Fleeing into the Unknown

Sometimes I get to tell a story that really matters. Not that all stories aren’t important. They are, in their own way. But somehow it feels different (at least to me) to be handed a script about a woman, just a little younger than myself, on the run from oppression and horrors I don’t want to imagine.

I feel like I learn a lot every time I am told a new story of trafficking, smuggling and war. It forces me to look at myself and my own relatively poor artist’s life. I remember, if even briefly,  to be truly grateful for the luxuries I have.  Family, friends, a husband, somewhere to sleep, food and a desk where I can sit and draw. Most of all- freedom to pursue any kind of life I want.

Not everybody has that. I have to remember that when I moan about my life.

Here are some pictures from the last story I did together with Positive Negatives and ODI. Also presented in the Huffington Post.

Here is the full link: http://testkitchen.huffingtonpost.com/Fleeing-into-the-Unknown/

Prisoners in a shipping container

Walking through the desert.

Crossing a dangerous river

In an unfamiliar city, having to call relatives for more money to pay the smugglers

Packed into a rusty old boat, crossing the sea

The hardest job I have ever done

I am the worst blogger in the world. I won’ lie about it. Whats the point?

I am going to tell you what I have been up to now, and lets pretend it was only about a week since I wrote my last post. Lets go into denial together. All great relationships start that way.

In the late summer I illustrated a story for the Guardian together with Positive Negatives. It was a terrible story of abuse, trafficking and the rigid laws of this country. I felt honoured to be asked. It was the hardest job I have ever done, but one of the most rewarding too.

Abuse against women and children is not hot stuff in the media, but it should be and the guardian did a good thing telling this story. All made possible by Positive Negatives http://positivenegatives.org

The full story can be seen here: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2015/jul/25/modern-day-slavery-abike-trafficked-sexual-slavery-video

Here are a few pictures from the story: 


Crayons for all!

Today I was decorating a wall together with some new friends who are seeking asylum in this country. Their temporary home has a blank wall and we decided to fill it with colour.

Some thought the colours were all wrong, some didn’t care about the colours but were happy to just get involved. Sometimes we chatted, sometimes we were quiet.

It was nice to be outside and it was nice to paint a wall in bright colours without thinking about what a client would think or if we would meet the deadline.

 I left thinking about my immense privilege. I have a small desk in the hallway of our flat. I have paints and papers and pencils and pens and I have a heart full of stories. And I have time and space to follow those stories. I feel rich. 

I remember reading about a charity offering welcome packs to people who arrive in this country with nothing. My heart broke when I read that there was a pack of crayons and a colouring book in the packet. I spent most of my childhood with crayons in my hand. I have always loved drawing. To imagine that some children who long to draw and colour, do not have the opportunity, truly cuts me up. Colours and stories are what all childhoods should be made of. Not war, not abuse, not empty hands. I hate that some children will never draw. In drawing, we learn about ourselves and the world. In drawing we disappear and live through our hands. 

Does anyone run workshops or centers where children from other places, without many opportunities, can come and draw? Let me know, I want to help.

Crayons for all!

"It is human to be magical" or "Something amazing is coming up."

I have handed in a big project and waiting for any small changes to be made. It means I can get on with cleaning the flat, actually get some shopping and have time to breathe deeply at least a few times in the day. Yes, it is all good. I even went for a run. And whilst running I listened to a program on the Swedish radio about how magic has disappeared from our lives. Or has it?

It was mainly a conversation about how the word magic is seen as something negative but psychoanalytic dream interpretations in the name of Freud is absolutely fine. And they were also talking about the fact that creativity is essentially magic and the most obvious way to be human. I thought about art and illustration and children's books. All in, I found it interesting and I forgot to be tired and feel how uncomfortable it is to run when one hasn’t run for quite some time. (Because I was being creative and magical and human for a few months! Get off my back, devil of health!)

Anyway, I am too excited to sit still, as I think the latest project is one of the most interesting illustration /comic/ storytelling project I have ever been involved in.  And soon, friends, you shall see it. Patience is a goddamn virtue and I was blessed with none of it, but do keep checking in, because something amazing is coming up!

In the meantime, have a look at this. It is from my latest book and I will write about that next time. I think it has a hint of magic...

Children's illustration

Do I prefer a pencil to a pal?

I have no social life at the moment. When I dive into a big project I disappear for a month or two only to appear at the end of it feeling like I have no friends and that I am completely unloved by anyone who ever mattered to me. When, at the end of the project, I angrily call my pals to scold them for not being in touch they seem to have endless examples of them calling and texting me and getting nothing but a frosty silence in response. This is my official sorry to them. I am sorry.

But this is what it is like right now:

so much to do

hy is it impossible to work on something big and see your friends?  Do I prefer a pencil to a pal?

Well, I am lucky because despite being absent and selfish for a long time, I have friends who all let me back into their loving arms once I appear again from those deep waters of art. 

But I do disappear. And it is because I care deeply for what I do. Drawing is an obsession, therapy, and a job. Sometimes it pays, sometimes it doesn't. It is a constant in itself. 

Drawing is just another friend of mine that I spend a lot of time with. I don't love that friend more or less than I love the other friends. My drawing pal offers me things other friends can't, and they give me things my drawing pal has never been able to provide. Like a glass of wine, a shoulder to wail on, surprise laughing fits, holidays and a hug. Soon I shall emerge from the caves of drawing and return to all those things that reminds me that being a human being, is to be social. Although for me, I need to be alone to know that I need to not be alone. Sorry friends, bear with me. 

It begins...

Welcome to my new blog! 

I will start by apologising in case I have made a lot of grammatical errors. Perhaps this can be viewed as something interesting and fascinating, making me more mysterious than I actually am. 

My name is Gabi Froden and I am a Swedish illustrator living in London. Is that intriguing enough for you to read the rest of my first blog entry? Will it be Scandi thriller style, will Bergman be mentioned, will it involve pictures of a cabin by a lake? Well, read on, and you shall find out.

I have lived in London for nearly a decade now and being Swedish, or Scandinavian, is a challenge here only in that there are not enough different kinds of cracker bread and not enough pine forests to wander through. Apart from that, Sweden is not that far away, and there is definitely enough darkness here to keep us perfectly sulky in our black, oddly cut clothing. Oh my gaaaawd, are you Swedish too? We shout to each other across the streets, waving uncharacteristically and then realise we have little in common apart from the fact that we all spent the best years of out lives reading about the adventures of a socialist bear in comic form. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamse

Being a Nordic illustrator has its perks too, especially when you get to do interesting project to do with gender. The language of equality has long been spoken, if not always practically realised, in the land where I was born. I love doing children’s books on the subject!

So, here are a couple of images from a really interesting project I was doing for the Jubilee Centre at the University of Birmingham last year. The project was exploring girl’s roles in fairytales and depicting them, for a change, as heroes!

Children's illustration
children's illustration

And yes. I am aware that this post was not Scandi thriller style, Bergman was not featured and there are no pictures of cabins by lakes. Keep an eye on this blog though…you never know...