Follow the Yellow

how to be an explorer of the world

“…you are a detective. your mission is to document and observe the world around you as if you’ve never seen it before…”

The wonderful Keri Smith has announced a new book! How to be an Explorer of the World is all about exploring, collecting, observing and documenting the things around us. As with most of Smith’s work, it’s all about enjoying the mystery, inspiration and fascination of the seemingly ordinary and everyday. There’s a tempting little teaser for the new book online here, though unfortunately it won’t be out here in the UK until November. However, in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying keeping up with Smith’s well-loved blog, the wish jar journal.

Keri Smith describes herself as “an author/illustrator turned guerilla artist.” As an illustrator, she has worked for a wide variety of clients from Random House to the New York Times, but she has gained particular success as a blogger and author writing about creativity in its broadest sense, and perhaps most especially about the fun and importance of creative and artistic play. There is a certain childlike naivety to Smith’s work, which works well with her distinctive illustrative style: titles such as Living Out Loud may strike the reader as twee in places, advocating everything from painting pebbles in the back garden to making paper dolls in the quest to enjoy a creative life to the full. However, looking beyond the surface, Smith’s books are also highly inspirational, referencing everything and everyone from eastern philosophy to John Cage and Charles and Ray Eames. In a recent interview, Smith explains her commitment to writing about creativity: “I love the idea of creating books that give people more of a direct experience with life instead of walking through it passively. Get up out of your chair and take a look at things around you… Turn off the TV… there is no time to waste. Aren’t we all just aching for a bit of adventure?”

It is this “sense of adventure” that Smith’s books aim to encapsulate, becoming a playful call to arms to artists of all kinds. As well as Living Out Loud, my personal highlights would be the ever-popular Guerilla Art Kit and Wreck This Journal, a book filled with prompts telling the reader how to systematically ‘destroy’ the entire book. As Smith explains “in this book good does not exist. The goal is to fill it up, to shift your perception of the blank page and the journal itself into a place for experimentation. Into a place… to do those things you were taught to never do (make a mess, destroy, fold down pages, write in books, play with dirt). This book IS the place.” I treated myself to a copy earlier this year and have been thoroughly enjoying the destructive process, which feels enjoyably subversive and just generally naughty in a very good way. Check this out:

(You can see more journal wrecking inspiration at the wreck this journal website here.)

chess and cheese

My friend Claire and I have recently started up a writing group. It is called ‘Plots and Plans’, partly because we like plotting and planning, and partly because it sounds a bit like ‘pots and pans’.

Yesterday we had our second group meeting. We played some writing games and the results were quite entertaining. This is my favourite – a collective ‘consequences’ effort by Mike Haines, Duncan Hay, James Major, Claire Symonds and myself.

You were ill in the Commodore Suite. You’d been eating cheese again, the orange kind. Microwaves and mayonnaise and cheese don’t mix! And I’m sorry to tell you that orange just isn’t your colour. I have a feeling we have reached a stalemate – I am a castle and you’ve become a queen. But you pawned our chess board and bought all the cheese, which was stupid, because as I mentioned, it makes you sick. And now I can’t play chess, which is unfortunate, since my life’s ambition has always been to become a Grand Master. You and your cheese thwarted my dreams. Until I discovered my new love for table tennis, a sport of speed, agility and strength. I am now the world table tennis champion. So thanks for thwarting my dreams: you inadvertently helped me to conquer the world. In your face.


I would like to write a short story. I would like to write one of those short stories which is only a few lines long and isn’t really about anything, but leaves you thinking, “oh, that was very clever”. One of those short stories where nothing much actually happens. And you’re not actually sure whether it even is a story really, or not.

best of manchester

Congratulations to the lovely Naomi Kashiwagi who was announced as the winner of the Art category at the Best of Manchester Awards at Urbis last night.

Naomi was awarded the prize for her piece ‘||: Repetition :||, Fugue No.1 in QWERTY for 8 Typewriters’, a music and text score that saw four pianists and four percussionists playing typewriters. Naomi also performs fabulous gramaphone DJ sets and will in fact be performing at the Barbican as part of the Viktor and Rolf exhibition in September. You can see a video of her in gramaphone action here.

The other award winners were Richard Cheetham (music) for High Voltage and Simon Buckley (fashion) for the rather wonderful Rags to Bitches. Work from all the winners and finalists will be on show at a ‘Best of Manchester’ exhibition at Urbis until the end of September, which I’m sure I’ll be checking out sometime soon.