Illustration mag AWW caught our attention when it arrived. We passed the first issue to Somerset writer Imogen Howorth for her thoughts...
Whimsical and full of heart, AWW is a sumptuously sweet offering to creative souls and illustration mavens alike. In a delectable choice of lemon yellow or flamingo pink, with a bouncy icing-white font, AWW’s debut cover has an uncanny resemblance to the humble Battenberg. Indeed, it would not look out of place at a tea party (think Alice in Wonderland, rather than the Queen’s Coronation), on a platter of confectionary, nestled amongst the angel slices and Viennese whirls.
Hailing from Hong Kong, AWW’s vibrant debut – 'Meow & Woof’ – is a colourful, kooky dedication to our feline and canine companions. Cats and dogs are lovingly imagined through richly illustrated, quirky articles, fusing the pictorial with concise, light-hearted written pieces. Weaving the imaginative realm with modern tales (tails?) of global artists and illustrators, every page is a joyous celebration of button noses and jelly bean paws, through the charm of illustration.
Delving into the creative practice of illustrators and puppet-makers, AWW interviews five skilful creatives, revealing the ways in which their animal companions have shaped their work, both literally and figuratively (Lorna Scobie’s yorkie Ralph happily sleeps upon her drawings). Having long been a Wes Anderson devotee, AWW’s interview with Andy Gent – puppet-maker extraordinaire and creative genius of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs – was an unexpected delight.
Sweeping the reader into the imaginations of a plethora of illustrators, the accompanying zine-like book, found snuggly tucked away within the magazine, presents an array of vivid and wildly varied illustrations. Cats and dogs are imagined in graphic, abstract, and painterly form… they are anthropomorphised, comical, fantastical, and futuristic, presented collectively in a miniature compendium of modern illustration. Illuminating almost every image is a short written piece by the illustrator themselves, with memories and musings both heartening and bittersweet, of time spent with their four-legged companions.
Something of a hybrid between the purely art-based magazines (with glimmers of The-Art-Form’s interviews) and the light-hearted, diverse content of lifestyle publications (think Caboodle), AWW will delight curious minds and artists alike. Beyond the interviews, horoscopes, recipes, and book recommendations are entirely reimagined, in kooky, unexpected ways. Ordinarily a predictable feature, horoscopes are mischievously re-created by Kathy Lam as a characterful array of cats and dogs, in a scene reminiscent of The Last Supper. ‘Health and Fitness’ is superficially human in many ways, illustrating traditional yoga poses and a daily yoga routine; and yet, the entirety of the piece – in brilliant, humorous detail – is written as if you, the reader, are indeed a cat or a dog. Where a yoga session may have once described the placement of ‘hands’, it now instructs to “Put your paws at the spots beneath shoulders” and “Keep your claws pointing to the front”. Unsurprisingly, the yoga poses are illustrated by a bow-tied white cat and blue-collared Shiba Inu, endearing little characters imagined by Hong Kong-based illustrator Sadness Cup. These imaginative twists and quirks are part of its charm; the buoyant, sparky words and illustrations weave the fictional and mischievous realm of anthropomorphic cats and dogs, with a familiar human dimension. In her opening letter, Editor-in-Chief Amber Fu expresses this deliberate, imaginative dimension, imploring the reader “to let go of your human consciousness, and think of yourself as an animal - maybe a cat or a dog? This idea might seem fantastic, but when you start indulging yourself in this book, it will come naturally to you”. Having something of a wild imagination myself, and a gravitation towards the abstract and unconventional, I felt drawn to this inventive and whimsical vision.
Landing into my hands before the world took its surreal turn, I have since realised that in the midst of this uncertain time, AWW is the very escapist, visual delight my eyes' craved. It is entirely possible to become ensconced in its sparky, whimsical articles, simultaneously warming hearts and distracting heads. With illustrations decorating almost every page, I found myself drawn into its fictive, illustrated worlds, awash with joyful colours and lovable illustrations.
For maximum enjoyment, I would recommend reading AWW beneath a duvet, with a punch bowl of hot chocolate or camomile tea to hand (a mug is no longer sufficient, in light of recent events). Or, should you be a cat or dog, avoid the chocolate at all costs, and instead procure your favourite meaty morsel, and carry to a warm, sun-drenched spot. Knead or plod your way into a comfortable position, with your paws and claws at the ready. Implore your human companion to flick the pages every so often, and give them a reassuring slow blink or tail wag to express your gratitude.