Nakid Magazine by Aaron Levi Simic

Nakid Magazine is full of seduction: naked bodies tantalise us through its sexually-charged pages, whilst keeping its pulse on whats hot. They've managed to tap into the current zeitgeist of social media and have gained nearly 500K Instagram followers in just under two years - pushing them to the forefront of Instagram's coolest curators. 

Working as an International Contributor gives me the freedom to discover new talent to showcase for their digital and print editions. I have never really viewed art or fashion as black and white and I've always merged them together. For me, the best artists and designers are usually multi-disciplined and are influenced by different mediums. I enjoy finding new artists across different social media platforms.  Since I've been at Nakid, I've really come to understand my own work better and what I want to achieve through my art. I have a couple of articles that I'm currently working on and one coming out in their next print issue. Here are the first three digital articles I've done for them: 

HEDONISTIC HUES: SAGA SIG 

Saga Sig

Saga Sig

I interviewed the amazingly talented Saga for Nakid. Saga is one of those photographers that has magic running through her work and her photos look like the aftermath of a hedonistic 70s party: soft colours, intimate portraits and captured off-guard moments. To see more of Saga's work, visit her website and to read my interview with her, click here.

Saga Sig

Saga Sig

UNEARTHED GEM: JOANNE BURKE

Joanne Burke

Joanne Burke

I'm obsessed with the delicate pieces inspired by ancient imagery and mythological creatures found in Joanne Burke's jewellery. My favourite country to visit is Italy because I love the ancient ruins of Rome and Pompeii and the homoerotic marble found in Florence. Burke manages to capture this lure in her beautiful pieces. To see more of her jewellery and my article for Nakid, click here.  

Joanne Burke

Joanne Burke

ACID TRIP: JOHN GRAHAM

John Graham's work is definitely NSFW (not safe for work) but that's beauty of it. His work is an unfiltered exploration of sexual perversions and political statements. I imagine his work is what a sex dream whilst having an acid trip would look like. To view my interview with him, click here. Just don't let your boss see! 

John Graham 

John Graham 

The Big Weekend: Manchester Pride by Aaron Levi Simic

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Even as I write this, I wish I was still sat along the canal drinking a chilled glass of prosecco and getting ready for a night in the gay village. No where hasn’t really captured my heart as much as Manchester since I first visited Florence – a sentence I would never imagine making! Maybe it is because the sun was out or because it was my first official weekend away with Ben but Manchester is a beautiful city. The best way to see a city is through the character of its people and its architecture.

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When Ben suggested Manchester Pride, I joked about mixing with swaths of skinny queens in clouds of fake tan, muscled Marys and the odd unwashed, toothless Jeremy Kyle extra. I know, I can read a bitch to filth – thank you RuPaul! Which is ironic given that this post is about acceptance but I think there will always be a tongue-in-cheek divide between the north and south. Southerners will joke that northerners speak a separate language to us and question their taste based on their tacky fashion trends and strange food combinations. Northerners will say southerners are stuck up, boring toffs attempting to live like the royal family. 

As much as I love London pride, I think Manchester pride works slightly better simply because it's on a smaller scale. Our celebrations weren't diluted or lost in a huge city. Yes, Soho is rammed in the aftermath of Pride but if you venture across to Covent Garden, you'd be forgiven for not realising Pride had even place. Pride was everywhere in Manchester: in shop windows, in restaurants, along the canal. Flashes of rainbow flags and clothing lit up Manchester, giving couples, groups of friends and families a backdrop for our celebrations. There was a freedom I felt in Manchester that I haven't felt anywhere else. 

If you read about the history of Canal street, including the police treatment of gay people in the 1980s and the Constable of Manchester police accusing gays of "swirling in a cesspit of their own making", the LGBT community have fought hard to secure it is a safe place. It wasn't until the year I was born - 1990 - that the gay village started to become an official gay area with the opening of a gay club Manto. No longer was the canal a secret cruising ground used by gay men and the police that hunted them.   

I understand that some people may argue that by containing Pride celebrations to the Gay Village - which is only accessible with a wristband - isolates us and hides our message of being ‘out and proud’. 

Containing the main celebrations to the village doesn’t dilute our voice but rather gives us an amazing space that strengthens our community. Everybody partying in the village has different coming out experiences but one common thread unites us: being gay is still problematic throughout the world. Whether it was other children calling you a ‘fag’, your parents not accepting your sexuality or not feeling comfortable to hold your partner’s hand in fear of repercussions – we have all be subjected to some kind of persecution in our lives for our sexuality. We are lucky that we live, for the most part, in a county that allows us to be free to be who we want to be. All over the world, people are still denied the rights to marriage, to love their partner openly and even denied the breath in their lungs at the hands of ignorance. 

The parade is our statement to the society to show that we love, we breathe and we bleed the same as our heterosexual brothers and sisters. I cried several times during Manchester Pride because I saw families with their children celebrating the parade and hopefully they will grow without witnessing homophobia.

I think have People can trivialise it is as a big piss up or trying to get laid but it’s more than that. It is a time to raise our glass and celebrate what joins us together. I am so proud to be a gay guy; I love with a fierce loyalty and an open heart and I believe everyone should have the right to do the same.

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Berlin by Aaron Levi Simic

Xuan and I love to travel and have had the itch to travel together for awhile. We're both major bargain hunters and knew we would be ideal travel partners. We were planning on going to Annie Mac's festival Lost and Found in Malta but the price nearly tripled as we didn't book it early enough! I love visiting cities around Europe as they are so enriched with culture and history and Berlin was one of the 'main' cities I had yet to visit. 

Berlin lived up to all of my expectations, we had a great couple of days with good (and cheap!) food, shopping, and enjoying the sun as a tourist. Every time someone asked why I was going away or what I planned to, I jokingly 

Berlin has a very organic art community that doesn't have the same constraints of commerce that artists face in other cities. 

We were really lucky whilst visiting the Reichstag as we timed it during sunset. We were bathed in a magical twilight, which was perfect for the thousands of selfies we took! I definitely recommend visiting the dome on top of the Reichstag, it's an amazing piece of architecture designed by Norman Foster. Due to Berlin's murky history and the politics in World War One and Two, 

Artist Spotlight: Richard Mosse by Aaron Levi Simic

One of my favourite artists is Richard Mosse, he has managed to create works that not only disable the viewer through their seductive colour but also manages to pack a huge political punch. Through is use of infrared film, he transports the viewer into other-worldly landscapes that could easily pass as a backdrop to a fashion editorial but the deeper you move into his work, you are presented with signs of a war-stricken land. Child soldiers, dead bodies, machine guns and skulls are a disruptive narrative against luscious landscapes. 

I remember seeing his show at the Photographers' Gallery and being mesmerised by the huge photographs. The layout of the exhibition lent itself perfectly to Mosse's cause as the impressive prints of a war-free landscape disarm the viewer of its reportage message. The more I inspected his photographs, the more I found myself being drawn into them - almost as if I was Alice in Wonderland and could fall into the photograph.  

As I moved around the exhibition, the haunting reality of the war and massacre in the republic of Congo become more apparent. The fun, inviting tones of his work quickly gave way to a more sinister side and the red leaves seemed to be soaked with the blood of five million victims. I was initially very angry with Mosse. How dare he glamourise such a viscous act or war and turn it into a utopia of pink tones. How dare he capitilise on a people's suffering. How dare he trivalise mass-genocide and wrap it up in a metaphoric acid-pink blow. 

But my anger at Mosse subsided into a great love for him. I wasn't angry at Mosse but angry at the world: I was angry at the war and the unnecessarily suffering of the people he documented; I was angry I didn't know about the atrocities in Congo and I angry at my own ignorance and helplessness. Mosse has achieved what he set out to, he has presented a blurred line between art and documentary photography that challenges the viewer as well as the medium it is presented as. Susan Sontag, in her book Regarding The Pain Of Others, she argues the limitations of shock value in relation to society's desensitization of violence, war and famine through constant exposure to it. 

Richard Mosse, Vintage Violence, 2011 from the project Infra

Richard Mosse, Vintage Violence, 2011 from the project Infra

The bubblegum-pink countryside acts as a barrier between the viewer and the Congo. It highlights our isolation to the conflict, which in turn allows the us to take ownership of our detachment. The acid trip of Mosse's work removes us so far from our own reality, that it can only raise questions on how we view and treat the Other. Too often, as a society, it is easy to become detached from what we view as 'the Other' as we can't begin to understand their situation. Which is why there was a much larger condemnation for the Paris attacks then any of the countless bombings in Syria - the bombed streets of the Middle East seem a world away from our Western comforts. 

Collateral Damage Poem by Aaron Levi Simic

My project Collateral Damage is a work in progress. It's a personal project that is very close to my heart. I've written a poetry to go alongside my photos, I think it gives the work another dimension and clearer context. I wanted my poem to explore the idea of love as a battleground and my attempt to find a 'knight in shining armour' even though I've been hurt so much in the past. Here it is: 

 

I live in a no man's land, 

haunted by my past lovers;  

Their whispers, their distant touch  

were they my failures?  

Temporary solace can be found  

with anonymous visits.  

But I stalk the scarred landscape  

for a glint of you, my saviour.  

A love so deep,  

it has the ability to destroy me.  

My secrets, sacrificed  

and forged into bullets.  

I will be your collateral damage. 

 

Day Trip To Brighton by Aaron Levi Simic

Living in London for 7 years exposed me to some of my greatest experiences and gave me the opportunity to explore my identity as a young gay man free from my parents' disapproval. Although I was a late bloomer onto the gay scene due to my shyness and insecurities and I still haven't connected to the gay community as much as I could have. If you take away my love of Beyonce and RuPaul's drag race, I'm not the best gay. My first Pride celebration was 2015 because I was always travelling or working whenever it happen in the past! I'm far from ignorant about the gay community and have a great understanding of our history and the oppressions we still face. I'm only starting to experience some of the rites of passage that comes the territory. . Although those who have been  it was great to have the freedom who you are 

But I can finally tick off travelling to Britain's gay Mecca: Brighton. Ok, 'gay Mecca' may be an overreach but where can we earn our rainbow stripes? Heaven? GAY Late? Canal Street in Manchester? Brighton has been recommended as a must-visit by almost everyone I know and I can see why it comes so highly recommended. There's such a charmed and relaxed attitude that

Ben and I initially planned a weekend away with his two pugs but Gladys fell ill before our trip. Luckily it wasn't the suspected stroke the vets thought it was and she is back to her usual, excitable self! As it's only a short drive from London, we drove down early and enjoyed a day trip instead of long weekend. 

Gladys - does my bum look big in this? 

Gladys - does my bum look big in this? 

British seaside towns are a Victorian invention and the gaudy, brightly-coloured backdrops were meant to be a stark contrast to the grey, industrial city life. It was escapism in the Victorian society and can still serve that in modern day society - who doesn't love swapping the hustle of Leicester Square for chips in front of a sea view? There is a run-down charm to British seaside towns with their once-upon-a-time grand hotels, rusted structures from years of battling harsh winds and abandoned pre-loved tourist attractions. 

Artist Spotlight: Xuan Minh Hoang by Aaron Levi Simic

Xuan Minh Hoang is a very close friend of mine. She studied at Chelsea College of Fine Art before completing a degree in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins. Her work grows out as a rejection to the limitations of graphic design and her paintings are a free-flowing expression open to interpretations by the viewer and not set ideas by the artist. Her abstract paintings seem to have an internal struggle within them,  which manages to capture both chaos and calm in a harmonious sync - almost like a battle between Ying and Yang.

Her paintings are inspired by the both the environment around her as well as her own memories and imagination, which lends a richness to her work that evokes different reactions in people who view her work. Almost like an inkblot test, viewers recognise different aspects in her abstraction: what I see as snowy mountains or ancient ruins another viewer may interpret as waves, smoke or an urban landscape.

Xuan Minh Hoang, Duality I

Xuan Minh Hoang, Duality I

Xuan Minh Hoang, Duality III

Xuan Minh Hoang, Duality III

Xuan Minh Hoang, Land In The Sky

Xuan Minh Hoang, Land In The Sky

As her larger pieces are very time consuming and therefore expensive, she has begun to created smaller paintings to make them accessible to a wider audience. Her smaller works are reminiscent of Turner, whilst still maintaining the same abstractions found in her larger pieces. On a smaller scale, her works have more energy and less of a balance between chaos and peace.

Xuan Minh Hoang Dark Forest

Xuan Minh Hoang Dark Forest

I have recently bought two of her small paintings and as someone who greatly appreciates art, it's exciting to finally start off what will hopefully be a life-long collection. Some of the most interesting homes I have ever visited have an extensive art collection and two that stand out are a house in Brockley that had an entire staircase adorned with hundreds of unique prints, poems and photographs. The other house is a topsy-turvy house in Brixton that is full of brightly-coloured Keith Haring prints, beautiful installation pieces by Lee Broom and an array of art steeped in the history of the collector's life. 

The two paintings I have chosen to buy are and . I fell in love with . I view it as a hectic London skyline juxtaposing a calm and tranquil Thames. For me, it evokes memories of standing on Waterloo bridge whilsy overlooking South Bank.  

Xuan and I are currently collaborating on a series as we share a very similar aesthetic. Through the use of photography and paint, we aim to explore the transient nature of her piece Floating Village.  The technique she uses to 'paint' her piece Floating Village isn't a permanent one; the painting doesn't exist in the state that we view it in and and therefore it isn't presented as a traditional painting but as a photograph. Our project is called Call of the Void, after the English translation of L'appel du Vide and is an exploration of the human condition. L'appel du Vide is a French saying used to describe the inner-voice that attempts to derail us; it is the voice that tries to persuade us to jump off a cliff, look over the edge of the platform when the train is coming or walk into a lane of traffic. I can't wait to start shooting! 

Xuan Ming Hoang, Floating Village

Xuan Ming Hoang, Floating Village

I Did Not Bleed For You by Aaron Levi Simic

Often society is blamed for your thirst for blood; it is us who introduced violence to your life and we desensitised you to it through our exposure. We have failed to educate you. We have failed to notice your poverty. We have failed to notice you inherent evil. We have failed you. 

On the night you attacked me, you were out for blood - anyone's blood - and I was distracted enough to fall into your premeditated trap. I gave you what you demanded of me: my IPhone 5, my Raybans, my backpack, my keys. You were not satisfied. You had everything and the eight of you continued to kick and punch me. I pleaded for you to stop but the pack mentality had taken over - my blood spilled out of me. 

But I did not bleed for you. 

I did not bleed for all of you to congratulate yourselves afterwards; my blood doesn't run to strengthen your bragging rights. I did not bleed to give you confidence in your next attack. I did not sit in the back of a police car, soaked in my own blood, for you to grin at me and think that you have 'won'. My blood doesn't run to illustrate my weakness; it illustrates my humanity. My spilled blood symbolises of my strength.

My blood acts as a reminder that I survived. I'm a survivor. Your attack transitioned from a mugging into a hate crime: you had a vulnerable gay man at your mercy and you continued you beat me. Even after you had everything, the ring leader closed the gate to alley so I would not be able to escape. 

As I was cowarded in the corner of that alley, I saw a person casually walk past and not intervene. Your brutal attack continued; you were not scared about being caught. I tired to beg you loud enough to catch the stranger's attention. Your leader realised the reason behind my attempts and took out a knife to silence me. I thought the sight of those grey joggers and white trainers was going to be the last thing I saw.

I thought I was going to die in that alley way. 

The only thing I take solace in is your possible fear. I hope seeing the shine on that small blade destroyed your pack mentality and that is why you all suddenly stopped. I hope the cold surface of that blade penetrated your conscience; I am a living person who laughs and cries just like you. I bleed just like you. 

I cried when I spoke to my Mum to tell her I had survived. The comfort of my Mum's voice was the thing that broke me. Whilst you went home and lied to your Mum when she asked you where you have been, a stranger could have been trying to comfort mine. 

I haven't failed you. Society hasn't failed you. Your parents haven't failed you. The only person we have failed is the next son or daughter who falls victim to your next viscous attack. 

Birthday Spoils by Aaron Levi Simic

The older we get, the less excited we are about our birthdays and we start to outgrow our previous traditions as we reach bigger milestones. We swap gorging ourselves on too much cake or too many sweets for too many tequila shots and a punishing hangover the next day! 

For my 26th birthday, I managed to exhaust myself with . Ben and I went to the Friday Late at Sotherbys. I loved going to the exhibition, it introduced me to so many pieces and artists that I didn't know about. It was great We started the night with delicious cocktails at the Soho Hotel and finished it with a meal at the Duck and Rice in Soho. 

After finishing work at the National Gallery on a Friday night, I had a ritual of walking through Soho to Oxford Street. I loved walking through the hustle of the city, soaking in the excitement of tourists in Leicester Square and the energy of those getting ready for a night in the town is Soho's bars. On the nights that I didn't dance the night away with my friends, Soho acted only as a tease on a would-be Friday night at home. I've lost count of the amount of times I've walked past the Duck and Rice for months, glancing through the geometric glass windows are the beautiful people within.   

Some of my favourite spaces in London are transformative ones: getting lost in Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus; the dark screens of the ICA and Curzon or leaving London behind in luscious gardens of Kew. The Duck and Rice is no different, stepping in off of gritty streets of Berwick street, you are transported to an opulent bar that feels like a modernism Orient Express; rich copper tones reflect off of warm, art deco inspired wood. The photos below were found at The Design Boom.

Having both waited for months to try the food, our eyes were bigger than our bellies and we ordered half of the menu. On a side note, it's very impressive if you have an understanding of wine whilst on a dinner date; we ordered a 2012 Alsace Riesling by Marcel Diess, which is hands down the best wine I have ever drunk. One of the dishes I chose was Dish 23 hoping it would be as delicious as it was mysterious but it turned out to be chicken chow mein. The irony wasn't lost of me: I was trying to be more adventurous with Asian cuisine in an east-meets-west gastropub and I still ended up ordering a good ol' chicken chow mein. 

I woke up the morning after to a birthday surprise and Ben kidnapped me for my birthday surprise. Anyone who knows me, will know that I'm very awkward with surprises and receiving gifts. I'm awkward because I can never hide my emotions and if I hate something, it will be really obvious! Ben treated me to my first ever massage, which was greatly needed after all the worry and stress I had about turning 26. 

Cluttered Desktop, Cluttered Mind. by Aaron Levi Simic

Most creative processes involve some type of mess and a lot creative minds happen to be a lot messier than their counterparts. I'm definitely one of them. I've lost count at the amount of articles I've shared or quizzes taken about the connection between creativity and mess in an attempt to validate it. 

My living space at uni was pretty messy and it was full of discarded outfits I had immediately took of as well as magazines, exhibition postcards and sketchbooks. I had such an extensive wardrobe and amount of belongings, I had two rooms: one to live and one to place the items I didn't wear enough. One of my best friends, Felix, who is loved for her brutal honesty and sharp wit, still to this day describes the 'art piece' she witnessed during first year: "Blank walls, without a single piece of art work on; a bed with two very large empty wardrobes either side and the entire floor space covered in a mountain of clothes. You couldn't see the carpet. It was a like a living art piece."  

Ni Haifeng's Para-Production (2008)

Ni Haifeng's Para-Production (2008)

I still laugh every time she describes it, with the same amount of shock and amazement in her voice. Felix was born into a family of top British artists and managed to cut her teeth with various formidable institutions, including a curatorial internship at the Tate Modern. I can easily see how my messy room probably evoked the image of Ni Haifeng's Para-Pardon (above) or Tracy Emin's My Bed in her. The reality is, I wasn't an avant-garde student breathing art 24/7 but rather an anxious 18 year old struggling to navigate the perils of fashion university. It was the age old story: wardrobes full - or rather emptied out and ransacked all over the floor - of clothing and not a single item to wear or feel comfortable in.

I can safely say my room has since matured and no longer belongs in the Saatchi gallery. It is a haven of grey, taupe and white without a bit of clutter or mess in sight! Although I may have cleaned up my act with my room, the desktop on my mac still takes a battering. Like a butterfly, I flutter from one idea to the next and I have a constant stream of new thought processes. My desktop is a mood board full of random inspiring images that I've dragged from god only knows where. Once in awhile, conscious of the landfill of lost and found images that have taken over my desktop, I'll do a 'clean', which basically involves me dragging everything into a new folder. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959)

If I was desperate to find something I would search for the filename using the search bar, the hide and seek method worked for me fine. That is, until I started building my website and I had the crisis every creative dreads: I had lost most of my portfolio. My technique of sweeping random files and folders into more untitled folders lead to a chaotic rabbit hole of hidden pathways. Digital highways that I desperately searched trying to locate my missing files. As dramatic as it may sound, I went through the stages of grief: denial and anger at my own stupidity; pleading with myself that I would change if I miraculously found them and finally, depression and acceptance at the loss of my work. After several stressed phone calls and fine-combing my folders and trash can several times, I luckily found everything in hidden in a folder in my trash can. I had cleared the folder before deleting it but hadn't scrolled down to see if anything else was in there. When I opened 'Untitled 6' and scrolled to the bottom, I found a treasure trove of more folders that contained my missing portfolio. My desktop is now carefully organised into colour-coded folders. 

The acceptance stage was very important. Although it would have been a very stupid and very costly mistake, it would have been salvageable. The majority of my portfolio, as it stands, has been shot on polaroid or film and I had accidentally deleted the digitalised versions of them. The physical pieces of my work are more like artefacts and I love the fragile state of them: they can fade, be misplaced or damaged. I treat film and polaroid more preciously as I know they can deteriorate, whereas there is a pseudo security with digital files as they are easily saved and transferred. It is easy to accidentally delete files that aren't backed or wipe a memory card, so the moral of my blog post: organise and back up you bleeding work! 

Birthing Process: Finding A Name For 'Untitled'. by Aaron Levi Simic

I finally created a blog! Throughout uni and the years that followed, I was desperate to document my life - my thoughts, my views, my feelings - but I was always met with one road block: the title of my blog. As stupid as it sounds, I could never settle on a name that would represent me; the emotive words or proverbs that described my stye of photography, would only seem cringeworthy a month later. (Which is probably why I should never have 'this too shall pass' tattooed on my inner arm!) 

Being sentimental, I hold a lot of weight to words and their meaning but I am also very self-critical and overanalyse a lot of aspects of my life, which makes the birthing process of a new title even worse. Here is a look at why I've chosen the titles for my projects:

Collateral damage is an ongoing project, which is an honest approach at documenting my thoughts on love. The gay community is often seen as hyper-sexual and hedonistic, which is reductive and certainly not representative as a whole. My romanticised ideology is captured through the soft and intimate aesthetic of polaroid, searching for my 'knight in shining armour'. The armour doubles as a protective barrier and juxtaposes the fragile state of the polaroids. Flowers are a universal symbol of love and the abjection of flowers in various states of decay serve as a reminder of the possible death of a relationship. 

The project is an infrastructure of my past relationships, current relationships as well as those I have met through social apps such as Tinder and Grindr - some of whom I have dated or developed a friendship with - as well as their partners and ex-lovers. 

Collateral damage is a term used in war to describe unintentional harm and I think it sums up the project perfectly; we never set out to hurt those we fall in love with but pain comes with the territory of love and the break down of relationships. 

My project Permanence was shot as my graduating body of work from London College of Fashion. I wanted to push it further than the fifteen page fashion editorial required and document the insecurity I felt about graduating. I felt lost and anxious on the edge of entering the daunting world that is adulthood. 

After finding inspiration in Andrei Tarkovsky's dystopian film Stalker as well as Pina Bausch's portrayal of the human condition through dance, I wanted to bring subtle abjection to the work. Through the use of symbolic clothing, I wanted to represent passages of life: white for innocence; sheer for sexual awakening and black for death. The 4x5 polaroids, which sadly became obsolete upon finishing the project, start off bright and progressively get darker and moodier throughout the series.

Inspired by the British saying: 'like ships that pass in the night', I captured two lovers in their fleeting but failed attempt to connect; the subjects are frozen, lost and alone, in an unidentifiable period of time. The loneliness of their abstraction is emphasised further by the dark, vast forest. The title Permanence helps solidify the state of limbo that the lovers - and myself - find themselves in.

Inspired by the beautifully painted photographs of Gerhard Richter, I painted organic, dream-like clouds on top of polaroids that already had an ethereal feel to them. Dreamscape was also photographed using 4x5 polaroid and I wanted them to have a transformative quality to them.

Through this blog post of explaining the titles of my personal work, I have lightly skimmed over the inspiration behind some of the projects. I will publish an in depth mood board for each project at a later date. Now that I don't have to constantly worry about a name for my blog, I'm going to be unstoppable!