Notebook: 5 August 2017 | MAGAZINES | ILLUSTRATION
We live in a small hamlet on the edge of a South Norfolk village. Our house is part of the old Victorian manor estate and is nestled on the side of a gentle valley and sheltered from the prevailing winds by woodland and large hedges. I wander down the track to the road that follows the stream along the valley bottom and then I climb another track that takes me up and out of the valley on the opposite side. After a short while I come to the top of the track and open fields. Looking back behind me, all I can see of the manor estate is the coach house clocktower which peaks out from behind the trees and reminds me of one of Alfred Bestall’s illustrations from a Rupert Bear annual. In front of me and off to the west lie a dark band of fir trees that mark the edge of the brooding Thetford forest. It’s early August and the landscape looks very ‘black’ and ‘white’ with the pale and sun-bleached ripe wheat and barley, contrasting against the dark hedgerows and pine trees. There’s little bird noise and the only sound I hear is the breeze rustling through the trees…
There’s a super little indie magazine called Elsewhere: A Journal of Place and it explores people’s relationships with their environment. Each issue is a collection of essays from different writers about different places from far and wide, so for instance the latest copy (No.5) has content that includes features about Cáceres in Extremadura, Tbilisi in Georgia, four houses in Manchester, a photo essay on the Faroe Islands and a longer read about Inis Oirr, an Island off the west coast of Ireland. This latest issue is loosely based on the theme of transition – how a place may change, or how a place can make its mark upon, and shape a life.
The design is clean and unobtrusive and the blue and grey drawings by the magazine’s creative director Julia Stone, are used to illustrate each article or ‘place’. The Transition issue also includes striking reportage illustration by a variety of artists including the sketches below of the Flemish town Doel that is slowly being demolished to make way for an enlarged port of Antwerp*.
I like Elsewhere. Some of the articles make you want to pick up an atlas – to identify, visit and explore the streets and places that are described. Other features touch deeper inside – you snatch glimpses of people’s lives as they search for their sense of place: one writer revisits an island she’s been to as a teenager only to discover never ending rain and the ghosts of her past; another author describes her move from a dark basement flat where she had ‘loved and hated in equal measure’ to a new house that holds hope for her.
…It’s dusk and I’m on the hill looking back across the valley towards our house which lies hidden amongst the trees. As I wander back down the track to the road, hundreds of chattering rooks pass overhead and like myself, make their way home.
We have lived in our house in South Norfolk for 25 years – it’s the longest time I’ve ever lived in one place and one house – and I start to ponder where the years have gone to. In the not too distant future, we may well leave our home and all its memories behind us in favour of somewhere smaller, easier to maintain and closer to our families. I wonder how I may feel and what lasting effect this house and landscape – this sense of place – will leave on me.
*For more about reportage illustration/graphic journalism take a look at the website drawingthetimes.com or the latest issue of Eye magazine 93 that has an excellent feature on the artist Olivier Kugler who documents the lives of Syrian refugees).
Here is my review of Elsewhere issue no.3