Revisiting the Things You’ve Been Meaning To Do

Posted inIllustration Design
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Last year, while illustrator Joanna Neborsky was interning at the Brooklyn studio Citizen Scholar, she was asked to create some illustrations to accompany a poster that the studio had made about reducing your impact in the world. The project would eventually become “Things You’ve Been Meaning To Do,” which was posted to the studio’s website.

We’ve admired the work of Ms. Neborsky, who admits to working in a “completely chaotic and accident-prone style,” ever since Three-Line Novels came out in September. With New Year’s resolution season upon us, we asked her to revisit her illustrations for “Things You’ve Been Meaning To Do” and talk about the concepts themselves. “They aren’t scolding,” she says. “These are just gentle reminders. They are nudges for the lapsed or lazy environmentalist, of which I am one.”


“I love to draw buses. They are so childlike; they have all those wheels. I love pattern-making, and wheel-making, with a bus, you have a couple of wheels (or if you want to get crazy, maybe four) and you can switch up the patterns and colors. People said this reminded them of the old Marimekko sheets that kids slept on in the 70s and 80s.”


“When you do collage, you are limited to the materials you have. And I had this outstretched hand, and what might a hand be outstretched toward? Toilet paper! I wish it were more intellectual than that. The newspaper I collaged is from the 1930s—it fell out of the back of a old frame I had opened up for an art show.”


“When we think of 2010 or ’09, I think some of us will remember the Year of the Tote Bag. You walked out of your door and someone handed you a tote bag. There was an article about how the glut of tote bags may be worse for the environment, so maybe the joke’s on us pious liberals. But I am lucky that I live one block away from the Farmer’s Market, and I definitely don’t judge people who show up tote-less; I have done this, and suffered withering glares.”


“I’m trying to work myself up to biking in the winter. One piece of advice: fingerless gloves. For this illustration, I found the front wheel from an old Art in America from the 1960s. At the time, I had access to the SVA MFA Illustration library, which was full of old Art in Americas, which I regularly raided. I love the ads for the old modernist art shows in all these vanished New York gallleries. The back wheel is my M.O.—sloppy brushwork with ink and crayon thrown in for good measure.”


“The woman is this from a Walter Reade film program, an old Italian film from the 1960s, I think? The little boy is from this German book of choral music that I found at a German Lutheran church, somewhere in the West 20s, which was having a book sale. And the guy is a factory worker from my one of my books of early 20th-century French photography. I collected a bunch of those as research for my Fénéon book.”


“The chandelier came from a picture of the turn-of-the-century French courtroom. Again, at the time, I was making a book about news reports from 1906 France, so images of the French justice system crept into any project I was doing, from birthday cards to eco-posters. I used it probably because it was somewhere on my desk, and my desk is where these strange combinations happen. Discrete piles interact with each other.”


“This was the first one I drew for “Things You’ve Been Meaning to Do.” I like making variations within a pattern. It kind of developed like the bus series: What I can do with these 10 materials on my desk? It is my go-to activity as an illustrator, doing series of things.”


“Meat is horrible to draw – I had to draw meat for a W magazine article and I gave up. Now I know why those those old cartoony versions are just a bone and a circle! You can also Xerox a cow and put it in a pan, and I guess that gets the idea across. But the shapeless blob is hard to communicate. I have to resort to collage if I’m ever asked to draw meat.”