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A Ferocious labor of love
Nate Utesch and friends’ journal of art and design
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Nate Utesch is, apparently, a pretty busy guy.
In addition to his regular gig as a graphic designer at One Lucky Guitar, he’s also a keyboardist and programmer with Metavari — a Fort Wayne-based instrumental band that, to try to put it as simply as possible, creates intricate soundscapes out of variety of different elements, including found sounds — and a visual artist in his own right.
And sometime last year, Utesch began publishing Ferocious, an art journal featuring illustration and writing by artists, designers, and authors from all over the globe.
So far, he’s published two issues. The work inside the pages of Ferocious is very impressive… but we’ll get to the contents a little while later. What first strikes anyone holding a copy of the journal in his or her hands is the sheer quality of it. The look and feel of Ferocious recalls an era that’s really less than 20 years gone but seems like ages ago — it’s like a high-quality art/design “’zine” that were regular features in the magazine section of any large bookstore about a decade or so ago, but aren’t quite as common now.
“I just really like publications,” Utesch says. “I really like journals and magazines. To hold something like that, and flip through it, compared to looking at a computer screen… it just feels more substantial.”
And sure, Utesch says they could save money by just putting the contents online, but for him, it’s not about that. “Everything is online,” he says, adding that there is a blog, but it’s not frequently updates, and it’s not the focus. “I feel it would be just a drop in the bucket compared to what’s out there.”
Matt Beers, a writer and friend of Utesch and a collaborator on putting Ferocious together, is a little more blunt. “There are millions of blogs. Anyone can start up a blog and chronicle the dazzling adventures of their cat or how much they love making their own cleaning products. They typically fade into the vast ocean of the internet and are remembered only by the blogger as an epic waste of their time. We wanted a little more credibility. We wanted people to see us as more than a bunch of kids drawing pretty pictures on their computers.”
Beers adds: “And, to be perfectly honest, it's pretty cool to hold a book in your hand and see your name printed in it.”
The original idea of Ferocious came from a “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if” brainstorming session at work, and indeed, Ferocious was initially conceived of as an “art blog.” But when nothing came of the idea, Utesch decided to do something on his own. As part of the SOMA group/art gallery back in 2007, Utesch says he was bitten by the curator bug. “Almost more than making the art, I really started loving the curating aspect of it. I loved having to come up with themes every month, sending out e-mails, collecting artists and putting it all together.”
While the contents of Ferocious include several names that will be familiar to anyone who knows Fort Wayne’s art scene — Daniel Dienelt, Jeremy McFarren, Eric Stine, Jake Sauer and Stephen Bryden, just to name a few — there are just as many contributors with big national and even international reputations. “The first issue, I sent e-mails to 140 people, and got between 30 and 40 ‘yeses’,” Utesch says. “Most of these people were people I seriously had no business talking to, people I’ve never talked to in my life. A guy who I always see in Wired and love his stuff, I said ‘I’m just going to send an e-mail and see what happens’, and he said yes.”
Beers was equally surprised by the generous response. “As I watched the first issue come together, I was amazed that so many talented artists saw potential in our project,” he says. “There was a kind of universal electricity among the contributors as our first press day approached.”
One of the “scores” that Utesch seems most excited about is Chicago-based artist Travis Lampe, who appears in the second issue of Ferocious. Utesch has been following Lampe’s career for years. “He’s been in Juxtaposed… just all kinds of great international publications. He’s this awesome painter that has these really nostalgic drawings, almost like the old Mickey Mouse or Bosco cartoons, but they’re kind of surreal. Weird, old-timey stuff. On a whim, I sent him an e-mail and got an immediate response — ‘looks awesome. Count me in.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
The second issue of Ferocious had a theme — “Purple Halves.” It’s split into two volumes, a “red” book and a “blue” book, with all the work in the former being in red and grey ink and the latter in blue and grey ink. Utesch asked artists for custom works, material that hadn’t appeared anywhere else before. “Putting together the second issue was amazing, because we could say ‘here’s the book. Here are the people who said yes, if you want to be involved…’” he says.
Utesch says future issues of Ferocious will continue with different themes — much like curating a show — and that the format of each issue will change. “As we move on, we’re going to do different sizes, different formats,” he explains. “A huge inspiration was something like McSweeny’s, where it just looks different every issue.”
“Made Handsome” is the theme for the third issue, which Utesch is currently trying to raise funds for. The concept is that every title in the issue — every story, every illustrated piece — would be taken from an existing newspaper headline. Essentially, contributors would take the basic “just the facts” newspaper headlines and make them “handsome.” The results could be jokey, or they could be quite serious, Utesch says. “We’re thinking of laying it out differently, making it square, maybe newspaper type or print.”
Utesch says he has future themes for Ferocious in mind. He’d like to have illustrators provide ink drawings, and then turn those drawings over to a kindergarten class to color them, so half the book would be the original drawings, and the other half would be what the students did with them. Another idea: all stories based on eavesdropping, with a brief snippet at the beginning of each story on the circumstances behind it, and then the story it inspired.
Utesch would like there to be three or four issues of Ferocious per year, but as always, financing is difficult. The journal costs $12/issue and is available online. Utesch also made the rounds of local book stores while on tour with Metavari (Quimby’s in Chicago carries it), and locally, you can pick it up for $10 at Conspiracy on Calhoun street.
So, though sales have been consistent, they haven’t been very fast. Utesch is soliciting donations for “Made Handsome” on Kickstarter, a site the helps fund creative projects, and if that doesn’t work out, says he’ll look at applying for grants.
But Utesch says he likes Ferocious as a publication rather than an online entity, and likes keeping the production of the journal local (it’s printed in Grabill). “It’s infrequent, expensive, and some times kind of stressful,” he says. “But I have a vision for what I want it to look like and feel like, and I’m lucky enough to work with a small team of people that understand that and want to help me out. It’s small, but it’s been awesome to see the response it’s generated so far.”
To find out more or order a copy, go to fe.rocious.com.
Ferocious is also available at Conspiracy, 1934 South Calhoun