Artist. Illustrator. Carpenter.
I first came across Scott Aasman’s illustrations through the Makers and Mystics Collective. I was instantly drawn in by his intricate, richly detailed illustrations, which depict historical, mythological and contemporary narratives, religious and secular themes, in surprising and thoughtful ways.
Today, I am delighted to introduce you to Scott (assuming you are not already familiar with him or his work), and I am so grateful he agreed to be featured in this issue of Sifting, shifting, and lifting . . . a weekly column in which I ask clever, curious, compassionate people my three favourite questions. (I am thrilled to share a few of his illustrations with you as well.)
Scott Aasman is an artist, illustrator and carpenter working out of Hamilton, Ontario where he lives with his wife Michelle and their two children. Scott’s work attempts to intertwine biblical, cultural, and personal narratives, allowing viewers to re-engage with these familiar and “over-seen” stories and find a new sense of wonder and awe.
You can find him on Instagram @sanillustration
Scott, what issue is engaging your head, heart, and hands right now?
Lately I’ve been immersed in the idea of story, from science fiction to fairy stories, to cultural and religious myths and legends to personal narratives, I’m realizing more and more how these shape the individual and the art of telling them (and telling them well!) have a profound impact on both the teller and the listener.
Stories open up time and space and create a tie between the teller and the listener. It's a vulnerable space, and the ability to listen well requires an opening up and humbling of oneself just like the telling. I’ve read somewhere that “good books read us” and I think it is the same with good stories—the questions I’m wrestling with are am I willing to sit and listen and what truth do the stories have to tell, and sometimes more uncomfortably, what truth do they have to tell about me, and how do I respond?
For me it's been an important time to listen to the stories of those who don’t get the same platform as I do, to learn from their experience but also see that at the core their similarities and desires are very similar to mine. Where so much causes fractions in our culture, storytelling and “storylistening” are a way in which we can be united.
What artist or work of art has had a profound impact on the way you see the world and your place in it?
A number of years ago I first read my favourite book—Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin. I’ve returned to it a couple times since but this year I dived into it deeply again. I could say a lot about the writing style, the elements of the miraculous woven in throughout the everyday, and its concept of time, but the reason this book about a 15th century holy man took such a hold of me again is, in part, because it tells a story set in the midst of pandemic and plague, but it also takes place in a world divided by religion, groups of people, and politics.
The main character (who goes by several different identities throughout the novel), moves through these different groups winning them over not by might or power, but by grace in often surprising, and sometimes, unpleasant ways. At the core, it is a book about repentance and takes off the saccharine sentimentality of giving one's life in service of the divine, and shows what it actually looks like when we ask to be humbled by God. In doing so it displays a new heroic ideal—not a conquering knight, or superhero or super soldier, but one who shuns power, who disowns himself and opens himself up to others in doing so. Through its unique characters, the intrinsic quirkiness to Vodolazkin’s writing, and the strangely relevant medieval mindset, I can’t stop thinking about this work of art.
There are so many good people and organizations working to transform themselves and our world through compassionate action. Who would you like to lift up?
I would lift up one of the best places to eat in my hometown, 541 Eatery & Exchange, which is set up in a volatile neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario. They believe “there is dignity in choice, and that eating together fosters a diverse community of belonging around the table.” They demonstrate this belief wonderfully through the space they have made, where people can gather and good, healthy food at affordable prices is available to all. Whenever I visit I am amazed at the wonderful blending of beauty and justice in action.
541 believes that everyone should have access to good food, so they offer the opportunity to help others pay for their food through purchasing buttons, which others can use to redeem whatever they like from the menu.
Did you miss an issue?
Here are the links to the last two issues (just in case):
The Weekly call to action on wildfires (August 25, 2021)
Sifting, shifting, and lifting with . . . animal chaplain and author Sarah Bowen (August 22, 2021)
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Thank you my friends.