Guest Blog: Bloomsday Survival Kit

Each month a member of the crew behind the Bloomsday Survival Kit will provide an insight into the motivation and method behind their work. Our second blog is by survival kitter James Moore.

Hello, My name is James Moore, I’m one of the designers and illustrators of The Bloomsday Survival Kit and Manual alongside Niall Laverty. This year it’s been fun working through the possibilities of what we can do to improve it. It’s so multifaceted that it’s a great project to be involved in.

Our basic criterion is that it has to be something we would really want to have ourselves before we let it out the door. It has to be fun and it has to be surprising! If our kit was a dog it would be a leg humping pitbull with a studded collar, a leather doggy jacket and shades, utterly ridiculous, yet somehow cool and with bags of attitude.

But how does the artwork for the manual come about or what inspires us? I’ll let Niall explain how it is for him in our April blog but for me it all starts with reading.

I like reading stuff, everything from Ulysses  to a packet of cornflakes. I’ve read so much over the years that I’m like the Incredible Book Eating Boy (by Oliver Jeffers). I’ve a brain chock full of gobbledygook and a mish  mash of half understood ideas and impressions so that quite often I find it difficult to communicate, i.e. talk or write.

Anyway, despite my quantity over quality reading habits, reading is really where all of my best artistic ideas have come from. A book can be a complete experience, providing us with a wholeness that is often missing in real life. A book can capture an entire world – which is always mind-blowingly inspiring for any artist, especially when that world is as rich in visual material and as thought provoking as the Dublin world of Stephen and Leopold.

This is what George Orwell, GEORGE ORWELL, for goodness sake, had to say about Ulysses  “I rather wish I had never read it. It gives me an inferiority complex. When I read a book like that and then come back to my own work, I  feel like a eunuch who has taken a course in voice production.

Blooming hell, that really makes me feel like an ant scratching at the foot of a mountain. And yet I scratch.

Hunter S. Thompson once wrote to a friend of his, “And Joyce was a poor sick f***er who probably died with his balls somewhere up around his navel. None of that for me, thanks.”
I can understand Thompson’s sentiment here.  Joyce was a pedantic pain in the ass sometimes. People found and still find him maddeningly obscure and difficult, although mostly because of Finnegans Wake I think (Confession: I haven’t read it, not yet anyway).

And yet despite these issues I can’t help but love Joyce and his crazy, encyclopaedic, megalomaniacal, literary experimental/document/mockument/drama/loveletter/novel.

I get so excited sometimes thinking about the possibilities for our project that I end up quite manic; too much strong coffee probably doesn’t help either. “Thought is the thought of thought.” Oh Jimmy!

Anyway, back down to earth Jimmy Moore. When we were creating our Bloomsday Manual we knew we had to make it considerably smaller than Ulysses  itself. It needed to be pocket sized but concentrated. Illustrations needed to work on a small scale, design and layout had to be clear and uncluttered.

To this end I chose mostly black and white line drawings for my illustrations while Niall, with his animators  background, went for a more punchy bold graphic style. The two styles we felt helped lend visual variety while the clean simple layout maintains visual harmony.

One of my first and also my favourite illustrations in last year’s manual was for the ‘Proteus’ episode. I like drawings to have a narrative or illustrative quality and this one came to me straight away. Stephen talking into a telephone umbilically connected via his belly button to Edenville, navel gazing at it’s best. His eyes are closed, he waves a cane in front of him; the blind poet “getting along  nicely in the dark”, the “point, live dog”, the three masted ship on the horizon… if only all the rest of my illustrations and decisions sailed along so smoothly…

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