This day last week I celebrated my birthday. And by that I mean I really did allow myself to celebrate it. Just my birthday. Nothing to do with the fact that it was also Valentine's Day. It was just my day. And it was the one thing I kept missing out on for the past many years of my adult life. Because I had often been too carried away by the Valentine part, pressured by my own and other people's expectations and moulded by media and marketing. This year it sank in, finally, that there are two separate things and I am not obliged to take them as a package. Yes, that was a long time sinking in.
I have felt a definite shift in energy this year. Like something falling into place to set other things in motion. Another chapter beginning like in other previous years, but this one more marked than usual.
I cannot tell you the one thing that made it happen because it is a series of processes. But perhaps what I can tell you is that the most crucial process of my lifetime so far that led to now -- was when I stepped out of all expectations and started defining things on my own terms. By this I mean not forcing others to take my point of view, but simply living by example, if it can be called that. I have been told I have inspired others, I am happy to hear it. But I am not preaching nor prescribing. This is simply what worked for me, what made a difference in my life that is now both more and less ideal.
That particular moment when my current life took its own path away from my old one was when I decided that I am an artist, and began to shape my life accordingly.
It took me a while to realise and accept that the change will affect everything. Down to the smallest details of my everyday life. I thought at first it would be like revising bits here and there. No, it was a square one, total blank page beginning, with maybe a few tokens of random wisdom from the old life. The whole structure of how I live and why had to change.
This new odd difficult life poses questions that have no satisfying standard answers. I can only answer from my own experience. I cannot say that my process will work for all or for anyone at all.
Since my new year began, I started the draft of a book, painstakingly putting it together by hand. I write in my journal and draw in my sketchbook everyday. I've found my reading groove again. I am painting a lot of new pieces. I'm showing up more often in the tribe community again. I have new music playlists (one of the ultimate signs that the magic is flowing well and strongly). I am showing up where I can carry the Impossible Garden with me to spread the seeds of story and magic.
But behind this seemingly idyllic artist life is a heap of harsh realities. I feel a little bit more tired than usual because this is not a first year of explorations and experimentation with its novelty but a third year with its growing baggage of failures. Putting out fires every single day. Fighting through the defaults and the mundane. Battling with regret and resentment. Disappointments layered upon ever bigger disappointments. I've had many nights when I wished I would not make it into the morning. How much help can one ask for? How to justify asking for help in the first place? How many can comprehend the why of the decisions I have made for my life? How do I even begin to explain why I can no longer be what I used to be, or why I even needed to change?
Today I will juggle day job tasks with studio tasks. Used to be that I would totally push aside the art to do the dayjob. Now my routine has evolved (and finally without the feeling of enormous guilt) into something like : Start the day with studio, do the day job in the afternoon to early evening, late evening with studio. Before that I would give day job the prime spot of early morning until early afternoon which would usually leave me too exhausted for anything else after. (My secret dream is to find a day job more attuned to who and what I am now -- such as a job in a library, bookstore, museum, or book publishing house...)
What's especially new this year is that I find myself surprisingly calm. I am never calm. I may look calm but I am a catastrophe inside. But now my outside calm is actually reflective of a strange inner calm. Maybe this is temporary. Maybe this is a calm before a storm. Maybe I will break down in one way or another in some near future.
In reality, everything is shaky and uncertain at the moment, heart-in-throat tension, broken-heart kind of despair.
I was in some kind of college theatre club. And for some reason I was part of an audition. I had two male actors to work with on a scene and they, too, were auditioning for the parts. There were maybe half a dozen similar groups. But everything felt something like a magic school training test instead. Each group was given its scene to practice. Each group member was given his or her song -- except that the song had to be deciphered from a puzzle. My song was fragments of a poem hidden in an old manuscript that had drawings and marginalia -- very Nick Bantock, with the exception that the manuscript was magical and the text moved around. I had to find the words and memorise them before they shape-shifted on the page. Somehow I found a way to write it all down on another piece of paper. And then that piece of paper got seized by magic and would not stay still in my pocket. The auditions began, our group was last. As our turn neared, I was still chasing the piece of paper because the words were slipping from my mind. My group was able to practice a few times though, and strangely enough, and because it was a dream, I could sing. My voice was loud and strong and when it sang the magic song small things happened around us like a spell. Like colours appearing in swirling patterns in the air, or strange flowers peeking where they shouldn't be.
Then it was our turn to perform, and my mind was blank. But from nowhere there were half-invisible beings who whispered things to me. And instead of singing I was presented by the panel with a multiple choice quiz. I was placed before a closed window, and beyond the translucent glass were the two actors from my group waiting (and cheering) for me to pass each question (there were three).
The quiz was on paper similar to the old manuscript. I had to literally pin down the answer. And I saw that among the multiple choices were the seeming gibberish words that were whispered to me just before, and I realised the beings were telling me the answers. As I picked a correct answer, the window opened, and one of the actors (who was suddenly beginning to remind me of someone disturbingly familiar -- disturbing because he looked too much like one of the sketches in my notebook...) handed me what looked like paper money that was also a ticket to something or somewhere. I answered the second question and the second window opened and the other actor (again looking like someone I knew -- like someone I read in a book) handed me a similar token. I realised I was only given two answers and had no idea how to answer the last question. But I was told I only needed to get two out of three to pass, so the last question was taken back, and I was allowed to pass through the third window to join my two companions.
And then I was told by one of them that everything was a test for something else. That they needed me to unlock a magic that no one else could access. That because I passed, I am now responsible for that magic to use it to help their cause -- because, as to be expected, they are not fully of this world but need to be both here and wherever their "there" is. Already as we were speaking, the magic was leaking from my fingers and causing the very air to shimmer, and there were strange things growing on the ground and the walls, and the sky was a certain shade of blue. One of them reached out a hand to mine and the magic flowed to him and his edges became sharper, and I felt the magic binding him in some way and he was letting it.
Then I woke up.
I barely broke even at this year's first pop-up hahaha! However, there was something else more important that happened. You see, in my many years here on this earth that's currently struggling to regain and reclaim its old magics, I've come to realise that the things that happen that we pay attention to are not always the main things. Sometimes we are actually distracted, looking not exactly at the wrong things but the less important things. It's like when we have just one expectation from one thing, or when we believe or assume that events will or should only turn out a certain way to be considered a good thing.
We make plans, of course. Everyday is a balancing act between order and chaos, within our own lives and in relation to the spaces we live in. But plans go awry, often through circumstances beyond our control.
On the first day of the pop-up, everything was slow. There weren't much people. I sold a few small things. But my mom gave me money for dinner as an extra birthday treat. If not for that I would have gone without a meal and just waited to get home to eat. If not for that I would not have discovered how very delicious the meals are in this nice Korean restaurant across the street. Service was excellent and for a few minutes while waiting for my take-out order I got to rest in a quiet place out of the relative heat of the outdoor market. The food was simple -- I only ordered gimbap (which came with four side dishes) -- but flavourful and generous. That meal sustained me through the rest of the evening and uplifted my mood. Last year I would have panicked already at selling so little. I'm still behind on rent and a couple of monthly bills. But it felt like a waste to worry after such a heart-full meal.
The second day, which was yesterday, the road traffic was horrible. We inched our way along. We had planned as the previous day to set up early so we could get a nice spot. But the travel time took more than an hour, and it was less than half an hour to opening when we arrived. Fortunately we still got a good spot.
While caught in the middle of standstill traffic, I could have worried about losing a good spot, or gotten annoyed at the wasted time of preparing and leaving home early. I would have done that last year, especially knowing that there are often buyers who browse and shop even before the market officially opened. I had sold a painting that way once, having gained a head-start by being set-up and ready an hour before opening. But instead I turned up the volume on my Spotify and settled in for a light nap, daydreams weaving in and out of the music, trying out various permutations of possibilities -- of being invited to go to Japan with all expenses paid, of being sponsored by an anonymous art patron who would turn out to be a real blue-heart princeling, of being commissioned to make art for a music video or a book cover or an album cover, of being offered a day job sideline that is actually more related to my creative path and thus bring me closer and into the kind of social circles that would eventually pave the way into Japan... yes, we keep coming back to Japan. I want to go back to studying Nihongo.
The second day of the pop-up had more visitors but sales remained slow. But a lot of people took a card, and a lot lingered. I would have been disheartened halfway through the evening. Instead I wasn't. I could have started complaining internally and blaming the traffic and thinking it was a string of bad luck.
But instead I went around the market and connected with fellow artists especially those I've already met in other markets, and those I've met through Instagram. As the event drew to a close, there was this surprising exchange of gifts! Artists exchanging art, encouraging each other, happy for each other's journeys, and looking forward to meeting again. I didn't really have money to spare but I bought stickers that would be perfect for my journal and which I felt were seeds in disguise.
An artist (and her mother who is also an artist) whom I had met more than a year ago and who has become a very dear friend dropped by for my birthday with a gift, and there was a bit of catching up that passed the time with much heartwarming joy. There was a seed of a possibility that sprung up in the conversation, but it needs to ripen and we will wait. Things take time. And the time does not matter if it is meant, because it will happen eventually, and in the best and only way it will. Serendipities, synchronicities. Things that fall into place have been falling for a long time, seeking their destinations. The right place at the right time can only be found and navigated towards by a heart that is true and one that clings to hope.
Because of the previous night's satisfying meal, I decided to indulge in another meal from the same restaurant. This time I had the tteokbokki meal. Consistent excellent service and delicious food. Check them out here.
Despite coming up short on the financial rewards, the evening ended on a high note. With warm goodbyes that promised meeting again, with gratitude for the art foundation who made the event possible (Thank you BGC Art Mart!), with hope that next time it will be better. I'll show up again in March -- because in a dream from three to four years ago, I was told that I should keep showing up. The message came from a person, an artist, whom I have admired and have deep affection for. In the dream he said, "If you keep showing up, I will grow to love you."
So, I'll see you in March, maybe? I'll be on the lookout, as I've always been, for the signs and the clues. I know that the face you used in the dream is a mask. I know now that most things of the heart are not literal, but a language of symbols and myths and music and colours and poetry.
I'll just be pouring out thoughts today, in no particular order or purpose.
I'm thinking about seriously starting on posting videos - by this I mean videos on my creative process, materials, maybe a studio tour (which will be short and quick because my studio is tiny). Maybe it will help gain more views, generate more interest, find more people with whom the Stories resonate.
I need to expand reach and awareness of my work in order to be seen by those who would buy and support my art. I would like to join more pop-ups but the investment costs have become higher while the chances of breaking even have become lower. This year I'm sticking to the monthly Art Mart - it has very small crowds but the fees are low and I actually get better odds at selling something because it is specifically focused on selling art.
I need and want to make big pieces (larger than A3). This has been a lament for the past couple of years but big pieces take time and need materials. I will try to start one later today. There are at least three to four pieces ready to be poured into paper or canvas.
With my recent series of Garden work (which I suspect will migrate into the Forest eventually), I realise that a booklet/ chapbook that has been in slow (nearly glacial) progress is very much ready for more work and even for getting finished. I have the materials, I just need the chunky stretch of time to put into it, and by that I also mean not being weighed down by the nagging of bills to be paid. One thing that really slows me down with studio work is being paralysed by the oppressive worry and anxiety of not having enough funds. While the past eight years have been nothing short of a miraculous creative existence, the day-to-day has often been wrought with mental and emotional pains.
I realise I may have become utterly unemployable in the traditional sense. As I go deeper into my Forest and Garden I become more feral and impossible to cage. I have to rethink every single thing about earning day job income. The ideal, of course, is for the art shop to be my main income source but we all know that will take time that I am not even certain I could afford (and will likely have to go in debt for).
I've been headache-y yesterday and today. The long insomnia curse (that started in early December) has finally lifted and now I am constantly pulled by sleep like a treacherous undertow.
I do not know where and how far my recently reduced palette will take me. At the moment everything that needs saying and showing seems to be made up of only these colours. I did not expect this kind of leap and shift from a chaotic profusion. It has coincided with the increasing arrivals of creatures.
I want a fairy tale love story.
There's a poem in fragments lost in the woods. It is trying to find the crossroads.
There's the 2019 new year and then there's my own new year coming this February. My birthday is on the fourteenth, overshadowed by that occasion that has remained alien to my own life. Despite all the marketing maximising the event to include everyone you love, the core of Valentine remains to be about lovers. And a love story is something that has always eluded me in real life.
Thus my art and stories were born out of that absence. First an impossible garden and then it grew deeper into a wildforest. I am a wandering would-be queen in a kingdom haunted by a blue-heart king. There are hundreds of fairy tales, and yet it is all about the one same story.
Sometimes, like today, I find myself at a crossroads, and I contemplate trading off this fairy tale for a forgetting and a fortune. I have shed so much of my old lives, skinned raw, exhausted to the bone, all in quest of a Story that has slept so long waiting to come true. But today the maps I have drawn are riddled with the markings of too many dead ends.
Not in the best of conditions since the new year began. On the second day I started feeling ill and as of today I have a full-blown cough and sore throat. I get the threats of a fever frequently throughout the day. I cannot do much of anything as the ill feeling overcomes me and so does a tidal wave of fatigue.
I know what's brought it on. My hands are tied I cannot do much about it. So ill or not I must grit my teeth and trudge through the days.
Today at the very least I will attempt, again, to overcome the exhaustion and paralysis. I must pull myself out of the house and throw away the guilt and treat myself to a nice meal and let myself stay for hours in a nice sunlit cafe.
Of course I have a gazillion plans for 2019. The challenge is to actually get them done. This sickness I am feeling now is the manifestation of the struggle inside me and the impotence I feel on whether there is any point at all to begin in the first place. Because I hate to begin and then have to pull back or hold back and lose the thread and then start all over again. Because someone else's timetable and agenda had to come first. Because bills have to be paid. Because sometime in the past there were too many misguided choices that set things a certain way. One of the hard things is the fact that despite my efforts, the returns are so few and never quite enough. And I know there is such a thing as the Long Years but, heck, I could use and possibly deserve a really good break now and then.
I am frustrated that I cannot go deep into the forest because I keep getting called back. To be real. To be practical.
The hard thing is that I cannot just pick up where I last left off. I have to start all over again. Because the "real" things corrode what has been started, stains everything with rot, leeches out all the magic.
This must be a rather unusual creative blog as it is full too much of the pains instead of the progress. But then I am not one of those successful artists who are in a position to share the insights of a creative life well lived. At this point I can only share the warnings of when things do not go as one expected. The most you will learn from me right now is maybe how not to kill yourself or your art.
My life is running on fumes these days. A day job paycheck is due at the end of the month, and there are paintings put on reserve waiting to be claimed and paid for. But until then I am carefully treading through each day so as not to incur any unnecessary or emergency expense. I do feel a little bad about not being able to cover a few necessities -- for instance, sending off the snail mail.
August was a devastation. I'll be spending most of September in recovery, and re-strategy. There are pinpoints of light at the end of many long tunnels.
I have given up so much but I have also gained so much. It's all a matter of perspective and priorities.
The "ideal life" shot. Makes me look like a successful thriving artist making loads of munny from my artwork. Ha! Reality behind the photo is me squeezing my brains on how to make more sales and reach more of the kind of people who get what I do and are genuinely supportive of independent artists. I'm also currently struggling with balancing my original art and stories vis-a-vis the stationery for sales thing.
The "gallery wall" in the tiny studio. I added cut-out painted flowers to cover adhesive stains as I move paintings about when paintings get sold or when I simply want to freshen up the display. I'm at least happy with how my images are evolving. I had to take a stand about no longer indulging popular tastes in the hopes of making sales. I have to keep to my own Stories instead. Those who see will see. I have to keep the heart in the art, or else I might as well just get a regular day job.
A series that I'm currently working on. It's been on the to-finish list for quite a while but it's been slow to ripen. There are other paintings jostling for space and time and attention. I have been disastrously distracted lately with munny matters and day job and duties. But this series is a good enough bridgeway to go back into the wildforest after a month of pain and stress that was August. I am temporarily calling them Feral Hearts. There are poems sleeping inside them. I'll see if I can coax them out.
As mentioned in a previous post, I’m keeping my Etsy shop alive with a maximum of 13 listings, and each listing description has a simple invitation to view more artwork on my website.
Yesterday I made the most of having completed my first participation at The Sketchbook Project and shared the finished pages across social media and my website. (You can see them here.) In the process, seeds of ideas sprouted in my head and now added direction to the artworks I will make, as well as the creative practice I will build into my days.
It is Saturday today and I’m still undecided whether to go on an Artist Date and do a supply run (more accurately, I need to decide whether I cold afford ether or both). Yesterday I successfully did a trial print of postcards on a different kind of paper (less expensive but as good as the previous). Now I need to buy more of that paper so I can start making the art bundles for my patrons. I’m also thinking I really need to get started too on replenishing my stationery products and be able to open the shop with a full inventory.
There’s a big sale on art supplies at one of my favourite art shops and it’s only until Wednesday. I want to get more of the Mijello paints but I can’t afford to right now (and likely not for quite a while unless sales peak for some reason). This morning my sister and I had an interesting conversation over coffee about how most people won’t probably get how we can live the way we do – without security and stability as most people would define it. The subject seems worthy of a whole separate post. Maybe I’ll write it.
Have a good weekend, everyone!
It all builds up. That’s what I hold on to these days.
The other day I made an unexpected sale on my Etsy shop — remember that i had planned to shut it down once all the current listings have expired? Well, slight change of plans. The unexpected sale made me decide instead to keep my Etsy with a small number of items available — 13 maximum — at all times. Only original paintings that can be shipped abroad so nothing larger than A3, and nothing too complex or fragile to withstand the long distance travel. Recently too there have been new favourites that registered for the shop and a few items. So perhaps it is better to still be present in Etsy but in a less costly arrangement.
This is the original painting that got sold:
Meanwhile, small serendipities led to a full cleaning and rearrangement of my tiny studio which now makes it a very comfortable space to work in. I may have finally hit upon the best arrangement for it to let my work flow with the least pain, distraction, and obstruction.
The unexpected receipt of a new old desk was the key to getting everything else in the studio to fall into their places. I hope this favourable synchronicity reflects into the larger schemes of my daily life.
The clearing up of so many stagnant corners seems to have unblocked some writing paths and only now do I discover that Scrivener has released a full update and upgrade and it’ll cost $25. I’ll have to find a way to scrape that amount together. (If you would like to help in any way, here’s how, or you could just directly send me a coffee or two )
I have to plan for a computer upgrade soon too — either get a new desktop or a new laptop or a new high-performing tablet. Any one can replace all my 8-year old equipment that have been lagging so badly that I could make myself a snack while waiting for a file to open. I need it for managing the website, the online shop, writing and doing the layout of my books, editing and printing my stationery products — in other words, it is a real need and not simply for leisure and entertainment. I also use it for day job project work when I have to do one — data processing and report-writing and emails.
I’m still on standby for my big breakthrough that will, at the very least, take care of all the basics of dally living. But maybe the breakthrough is not big and it is already happening. Maybe this blog post will trigger another tiny thing that will lead to another tiny thing and so on. Maybe in the end it is not so much as a breakthrough that I should look out for but a small sound of a small important thing finally falling into place. Or many tiny things falling into place, like the sound of much-awaited rain on a very thirsty earth.
I started off my Monday morning with writing in my journal that transitioned into a Mind Sweep. This week I intend to be super-productive in the studio and the shop. To make that happen I have to say it out “loud” so everyone’s energies will be aligned with mine.
I’ll be off the typical routines and my hours will likely be odd. I won’t let anything in that has nothing to do with the Garden and the Forest. (This means shop inquiries and transactions are always welcome, so do browse and buy!)
I’ve been caught up and stuck in some kind of obstacle course for the past few days and I could not seem to find the time nor the energy to stay put for long hours and make something happen in the studio. I also need to figure something out for fortifying my energy and stamina — starting with getting a decent pair of walking shoes that I cannot yet afford until I sell a few more paintings.
I always underestimate the time it takes to get things done and I think that always gives me a lot of stress. I pressure myself to do more everyday, to catch up on a series of self-imposed finish lines, because I often feel impatient with my progress, because for some reason the deadlines for paying bills seem to run at double time.
Yesterday I unexpectedly sold a painting and it gave me a bit of breathing room — I was able to buy groceries with less pinch and I was able to buy a few studio materials. Whatever’s leftover I’m putting into the household bills for July. It is exhausting to constantly put off things because there’s never enough money to go around, and especially when I’ve minimalised my life to the degree that I very rarely buy anything out of pure whim. Every planned purchase is a necessity, and every time it is a long wait. Sometimes I just cry out of sheer fatigue. And then I get up and do what needs doing according to my heart (because there are many other ways of interpreting what NEEDS doing).
So, yes, I sometimes whine a bit about the harsh and hard stuff of my life. I am aware I am better off than most. But each of us is on our own path and each is as important as the other. We follow the life path we need to. Not one is light or trivial. Every life has a gravity that no one else can bear. Every life gifted with a purpose. The trick is to not get distracted or destroyed in the process. The trick is seeing through the layered (and often material) clutter of the world and arriving at spirit, seeing beyond the finger that is actually pointing to the moon.
Trust the process. Know thyself. Be true and stay true. Follow your bliss. Never lose hope.
Finally got around to giving myself an Artist Date with minimal guilt (because of the expenses), and it was a good thing.
Happy to discover that the very cheap sketchbook I purchased a few weeks ago (unbranded, made in China, and sold in a generic stationery section of a department store) turned out to have good enough paper. The watercolours did not soak through, nor bleed.
I'm pleased with what spilled out, after many days of not being able to paint because I was prioritising the setting up and opening of the website shop.
I feel that I want to go out again today. Keep filling up pages and pages with paintings, drawings, and words. Like a wild gardening. See what takes root and grows into something more or something else.
For the past week, I’ve been hard at work in setting up my website shop. I wanted to integrate all the products with my art in one place so people can browse conveniently before deciding to buy. Instead of having to go to various partner sites just to check out what’s available, customers can just go to my website and see what’s on offer. I am also able to integrate the selling of my original artworks which I handle directly.
It was a tedious task and I stayed up late for many nights. And now it’s up and running and I am hoping that my labours would bring some fruit.
I’m closing down my Etsy shop once all listings have expired because right now I cannot afford the fees they charge, and they just announced that there are going to be some changes made that I suspect may not be too helpful for sellers like me who have yet to establish a strong core of customers.
You can visit the website shop here.
Here’s a sneak peek on some original artwork now available in the shop.
I also fixed my Support The Artist page and found a way to work with Paypal so that I cut out on the many layers of fees from Patreon and Ko-fi. (Ko-fi has no fees per se but to avail of the really useful features you have to subscribe to Gold which is a fixed monthly donation of $6 which in the end amounts to a fee of sorts, and I barely make that amount from Ko-fi myself.)
However, I’m keeping my Patreon and Ko-fi (non-Gold) accounts open in case some supporters feel more comfortable coursing through a well-established third-party.
If any of you want to consider giving help in any way (there are non-monetary options such as recommendations — very valuable because reach is a challenge for me right now, I need more people to see, and I need the people who need my art to see), you can visit here.
I realised that I need to make new pieces now that the shop is fully open and active. Not just paintings but also get started on the other items I want to explore further, such as handmade bookmarks, notebooks with handpainted covers, and other stationery. I also want to make a series of artworks that is meant to also raise funds for causes (my chosen causes are those on animal welfare and the environment). I want to be an active artist, someone who’s always working on something I believe in and passionate about every day, creating stories and stirring up hearts, moving people towards hope and inspiration and positive action.
I have a terrible feeling I am already too “ruined” to ever return to employed corporate work (my old life) with its values dissonant from my own. I have to make it and make things happen as an independent freelancer, somehow able to survive and thrive on the unpredictability and perceived instability of such a status. So if you feel you want to help in any way, please do so and I shall be eternally grateful.
To all the other independent artists out there, how are you doing? I hope you’re getting some good breaks and breakthroughs.
I am moving forward on energy that comes from a handful of important decisions. There is a lot of work involved to turn those decisions into actions and I find myself anxious but also determined and even somewhat excited at the prospect.
I’ve mentioned I have a website and this WordPress blog is basically like a secret backyard to it, where the more raw and messy stuff (a.k.a. thoughts and such) happens. But that website is getting busy behind the scenes as I attempt to turn it into a keystone for my online network and engagement. I know I still have a lot to cover and accomplish but I want to improve my chances of being seen, recognised, discovered, appreciated, and supported. I want to open up for more interaction and relationships.
My intention is to establish myself as a full-time artist and writer who is able to support a decent life through my artworks and written works (and the combination of both). I started this path six years ago with a lot of trial and errors but there have also been lessons. I started from earning very little to earning enough to buy groceries and paying the electricity bill, and I hope to make it in such a way that I can earn enough to pay the rent and buy every necessity. Then maybe, earn a little bit more for some reasonable pleasures such as travelling, and even being able to go on small staycations.
While we are all waiting for the website to be its better self, you may be curious to see where else I am across the web:
Have a restful weekend, folks!
My studio is a small space under the stairs, with no windows and very little elbow or leg room. But I make do and I definitely prefer it over a well-furnished modern huge-windowed corner office in some corporate building.
This space constantly morphs into various arrangements depending on how I need it to be. Right now it’s set up for a lot of painting work waiting to be finished. Drawings are hanging in a line, art materials spread out within easy reach.
It’s Thursday, and for some reason, possibly because it’s Friday’s eve, I feel a little bit more energy to get things done. Mondays and Tuesdays are my weakest days, while Wednesdays often turn to impromptu midweek break days. But for the past days, I’ve fought through the drag and did a lot of project planning, plotting, and a lot of tedious admin work for all my online sites and shops. I am seeing slow and small improvements in reach, visits, and engagements but coming from being totally invisible, I am grateful for any teeny tiny spike in my site stats.
So today I aim to get properly started on the actual painting. Ideally to get at least two commissions done by the weekend (I currently have three in line) and boost up my cash funds. A paycheck from a day job project has not been released and it’s been a month and I’m close to scraping for coins. (Still, I’m not exactly jumping on to the next day job project…)
I have kitchen work today so I have to make time for that. Kitchen work means I cook food for myself, enough to last me a day or a day and a half. Lately, I’ve been craving a lot of spicy and strong flavoured Asian dishes. I recently had a make-do version of kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개).
How is your Thursday going so far?
This is my second time to participate, and I have more than enough time to finish it before the February 2019 deadline — or so I hope! I’m thinking of exploring the theme of Infinite Sketch and fill the pages with one long series of sketches in blue in various mediums. Something like this:
And then maybe thread one long string of words that is a poem that begins on the first page and ends on the last.
We’ll see. I’m not averse to changing my mind if a better idea presents itself.
So, you are currently reading my main blog. I figure I can’t really expect people to migrate to another site just to follow someone (or would they?). In any case, I’m currently testing a strategy of being present across various online spaces. Something like having “branches” where different sets of people are likely to gather. I have another blog at Wordpress and one on Blogger. The content is essentially the same, it’s just that people who are in the same space will be able to view and follow more easily, or subscribe to what’s more convenient. I’m doing the same for my print-on-demand shops.
A quick introduction for those who are newcomers to the site : I am a self-taught artist and a writer. I work from home. I have a freelance day job that helps pay the bills but my goal is to be able to sustain a decent living on my art’s income. I’m exploring the path of surface design as well as illustration, on top of the fine art gallery thing, and I am working on publishing illustrated poetry books and illustrated fantasy novels.
I blog to share my creative journey and process, share my artwork to reach potential buyers and custom clients, and have a space to talk to no one and everyone. If there’s anything art or creativity related topic you want me to write about (and assuming I can), let me know. :)
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 finished the Sketchbook Project and sent it off on time.
I finally completed listing items on my Etsy shop. It's free shipping until May 31, and there's a range of items from handpainted bookmarks to art-printed blank cards to affordable art print postcards to original paintings. Drop by here and see if something catches you.
I've started on a 100-day project under the theme of Fieldnotes from the Wildforest.
I've also started on a commissioned piece although that one's taking more time than expected. I have to work out a system and setup for commission work.
I've done a bit of kitchen duty but I realise I can't do it for the whole household because the house hours are detrimental to my studio pace and process. I should just take myself out of the house equation and cook for myself in my own time. I really need to disengage from the routine of everyone else if I want to be able to make the kind of creative work progress that I want and need.
I need to do one proper solo Artist Date. The last was a hybrid with errands and a companion and that just never turns out the way I would have liked.
Today I'm a bit off-key. The summer heat is a pain. I still have one more kitchen duty for dinner and then I'm off and out of the whole household routine starting tomorrow.
I'm tempted to spend for a day at the coworking space for quiet, space, light, and airconditioning. But the commission work won't pay that much (because I didn't charge properly yet). We'll see.
Sometimes I miss my old place - a studio unit with big windows, quiet, and solitude that is perfect for doing the things I love to do. Except if I had stayed in that place I’d be too busy doing a job I don't love in order to keep the place and I would be unable to do what I love to do at all.
The tiny studio is not an ideal place during the summer. The intense brightness from the outside makes this windowless corner even darker in contrast. It also gets the full blast of the television noise which is frequently turned on from lunchtime until everning, with very short pockets of quiets in between.
The bedroom has good lighting because it has big windows but lacks floor space for me to set up even a small comfortable writing desk.
This morning I remembered that I used to work in the backyard when I had to do reports. I stopped because at some point it was no longer effective as an isolation space for dayjob tasks. But what if it works as an extension of the studio?
So I took my journal and coffee to the backyard to feel it out. Promising, so far. But I need a more efficient and orderly way to move my materials. I have to be quick when it suddenly rains — this year’s summer is also rainy, and the sky alternates from very bright to cozy grey in a matter of minutes.
I successfully completed a spread for The Sketchbook Project (after a few trips back and forth the indoor studio to get the materials I needed). I think I’ll need a spare electric fan for when there’s no breeze and the air starts to become stiflingly too warm.
I want to shut down for at least the first two weeks of May, and extend it as far as I can. By shutting down I mean absolutely no dayjob emails or tasks. Also very minimal social obligations. Minimal errands. I want to pour all attention to the art-making and story-making. I’ll stay out of Facebook and will only post as absolutely necessary on the art page, but mostly rely on the linked posts through Instagram. I want to work on my Etsy shop. I want to make new art pieces. For breaks I will read books and go out on simple Artist Dates. I am even thinking of disengaging myself from the house hours and routine — essentially just eat and sleep when I feel I need it and not just to comply with the routine. I want to eat what I want, prepare my own food if necessary. I want to get up in the middle of the night and start writing or painting if I am moved to do so. I want to nap at odd hours.
Next week I’ll work on a commissioned piece. And also close the deals on original paintings put on reserve. For a period I want to live as if I am already a full-time artist. I will probably try to make some pieces for a portfolio to send to a German company that a friend has advised me about. I’ll work on replenishing my stationery inventory.
First paycheck finally cleared so rent is safe for this month and the next. So little is left to cover other household bills. I am ever grateful for my Patreon patrons who help take care of studio needs. They’ll be getting nice packages by May — long overdue gratitude gifts.
Voice is fully back but still very rough. Maybe by the weekend I can dare to enjoy a coconut caramel ice blended drink, or a bingsu. 😃
I finished reading two books and making progress on a third. By end of May I should have caught up on my Goodreads challenge already -- and probably needing to buy more books (hehehe).
Two paychecks are clearing by end of the week so that should let me have a peaceful enough break, without the perpetual worrying on how the bills will get paid.
The remainder of this week will be filled with errands -- bank, post office, courier service, veterinarian, art supply shops (I can start making inventory again), fresh produce market.
The summer heat is a drag, though. I'm not a fan of summer. I work better in cold weather. Summer heat makes me lethargic and turns my brain to soup sooner than usual.
Voice is back but still sounding like an old lady monster. Energy not yet up to regular levels, I run out of battery more frequently than usual, and could not sustain late-night reading (gasp!)
I might be able to go on a proper Artist Date though, after going without for months or making do with compromised dates. Also the last few times I attempted to go I had to cut short because I started feeling ill from the sheer fatigue catching up with me as soon as I sat down and opened myself to a moment of rest. The exhaustion ate up the resting moment, and flayed my body with aches.
At least the studio is not as horribly messy as it usually is. I haven't done a pop-up since early March. What I need to do more of really is to make new pieces.
Maybe I'll start a new piece today.
I'll be tinkering with Stories too so drop by there sometime.
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.
Lost my voice due to a bad cough and overwork and stress. Last weekend I had flu. This weekend I have silence. Better, in a way, because at least I'll get to paint, perhaps. I must paint. Write. Make something. Make magic. Make my amends to the wildness.
Funds are really low. But since I'm sick I have to stay at home. I need to be in the studio anyway. It'll be too much trouble to carry around all the paints. And I also want to try a piece bigger than a notebook.
Reading slot secured -- I'm going to catch up on my Goodreads target yet. Also reading for research of a sort. I want to make some radical changes on my freelance setup. And if there's a decent interesting job in a library or museum out there I'm open for employment.
I want to go back and review the basics and beginnings of this path I refuse to give up. Tweak a few things. Resurrect some ideas and practice. Have better plans to break later on. Be better at breaking rules and changing the game. Forget the game. This is not about winning. This is about living, and being true. It is about falling in love. Again and again. Fall and fail. Fall and fail better. Be brave. Love anyway.
A friend shared this link from The New York Times, I read the article, and was moved to write down my own case on the matter.
The matter of being a full-time artist versus being one with a dayjob has been a rather delicate issue. Especially if one is still in the beginning stages, and have not gained enough patrons, supporters, and buyers to be able to sustain a good number of hours for studio work. There will always be those who will force the "be practical", "be realistic", "be reasonable" argument which has somehow always rubbed me the wrong way. There will always be those who will insist to just focus on the money, regardless of the how and the implications of performing the work that made that money (oh, I just helped sell products that will dump more tons of plastic waste into the ocean... and also convinced people that buying processed is better than the trouble of buying natural).
I believe the trick here, for my case, which is what I have been trying to master, is finding the kind of dayjob that will complement the artist, until such time that indeed the art is able to fully support a decent living, or the dayjob is an enhancer rather than a disruption. Mine is very similar to the example of James Dickey -- "I was selling my soul to the devil all day...and trying to buy it back at night." -- except that I could never quite buy it back and the interest has been compounding 😱 Equally apt is Stephen Dunn's description of how his work affects his poetry "a zero-sum universe in which the moon gobbles up the sun’s radiance." I would like to have a dayjob to ease the pressure of income from my art-making but I want a dayjob that can play and pay fair -- unfortunately in a developing country one does have to sell a soul to even earn minimum wage. 😅
My dream job is to work in a library, a book shop, or a book publishing company. Many years ago I had that in my hand. It was two roads diverging and I was fresh out of college. The other path led to the dayjob I am doing now. But I listened to "be practical", "be realistic", "be reasonable". Also, being young, I was carried away by "be cool and glamorous" (which had fine print conditions no one ever pointed out).
So here I am. Years later I've found myself on a similar diverging path and took the one less traveled by, albeit with so much baggage now everything is wrought with delays, detours, and doubling back. But I like to believe that I am at least finally moving towards where I was supposed to go. I will win my soul back yet, whole and alive and true.
Yes it's Day 3 because I was barely functional on the first two. Today the fever's taken a back seat and I'm dealing with the attendant symptoms of muscle aches, sore throat, and cough. A few more days and I should be in full working order.
It was sudden onset. I was standing outside of the coworking building in the business district. Early Friday evening, waiting for my dad and sis to pick me up. A gust of wind, and then I felt chills travel up and down my body. I had dinner with my folks, but two hours later I was shivering and feeling very ill. Fever was raging by the time I got home.
But I have to get back to dayjob duty today regardless. The most I can do is take it slow and easy. Certain things stressed me out severely last week and I think that made me vulnerable to the flu. One of the stressful things has been temporarily resolved today but it will have to be dealt with more definitely soon.
My sense of time is slightly distorted because of having to spend a lot of time in bed. Fever dreams have a tendency to mess up my perceptions of reality, and I knew I was still worrying a lot even while I was trying to rest.
But there are little things I find along the way of a day. I have yet to make something of them, find the hidden messages. But their appearance reassures me that the battle is not entirely lost. I have not exhausted all possibilities. Plus there are the impossibilities, which in the wildforest are more like possibilities that just need a little bit more magic and the wildforest is magic in itself and so anything impossible is possible.
My days in bed unable to do anything "productive" had at least given me thinking time (distorted as they were by fever visions and mangled by aches). If anything I have at least gained better resolution on a few things. I'll work on them in the next few weeks and see how they go.
And all I can offer you at this point is a sedate photo of my workspace where I toiled for almost seven hours straight sustained primarily by water and ginger mints because I did not dare take a break and give any of my selves the chance to pull the plug on my energy flow.
Before I left this morning I prepared a small bundle of art materials thinking that maybe I could make small drawing during short breaks but in the end I decided not to take breaks because any of my selves could steal the rest of me away and then there would have been no progress on the report.
The report is not yet finished but I have figured out a good portion of the knotty bits especially for one section which will be a template for the next section. Most of the work today was composition and layout, and stitching data together so they sort of flow into a logical narrative. That takes time, and lots of brain energy, especially since I'm wired for forests and gardens and it's hard to write with heart.
I'll work again tomorrow morning, and then on Sunday morning. I'll leave the afternoons free or else I'll go mad.