Sending ALL the art to Africa: Expanding Horizons
Half the artists go on a creative quest to Botswana…a multimedia journey and collaborative story
Kickstarter ending 3/7/15
Eleven talented artists, storytellers, researchers, travelling to Africa, to a place that in many ways symbolizes the wildness that is (or we wish was) the animal part of our hearts.Okay, a case could also be made for Yellowstone’s wolf park, but they have lions. And hyenas, meerkats, zebra, African wild dogs…it may not be The Lion King, but it is both Animals are Beautiful People and The Gods Must Be Crazy. And I do love both of those films, but they’re another place, and really, another time, inaccessible, except through stories, film, and art. About that last word…art. If there’s one thing that binds the fandom together–besides a pathological love of foxes and the way every furry I know has that one doormat–it’s art. We’re a community that builds conversations through art. It’s the world our animal sides live in between conventions. And artists–illustrators, reporters, cartoonists, journalists, and bloggers (represent, yo)–bring that world to life, and in the right circumstances, can bring that world to us. “Expanding Horizons” began with one artist’s love of Africa. You may know her work–there’s a non-zero chance you’re wearing a piece right now. Foxfeather Zenkova believes passionately that travel and experience feeds art. Not a new idea, but a very true one. And over years, she has gone on ever more complicated trips with larger groups of companions, steering away from fancy hotels and more toward local food and day-to-day life.
“Travel is so important to an artist or writer…what we share is bred from our imagination, fed from our experiences.”In proud defiance of an artist’s lack of vacation time or living wages, Foxfeather and a collection of several other people who live somewhere near the heart of our fandom brought together the money, time, and inspiration to pursue the slightly crazy dream of a backroad trip through Botswana, a land that’s almost half wildlife reserve, a trip five years in the making. All of that is pretty neat, but the part where they share the journey with the fandom, as it happens–is where it turns from “pretty neat” to “this might be magic.” Enough furry and fur-friendly artists and creatives to fill a very small but exciting convention will set out this April across Botswana, sharing their stories, observations, illustrations, side quests, and the sort of lifetime stories and misadventures you get by throwing a bunch of very different people into an unfamiliar, challenging environment. Lensed through the sidewise words of Ursula Vernon, the luminous art of Balaa, the passion of Utunu and Kikivuli. Lensed through our friends. Part old-school, turn-of-the-last-century travelogue, part blog, part nature journalism, and perhaps just a bit of buddy-flick, “Expanding Horizons” is a journey into the natural world, and, hopefully, a return (although this is the first Kickstarter I’ve seen with “may be eaten by lions” in the “Risks and Challenges” section, so…who knows…)
“Travel power-levels us. It fills us to the brim with exciting new things and we rocket back to our studios TO MAKE THINGS with flames bursting from our hands.”I’m going to close this with a look at the people and/or creatures who are taking this mad visionquest, but first a brief look at the Kickstarter itself. The core product here is the book, “A Creative Sojourn”, loaded with sketches, ramblings, stories…Jackal hair? That’s probably a misprint…and the joy of the journey. Each person making a gift of any real size, $5, gets access to the group’s travel blog on Tumblr. After that, there’s a number of customized rewards–art by Foxfeather, Laura Garabedian, Vantid, given the crew a number of personalized touches would almost have to be on the itinerary. All solid offerings and at pretty reasonable prices, considering the context. Everything here is solid–while this is at heart a “fund the dream” sort of project, the goal is actually quite reasonable for a book of this scope, and the price points are about what you’d expect from talented artists. The goal of the kickstarter is modest, only $3,500–the single biggest expense of all this–the travel–is already bought and paid for. For the most part, the funds of the kickstarter are dedicated to the production cost of the book, with any overage going to reduce the burden of cost on the artists. Now, who’s on that boat…I do know how to count to 11, but Foxfeather is keeping a few guests as surprises. Foxfeather R. Zenkova lives, graphically speaking, at Foxloft Studios, with more art on FA, and her tagua pendants are pretty much a required part of the furry uniform (I keep coming back to those, but I really like them!). Her travel agenda: surviving scuba diving with sharks, and looking for EVERY BIRD. Laura Garabedian, of FairyTaleswithTails (or on FA), is a watercolor artist out of Colorado. She’ll be livening the book up with sketches and paintings and more than a little storytelling. Roman Zenka posts an ongoing series of comical whimsy as “Mbala” on FA. According to Foxfeather, he has a bit of a zebra obsession, so is clearly going to the right place. He will be contributing comics, photographs, and Czech. Ursula Vernon is a talented fantasist and writer, cartoonist and illustrator. You can have much of the Ursula experience at Red Wombat Studio, although you may enjoy being weirded out by her quirky bite-sized podcast, “The Hidden Almanac,” or the epic webcomic, Digger. The “Expanding Horizons” project will keep her mostly journaling and keyboarding, but…we’ll see. Balaa’s glowing art is just impossible to describe–rich, luminous fantasies. And so many cats.Check her gallery, I can’t do her justice here. You can get a teaser for her long-term graphic novel here, and the “Horizons” trip should be powerful inspiration for her art. Vantid, check her art on FA or AmberHillArt, is a specialist in amazingly realistic wildlife fantasy illustration, with a strong grounding in animal painting and anatomy. Expect to see her filling the role of naturalist, with anatomical studies, movement, bird sketches–and lots and lots of notes on the local food. It is distinctly possible that Edwin and Jenine Herrell, alias Utunu and Kikivuli, are the most +favorited couple in the fandom. Both are talented writers, and will be sharing their words, photography, and passion for African wildlife–including their own personal quest to photograph the elusive African wild dog–the four-legged kind, though we may see the couple in their natural habitat. Utunu has also promised to bring me back a hyena, if he can fit one in his luggage, and I’m holding him to this one.