Tag Archives: Andrew Fernside

Interview with Author’s Lee and Andrew Fearnside, O! Relentless Death

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

LEE: When we started this project I was a professor, and so writing was a part of my daily life. In my art practice I almost always incorporate stories or ethnographic interviews, so connecting other people’s writing to my images felt natural. 

ANDREW:
Writing thousands of pages of session notes as a psychotherapist made writing second nature. But more than that, learning about active listening and practicing compassion in every session helped me grow as an editor. Throughout the process of editing “O! Relentless Death!”, I found the courage to ask risky questions, to listen deeply, and to stay focused on the heart of a written piece rather than its style—because I’d practiced interacting from those perspectives in thousands of counseling sessions.


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2) What inspired you to write your book?


ANDREW:

Lee and I began collaborating in 2015. We gave each other “assignments.” I’d returned to making stuff just a couple years before that time; Lee had been making stuff for years and years, but was interested in stretching her creative practice with unfamiliar media. Partly, the “assignments” were just fun; and partly, they were a chance to apply some good old-fashioned psychological leverage to our individual processes. And they also made for more communication between us, which we both wanted.

So when we realized in mid-2016 that we’d both been doing art-things about the landslide of celebrity deaths that were starting to accumulate at that point, we already had an established channel for communication and collaboration in place. We chose linocut as the medium, because like our “assignments,” it was a medium neither of us felt accomplished in. We were forced to figure out ways to adapt what could be a sprawling process to little plates. That, and we’d both made linocuts with our mother, a lifelong printmaker.

After the 2016 election, the project became clear: there was a parallel between the losses of cultural heroes like Gwen Ifill and, as Progressives, the loss of the election. To us it felt like something died that day. 

LEE:

Our collaboration became a way to grieve together, with each other as brother and sister, and as artists/editors with the writers who participated in the project. It felt like sharing our grief was a way to create community.


3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

ANDREW:

While cultural heroes like George Michael and Gwen Ifill are larger than life within the context of global media, they are also containers for enormously powerful cultural forces. They deserve respect for their achievements, certainly, and we mourn their losses.

LEE:

But they also are entry points for people’s experiences. We feel a connection to celebrities, even though we’ve usually never met them, because of the role they play in out lives. I hope that readers will identify with the writers’ reflections of their experiences with celebrities, and see some of their lives reflected in the words and images in the book. 


4) What drew you into this particular genre?

LEE: 

Portraits are both direct and interpretive. The relief prints show our understanding of the specific celebrities, as well as recognizable image, just as the writing show the individual author’s experiences as well as something we can all recognize. I really love working with other artists on projects as it can be energizing to play off of each others’ ideas, so this collaboration with my brother and the writers was a natural extension of what I’ve done before. 

ANDREW:

Art. A deep and abiding love of picture book genres like illustrated children’s books, comics, and old encyclopedias. The grounded understanding that as artists, this book was something we could do that would literally draw real emotional connections between us and our readers, and that that is a powerful political act.


5) What was the one story or celebrity that you identified with the most in this book?

ANDREW:

George Michael. I hated Wham at the time, and didn’t think much of his work as it progressed through the 80s and 90s. And to be honest, I still don’t think he was a great artist, compared to luminaries like Prince. But learning about him in 2016-17, and then making an image of him, I found myself weeping for what he went through, what he carried for all of us. He was outed during a period of intense upheaval and change, and suffered for it. He was forced to be a figurehead for a movement he seemed to have been ambivalent about. And all in public, at the receiving end of a firehose of cultural venom no one, no one EVER, deserved.

LEE:

For me it was Prince, who was a big part of my early adulthood. I listened to his music in high school and college, which for me (and many people) was a time when I really figured out myself as a person. So listening to his music is nostalgic on a lot of levels for me. This also made his portrait the hardest for me to make. Which Prince did I want to show? Could my portrait really capture everything I felt about him? I think I made 3 or 4 images before I settled on the one that made it to the book. 


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 6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

LEE: 

Facebook was where we connected with a lot of potential writers, showed people work in progress, and then launched the Kickstarter campaign that funded printing of the book. We use both Kickstarter and Facebook to keep in touch with our readership, and dabble in Instagram.

ANDREW:

Kickstarter, if we’re going to be really literal about a social media platform. Then, at last, after everything else that we personally did with our own strategy and planning, it’d be Facebook.


7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

LEE:

The old saying of 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is so true. I used to tell my students that they had to make at least 10 bad things before they had the 1 good thing. You have to keep making, keep revising, and keep getting feedback. It can be a relentless process, being creative, but only by continuing even when it feels like you’re making crap can you push through to the good stuff. 

ANDREW:

Keep tinkering with your daily creative practice, whatever it may be. Every time you do it, you’re doing IT—the big thing, the masterwork, the whole enchilada. Whatever it is for you, you’re going to do it one TRILLION BILLION times. May your moments of inspiration become as common, and as miraculous, as breathing.


8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

ANDREW:

I’m focusing on building my practice and business as a muralist in Albuquerque, NM, where I live. 

LEE:

I’m working on a book about animal adaptations to human behavior and encroachment. The book is modeled after a field guide, but is really a series of stories paired with images just like our last book. The stories range from the absurd, like crocodiles in Florida using pool noodles as floatation devices or mountain goats in Olympic National Park becoming addicted to hikers’ urine, to the disturbing and profoundly sad, like wildebeests in Botswana no longer migrating because of fenced off ranch land or cane toads taking over the Australian landscape and forcing out native fauna. My hope is that readers will laugh but also think about what we as humans are doing to the animals we share our world with. The book comes out this spring. If anyone is interested in learning more, follow our Facebook page “Fearnside and Fearnside” or our Kickstarter, “Lee and Andrew Fearnside.”

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O! Relentless Death: Celebrity, Loss And A Year Of Mourning by Lee and Andrew Fernside Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

An emotional and reflective collection of essays, poetry and more bring the lives of celebrities lost in 2018 to the forefront in authors Lee and Andrew Fernside’s “O! Relentless Death: Celebrity, Loss and a Year of Mourning”. 

The Synopsis

O! Relentless Death: Celebrity, Loss and Mourning is an artists book created by siblings Andrew and Lee Fearnside. This book mourns celebrities who died in 2016: David Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Gwen Ifill, Alan Rickman and 11 more. Relief print portraits are paired with personal narratives by 23 writers from around the country, including poet laureates, journalists, community organizers, professors and activists. Winner of the 2018 IPPY Independent Voice Award.

The Review

This was a beautifully written collection. The illustrations and personal connection felt between the authors and those the world lost in 2018 was felt immensely. Showcasing the way these celebrities and influential people impacted the authors highlights how those in the public eye have more influence and connections to the world at large than anyone truly realizes. 

Normally these reviews are focused solely on the book itself, but in order to perfectly capture the book’s emotional connection with readers, it’s only fitting to mention the personal connection I had as a reader with the book. 

The two chapters that spoke to me the most involved Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. This year, as many of you know, I lost my grandmother on my mom’s side, whom I was really close to. Six years or so before that we lost my grandfather on my mom’s side, and so it has been a heartbreaking year personally. However one thing that always makes me feel close to them is Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

My father was a carpet installer for his entire life, and one of the clients he worked for was Debbie Reynolds. As he was working, Carrie Fisher as a young child jumped onto his shoulders and asked for a piggy-back ride. Debbie Reynolds apologized but he laughed and obliged, and the young Carrie Fisher got her wish. Personal stories like that have always made me feel connected to my wonderful grandparents, and these two chapters opened up those emotions wholeheartedly, showcasing the author’s powerful approach to the topics as a whole.

The Verdict

This is a must read novel of 2019. While these celebrities hail from 2018, the message and impact of those losses resonates still as 2019 comes to a close. An emotional journey to discover how people as a whole impact our lives and the journey to come to terms with their loss. A beautiful way to honor and keep these memories in our hearts, be sure to grab “O! Relentless Death: Celebrity, Loss and a Year of Mourning” by Lee and Andrew Fernside today!

Rating: 10/10

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