Owning and moving

I’ve just thrown away most of my old notebooks. Strange to think that the photos of marginalia are all I have left of them, though not nearly so strange as how I feel about letting them go. I expected to feel so much more – I mean, I’d kept them for years (some for over a decade) and held them to be especially dear possessions.

But in the end, I went Daenerys on Daario and decided to move on.

After 5 years in Qatar, I have a new job that’s taking me to a country I’ve never been to before. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks getting a headstart on a new language, sorting/packing stuff, and saying farewells. And to avoid the hassles of shipping or finding ways to reclaim things later, I’m giving up anything I can’t fit into two large suitcases, a carry-on case and a laptop bag. It’s always daunting to decide what makes the cut, but after 10+ moves I know I’ve never truly missed anything I’ve let go.

Ownership is a strange beast. The things you own enable you to do things, but they also hold you responsible (for the things themselves, as well as what you do with them). So it’s liberating to have less stuff, yet difficult to disown things. Ownership is both power and burden.

So I realized, going through my notebooks, that I did not want to be owned by them anymore. They’ve been tugging at me, to relearn enough to make sense of old lecture notes or remember the stories behind the marginalia or wonder about people I only remember because their names are scrawled there. But I don’t want to recreate past mental states; I want to give my energy to now and the future. And the most important lessons from the past I carry already, internally.

“Civilised” Sheep and “Natural” Goats

From a linguistic anthropology class. The professor did fieldwork in Georgia (in the Caucasus), and as I recall he was making a point about animal associations in Georgian culture. Something about sheep being “closer to civilised” in their domestication while goats in the mountains remain “closer to nature”.

Part of my weekly Marginalia series.

Bird vase

Whatever was on my mind when I drew this (5-6 years ago), when I look at it now, it strikes me how much the wings look more like plants growing out of the bird. (Perhaps this would work as a vase/plant pot design?)

Part of my weekly Marginalia series.

Inspired by… Astrolabes (part 1/2)

As the featured artist in the MIA Library’s Inspired by Books series, there is now a display of some of my work in the library. It includes the original drawings The Astronomer Under and Mycelium Sun, as well as the notebook marginalia (surrounded by various quotations and thoughts about astrolabes) below. (ETA: Here is the other half of the two-page spread.) If you’re in Qatar, go check it out!

Part of my weekly Marginalia series.

Images and Stars

Drawn under my notes during a lecture about the Al-Sufi star manual (one manuscript of which is in the MIA’s collection), given last Wednesday by Harvard University’s David Roxburgh. It helped me to better understand some of the links between star manuals and celestial globes and the way that images lend functionality to both. There wasn’t much about how this links up with astrolabes, but it did give me some more context for thinking about astronomical practices of the time.

Part of my weekly Marginalia series.

Hybrid mask

Drawn in a completely unrelated university lecture, this sketch was a random idea for a mask(? puppet? costume?) of some sort of fantasy creature. The neck and head would be stiff, protruding from some sort of cloth that fits like a blanket over the head and shoulders of the performer. At the time I had this fascination for masks that are not designed to be worn on the performer’s face, though I have no idea if this particular design would work in performance.

Part of my weekly Marginalia series.


An experiment with coloured accents in marginalia. I like how it came out here, but colour imposes new factors to think about in the drawing process that impede satisfactory improvisation. But it may make an appearance again in standalone works (where planning is part of the game).

Part of my weekly Marginalia series.