Monday, 20 May 2019

"Stop trying. Take long walks. Look at scenery. Doze off at noon. Don’t even think about flying. And then, pretty soon, you’ll be flying again."

I've really been loving my sketchbook lately, I just can't stop drawing and can't tell you how wonderful that feels. If you didn't know, I completed a BA(Hons) degree in Illustration last year, a feat in itself with all of the illness I've been dealing with along the way. I had art block before I even started my degree, and I think a lot of it has been mental health related and being in such a bad place zapping my creativity. I had hoped that doing a degree would help me figure stuff out and find my motivation, but naturally it came with it's own difficulties. Although I was forced to draw to complete assignments, I was left with no time for experimentation as it was more important to churn out work to meet deadlines, so although I got an insight into the industry there wasn't any room to find my feet artistically. And with such a heavy emphasis being put on commercializing work and fitting yourself into a box, my work had never felt more restrictive as I had brand new ways to pick myself apart and tell myself my work wasn't good enough. I wrote a lot more about my art journey here, but suffice to say it's been a difficult journey and I honestly didn't see myself getting to this point.

After graduating I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up on art altogether, just keeping it as something strictly for myself with no outside pressure. Then last autumn I had a turning point and hit my stride, organically found a style I loved working in that feels like my own instead of incarnations of other people's work that I'm trying to mimic (like trying to draw in the standardized Disney way), and have almost completed my first sketchbook in about 10 years.

Generally I see my sketchbook as something very private and I'm quite guarded about it, mostly because for me personally if I think of my sketchbook as something that other people might see then I start looking at it through that perfectionist lens and it becomes something performative. A sketchbook is very personal and journal like anyway, so it makes sense for it to be just for the artist - you wouldn't ask to flip through someone's diary, and it's basically a visual version of that. But saying that, I'm so proud of my work and what I've accomplished that I can't help but want to show off some pages I really love.

I really started using this sketchbook in October 2018, so all of this work is from the last 7 months and I'm only 10 pages away from filling up the whole book. I'm bouncing off the walls about that! I've been using a Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook which I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with, but I'll definitely be buying another of this brand regardless - the fact that I don't 100% love the paper quality is forcing me to not get too caught up in filling it with finished art pieces so I can be a bit rougher with it. Plus it comes in such pretty colours!

I'm also at a point where I want to give my art career another go. Especially as I now feel like I have my own identity as an illustrator and know which direction I want to work in. I’ve always felt that I had to build an audience before I invested in creating my art as a business, but I've realised now that that’s the wrong way around. It’s up to me to make this happen and believe in the quality of my work as a saleable product, not sit around waiting for demand to happen. I'm currently making a list of the kinds of products I want to create featuring my work, sourcing suppliers and thinking about stockists, putting together zines (something I always wanted to make but never knew what it should be about - now I have 7 without even really trying), building more of my portfolio and creating a website, and just having more fun with my work than I've had since I was 18.

I post finished pieces to my art blog, Instagram, deviantArt, and Tumblr if you want to stay up to date with things I'm creating, but I'll definitely keep sharing the odd thing over here from time to time too.

title // Kiki's Delivery Service

Monday, 13 May 2019

Picture perfect, a life that you saw in a magazine or maybe a traveling book

I've been thinking a lot about travel lately as I've really been kicking things up a gear with arranging and planning things for my trip to New York, and I finally have all of my tickets for Broadway booked! Exciting!! I really never thought this would be happening and it just feels so incredibly surreal, and I don't think it will feel real until I'm actually there. This is a trip I always told myself I'd do someday, and last November I made a bit of a snap decision and decided that as Moulin Rouge! would be opening on Broadway, and as Moulin Rouge! is my favourite movie and the Broadway show contains some of my favourite actors, that THAT would be my goal and I set my mind on seeing it soon after it opened on Broadway instead of watching it all happen secondhand through the internet like usual. Setting my mind like that made me excited at the prospect of knowing it would happen at some point so it felt less 'one day' pie in the sky, but as no opening date had been announced yet I could still be comfy in knowing it was far enough in the future not to worry about.

Then just a few weeks after making that decision, presale tickets were announced with an opening night announcement and suddenly my ideas became real! I was so anxious of letting the opportunity pass me by that I decided to select a random date and buy a ticket for then, figuring that I'd fly to New York for just that one evening if it came down to that. But thankfully it hasn't come down to that, and I've managed to book myself a whole trip around that one random date I picked from the sky (although I'm still anxious something's going to go wrong and I won't get to go and that I'm jinxing myself just by telling you all of this!!)

Because this trip has got so much pinned to it for me, I've wanted to make it perfect. Last time I went traveling was to Italy last year, and I really didn't have a very good time at all. A lot of it came down to my confidence having taken a massive hit and general mental health being incredibly low. Thankfully I'm in a much better place so I think it will all be fine, but there was one chapter of my book that particularly spoke to me:
"Over the years, in your life back home, you have learned how to avoid situations of awkwardness. You have become an expert at working around your diffidence and your fear of being the unwelcome focus of attention. But, of course, there's been a price to pay for your expertise at defensiveness. Whenever something feels alien or in any way threatening, your instinct has been to retreat, and you've missed out on a lot.

But now, abroad, fitting in is no longer an option. You are the stupid foreigner. Or course you can't know what you're supposed to do. Everyone stares at you wherever you go. It sounds bad but, surprisingly, such extremity starts to offer you a sort of liberation. Maybe fitting in is overrated. Maybe not looking like a fool is simply not an option in any rich and interesting life, wherever it may unfold."
All of my anxieties around travel centre around standing out, about appearing the "stupid foreigner" and wanting to blend in as seamlessly as a local. I think a big part of why I enjoyed going to Japan so much is that I couldn't hide because my very ethnicity made me stand out so I was forced to fully embrace the awkwardness. I need to lose that fear of appearing like a tourist, as if that's even a bad thing!! Travel is good and I should be proud of myself for doing these things, not shuffling round the edges hoping not to be noticed as if I’m doing something indecent. I want to really push myself this trip, and go to restaurants by myself instead of hiding in the safety of convenience food, not being afraid to talk to people around me - another chapter in the book it states how tourism separates us from the actual people of the places we're visiting. We spend all of this money to go and visit landmarks, look at the culture, taste the food, but with never getting directly involved by simply talking to the locals - "They remain shadowy, occasional figures: the guy by the pool, the taxi driver from the airport, the nice lady who took us on the trip through the forest...Most of the places we want to travel to are associated with a distinctive way of being: an implicit personality...It's a range of human virtues that draw us to places, but we're normally only permitted to encounter these via their external, cultural expressions. We don't really want to shop or see pictures; we want to talk. Yet we remain - painfully - outsiders."

I'm going to ease up on the documenting of the trip too, as I think I've inadvertently ruined previous vacations by being obsessed with photographing and taking notes of everything with the intention of blogging/vlogging about it later instead of actually enjoying the moment. I am going to vlog and photograph things, but not like before. When Flickr changed their terms and began charging for accounts at the beginning of the year I was forced to sort through my account that I've had for 13 years. It holds so many memories, and the biggest thing I noticed was how few photos I had from various trips. My album for Disneyland Paris contained less photos for 5 trips combined than I take for 1 visit nowadays, and the photos I did take were charming in their way because I didn't care about angles or the quality of the actual photographs as I was never really thinking about sharing stuff, I just liked to document things. And that's what I want to get back to. I don't need my photo to be perfectly aligned from the right angle to be valid, it doesn't make it a better memory if it looks good on Instagram. I've bought a traveler's notebook to fill out with memories while I'm there, and stick all of my keepsakes into and having it as something fun to look back on just for me.
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