Sunday Reflections: A Header is Born

by maxmosher

Another grey Sunday morning, another third cup of coffee, another weekly reflection.

It was really important to me that this blog have a professional look: neat and distinctive. The header, acting as the masthead at the top of the site and its symbol, needed to be recognizable, original and something I wouldn’t easily get sick of.  

The first inspiration came from man-of-mystery Banksy, whose whimsical graffiti has beguiled pedestrians and frustrated London authorities for years. It was rumoured he was in Toronto recently for the Hot Docs showing of his documentary, but as with all things Banksy, this may have been bull. He did a series of paintings in which idyllic landscapes of traditional English countryside are jarringly interrupted by common sights of Britain today: security cameras, police tape and shopping carts. In his book he wrote that “if you want to survive as a graffiti writer when you go indoors, I figured your only option is to carry on painting over things that don’t belong to you there either.” They are visually arresting while drawing a witty contrast between the traditional (or at least our idea of it) and the mediocre contemporary worlds. I wanted to do something similar, but with a Canadian forest replacing a Constable farmstead.

The next model derived from the cover of satirist Cintra Wilson’s novel Colours Insulting to Nature. Years ago, my Dad had randomly gave me her book of columns A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease on a whim and I became an instant convert. I’ve read her essays on Michael Jackson, Courtney Love and Celine Dion countless times, sometimes to others (her reference to Celine’s “whippet-like spine” never ceases to make me laugh out loud). The funny, or sad, thing is the insane-celebrity-fame-whorish-reality-TV zeitgeist Wilson mocks has only gotten worse since that book was published in 2000. For Christmas (yes, Christmas at my house is awesome) I got her recent novel, which acts as a fictional allegory to her previous warnings about fame. The cover of Colours Insulting to Nature features the title in garishly-hued block letters set within an Impressionistic landscape of a tree-nestled creek.

What allowed me to make my vision a reality was my web design class at Ryerson. Now, this class is going painfully slow. We spent two weeks on how to select a rectangle. And it has been hijacked multiple times by a young woman who feels the need to ask very specific, personal questions of the teacher in front of the whole group. We had barely started on html coding when we were forced to listen to a fifteen minute diatribe on whether she should use her legal name or professional name for her website. But I have been learning photoshop, albeit slowly and often outside of class. The internet is filled with tutorials, but they maddeningly skip steps and if you’re a beginner you can get lost. For my title I wanted a very futuristic looking text, to contrast with the traditional landscape,  and when I finally recreated this ‘plastic’ effect it was my proudest photoshop moment.

All that was left was the Canadian landscape background. I considered the Group of Seven, but their paintings were too modern and too good (they would distract the viewer). Although it took me awhile to find an image that was big enough, once I started playing around with the paintings of Cornelius Krieghoff I was certain I had found my man. The Dutch-born painter’s scenes of rural, often winterly, landscapes are the automatic vision of Canada for people around the world. I loved the idea of taking that imagery and, instead of quietly resenting it as many of us do, ‘reclaim’ it by superimposing myself unto it via the hot pink plastic letters. 

As for the title, I wanted to use my name and I wanted something simple and, again, something I wouldn’t get sick of. I used ‘max’s blog’ just as a prototype, but the longer I worked with it the more I respected its extreme directness, despite my misgivings about the word ‘blog’. The two words together, all in lower-class, also had a lot of curves which would really highlight the plastic-y shine. And I knew that my friends would call the site “Max’s blog” anyways, so why not embrace it? My first name puts people on a friendly basis with me: people smile when they say ‘Max’ and have no trouble remembering it. Although, I am also familiar with “Max, huh? I knew a dog named Max.”