Claire Seringhaus’ new book, The Blaring House, charms, confounds and tickles your brain. Detailed pen and graphite drawings with absurdly humourous captions on page after surreal page form a cohesive world—one that’s nostalgic, with equal parts spooky and goofy.
The Blaring House launch is Friday, July 13 at Lost & Found (2383 Agricola, 6-8pm) in tandem with an art exhibit, also by Seringhaus, titled It Happened Just Like This. Copies of the book are available at Strange Adventures (5262 Sackville), the Conundrum Press site and Amazon.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the evolution of this book? How did it come together?
A: Well, I’ve been making drawings in much the same way for about three years now. I’m not a trained artist, so initially I was just out to amuse myself and had no intention of even showing the drawings to friends. But, slowly the hobby developed into more of a habit… and then the habit became something I sort of believed in. Eventually I made a chapbook, which a friend was kind enough to sell at the Halifax zine fair, and that ended up being how I connected with Andy from Conundrum Press. Of course, a lot happened over the course of those three years, but those are the essentials, I suppose!
Q: Were the drawings all done in the same time period, or did it span a while?
A: Some of the drawings in the book are from as far back as 2009, but my output has definitely increased since then, so most are from 2011 and 2012. It’s funny because I can pinpoint the exact weekend I started doing these types of drawings. I found this absolute treasure trove of old black and white photos at a rummage sale—and within 24 hours I’d started combining reference photos and coming up with ideas.
Q: I'm really interested in what inspires you to sit down and make one of these lovely and weird drawings. Can you tell me a bit about that?
A: Oh, inspiration is everywhere. I mean, life is funny, isn’t it? Even the painful parts of life are often so desperately funny and strange. I often find it hard to articulate why I find certain things amusing. So, maybe the inspiration is as simple as trying to connect with people—sharing a laugh without having to bore people with explanations. It’s also escapism, I think.
Q: I have been thinking of the book a lot in relation to a book of poetry that I read at the same time (not simultaneously, but you know) and how they are oddly similar. The drawings have the feel of poems to me, they are funny, but I don't know why. They just hit the right spot. This isn't a question, but I wonder about your response to this sentiment all the same.
A: What a compliment! I love that. Well, so much of the modern world is in-your-face, pre-packaged stimulation—which feels really good, and it’s lovely and easy, but our imaginations aren’t challenged all that often. It seems like we so rarely have to fill in the blanks, you know? I suppose in my small way I kind of hope the pictures are some kind of little invitation to engage. People can just scan them, or they can create silly little narrative arcs using their own imaginations and senses of humour. Then it’s almost like a little collaboration, isn’t it? I find film and art and comedy much more satisfying when it doesn’t smack you in the face with the purpose or punchline.
It’s funny that you say the drawings are like poems. I always feel very odd trying to explain this hobby of mine to people—because it’s not quite fine art, it’s not quite illustration, and it’s not quite comic art. I’m lucky that a lot of people have been open to that type of ambiguity.
Q: What do you do when you're not drawing?
A: I’m moonlighting as a freelance editor and project manager at the moment. That’s the professional side of things. Apart from that, I’m a little obsessed with cocktails. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but that’s half the fun. It’s probably good that I don’t have enough money to stock a full bar in my house. I feel like it might be a slippery slope from “young lady with a home bar” to “drunk lady running a brothel.”
Q: If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
A: Oh, man. The world is full of so many fascinating things! Today I say funeral director. I think the business of death is pretty interesting. And recession-proof. Actually, I might not be the ideal candidate. I’d probably be gunning to turn every funeral into a vaudeville.
Q: There's an obvious nostalgia that comes through in the book as a whole, a feeling of flipping through an old photo book. What about the old days captures your imagination?
A: I grew up traveling a fair bit, and I always loved going to castles and historic sites and just mentally submerging myself into the stories of these places. A mild obsession with the past is perhaps a theme in my life as well as my little pictures. Maybe it has to do with being disillusioned with the present, or maybe it has to do with the endless potential for creative imagination when you look into the past. Clearly, I either need to write a thesis or get some therapy. Or watch some more Woody Allen.
Q: There's also an incredible attention to detail, I'm curious as to how long it would take you to complete any given image.
A: Anywhere from an hour to a week. It really depends! Some of them are sort of sloppy and others are more intricate. I’m incredibly inconsistent. It probably shows.
Q: What is next for you?
A: Next week I’m off to Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal to do a little launch of the book there, which is a whole new level of surreal madness. This fall I’m also going to be doing a little stop-motion short as one of the Centre For Art Tapes Media Scholars. I’m really excited about that. It seems like such a fun program. Apart from that, I’m up for anything! Well… nothing sordid.