone like that in your life? Please, ask their advice about things that are important, listen to it gratefully and then meticulously work on taking the aforementioned advice.

The funny thing with good advice is, that quite often it is not so hard to get it. The hard part is to hear it and to take it.
I have noticed that quite often, if I don’t have anyone to advise me, I can give some pretty spectacular advice myself too. I just have to pretend that I’m a friend of mine and then describe my situation and problems to myself and then I can give some pretty good suggestions. Sometimes I have written monologues with self. (It’s called journalling. I think I’m one of those persons who think with fingers on keyboard. I’m pretty useless with a pen or a mouth). Now all I need to do is to actually listen to what I just said and things will get moving. You should try it, if you haven’t already.

Btw, the paragraph above is a nice example of good advice being readily available everywhere. This technique of removing oneself from a situation and looking at it from a more objective angle is definitely not something I just came up with to change the world. The notion has been everywhere for ages. But how often people do that, really? How often it is that I remember to advise myself? It’s more often that I feel sorry for myself, confused or disheartened. It’s like writing down things you should not forget – no use, if you forget to check the list in the first place.

So, this year has helped me to develop a new fresh approach to life – pick up good advice and use it! It will take a lifetime, but what else is there to do? 😉 At least the Zen-cat seems to have life worked out pretty nicely!


The Forest Series


You may have noticed, that we, here at ISE Paper and Craft, tend to go to the forest quite often. Whether it’s picking blueberries, mushrooms or pine cones – we like it out there. It’s like another, entirely different world out there. You may be in a really small, tiny one, and hear cars passing by on a nearby road, but once you are surrounded by those trees, the rest of the world is suddenly very, very far away.

Of course, in my case, being detached from the world is not only limited to spending time in natural surroundings. I’m quite often (read: most of the time) lost in my own thoughts and imagination or a book I’ve been reading recently.

The cards above are real pieces of the real forest mixed with some ink and imagination. The natural items are covered with clear varnish to keep them from crumbling and breaking. The drawings are done by hand, and the cardboard is made of recycled paper.

Which one is your favourite?
Do you like hiking and outdoors?
Have you ever eaten a wild mushroom you picked yourself?
In what type of surroundings do you feel most at peace?
How do you like our new WordPress theme? (too much pink?)


Tove Jansson and the line

I translate books for living. It’s a great job: you get to read lots of books and often meet the authors. As it happens, I’m working on Tove Janssons lates biography by Tuula Karjalainen which will be released in English by the end of November as well. (http://www.ahlbackagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ahlbackagency_SPRING2014_NONfiction_final_medres.pdf)

Tove, the creator of moomins, has been one of my top favorite authors and illustrators as long as I can remember. And now, while trying to draw something myself, I read what the crime writer Margery Allingham has said about Tove Janssons moomin illustrations:  „I’m still trying to work out quite how she came to it.  She effs the ineffable by explaining the eternal appeal of these strange creatures. Surely this series is that very rare thing, an instantly recognisable work of art?  To be certain of this, I submit, one only has to consider a single drawing.  Art experts are forever lecturing us about purity and economy of line and sometimes the layman is privately put about to discover precisely what the jargon means.  But here there is perfect line and perfect economy and nothing else whatever to get in the way.” (http://pindabryarsbooks.co.uk/tag/tove-jansson/)

I got so inspired by Tove and her Moominmamma sleeping under the apple tree …

… that I draw my own version of that illustration, with a cat instead of Moominmamma.



Confessions of an amateur

This is an illustrated story of how a “Cute and Funny Planter’s Life Card” came to be.

In November 2013:

June, 2014:

I was going to talk about things like persistence and hard work here, and how I used to think that artists just create stuff magically and if your pen doesn’t accidentally doodle awe inspiring masterpieces the moment it randomly touches the paper you are probably not cut out to create anything ever, but then I thought better.

I would like to ask You (I’m still talking to our imaginary readers, as you can see), which one do you think did it? Or was it both?