These are what I’ve finished so far within the month of May. I have more than 30 drawings in line for colour, all of which I sketched this month too. I have to draw three more which are all commissions, and start on colour painting this week.
The creatures are coming out, so will the beings that look a bit like us but not really.
The originals above will be listed in my Etsy shop in June, after the Free Shipping sale that will only be until May 31. You can wait for the listing or send me a message if you want to purchase directly (Paypal for international buyers, bank deposit or cash-on-pick-up for local buyers).
I have a dayjob meeting today but it is the kind of dayjob project that is a bit more flexible than the usual since it's a consultancy rather than a full project (research design/ implementation/ report). As consultant I engage primarily in discussions, make reviews on existing data, and make guidelines on how to do things based on my expertise.
Hence I do not expect it (I hope) to be as demanding as the recent dayjob projects. It was very demanding during the first few weeks (way back in December and January) because we were establishing the basics of things but now we are in the tweaking/finetuning stage.
In any case, the whole point is that after all the various toil and labour I am now owed THREE paychecks and I have the mind to take the whole of May off from dayjob duty while I wait to get paid and also to give myself time to fully recover from everything (including the recent flu and its remnant of a cough that has rendered me literally speechless.) I'm getting one paycheck today and that should tide me over for next month. I'll use it to reclaim some studio time and shop time.
As for shop time -- everything is free shipping at my Etsy shop until May 31 so do drop by and something magical might find you.
Five things on my priority list today and for the next few weeks:
1) Finish the Sketchbook Project and send off by courier on or before April 30.
2) Update the Art Portfolio and send to BGC Art Mart to complete my application and maybe still get a slot for the May setup.
3) Update and promote the Etsy sale. I'll be adding notecards and postcards this week, plus notebooks with hand-painted covers. Also thinking of extending it into an open studio sale kind of thing.
4) Launch my Commissions page and start accepting projects (as well as start and complete existing commissions).
5) Make that crucial step in changing my freelance/work status -- I'll start the process to be a properly registered artist under my own name with an official receipt and unify all freelance work under it.
The Sketchbook Project is making progress but I still feel a 50-50 chance of not making it to the deadline.
Regardless of whether I get to send it off of not, I am quite happy with how it's turning out. I've been wanting to explore the use of watercolor graphite and this was the perfect time to experiment since it does not bleed as much as watercolour, dries fast, and has a distinct character from sumi ink. I think I'll have a series of separate work with this medium and style later on.
My health has been a bit poorly because my rest keeps getting interrupted -- dayjob tasks, meetings, even house chores and errands. I seriously need a full vacation away from any form of duty except the ones required by my creative practice. I have neglected my creative practice far too long as it is. It, too, needs a full recovery and time to do its own work.
I'll close this post with a show-off of artworks from 2015 VS 2018. I like seeing how I am changing and getting better, no matter how small, no matter that until now not so many people "get" it, no matter that I am still more invisible than not.
The way to a finished piece is a series of many steps — experiments, trials, errors — and in the process a continuous honing of the hand to better capture the impossibilities and pull them into tangibility.
I need a lot of warm-ups though because it’s been a while since I sat down long enough to really pour hours into drawing and painting.
First I played with a potential new website header.
I finally got around to drawing a pattern design to try to print on fabric and giftwrapping paper.
Meanwhile the first page of one of the books has been brewing in my head and to get to it, or to get it to flow into my hand onto paper I must undergo the longish process of drawing many seemingly unrelated pieces until I find myself where I need and want to be. I really don’t have the habit of doing rough drafts of the same thing. I make full different pieces varying in degrees of complexity and subject depth. Mainly to get me in the flow of movements (of lines, shapes, curves) and colours. This is why I also need a chunk of time to sit and just do the drawing and painting. The sneak-15-minutes strategy does not work for me. And that is why a dayjob can take so much toll on me because it takes up all the useful hours of a day.
But this week I will only have one or two required meetings and the rest will be work at home so I can reclaim hours that would have been wasted on road traffic (that’ll be about 3-4 hours + 1 for the trouble of getting all dressed up = 4-5 hours LOST PER DAY).
Today I also deliberately made myself rest — as in lie in bed just resting and reading. I realised I haven’t really given myself a proper rest day as I’ve been focused on catching up with studio and creative work. If I don’t rest properly I also burn out even when making art.
I didn’t get to go on an Artist Date this weekend. The tax collector came yesterday and took a painful bite of my cash funds 😭
On a happy note: no dayjob work tomorrow morning. There might be in the afternoon but there’s also the possibility it’ll be moved on Tuesday. Still, nothing for Monday morning which means I can sleep without the stress of an alarm waking me up. 😊
In tiny ways invisible to the eye. In ways that offer no excuses to be forgiven. In ways that only appear as weakness or laziness or simple utter failure.
But then I started to paint. Waded through the growing pile of to-dos and silenced all the task alarms and painted. Not about what I think will sell, or what I think will be popular. Not about the little compromises and tweaks, the softening of edges and taming of wildnesses. Instead I let my hand paint strange petals and leaves and other oddities that an impossible flower may choose to have. Beneath the ink and paint the seeds of words fluttered tapping codes into the back of my mind. Doorways and keys and unfinished locks. Windows and cracks on the wall. Glimpses, glances, accidental touches. In the blink of an eye I could step across an ocean and press a hand over an unsuspecting heart.
The breaking stopped.
My Etsy shop is fully updated now. With 49 items and new listings coming up every week for the next few weeks. It's been dormant for many months, because I had to do dayjob work and because I could never be sure how to go about selling my work, or what it is I'm selling. And I realise I am not just selling but that I am also telling a story, and every artwork is a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter. A poem is possibly a whole short story in itself. And every bit ties together into the Impossible Garden and the Wildforest.
The poems have returned. And have come back changed in many ways and still changing. I can feel them shift even as I pen the words onto paper. They have made friends with the paintings and both are often whispering to each other now, throwing my sly side glances. At night they run around my bed, urging the shadows of the trees on the walls to stop playing pretend and become themselves. They wait for me to fall asleep so they can slip into my dreams, sometimes coaxing the night mares to allow a gallop over the ocean.
The 100-day project has slept for a month and woke up reformed into the 100-painting project. It is allowed. Because I choose the weight of making good pieces over the count of a contest with time. Here is the 54th piece, with its own poem.
Wild spring tree wove a wind,
It is almost a given now. That a painting will have a poem. That a poem will have a painting. That maybe both can be in a single tangible piece, all tangled up like lovers.
I wait for my sketchbook from the Brooklyn Library to arrive. It is going to be a love letter.
For a brief period I thought it was. But the flower-marked came to my rescue, gripping my wrist and my heart to pull me out of the vortex of that deep dark despair.
The impossible garden stirs. There is a murmur amongst the flowers. The impossible insects return from their journeys, an invisible trail in their wake, an impossible test to lure the lost and the seekers. Already the messenger birds circle above, both certain and unsure, there is something to be found below. But what strange beautiful flowers there are. What fierce creatures protect it. What poison runs with the nectar along the veins of those thorny pretty blooms. So odd. So curious.
I stirred too. I woke from a long deep sleep woven with dreams and nightmares. I found myself having to dig my way out from the tight embrace of the earth, the roots of my own creations softly wrapped around my neck, over my mouth, straining my limbs.
It is autumn. But I am alive, and I will stay so throughout the winter ahead. My wrist and my heart are burning hot, for the flower-marked had left their own invisible trail. In the spring, there will be a journey, one way or another. And there will be a fated meeting. All is not lost, all is yet to be found.
This piece, now titled "Seeds", took longer than the usual. It was conceived in a storm and born while still in the midst of the storm's rampage. Yet one would not suspect its tragic roots, because it is what it is, a flowering of hope despite the devastations.
I was able to fix a money task today, which gave me a tiny inch of breathing space. I know the task list is suspended, but I fix what I come across without having to deal with the rest of the chain.
I sleep fitfully. I exhaust myself with reading and with watching those just-discovered highly entertaining fantasy fairy tales of Koreanovelas (it's been popular for years but I'm a confirmed late bloomer). Very escapist, but at this moment also very crucial to keeping that link between myself and the ground, if that somehow makes sense.
I eat fitfully. I crave for very specific foods eaten in specific places that I cannot afford, so I eat just enough of what's on hand to stay not sick and fully functioning. At the same time I crave with a hunger of the soul and the heart. So I create my impossible gardens with the expectation of rain and sunshine and bees to help them grow, and with the hope that something unexpected and new and meant will find its way through, a sleeping seed waiting for its own blooming. Synchronicities and serendipities. Every painting a prayer to the gods of the spaces-in-between.
Today I started original work on two small pieces. Next I'll do another big piece. Then two small pieces. And I'll keep making more of those round paintings (that some people won't or could not take seriously as art).
I'm also warming up for adding more fauna and fungi (specifically mushrooms) in my garden's ecosystem.
I am not sure if painting almost nonstop for twelve hours yesterday can be considered "easing" back. But Friday was a slow slip into the creative flow, and then Saturday was seriously digging my toes in so I cannot be swept away by whatever will come along in the approaching week.
I felt a thread of relief when the painting flowed. For a while I was worried it would not come back, or that the rest I took was not enough, or that the anxieties are too strong.
Already I can feel a rise in the energy -- both within myself and those who have seen the new work. Already there is fresh interest in buying my art, and my hope perks its still-wearied head.
All through the last couple of days thought, with news of Brexit (and the consequences it will trigger) and the dwindling of days towards the next bill due dates, I felt cornered into bracing myself for taking that dayjob if it is offered. I could, and would, persist in finding a less full-time arrangement, but I also know it would be more likely that I would have to sacrifice months before having enough evidence to support a plea for special arrangements. And even then it is a risk because it is also likely there will be no evidence because the job will demand every full hour it requires and possibly more, under the label "emergency" and "exception".
But the patrons are too few and the shop sales too far-between. I am not yet able to raise sufficient funds to allow me to buy the creative time for myself. I do not know how I can buy one more month to make another big push. I will work another month of twelve-hour days to stay in the studio, but I am out of new short-term ideas for the moment.
Anyway, I did finish six pieces yesterday. All the originals will be made available in the originals shop, and the prints available for paper and products through Society6.
The week-long break was a significant help but it has not yet restored me in "full power". I have begun to feel the pressure of being alone in the battlefield, with the dawn still many hours away, and my allies still too distant and possibly having to go through skirmishes of their own before they could come to my aid.
Last night I had a dream that I was a queen in disguise traveling through many lands, some of them hostile. In one kingdom I was caught and imprisoned for being simply foreign. I was made to fight, armed only with a wooden staff, in an unfair battle against a quartet of barbarians. But just as I was to be ushered into the open arena, I heard a voice in my head, narrating what was to come, and as the voice spoke, what it spoke happened. The guard who had brought me to the arena gates pulled out a weapon and took out one of the quartet. The guard who was ushering the quarter took out another barbarian. From somewhere else in the arena, arrows and knives showered upon my supposed enemies, and their loud gloating was silenced. Because when the barbarians saw me they laughed and did not take me seriously and started to boast how they would kill me. The barbarians were three men and one woman, clad in hard black spiked armour. I was clad in an encumbering gown and a soft cloak. But I felt an invisible crown upon my head. When the barbarians fell, my guard, who turned out to be a woman, clapped me on the shoulder and gave me an encouraging nod. The king and queen who were presiding over the event looked pleased, and nodded approvingly at those who had fought the battle for me. I held out my staff, and from it rolled out a parchment like a flag, and the flag was hand-painted, and I realised I painted it, and it looked like a work of art, but at that moment it was more than that, it was the symbol of a kingdom, and it was my kingdom, and my disguise was gone, and people knew me for what I was, and that place was the first place to acknowledge me. And then I woke up.
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 am bad with titles. I can write whole poems and stories and articles but I always get stumped with the title. Even my blog post titles cause me a bit of a pain.
Then I had to name my paintings. I can't shirk it and get away with "Untitled". That's just not me. But I also don't want to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking up names.
I am not a fan of the descriptive titles either, such as "Girl With Cat", or "Apples in Bowl". I also don't want to lead the viewer so much with titles that hint at what I'm trying to show in the artwork. I also don't want to be pretentiously obscure.
At the same time I want the names to also somehow reflect something about me as a person and as an artist.
So I pondered on it. And then came up with a solution.
Since the core of my artwork is flowers, I started with that. Flowers, no matter how you twist and turn it, are closely associated with the feminine. I see nothing wrong or offensive with that. So I decided my pieces will have feminine or female names.
But not just any name. They have to feel right to me, to resonate with me, or evoke certain types of associations. I started a list.
My associations with any word come from strange places -- books I've read, historical eras I am fond of, fictional characters I relate to, people I've met in my imagination, mythologies, you get the picture.
Any name that did not sit well with me was not included, no matter how popular or well-loved it may be to others.
I started with the name of saints, but picking those from the medieval ages, up to anything pre-modern. I looked up the stranger cousins of traditional Christianity, and then ventured into older and even obscure religions. Then mythologies. Then I mined my favourite books, picking the more creative, exotic, or old-sounding names and dropping the too-common, too-modern ones. I also chose the older versions of more modern names, if they sounded right. Names that would elicit too much association in one direction were left out (e.g. Katniss -- too young adult, mass-popular) unless I don't mind the association of the associations (e.g. Amidala -- Star Wars is old-school, much bigger and complex world), but a few popular names were included if there are enough interpretations spread out to keep the interpretation of my own artwork open (e.g. Jane -- plain, Austen, Goodall...).
I stayed away from names of actual people I know unless the painting was for them. But I have plans of using the names of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and their older kin (as they have all moved on to better places, and they have really nice names).
Each name on my list carries its own personality and I match them with the painting as much as I can. It does not have to be a literal match. Quite a few matches will possibly puzzle. I use my artist's eye to see the connection, and my artist's inner ear to hear the click.
The names I picked actually reflects and reveals a lot about me. If I become impossibly famous, biographers and academics will have a heyday deciphering my choice of names and probably come up with a humongous map of my alternate lives.
So here's the current partial list (A - L). Feel free to suggest and I will consider them!
Agatha - Agrippina - Alianor - Alice - Amaterasu - Ambrosia - Amidala - Andraste -
Andromeda - Annora - Anouk - Apollonia - Aquilina - Arabella - Ariadne -
Arianrhod - Arwen - Arya - Ashtoreth - Astarte - Attolia - Augustine -
Aurelia - Auri - Bast - Bellatrix - Benedicta - Bertha -
Beruthiel - Boudica - Branwen - Brienne - Brigid - Brunhild - Calliope -
Carissima - Cassiopeia - Celestine - Cerridwen -
Circe - Clarice - Clariel - Claudia - Cleopatra - Clotilde - Consortia -
Constance - Coraline - Coventina - Dana - Delphina -
Demeter - Demetria - Desdemona - Elinor - Elizabeth -
Emerentiana - Emma - Empusa - Eowyn - Epiphania - Eponine -
Eurydice - Eve - Fausta - Felicitas - Feronia - Florentina - Freya - Frigg -
Galadriel - Gorgonia - Grimalkin - Grimonia - Gwenhyfar - Hecate - Hel -
Hella - Hermione - Hestia - Honorata - Illuminata -
Inari - Ishtar - Isidora - Isolda - Izanami - Jane - Lamia - Lara -
Liberata - Lilith - Lirael - Lucia - Lucina - Luna - Lyra
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.)
This post is about how I have decided to price my artwork, based on two very helpful articles that came out on top of my Google search:
A Simple Formula For Pricing Artwork by Lori Woodward
How To Price A Painting by Jake Gafner
I combined elements from both articles to come up with a pricing scheme that worked with my own local context and artistic status.
I was pushed to formalise my pricing strategy after I have completed a large piece and was at a loss on how much to sell it, especially after inquiries began to pour in. I was both pleased and surprised, and then I panicked.
I started out by looking at Etsy, which has items closest to my kind of work. I narrowed my research to watercolour florals in their original forms, not prints. I found that the prices swing too wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other, and thus did not help me very much except make me feel bad about how much I have been undercharging. (One painting cost $489 and another of the same size cost $127 and still another of same size cost $25 -- all cost more than a piece of my work in the same size.)
Then I looked at the shops of my favourite artists who do similar work and thought I could maybe charge half of what they do. But being already well-established and quite popular, their price ranges, even at half, still seemed too high for a start-up like me. And it just did not feel good to say I'll charge a quarter of what they charge -- I simply started feeling too small.
So I finally Googled for articles -- which I did not do first because most articles were from the US, and the dollar conversions tended to really drive up my prices when compared to local prices. But this time I was lucky with the search results. There was a computation in one, and an acceptable price range in the other. I mixed and matched, and this is what I ended up with.
I price by square inch, but with adjustments when the piece is small (less than 80 square inches) and when the piece is big (more than 108 square inches).
I used the lowest price in the price range which is $0.25, translating to about Php12. For reference, a well-established artist like Lori Woodward (who wrote one of the articles) charges $6 per square inch. If we use that as a basis it becomes clear that I am being very reasonable.
But I used the Php12 (about $0.25) as my upper limit, which I apply to my smaller works. Smaller pieces get a slightly higher price per square inch because the small size tends to pull down the price too low, and yet a smaller piece gets as much attention, effort, and skill as a big piece.
My regular rate is Php10 (about $0.20) per square inch which I apply to my most common artwork size, which is 9 x 12 (108 square inches). Minimum size for the regular rate is 80 square inches (or 8x 10 inch paper or canvas).
For larger pieces, those more than 9 x 12 or 108 square inches, my rate is Php8 (about $0.17). Larger sizes tend to bloat the price because of the size numbers so to balance this, the rate is reduced.
The total I get then comprises my fee for the artwork -- my skills, imagination, idea, creativity, technique -- basically all the intangibles that make my art a piece of art, what makes it beautiful, what makes it resonate, what makes it capable of evoking emotions or pleasure.
Then I add to the total a percentage to cover materials:
+ 10% for pieces that use watercolours and regular inks
+ 15% for pieces that use watercolours and special inks; also for those made on canvas because canvas cost a lot more than paper
+ 20% for pieces that use mixed media (paints, inks, ephemera, beads, etc.)
I actually may lose a bit on the materials side especially for those on canvas and those in mixed media, but at this point I am not particular about it. As long as I am fairly compensated on my skills, I can write off the extra cost in materials.
When I tested the formula I came up with rates that were slightly higher than what I have been charging since I opened the shop. But still within reasonable range, now that the calculations behind them are clear.
What I will do now is keep my current prices for artworks already posted in the shop. But I will use the new prices for new pieces -- particularly for the pieces that I will put in the Enchanted Section.
I have also devised a separate rate for my simpler pieces, which, I admit, were easier and faster to do. So factoring in the time consumed in making, I am able to have an art series that are, for lack of a more glamorous word, affordable. My rates here are from Php5 to Php7 per square inch (about $0.10 to $0.14), maximum of 108 square inches. New pieces will reflect this pricing. For the simpler pieces I have waived charging for materials.
I am just starting out so I do have plans of adjusting those rates as my artwork becomes more in demand or gains more "market value". But until then, I hope this post will at least settle some wondering and questions on why art cost the way it does -- more specifically, why my art costs the way it does.
Questions or comments? Let me know your thoughts. ^_^
When I was in my teens, my first foray into art-making was collage. I would cut out magazine pictures and text and reconstruct them to make something of my own. I drew when I was a child but I never really progressed with the skill -- when I started going to school my days were occupied with lessons and homework and keeping that "crown" of being First Honor Student.
Hence when the urge to create came back full force in my teen years, that period of supposedly finding oneself, I did not feel comfortable enough to make my own from scratch. I did not trust myself to be able to design or imagine anything interesting enough that i can properly translate into physical form. So I borrowed and used the output of others to represent my own. Then I integrated other materials -- cloth, scrapbook papers, found objects. But I was never able to really put together anything that felt right, or that captured what I wanted to show.
I continued to use other people's art and creations to make pieces and in my journals. But magazines change and soon they have less of the kind of images I need. Also they got more expensive. I also began worrying about copyright, and being accused of un-originality. (Today I still use other people's works in my journals to serve as visual pegs and inspiration. But my journals are private so I have less qualms compared to an artwork that I will display.)
Fast forward to two decades later, I am now making my own drawings and have finally managed to break through into some level of progress. But after a while of drawing and painting I wanted more. My ultimate dream of an output is something like the works of Nick Bantock and Barbara Hodgson -- the marriage of words with pictures, but with the pictures much more of my own, especially since I do not have access to the kind of beautiful vintage ephemera that Nick and Barbara are able to work with that render their artworks original and timeless.
I want to be able to integrate other materials into my paintings, even while I am still struggling how I can integrate my words into them. That is also why I am very interested in calligraphy and lettering -- I want my words to have an identity of their own. I have had enough of borrowing or of having to worry about paying for copyrights.
A few days ago, when I was working on a big piece, it occurred to me to introduce sequins into the painting. It would not have occurred to me while working on a small piece because it is easy to fill out the spaces of a small canvas. But a big piece, well, I don't want it to be Zentangly with patterns, but I also don't want gradations of shades to add layer to the wide spaces --- I want consistently bright and strong colours, and I find the Zentangle style too doodly and distracting, and too many of that kind of art is already out there. I want the patterns I use to layer and complement, not to be the main feature.
So, sequins. I love glitter and shimmer and I use a lot of iridescent inks in my paintings to begin with. But wide swathes of just plain ink are also not a good idea. I need layers. And then I also want textures.
I felt good about this last piece. It felt like I was on the right track. And then, something clicked -- it is the next step to evolve my artwork. One step closer to capturing even more accurately the images that have been dancing in my head, the visions of a place where I have always dreamed to visit.
I went to buy more sequins. And I dug out my box of collected found objects and ephemera. Now I know what I have been saving them for.
Then I went to work on an even bigger piece : an 18x18 canvas. When I finished it, that was when I felt that I broken through somehow. That I have made a small but significant step forward. All the time before (since 2012) has been merely practice to be ready for this step. And now I will be practicing a lot more for the next step, until I get to where I need to go. I still need to learn how to work in fabric, ribbons, metal objects, irregularly-shaped objects, and my ever elusive text -- I am planning to look for metallic alphabet stickers, or a way of cutting letters into metallic paper. (Eventually I have ambitious plans of rendering my poems in pieces larger than an A4 paper. And also making giant-sized versions of something like what I do in my journals.) I am thrilled. I am eager to begin again.
I now know what Year it will be next year. This year has been the Year of Serenity, and in many ways it has proven to be so, mainly because I also learned how to flow with what is true. There were lessons of patience, calm, deliberation, awareness, stillness. There were the experiences of relief and quiet joy at finding and being found. Of discovering my own slow rhythms and recognising the gifts within that slowness. There was a lot of inner work, much more than previous years. A lot of inner storms to weather with equanimity while outside there is a semblance of okay-ness.
Next year, it is going to be the Year Of Arrivals.
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.
These were my last thoughts last night before I fell asleep, after a long period of struggling to sleep while listening to a playlist titled Circles & Labyrinths. It was cold and my mind was wintering in its own way, and somehow sought warmth in old, comfortable fantasies. A Raven Boy was the closest at hand (at heart), and there happened to be a love song playing and the tail-end of a storm was making the night so very cold.
So I let myself be carried away to an imagined future of a fairy tale ball, only that it was my fairy tale creative exhibit as well, and that somehow along the way of getting to that convergence point of a happily-ever-after, the Raven Boy and I had crossed paths and crossed hearts.
Even as I was busy dreaming this love story there was a part of myself also busy piling up sketches in my already crowded head. Sketches that I have yet to learn how to make. Seeds I have to coax to grow. Seeds that must bear the work that will make that fairy tale creative exhibit come true.
I revisited an old draft of a novel, that was written in an intoxicated state of hope three years ago. It has been nagging for a rewrite as soon as the hangover hit one year later. But I have been pre-occupied with other things and I was not sure how to go about it. The other day I finally opened the dormant file and a whole new perspective on how to tell the story again presented itself.
I loved someone once. Many, many years ago.
Last night I finished this complex big piece -- trust me to subject myself to complex and big at the same time -- and I am generally pleased with the results. Will keep on experimenting though until I hear that unmistakable click in my head of having gotten it exactly right.
Getting back into the creative groove has been a tough process since Saturday. Most of the time my body just wanted to sleep while my mind boiled over with ideas and my hands itched to make.
Yesterday I pushed myself as hard as I would push myself for a dayjob duty. I got out of the house to run errands and to settle a few shrill naggings at the back of my head --
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.