I have started on the Sketchbook Project. But I have also braced myself for the possibility of not being able to complete it on time.
Yesterday I started on a "strict" implementation of a plan to be able to to do, well, everything. The first good thing is that the dayjob project has a decent timetable for once, so I am able to manage it better. What I've done is this:
- I assigned the morning, which is my most productive, awake, and alert time of day, to getting dayjob matters done. This can extend up to two hours after lunch.
- The rest of the afternoon is assigned to studio work, with priority on the "shoulds" such as shop orders, commissions, and shop admin. The Sketchbook Project falls here because it has a deadline set by someone else.
- The evening, if I still have the energy for it, or if I am particularly inspired, is for personal creative works such as the storymaking (painting and/or writing). If I am too tired but really moved to create, I make space in the very early morning before I start on the dayjob (The key is to get the dayjob started within the morning because I can get more done in two-three morning hours than if I spend a whole afternoon and evening on it.)
There was a lot I was not able to do, but also a lot I got done. But I have to acknowledge that there is still too much I need to do in a day. Yet I have to make it a daily practice to challenge the dominance of the dayjob in defining my days.
Today I am supposed to do two specific dayjob tasks and then stop when they're done, and leave the next step for tomorrow. Since I woke up later than hoped (I had a bit of insomnia), I may have to extend the dayjob hours into the mid-afternoon, but still have the late afternoon (and daylight) to do studio work.
My body clock is very sensitive to the dayshifts so I have to pay attention. If I keep pushing myself out of my natural rhythms I only weaken myself further. This is not about comfort zones. This is about listening to my body and making sure I am in the best condition to do what I need to do. I am not a young person in my twenties. I have to take care of myself.
Yesterday I dealt with a handful of dayjob tasks that took all morning. After lunch I fixed my calendar for the week, moving schedules about in an attempt to estimate my own energy supply, budgets, and patience. The point is not to let myself spend time nor money nor energy unnecessarily. So listening to myself is crucial for the minute-by-minute decision on what to do next. Forcing to get a task done when my brain has shut down, or when I am thoroughly blocked in one way or another, is a waste of effort. (This is why I hate unreasonable deadlines.)
There are studio tasks that are as important as getting the dayjob done and yesterday I was able to hit multiple targets with a single stone. A warm-up that is also a project getting done that is also a long overdue token that is also how the wildforest finally extended one of its infinite hands to meet me halfway.
I have two more drawings to finish this afternoon, after the dayjob tasks. Then it's another attempt to draft the drawing for a commission. Then it's going back to the Sketchbook Project and maybe finish a page for progress.
I am optimistic I'll do even better than yesterday. I have to be.
I've broken my "fast" from making any purchases for my creative work. First of all, I've recently thrown away at least half a dozen emptied pigment ink pens, so I need to resupply. The direction my work is taking needs more metallic pigment inks so I need to have a good selection of options in case a line of products is suddenly discontinued (which often happens for niche products). I am also exploring a new art style involving a lot of ink work so I need to get myself one of those ink-friendly calligraphy pads because the one I have is soon to run out. And then I also need new painting brushes because I just threw away a few really scraggly ones.
I took a deep breath and gave myself a maximum amount to spend. Sadly, the cat's tongue brush I was hoping to try turned out to be more expensive than I thought it would be, and so I had to settle for the "economy" version of that same brand but only a plain round brush and not a cat's tongue (the one I originally wanted was 14 times the price of what I ended up buying.)
Still, I'm not complaining. In fact, I am pretty happy with my shopping, to have something new that at the same time will add to my creative arsenal.
Since I didn't get the expensive cat's tongue brush, I also bought a menso brush to try. It is made of horse and goat hair, and is specially designed for sumi-e drawing (drawing with ink).
In addition to trying out drawing with a paintbrush I have also added ink drawing with a flexible nib to my daily practice. I like the line variations that a flexible nib gives, as well as the variations in the ink flow which produces unexpected pools and shadows. I am also somehow getting addicted to the smell of the sumi ink itself, which reminds me of the sharp but pleasant scent of petrichor.
I plan to combine these ink drawings with watercolour, and even with other inks. If I like how it all turns out then I can add a new series to my paintings.
Meanwhile, my Creativity Bootcamp sketchbook practice is yielding interesting evolutions in my drawings and paintings. I am not really an abstract kind of artist but I like how some of my recent explorations are somewhat touching the edges of that style.
There are no movements yet on the dayjob matter so I would prefer to keep moving forward with my creative work. I want to keep forging ahead as if the creative path is THE only path.
Hence I have pinched a small budget to try a couple of possible local printing services. One prints on canvas bags, and the other prints on mugs. If the output is of good quality then I will be able to entice more local people to buy (the Society6 dollar price tag and the shipping fees are quite big deterrents). The one that prints the mugs can also print notepads so I'll inquire on that next and see if it is something I would like to design and offer as a product line.
When I am able to save up enough I plan to do fabric via Spoonflower, but that one will probably take a while. I'll focus on the more doable local ones first.
I ended up with the too-long canvas stretchers because of previous projects that did not push through. I got over-excited and bought the materials before the supposed clients confirmed the commissions. So for a long time I had these half-ready canvases languishing in my storage gathering dust.
A few weeks ago I was in a frenzy of setting up the art shop to pull in some extra income while I wait for dayjob projects to save the day (or month, preferably). I felt cornered. And then I saw the stack of large empty canvases. I needed to tip the "balance" inside me so that the world felt less like about just paying bills and more about making contributions to everlastingness.
I took the smaller of the two -- the 30 x 30 inches. It stayed blank on my easel for a few days while I waited for the picture to emerge. It goes like this -- I repeatedly trace the space in my mind, all that blankness open and contained at the same time. Then I start to see whispers of lines, appearing and disappearing. Every time I would glance at the canvas, look at it, think of it, the lines flicker like the noise on an old film. Then at some point there will be fleeting bursts of full shapes and colours, fragmented pieces, still incoherent. All this time I would be feeding myself images from the made-up forest in my head where I take a long walk every day and every night. Then the pieces start to fall into place, start to connect to one another.
When I have a semi-solid image in my mind that is when I pick up the pencil to make soft lines. I complete the sketch on the canvas, filling in the blanks that my imagination left open-ended. When the lines feel right then I start to paint.
While painting there are still things that could change. Small ones but may also be significant. Colour selection must be done with the same care a cook will blend flavours. The decision to add other materials such as ephemera and sparkly objects is often a spontaneous one and yet also a carefully weighed choice. As I progress through a piece I make a lot of experiments and improvisations. I occasionally make mistakes but not that often really. Once I start putting on the paint, the picture is more or less complete in my head already, and it is akin to taking down a dictation from the Muse, to put it one way. It is clean smooth line of inspiration, which I think is helped by my own clarity with the kind of art I want to make, and the images I want to manifest. It was a short process for me to accept my own style because if I dithered on that I would never have gotten anywhere at all. I am self-taught, without any formal training, and I have limited materials. If my own mind will criticise my artwork above all that then there would be no point.
So I worked on the big piece. My main challenge was whether I could manage to expand myself that much. Would I have enough to "show" on all that blank space?
It turns out I do. I did feel the stretch as I worked on this big piece but it was a good kind of stretch. It means I can do more. It means more possibilities.
I received quite a few inquiries on the piece after I posted its finished state. I've worked out a price but I've decided to hold on it for a while until the dust settles a little bit more on the art shop opening and all that. I also need to be very certain with my shipping arrangements because I do not need the added stress of delayed or missing deliveries.
So here's a visual process of the painting that I have named "Sabine". (All my artworks have female names based on saints, goddesses, mythical creatures, book characters, and the like, that resonate with me in one way or another.)
My journal writing has taken a shift in the past few days. First, there was a period of almost nothing. I filled up the space of my days with painting and reading. Then when the words started to trickle back in they were distorted, and I ended up drawing and doodling on the page. Then the drawings took on more life and the words slipped in various forms.
I used to pre-design my journal pages with printed images captured from the internet. I used them as inspiration, idea triggers, and practice pegs. I also used them as illustrations to represent the images constantly moving around in my head, symbolic substitutes of my dreams, wishes, trails of pursued thoughts.
As the new drawings and words poured out with unusual forms I suddenly found the pre-designed pages cramping. I tore out the pasted images and drew over with my own. Then finally I started getting into a rhythm, and both images and words started to flow with better harmony.
It seems to me that I have shifted into a next-level state wherein I need less borrowing of other people's images and ideas, and become a bit more confident in expressing my own. I am still continuously inspired by the works of other artists but the stage of imitation and modelling is perhaps slowly transitioning into individualising my own work.
The drawings also seem to nudge me to explore another path with my art. This style has been springing up but I have been ignoring it as I felt it was not "ripe" enough. But maybe it is now.
This new way of journalling is helping me merge my words and images better, something that I have been striving to do in the past weeks for my poem-paintings. I have had a few promising paths open up but I am still not satisfied. So maybe this journal breakthrough is telling me something I am simply too stubborn to see.
I was angry. My paycheck has been withheld and delayed, most likely to protect the profit margins as the year closes. I have been explicit in my email that I needed the money now, and that I had medical expenses to deal with (my mom has been undergoing treatment for her arthritis). Do you think they cared? Of course not. Not even for the sake of Christmas.
I was so angry I almost cursed them.
But I decided to let karma do the work.
Instead I made today a studio day. Behaved as if there was not any dayjob task to be completed (although there were, but today I did not care one bit).
I gave myself over to the muse. I allowed myself to explore and go deep and not worry about not getting back in time to be responsible and serious about dayjob things. I have no plans of getting back to any dayjob thing today. or tomorrow. Or Sunday.
I finished four sketches for painting. Big ones. My favourite is the one with two owls but which I could not take a photo of because the pencil lines are so light.
I figured I will start painting patterns of pairs and combinations and complements.
It feels so good to just let go.
It's like I gained a huge extra space inside me that makes breathing a lot easier.
I have counted up my remaining money and have set budgets for the rest of the year. We'll survive. There will just be a lot of delays in utility payments. And when the New Year comes in I will have almost empty pockets, possibly just have enough left so I can take a cab to the client presentation on the second week of January. The delayed paycheck comes in on the third week. On the fourth week another paycheck will come in. There will be money for the mundane basic things. Just delayed.
But the delay opens up my hours now. Instead of going to the malls to get swept up in the holiday rush I am staying home to draw and paint and write. Perhaps this is what I am meant to do. A big push of movement in my creative work because it is the only thing left to do. Because I got so angry that I was able to shake off that persistent sense of guilt and worry and stress over the yet-unwritten report that will be due on the second week of January. So angry that I shunned all that had to do with dayjobs and immersed myself in creative work, without guilt, without hesitation.
I feel fine now.
I have finally started a sketchbook. Of sorts. Separate from my daily journal which can contain sketches as well as writings and collages and the other variations of manifestations of my thoughts.
My sketchbook is neat, no matter how I tell myself it's okay to mess it up. No matter how I want to mess it up.
I like how it looks though. I like that it looks "serious". That I am more than merely doodling. That I am serious about practicing.
I don't like that it looks like the sketchbook of a frigid rigid person. Of someone holding back. Of someone scared to make mistakes and afraid of taking full leaps. Believe me, I unlock and loosen up at certain phases of the moon and with the right magic words. It has happened before.
But I have to live with the fact that my default is to be orderly. I like my well-defined lines and clean spaces. I was wondering about this the other day (and my current difficulties at attempting a "wilder" execution of my paintings) when a bit of a poem spilled out:
I need my lines.
I need to see the deliberation of
Than merely assuming intentions
From spillovers claiming abstraction.
I want the clarity of shapes and directions,
More than the supposed free and wild almost-pattern
Splashes of colours and nothing in particular,
That could mean anything, possibly
Whatever seems appropriate or trendy at the moment.
I want definitions, rather than guessing games,
That is why my hands are always ink-stained
From writing down the answers to the riddles of a heart,
Charting maps of possibilities for just-in-cases,
Making notes on the margins of my patience.
The One True North has an invisible line,
But a line nonetheless, unerring, always true,
Like a choice, a commitment, despite inevitabilities,
Despite givens. There are no assumptions, but assurance.
I need my lines. Dark and indelible.
Like tattoos on the soul.
(Poem by Marichit Garcia)
It is Monday and I woke up feeling well. I was in bed early last night because I still get tired easily from the week-long overtime work. But I got eight hours of sleep so I'm good.
Started off the very early morning (6-ish) with coffee and going through my idea book for what to draw and paint. Then I did emails, and monthly transactions for the accountant, and other small but necessary steps to get quite a number of things moving in one direction or another.
By 9:45AM I was leaving the house for a morning meeting (dayjob work), and it lasted until lunch. I had lunch in the same cafe where the meeting was and I stayed on for a couple more hours to sketch. I completed three new sketches for painting later on.
I also dug out older drawings that I never got the chance to paint when the dayjob projects started to move.
I am not entirely certain what I am rushing towards but I have that tiny core of ripe urgency inside me that is telling me to paint, paint, paint, and to have a body of work ready.
Ready for what? There is the Watercolour Fair on Saturday for which I have much less than I need to fully prepare for. There is the budding idea in my head of just setting up my own small art sale online and at a cafe one Saturday in early December. There is the magical chance that someone, somehow, shows up and asks to either buy all of my paintings (at a very good price) or feature them in an exhibit that will put them on demand (well, one can dream).
But the point is, none of those will happen if there are no paintings to show on hand. New ones. Bigger ones. Continuing to push the known borders of my imagined subjects and their worlds.
So I just listen to that inner song and paint. Show up in front of the canvas or paper. Show up. See. Create.