This post is primarily an answer to a question that was asked of me.
It is not the first time I have been asked this question. In the past few years that I have embraced my art-making and story-making I have received incredulous reactions to my "productivity". The question is usually how am I able to make the time to make?
Last week I read a post by Joanne Harris on Twitter that basically sums it up:
Joanne even had another related post on how she gave up house chores and in the process she had a messy house but 18 novels.
It will vary with each person. Even for the same person, it can vary on what you can give up at a given moment. It's not just one thing. Maybe one or more major things and then a lot of little things that make up a day.
When I decided I want to be an artist it was a life decision. I was just two years into freelancing and still received employment offers because of my dayjob skills. But my desire to be an artist is a soul call that outweighed the call of financial stability and security. I gave up more than one dayjob opportunity. I stuck to being freelance. When I have dayjob projects I screen them for value in terms of money and time and energy. Even if it will pay me a lot (and they rarely even pay enough), if it will cost me too much recovery time because of the intensity of mental, physical, and emotional demands, I say no. (The saying no part is very hard. I believe one has to literally reach a certain age to be able to do it well.)
I gave up an old lifestyle and status that were largely based on the expectations of others. I became clear on what really mattered to me on a day-to-day basis. I overhauled my way of faith and trusting in the Universe (or God, or whichever belief system you subscribe to goes here). I redefined every rule I ever learned or lived by ever since I became an adult.
I gave up people and relationships. I kept those that are truly alive and that keep me authentically alive. This meant less obligations, less duties. And if I would really rather stay in on a weekend than go out for a meal (or even attend a reunion) I don't get judged or guilted.
I gave up traveling, and a lot of big-ticket spending. I have been working on zeroing all debts. I gave up the things that would keep me in debt (credit cards, home loans). This meant I don't have to work so much and for so long for a lot of money. This meant I can use time to make art. I still want to travel but I want to do it for the right reasons and with means that are true to the path I have taken.
I gave up "shopping" and "retail therapy". I buy what I need when I need it and I pay in cash. I still indulge from time to time but these are meaningful (and eventually useful) indulgences. Like books and art materials. Like a nourishing delicious meal. I've trimmed my closet and accessories to essentials that I get to wear every week and also feel and look good in. I have hopped off the trend train long ago. I buy items that will last as long as possible. I repair as much as I can. I buy local and from small business as often as possible to help out others who are like me. I also realised I don't need as much retail therapy when I am making art.
My dayjob work is very taxing mentally, physically, and emotionally. The nature of the work I do for money goes against many of my own values but I am also breadwinner for the household (parents and sibling) so I still have to compromise a lot. When I have a dayjob project there is a battle that goes on. The dayjob spirit tends to choke the creative spirit so I often need recovery days. I have been trying to find a good "balance" for the past six years but I have yet to find one that works more than once.
What's working for me now whenever I have a dayjob project:
It may also help to mention that I am very much an introvert. I don't have very active social circles or activities. I don't spend a lot of time chatting online either. My social media is mainly for sharing and creating content. I limit my online interaction and engage only when necessary. In real life I go out with friends less often than once a month. My own parents and sister are introverts so on weekends we also tend to be in our own spaces and get together about once or twice a month for half a day each. So all supposed "social" hours are instead put into creative time. That could also be a variable.
It's a bit funny because I often feel I am not as productive as I should be. I do Asian drama marathons as well as reading marathons (but I have to say, these do a lot to inspire my art-making). I spend time doing nothing -- when everything just goes blank and empty and needs to take a long pause. I like my sleep, taking my eight hours' worth at night and naps in the afternoon. I have my totally lazy days when I let go of all attempts at being productive.
My Instagram sometimes looks like I have an ideal life but I scrape by day to day. The not-too-hidden price of my creative productivity is also the occasional panic on whether I will meet next month's rent. Every year I think about taking back one of the biggest things I gave up -- the monthly security of a regular paycheck. It has been eight years so far.
I hope this post helps. :)
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.
My contribution to the Brooklyn Library Sketchbook Project is due to be sent out by mid-April but I have not started a single page. My recovery and recharging took more time than expected, weighed down by the remnants of old guilt on daring to take a break when so much has to be done.
But today is a rather good day, given that I've been at a loss on what to do with the Sketchbook despite several initial ideas that lost luster because I've put it off for far too long. Today the final idea on what to do with it has come and, if I am lucky, I just might be able to get started today, for real.
I woke up late this morning, and immediately felt the twinge of guilt because so much could have been done since sunrise. But I pushed the guilt aside and went to my Etsy shop to complete "recycling" the listings of items that have been sold into listing of new items. I have also decided to put EVERYTHING on 10% off until April 2. (Take a look at the shop here.)
Having done that was when the Sketchbook idea came. Like a token for completing a task.
Next to do is writing in the journal, another practice I've sorely neglected. All I've been doing is tinkering with the pages but not really writing the way I need to.
Writing long and deep is a sure way to get into the forest. I just need to find a space where I will not be constantly interrupted and where my back and shoulders won't hurt (the studio setup and space are okay for typing and painting but not so much for handwriting). I also would like some natural daylight, if it isn't too much to ask.
I have added categories to Stories. There are a few bits and pieces I plan to add to the collection in the coming days.
I am almost at two hundred pieces, taking full inventory of my artwork. Also keeping track of what's included in the website gallery, what's sold, what's made available as prints and products. I've resurrected a few older pieces. The Garden is revived -- new designs in Society6 and Redbubble shops, and as previously mentioned a very updated Etsy.
But the Garden is only as good as the Wildforest, which needs its own tending of a different kind. it's harder work. It's soul work. It's heart work. I want to bring more forest into the garden. More savage and wild alongside the safe and sweet. More dares and provocations beside inspirations of peace and calm.
Yesterday I rediscovered an old piece buried among the last unsorted bag of clutter. I added a few details and now it's up at Etsy. She's a monster and yet her venom can also be a way to understanding. I have an uneasy relationship with her. She dwells within the narrow borders between the garden and the forest, always eager for an opening to slip into either places. Always ready to strike, disguised as hope or a beginning.
I'm staying resolute about keeping away from anything duty, even if it's studio work. Even social obligations. If it feels even slightly like a 'should', I am putting it off until Monday. Right now even making new bookmarks to replenish sold ones feels like a 'should'. So does writing that Commissions page in the website.
What I want is to create without the wishes and expectations of others hanging anywhere around me. (Make something more masculine. Make more products to make more money. Accept commissions and do them for the money even if they're not true to the heart of your art, even if you don't feel like doing it. Make affordable pieces so you can sell more. Don't make pieces that are too scary or weird or confusing.)
I now remember I need to put together an art portfolio to complete an application to participate in an Art Mart where I can sell my art. It feels a bit like a 'should' to me. And besides I don't think I'll have resources to make it to the April Art Mart schedule.
I want a Traveler's Notebook. And the pretty stuff that go with it.
I have finally started to let go (i.e. make available for purchase) of my Red Sun series, although I still have plans of making more pieces for that set.
Yesterday I completed an art supply run that was basically buying half-pans to update my colour palette. I refrained from any additional purchases because what I need to really do is make from the materials not just hoard them.
Today I am beginning to feel the fatigue of nonstop chores and errands since Saturday, which is another layer on top of the dayjob adulting that has barely paused since December. I want to take today off. No, I want to take the rest of the week off. Seriously. Maybe I will. This will be my only chance because after Easter the dayjob begins again.
I should be painting already, but sloughing off the crusted layers of daily life and duties to get to the heart of creating has been a full-time job in itself. The cauldron is cold. The fire needs to be stoked. But oh, this perpetual exhaustion! This neverending attendance to obligations and expectations!
Even the art shops carry their own demands away from the actual creation. Once again I am up the dead-end wall trying to be seen by the right kind of art lovers and buyers. There is progress, but so small and slow. Yet I persevere. Sometimes it doesn't make sense even to me why I bother. But then something reminds me why.
Last night I had a rather soul-shaking anxiety attack. I wished I would fall asleep and never wake up. But I woke up this morning. And here I am.
Sometimes I suspect it is just a loneliness speaking. And that eternal exhaustion.
All I know is that if I had not found the Wildforest then something would have gone very wrong, and many other things along with it.
Still here! And it's the Holy Week so most of the city folks have started the exodus to their provinces. My family is hardcore city folk so no provinces to visit (sadly also no fields of green to run in and carabaos to ride).
Dayjob duty was left on the doorstep when I came home last Friday. I thought it would be an easy slip into the wildforest but I was wrong. First there was the mess that was still the leftover from the last pop-up that I had to put aside because the dayjob was cruel and grueling. Layer that with the mess of the dayjob itself -- piles of paper and the chaos of frantic efforts to find missing supplies and the occasional tantrum of frustration when no one's looking. Second was the list of life chores and errands put on hold for weeks that need tending to -- grocery shopping, updating bills, reviving the art shops, cleaning up and decluttering long neglected home spaces.
So the first three days of my supposed break from work was still work. And it looks like it's still spilling over today, the fourth day.
I had to grit my teeth and go through a long tedious process of putting all my art shops in order. There are the online shops (Etsy, Society6, Redbubble) and then there's the small setup at home that people can visit and purchase from directly. Since I do not have large inventories I must keep track of what's sold, what needs to be printed again, etc. I need to have price labels so my mom can tend to the shop even when I'm not around. I have to fix the display wall.
I've freshened up and been updating this website especially the artwork gallery -- each piece that is available leads to a shop link. I've uploaded new designs in both Society6 and Redbubble (there are designs shared by both but many are exclusive to each). I've started a week-long sale in my Etsy shop with new and selected listings.
Local buyers : if there is anything you're interested in or if you have queries, please leave a message here.
For everyone, please visit and check out the following:
REDBUBBLE has apparel, scarves, hardbound journals, drawstring bags, and acrylic blocks which Society6 does not have yet. I've activated selected apparel for selected designs.
Click here to visit the Redbubble shop.
SOCIETY6 has been uploaded with selected designs that won't be available in Redbubble.
Click here to visit the Society6 shop.
My ETSY shop is on sale, with most items at 10% off, until April 2, 2018. (Image above shows prices in Php but should be in your own currency when viewed on your device.)
I've listed new items that include original art, bookmarks, and colouring pages. Will be listing note cards and art print postcards soon.
Click here to visit the Etsy shop.
I'm writing another post on other updates so come back for that!
I’m getting things done. I promise. I swear. It’s just that there is a lot and I have very limited resources. But I am moving, and I am making, and so far I am a safe distance from the borders of total despair. My heart is heavy but it beats. It loves anyway.
Some are already sold. Some are still available. If you are interested in any piece, send me a message.
My life, particularly in the aspect of work and making a life and a living, is in a kind of tough transition. This is the part where I’m in the middle of the tightrope and there is no safety net beneath instead there are hungry sharptoothed creatures. And my legs are tired and my arms are slippery with the balancing rod. And my heart is hammering like it wants to push me to fall. There is no hushed crowd, only my hushed hopes.
Things will be extremely mad until about the middle of April as artshop work and dayjob battle for my precious hours and energy.
It is the weekend before my birthday and today the second day of the Manila Biennale Art Market. Yesterday there was a bit of a glitch with the event (some form of force majeure) and as a consequence I'll get an extra market day on the 25th.
Still, there were a few interesting folks I encountered, including a young lady whose work has something to do with agriculture and is interested in having a short interview with me about my fantastical plants and insects. The stickers were the popular ones, followed by the notebooks with handpainted covers, and the small blank art-printed note cards.
Since I was sick for all of Friday due to the overexhaustion from dayjob on Thursday, I now have just three days left to finish preparations for the Chinese New Year Market next weekend. I have a long waiting line of original pieces waiting to be finished, plus I need to replenish whatever stationery will be sold from the Biennale. Thus I'll be crossing over from my old year to my new year at a run, doing work that I have been shaping to turn into a full life. This is a good sign. There is indeed more hope than I would ever allow myself to hold.
A ruined start on a Monday can bode ill for the rest of the week.
Today I woke up with a heavy feeling that I poured into a poem so it won’t spill and mess up an already difficult day.
Today’s undercurrent is a haunting.
I tiptoed around the studio, as if not wanting to wake any monster. Mostly I was trying not to stir up anything related to the dayjob, as if keeping quiet and careful could repel incoming emails.
I did what I’ve been meaning to do for the past weeks— start on the book for real. And once I did an experimental page everything else started to flow into place. Now it’s going to be a matter of sustaining the momentum and not losing the thread.
Dayjob things stirred after lunch but I gritted my teeth and got things done. Then I plotted the rest into the next two days with a reasonable tolerable pace.
I finished one painting.
I took a break. Wrote this post. Afterwards I will do the gold ink embellishments on the art prints. And make ten bookmarks. I’ll try not to sigh too much. I’ll try not to wonder if I crossed the mind of no one in particular.
The weather today is rainy and grey. Melancholy-coloured. A few more shades of dark blue and it could be a horror suspense episode of something definitely supernatural.
So in a couple of weeks I'll be at the Manila Biennale Open Market. The Biennale holds a special meaning for me, given my own strange viewing of the world and my life. It's not so much this Biennale but the idea of a Biennale. Because way back towards the end of 2016, when I was on the edge of an abyss of seemingly unsurvivable despair, I was caught and saved by a story that had a Biennale in it. The main character was a late-blooming artist. And of course it was a love story that taught me so much of how I could be a better person -- not necessarily for another person but first of all for myself. That story taught me about clarity and courage -- in art, in being an artist, in being in love, in daily life.
Hence when this chance to be in a Biennale came, even if as an art merchant rather than an art exhibitor, I could not let it pass. Especially since the coming of that chance was opened up by a series of events that had also remapped my life since November -- when all the hard daily small work of five years has finally reached a tipping point that gave my creative journey much-needed momentum. (My forever gratitude to Mitch EV who believed in my work and gave me that first crucial opportunity to Show Up in a significant way.)
I think being in a Biennale now marks a full circle -- for certainly the person who was saved then is now capable of inspiring others through her own art and stories. It feels good to be able to do my own turn.
This morning I received an invite for a Chinese New Year market and this is another circle coming around. It will be at BGC where I had the most promising sales and widest exposure, and also the place where a certain Story popped up like a weed. And I think going back there especially with the new year theme, and right after my birthday which means it is also a personal new year for me, is very fitting. (I'll be wearing my mithril armour beneath my dress, to protect against wayward arrows.)
I've submitted my forms and paid the fees so I'm just waiting for the confirmation email. This doubles my shop tasks on top of dayjob tasks for the next three weeks but I'd rather kill myself doing this than just letting it go because I have dayjob schedules -- now that would be a real tragedy.
The Biennale and the Chinese New Year pop-up perfectly book-ends my birthday (which is on Dia De Los Corazones Muertos). Endings and beginnings. Cycles and circles, with labyrinths and mazes inside.
Today I'm keeping to my promise to myself and taking myself to the movies and a nice meal. I'll be watching Maze Runner: The Death Cure (I like Newt and Minho), go to a Korean or Japanese restaurant, browse the book shops, and then hang out in a cafe with my journal and sketchbook. If I were very practical I would not push through because funds are tighter than ever with the second pop-up preps happening. But then, if I were practical I would not have signed up for the second pop-up in the first place. Yet I just wrote in a previous post how my daily life is always a gamble of some sort, and I guess I'm keeping to that spirit for a while.
I'm still exhausted but I'm moving. I'm not staying still, not now, not yet. The urge is to move. Even when I am fueled by smoke. There's going to be a rest stop somewhere ahead. But not here. Not now.
Today is better than the days before. So far it seems so. At the very least I won't have to expend energy standing by for dayjob duty which in itself adds to the severity of my fatigue.
Tomorrow, despite my severe shortage of funds, I will take myself to a movie (if not me, who will?). Because I want to see Maze Runner. And I want to eat a nice meal in a Japanese or Korean restaurant. That'll set me back about $20 (but if not me, who will?)
I hope but I won't wait. I'll keep moving. I'll be in the forest. You all know where to find me. As to how, well, perhaps that's another story.
I'm posting a Story after this blog post. A fragment. A rattling that needs to be quieted.
I've been making a lot of new Things. I'm also beginning to realise that my one-woman-production setup is lagging behind the slowly increasing interest and demand for products. I may need to start rethinking how to work the balance between shop work and full heart work. The shop work is essentially production and reproduction. Full heart work is the creation of originals and the shaping of the Stories. Full heart work is the books and the poetry and the storymaking. Shop work is the translation of the heart work into the boons that can be shared with the world -- the crucial significant step after every mythical journey, the closing of the circle into new ones. Shop work is more tiring and tedious because it deals with the messes and brokenness of real life and the world. Shop work is weighed down by rules. Shop work is about tangibles. It is the tricky dance with gravity and the senses. The other side of creation is meaning. Meaning-making is harder when the language you speak contains too many strange words.
But it is good if what worries me now is being able to keep up with demand. It means people are looking. People are curious. Hearts are stirred. Hearts want.
There is an unnamed Thing tugging at me and I can't stop moving even though my mind constantly sends me a barrage of reasons to stop even for just a while. Maybe I'm just being superstitious. Maybe it's pre-birthday blues or some kind of remnant of an old reflex of an old self kicking up at this time of the year.
I am tired. I can't stop saying it because I am. But last night I wrote this:
I’m filling all the empty spaces
In an hour or so I'll be stepping out to go to the bank to deposit payment for the booth fee for the Open Market at the Manila Biennale.
Since Monday I've already put myself on full prep mode for the art market because there's a LOT to get done and I am on my own.
On top of that I have dayjob projects that I still have to do to -- although recently this has taken an experimental turn and I am now exploring being the lesser half of a pair (meaning I'm letting go of the master control and instead playing more of a supportive role -- which means I can claim back more hours for the studio. It also means less income but eventually if I'm able to do more studio and shop work, the sales and shops can cover for the difference.)
But right now I am in that tough phase of everything happening all at once. And I'm feeling the fatigue creeping beneath my skin.
Studio work has never been this solid and real -- I literally have projects lined up and all are potential for many good things.
These are just the more immediate ones, those I aim to accomplish in one way or another within the year.
My social media looks like an ideal life but we all know that's only the surface of things. Right now my funds are tight as I go into investment mode for the art market. My daily life is a gamble. My heart is always in a gamble.
I feel like I am perpetually exhausted and I am forever longing for the kind of comfort that has always, always eluded me. Maybe because I'm too unlike what most people would expect. Because I am too risky, difficult, unpredictable, just a little bit too strange and wild. But even wild things would like to be embraced from time to time.
This morning on my wake-up walk I found a song in the forest, caught on a tree as the Blue Heart Boy passed by during the night.
And I took it for a sign. Because this doesn't happen often. My main daily soundtrack is silence (to better hear the whispers of the stones and trees and sky and water), and when music and songs come in and break through they are usually a herald of Something, a message, a clue. When I start making a Playlist that's a significant thing. And when this song came today, small tokens fell onto the blank page -- seeds of words and stories and sketches.
I was born Valentine's Day so I'm getting ready for my New Year.
I was informed that I got a space in the art market at the first ever Manila Biennale, which is supposed to happen on Feb 10-11, which should be a wonderful event to close the old year. Just waiting for the official advisory so I can start officially with the announcements on where and when. Meanwhile I've started preparations for putting together the items to sell.
I want to sell more originals so I'm working on small ones as well as medium-sized ones. The warm-ups are going well, so far. There is still the hassle of dayjob duties but at least they are somewhat at a more flexible phase now. I'm also exploring new ways of doing the dayjob with a friend and fellow-freelancer so I just might be able to finally find that best balance to juggle the dayjob with the artist/writer work.
I've been very strict with my own expenses so I could channel more funds to the making -- especially making the books for publishing, and making new art pieces, and improving the shops. Yesterday, though, I was ambushed by the books as I finally pushed through with a much-delayed Artist Date. However I have no regrets because they are going to be very helpful for the work I have plotted ahead. Rather expensive compost but I can already tell and feel they will be so worth the price I paid and more.
My effort to take stock of my available materials at least saved me from buying what I really don't need to buy now, and the savings went into the book budget. I also was very deliberate when I bought paints and only got what I needed most immediately.
The poems have been flowing and lately they've been taking a direction I haven't gone into before. I overheard one of my selves comment on the poems: Well said. Spoken like a powerful curse. And even that felt like the beginnings of yet another poem.
So the writings are coming from many threads now, and they seem to be thriving in the Wildforest where they seem to have found their footing/rooting. (My poem seeds and fragments are in my Twitter -- see the feed update on the right column of this blog.)
I was told recently (through the murmurings of fallen leaves) that the 14th of February is not just my birthday but also Dia De Los Corazones Muertos. The Story for that will come up soon in Stories. Meanwhile, I found myself making bouquets for offerings, which essentially opens up a series of works on this theme of the Day of the Dead Hearts. I can already feel the turnings within the graves. I can also begin to see the candles lighting up one by one.
This morning I was able to Garden and a gathering of wildflowers came. I believe these offerings are as much for me and my still-unfolding story, as for the stories that have passed away, waiting for their celebration and remembrance next month.
I had so much planned and set out for the week starting today.
But I had insomnia last night and I was able to sleep only around 3AM. I was puzzled, to be honest, because I had no immediate worries that would have normally kept me awake, and I had tired myself out the whole day with various productive tasks. (I briefly imagined it was because someone, anyone, was restlessly thinking of me and missing me... but I was too tired to laugh.)
I got up the usual early morning (in my book that would be any time before 9AM) despite my late sleep. But after lunch I started feeling a little unwell and had to take myself to bed. Then I fell asleep for four hours straight and had such vivid dreams like those that visit at night. When I woke up I have a migraine, and I feel storm-battered inside.
So maybe I should just rest the rest of the day. The most productive thing I’ll do is read (and catch up on my asian dramas). And write in my journal. And daily checklist. That’s all. I promise. I really do need to be in full energy mode to move my mountains. I need to move my mountains to heal my ever broken heart.
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. 😊
It's a remarkable significant feeling. The worst is over. Of that one particular broken story. The Wildforest has taken me through the worst, kept me together, gathered my broken selves. The magic remains true. The magic becomes ever stronger. I will not carry any sadness into my new year. I will indeed celebrate Dia De Los Corazones Muertos and bring forth a creation to balance all the heart deaths that have ever hounded me.
This time one year ago, I wrote this poem (which will soon be part of a collection that I will publish soon):
One year after, I have faces and names, I have had the hard truths and the silent battles that raged -- invisible skirmishes that fatally wounded. I have quelled the wildfires, stemmed the floods, though there will always be devastations. Ruins to be rebuilt or left to rest in peace and in pieces.
One year after, a month before my very own new year of life, I am at the ending of a tale that is also a beginning. I spiral to the start, everything is the same yet everything is changed. Rules are remade, they will be broken again and again. Love will show up in its many tricky guises. I will continue to be brave, and love anyway.
It was a no-dayjob-work day yesterday, so I was really in a good mood when I woke up in the morning. I made progress in fixing the tiny studio (which has gained some extra space after a few pieces of furniture were moved about and also because I sold my fridge that was the last object of my long-past independent condo living).
I got to write a full entry in my journal which naturally allowed it to talk back to me:
I got to print all my index card notes for the smallpoemstorybook that has been titled "Blue Heart Boy & Impossible Love Stories", in the process of which I found I have more than enough to come up with two books, the second titled "The Graves of Possibilities", which was already hinted at by my recent entry in Stories that bubbled up from the swamp of memories.
I got to finish the large painting I started on Christmas eve. This one is titled "Kintsugi". Oh, the sheer joy of finally getting to paint!
Following the flow, I set up a larger blank board for my next big painting. But I'll also be working simultaneously with small and medium ones on the other painting table.
I finally got to start putting together my belated tokens for my patrons and the tribe. Discovered I will have to do a mini-production run because a lot of items I have been meaning to gift were actually sold out over the holidays even after the pop-ups (there were many separate requests and orders through direct messages in social media). I haven't even started on reviving my Etsy for 2018 yet.
Today I will draft something for the Sketchbook Project and also draft something for Blue Heart Boy.
Yesterday I sent a nervous application for a booth at the art market at the Manila Biennale. It's a bit of an ambitious move because I'll be exposing my work to a supposedly more discerning market. I also plan to avail of a day-pass to see the exhibits themselves, learn new things, maybe fall into a few serendipitous encounters. I remember now, one of the best advice that got me to where I am now: Keep Showing Up.
I had to turn down an invitation to join a bazaar this month because of dayjob work conflict. But I am considering taking on another invitation to share and teach art skills in an art event -- still waiting for details and if the offer is still on because the message was stuck in the hidden inbox of my Instagram and it's a week old.
Today I was touched by a thoughtful tagged post in Twitter that made me feel I am not invisible after all.
I finished reading my first book towards my Goodreads Reading Challenge. The reading groove is definitely totally back (I lost it halfway through last year because for a while no book could get through to me -- I realise it could be because a book was trying to come out... The content of Blue Heart Boy was begun in July and for the rest of the year was a period of eruption, like a centuries-quiet volcano finally losing its temper. The drafts for Stories were also spewed out within that time.)
Today I might go on an Artist Date -- or maybe I'll go tomorrow. Let's see how the day unfolds.
I feel a bit bad about not being able to do any creative thing last night and the night before because I was so tired.
Yesterday morning I purchased these books for consolation.
I've started reading both, as well as made progress on Sabriel which I might finish tonight because, oh joy, I won't have to work tomorrow (although tons of personal and studio errands have piled up and must be done then).
The dayjob will ease a bit in the coming week as the sessions that require me to travel to the toxically congested business district (and which is causing me unreasonable ridiculous transport expenses) will end for a period while the project goes into fieldwork mode. My role will be more as support than main so I'll be working from home.
It was a really good and lucky thing then that the deadline for the Sketchbook Project was moved to April because I will only get to seriously start on it this weekend.
By next week I should be able to go to the post office to send out my tokens for patrons and tribe. (Which means this weekend I should finish all the reprinting and packing -- I will have to reprint items that were sold out but which I had planned to give as tokens.)
I got an extra hour reprieve today. We start at the office one hour later than the usual. Now I no longer regret the extra half hour I snoozed after the alarm went off.
I almost feel celebratory that today is my last dayjob workday for the week so I'm thinking about taking myself to dinner but then I'm also thinking I should maybe just put that dinner money into that very large canvas from Craft Carrot. (Sometimes this either/or day-to-day can get tiring. And I think it's quite depressing that I can't have both yet I can easily lose/not get both. I can't have everything but I can have nothing. And then layer on the complication of somehow always being the one not chosen. I mean, no one even wants to have me...)
Alright, small side rant over. It's too early morning and I'm only halfway through my coffee...
I'll do a brighter blog post next. I promise!
This was an almost in 2017 but I intend to make it true by 2018. There is more than enough material, inspired and seeded particularly during the latter half of last year. I only need the munny funds to get the book itself over that final hurdle of getting printed.
Last night the title came to me and I wrote it down this morning.
This morning I also thumbed through my file folder of printed poems and marked some for possible inclusion in the book. I am pleasantly surprised to see the Stories of the Impossible Garden & The Wildforest starting even way before I even recognised them. It has been a long and slow growth that is only showing its leaves, flowers, and fruits now. For many years there have only been bare hard thorned branches.
Currently I am unable to do proper studio work because of dayjob work, and the dayjob work has been taking too much from me. There really has to be a better way of making munny by doing something I love instead of simply doing default.
Just today I only did about three and a half ours of dayjob in an office but they were hard and intense and not just a little stressful. Traffic was back to normal which meant bad so I spent an hour on the road going home. When I got home I had an early dinner because the work took a particularly heavy toll and right after I fell asleep for two hours. Up again to resume whatever's left of the evening but I'm only just half-awake and feeling painfully exhausted. I want to do a number of things but I am exhausted. I still have to wake up early tomorrow to do work at home for the whole of the morning in preparation for another hard and intense afternoon work session in an office.
I can't read or even stay alert enough for a drama episode. My eyes fall asleep. I stayed up late last night to finish the slides for the work because one part of it took a chunk of time to get done, and yesterday I insisted on reclaiming a few hours of the morning to have a proper journal writing time which pushed the dayjob task in the afternoon and well into the very late evening. There is just no way of peaceful and fair co-existence for the art and the dayjob. And art often gets the short end of the stick.
But I like to believe that given recent turns of events I may be able to further fix how I do my dayjob, until such time that I won't have to do it anymore because the art and the writing will cover the munny-making too.
I should revive my Patreon campaign and reactivate the shops -- all part of studio work that I couldn't get into at the moment because of dayjob! Aaaaaagh!
Alright, my eyes are shutting down on me so I'll end this. But do mark this day when I promised a book in 2018 -- even if I have to home-print the first few copies myself!
Oh dearest gods, I am home and it is FRIDAY. I am finally home and will be for the next three days at least (although I have to do dayjob work on Monday but at least it will be at home). The waking-up early and getting dressed up and reporting for work in an office for too many consecutive days have begun to really wear me out.
With barely any real break I survived through the holiday pop-ups, then an intense dayjob week just before Christmas and then all the busy-ness of Christmas & New Year and straight to another intense dayjob week as soon as January 2 peeked in. I have one more week of reporting for office work and then the rest of January will mostly be (hopefully) work-at-home but the tasks will be no less intense as I'll likely be allotting a minimum of 8 hours per workday.
Studio work has been on full stop and it's been chafing at me. At least I did manage to launch Stories (do check it out if you haven't already) and I've managed to post something new everyday since its Day 1.
Writing was easier to slip in than painting so on a positive note I did get to write something everyday. My Twitter is probably the closest to the behind-the-scenes of where my art is rooted, the less polished expressions, occasional spontaneous outpourings, more raw but no less true, more vulnerable but no less brave. I actually do not share much of my Twitter posts on other social media as I treat it more like a cauldron and green house of ideas and projects, not yet for full public consumption and promotion. Many of my poetry see first light there. The anonymous audience is a perfect "other" to tell and share certain Things with, without having to worry about getting tiresome or burdensome as I would with people I know and who know me.
Another good note: I've gotten reading back into the daily routine. I'm currently on:
I'm itching to get back to shop work. My Etsy needs a full update on products, and I also need to make more products. Today I read a message inviting me to participate in a week-long bazaar (up North again) but it's going to be within the dayjob project period so I'll see if I can at least maybe just do selected days (although the preparations will likely kill me on top of the dayjob tasks).
2018 has been okay so far. I'm looking forward to tomorrow when I meet up with a friend to see Star Wars (and really looking forward to see Kylo Ren...) and also eager for the catch-up conversation after (with food). I'll probably tuck in an Artist Date after IF we don't end up forgetting about time.
Other things I hope to get to do this weekend:
If you look up at the main menu above you'll notice a link to STORIES.
What are they?
STORIES are what happen in the Impossible Garden & the Wildforest. They are the overheard conversations, the gossip of the flowers and the trees, the fragments written on bones and stones. They are the secrets whispered by the wind, the tales of the stars, the knowledge earned or traded with the forest dwellers. They are the fairy tales that had been forgotten or never told. They are the rules and the history and how they are repeatedly broken and rewritten. They are the murmurings of magic, the language of hidden love, the wildness beneath every order and the pattern beneath every chaos. They are truths and they are lies and in the end they are real to those who have the heart to see.
What can you expect?
Poems. Snippets of beginnings, middles, and endings. Conversations. Expect the logic and sequence of dreams. A lot of tangles as well as a lot of loose ends. Seeds and bones and questions. Oblique answers. Ramblings and meanderings. Unsent letters. Secrets. Spells and curses. Dreamtellings. The occasional prophecy. Glimpses and clues. Light and shadows. May not always be agreeable or pleasant. Lots of magic, certainly.
So "real life" here in the blog and true life in Stories. At some point portions of the Stories will be gathered into illustrated / handlettered books so that will be something to look forward to. All Stories are original and from my own direct experience as a dweller and keeper of the Garden and the Wildforest. All my art are inspired by the Garden and the Wildforest, and often my art and my stories will merge. This is the way of Things and the way of my creation.
The voices in Stories are not always mine. Sometimes my fellow forest dwellers will speak. Sometimes I will merely write down what I have been told. It should not matter. The Stories are all true, they all come from a true place and a true heart.
Read on at the risk of believing in magic and the impossible. May you find favour among the odd.
I'm sick. The works : colds, cough, headache, and a fever that's been trying to get a foothold, slowly inching into me, burning up resistance as it goes. I gave up trying to be valiant and productive, and went to bed after lunch.
This morning I've printed out most of the notecards for the smallstorypoembook. It's well over two hundred notes. But each note/page is mostly a few lines of poetry, and some illustrations. The whole book is a love letter of sorts, addressed to absent persons who are really just one person, who is still an unknown stranger, wandering in the parts of the wildforest where I have yet to lay claim and power. It's heartwork, this smallstorypoembook. It cannot be put aside to wait. It has to be made. It has to be.
I'm exhausted by Duty. As always. I have dayjob work to do that I could not do with the little time left to me for the holiday break. I may have to spend my first day of the New Year doing the dayjob work. Or if I'm still too sick then I will just have to find another way to get it done.
But despite my state now, my heart is fortified. A friend posted a question on his timeline: what is your takeaway from 2017?
Be brave, and love anyway.
And in my Twitter feed I threw out a challenge for the new year:
I dare you
The Stendhal reference is from something I picked up in Helen Oyeyemi's book of short stories. It was mentioned that according to Stendhal (a French writer from the early 1800s), it takes about one year and a half to fall in love.
I wrap up this last entry of 2017 with a quote from Paulo Coehlo. I'm going back to bed. I'll see you next year.
I have a lot of Stories to tell.
But right now I am about to begin my third and last pop-up for the year, and right after that I have to do one last dayjob hurrah for the year so --
I will be able to start telling the Stories just before Christmas. Possibly on the very eve of it.
Clues? You want a preview? Well, let's see.
I made this new signage for my pop-up shop which captures a direction that my art is exploring (and that opens up a whole new acre of Garden that tangles up with the Wildforest).
Two recent pieces echo this.
And which actually grew from having to make a lot of bookmarks that carry the seeds of this storytelling. And which was also further impressed by the serendipitous finding of a secondhand copy of Frida Kahlo's biography (from the first pop-up) and watching (and being enchanted by the scenes of) Coco (an unexpected occasion as I was trying to puzzle through an unexpected thing from the second pop-up). (Yes, the pop-ups turned out to be extremely eventful.)
So here I am on the third pop-up. So much changed. If I time-travelled to the point of Before which was Before The First Pop-Up I would not even be able to begin to imagine the breadth and depth of all these Possibilities now at hand. I will tell that Story soon, on how I crossed the borders of Before & After.
Here's another preview.
I started a series of paintings. The first one is titled Lovestruck. It is another exploration of another path in the Garden, and I feel that this path will meet with the other, and the Wildforest will feel the rumble of deeper magic awakening.
I've also written a whole chapbook-worthy set of poems, closely related to the Lovestruck series. The only thing I can say about this is this: the seeds for these poems were only possible because I said Yes to one thing that led to another and another and another.
It's a bit of a mess really. A beautiful terrible mess.
Alright. I have to go for now.
Let me close this post with a quote.
The other day I found out that my garden home has sprouted moth wings, and that it has raven's feet.
Which was a timely evolution because The Impossible Garden & the Wildforest now uproot themselves to claim territory.
Next weekend, far into the northern part of the metrocity, the Garden will display its blooms. For the first time (not counting last year's very small stint where we got dismissed as merely playing at arting and crafting), I will be taking the heart-fire with me to be seen. Not just a sampling, not just a suggestion. I'm going for unapologetic declaration of existence.
For details on this event please visit the event page.
I'll be selling, yes. But I have to set my sights beyond the financial rewards (though direly needed) and make the most of the intangible chances to plant the wildforest wherever possible.
The past week has been a whirlwind of planning and preparations. This week is all-out chaos.
The pressure is multiplied by my sending in an application for another event at the end of the month. I was thinking, make the most of the investments by doing more than one show.
The divine and the devil are in the details.
This particular path in my journey has cornered me into making all the small decisions that need making that I have been putting off for one reason or another including "surely that's not going to make much of a difference today" and "I want to do something more dramatic".
Yet the lesson is that the dramatic is reached through the build-up of seemingly small, weak, inconsequential, insignificant steps. Then you realise that the steps may be small but also strong, consequential, and significant.
I was also holding back at first on the "investments". But if I hold back just because of fears of not having enough munny means I'm thinking, even believing, that the munny would be wasted and would not bring back anything of any value. It also means I am restraining the full blooming of the Garden. It means I will not be as true as I claim I want to be.
This whole process took days, weeks. The epiphanies were not fireworks but solitary fireflies on a dark night that I just happen to look out the window, easily missed if I was not paying attention.
Every day there were decisions and choices. Every day there were doubts. Every day I saw on social media how everyone else was simply doing the safe and straight and secure thing and my thoughts would turn to how I cannot even be certain of meeting next month's rent. I would start imagining going back to employed work and the cycle of my body getting physically sick begins at the mere suggestion.
Then I will flail around in that dark abyss of eternal doubt and fear until my hands find my heart and grasp the tender branches growing there and I begin to smell the scent of flowers and I realise that in the abyss I am held by the roots of the forest. And all I had to do was breathe deeply and stop struggling and let the trees bring me back.
Possibly a consequence of suddenly finding rest and refuge in the act of painting without ulterior motives.
The long sleep brought me a dream story about a person who became what he needed. He was beautiful and strange and filled with so many secrets. In the dream story he was my closest friend and he was also the farthest. I was the one who protected his becoming from the onslaught of Things that would destroy him. And then when he was all that he ever wanted I braced myself to let him go. I had no claim and I hid my own secrets. In the dream story I painted gigantic canvases of deep forests. I hid my own dreams of him among the trees. I hid among the flowers. I scattered a trail of seeds and bread crumbs. Because loose ends and loopholes sometimes are the toeholds of divine interventions, or cosmic jokes. Either way it was the only thing I could do. My own heart is mute and terrified in the din of its own desires. I am all wrong. I am not worthy. I am every shade of mistake.
I woke up thinking I need to buy envelopes for the newly-printed blank cards. And that I should get the cash from the bank for paying the electric bill, and the cable bill, and the internet bill. The morning is long gone. I started calculating the hours I have left for all the tasks that need doing. My mouth started craving for coffee.