As part of my pursuit of becoming a full-time artist and creator, I am moving my blog posts to my Patreon page.
On Patreon I am posting more creative process and daily life details of a creative journey, with more frequent updates about on-going projects, new artwork in the shops, and more sharing and features of finished works.
Patrons gain access to exclusive posts (such as previews to full finished pieces, and special rewards) although there are more than enough public posts to keep a follower in the loop of what's going on. At any point in time a follower may choose to upgrade to becoming a Patron (similarly, a Patron may choose at any point in time to simply become a follower).
Becoming a Patron helps me in my creative journey by allowing me to claim time and buy art materials to complete my projects. Understand more about this on my Creator Introduction.
See you there!
Here is an optimistic plotting of the week's schedule. My personal target is to finish the report by Saturday. Although I know that given the volume and depth of the data I need to analyse, finishing by Saturday is a hope akin to being able to go to the ball with a beautiful new dress -- some magical intervention required.
This morning will be a slow-burn getting-into-the-flow kind of morning. That flow is supposed to be sustainable until Saturday, so I am not rushing it. It will be like a hearth's fire only put to sleep into embers at night but ready to roar and leap in the mornings. This kind of flow is complicated to catch and so I am not letting myself get anxious.
The simpler tasks are listed for the morning. They are mostly loose ends that need cleaning up to get me all set for the real big task ahead : diving deep into the data analysis and beginning the creative writing process for the full final report. It involves a lot of craft work, because that is what I do that makes the difference in the output. That is why I am still able to survive six years after leaving full-time employment. (I have never really harnessed the full power of that skill.)
Expect no painting or any of the usual creative artistic projects. The dayjob is eating up all my productive hours. Whatever hours are left I spend resting and recharging and refilling the well. I gobble up stories though I am not able to make or tell any. That is why I make my notes and calendar pretty instead, because otherwise I just might go mad.
I am not feeling bad though. Not today. Last week was not so bad either. I just feel neutral. Except in the depths of the night when the insomnia strikes and there is an invisible hand squeezing my lonely heart.
I am quite pleased actually that I am able to focus so much better now (thanks to that whole studyblr inspiration, and thanks to the Eggscellent timer app). I expect this week to run even more smoothly. I've even started taking a brain support supplement that was recommended by a friend (it helps optimise the processing of dopamine).
This is almost like a dry-run for an even bigger task waiting after I finish the report. This is a shade of Things shaped into place as I find a much better way to get where I want and need to go.
In my first post for the year I had been certain of taking a path. It was an old, somewhat familiar path, but it was a path well-travelled by others. I have made my marks on it but I cannot claim it as mine. It is a tributary to a larger path that leads to destinations I am not (and have never been) interested in getting to.
I decided to return to that path for a very simple reason : quick big cash. I thought maybe I could find a way to negotiate an arrangement that would also somewhat allow me to plant a few seeds of my own that could, at one point, help change the landscape of that path. I thought maybe I could actually manage to carve and claim a branching path, an alternative path, that would somehow help evolve the path into one that I could, maybe, be more willing to actually stay on for a little bit longer. I hoped, maybe I could bring in the meanings that are important to me, and which I believe are also important for the human condition. I thought, maybe, I can make a difference on this path. Yes, even decades later I can still be that naive and idealistic. And optimistic.
Things progressed as they should. I came closer to my goal of securing a good paycheck, and for a while my hopes of being and doing something meaningful to me and something I could love appeared to be very possible.
And then one morning, the possibility blurred. And now things are less certain.
I am both disappointed and not. I appreciate the learning that came with the whole experience. Certainly the process of it allowed me to realise things I would not have if I had not gone out there to explore.
Simply put, when it came down to pinning the Things into concrete forms, the difference in values (which I knew about, and which was why I left before, but which I hoped was navigable) became more apparent. And at this point, after all that I have persevered through, I do not think a compromise to the degree that I am seeing being laid out before me is something I can sustain for any prolonged period. I can understand the needs from both sides. But I also understand that perhaps, at this time, an equal relationship is not yet feasible. I appreciate the clarity of purpose of each side, but I can see that the purposes may not yet be aligned for equal mutual benefit. The expectations carry compromises, and a certain demand of investment -- physical, emotional, mental, even spiritual. The compromises and investment mean time and energy that have become my most precious currency, and which I cannot spend without careful deliberation.
So the decision to take that old path is put to a pause. I need to rethink everything. And come up with a Plan B. And a Plan C.
I have gone back to my mentors for reminders. And I have been listening keenly for clues and messages. They have been appearing, in many ways and many forms. It is only I who delays.
Studyblr is simply Study + Tumblr. It's a particularly popular category in Tumblr that is focused on the discipline and aesthetics of studying. It's a creative and productive way to get studying done. And I have found the principles translate well into my work.
Here are snapshots of some of the pages I follow to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.
I have yet to get to the levels that these (very) young students are in but I've been flexing and stretching my journalling muscles as well as grafting in some of my dayjob-data-organising-skills. Since I began to adopt the play of aesthetics into my dayjob tasks, I found that my focus has improved, and my tendency towards impatience and boredom have been tempered to a tolerable degree.
It's just a bit frustrating that I cannot fully show off what I'm writing because it's work (confidential data and all that). So I have to content myself with strategically blurred notebook pages, desk shots, and materials shots.
In addition to writing in my daily journal, I find that "studyblr-ing" WHILE working on a dayjob helps calm the agitation of not being able to do actual art works. The play of colours counts a lot, I think.
In the past week I went on a full dayjob mode and also a full "studyblr" aesthetic play mode. The result : I met my personal targets and suffered minimal distractions. I did get extremely exhausted though, and I needed full eight hours of sleep each night.
Next week I will be doing even more "handwork", meaning more writing on paper than on the computer, because I will be going deeper into the data analysis, as well as getting into the mapping of how to present the results in the report. At this stage I think better with manual writing than digital writing. So I will have on hand my full range of gel pens, brush pens, highlighters, Post-its, and loose paper sheets. I expect it to be quite fun, despite the inherent difficulty of the task itself.
I went through a crazy stationery craze.
It's come back.
Only this time, instead of preserving the materials for some yet hazy unimagined purpose, I am using them up and giving them functions. For me, there are few things that can match the joy of going shopping for stationery supplies. I love having the excuse to replenish. I am not much of a fan of simply hoarding. I like to see those pens and papers and what-nots performing and providing meanings in one small way or another.
I tried to deny it at first. That it was coming back. Because it would likely seem juvenile. But then I remembered I should no longer care.
Ten days before I got around to coming back here. I've been pre-occupied and distracted and also kept busy. The dayjob is a significant part of it. The fairy tale I am trying to tell is also a part of it. My art is a part of it.
On Friday the 13th I am going to the dayjob "talk", which is really an interview of sorts except that I get to have some negotiating power too, mainly because I've been doing the job for two decades and have gained a rather difficult and distinctive expertise. I say this without any intention of boasting, but only as a matter of fact. Because the irony is that despite this particular skill strength I have not used it to gain "success" as expected by most. For the past six years I have put it on the sideline while I tried to make another story for my life. A story that has more heart and meaning. A story that I could live with and that I will have the least regrets for, if not entirely without regret.
This year is supposed to be the seventh year of my being "brave", everyday dancing along the tightrope of unpredictability and always braced for the worst of an unstable income. But this year I am taking an alternate route. I am going back into the "corporate jungle", so to speak, but I am bringing with me my ancient magical forest, and I am going to navigate both, and eventually, only one will remain as a natural course of Things and as a fruit of my intentions.
I will do this because I have reached the edge of a cliff and if I am to continue to shape the life I will not regret then I must find a (temporary) way to make enough money to make a leap. I have been making many many steps for the past six years but this time I need a leap. A few leaps. Across seas, actually. Out and away. A heaving push forward. And I need a bit more money than I am able to make now to be able to do them.
It terrifies me. This decision that I thought I will never make but always suspected I will. It is actually making me physically sick in many little ways. I find myself running deeper into my canvases, and my pages, and feeding ravenously of stories and fairy tales for sustenance. Because I have a better idea now, if not yet a flawless strategy, of how to fight and flow with the life-draining and soul-parching characteristics of my dayjob. Because it makes no sense to do the dayjob if I am not going to keep doing the art and the story. The dayjob is supposed to be for the art and the story, that is all it is, a means to an end. Until such time when the end is also the means.
If all goes as well as I am envisioning it will, I have roughly three months left to be as ready as I ever will be.
It may not immediately seem like a direct connection but moving out my painting studio into the garage was a big step into further defining my movements. For quite a while I have made do with the tiny dark space under the stairs, exhausting all possibilities of arrangements, schedules, and even habits. But a lack of natural daylight and elbow/knee room could only be endured up to a certain point especially when my direction is to expand to bigger pieces that extend beyond the pools of artificial light I could manage and the floor space I could claim.
Allowing my art to progress more freely, and to unfurl and unfold, will mean I can have a sturdier spirit when I plunge into the regular dayjob work. Like the flowerings in my artwork, my soul will be a teeming lush impossible magical garden that is more impervious to drought and pollution and acid rains.
I also feel that is it a symbolic move, from inside to outside. I had originally thought that the only way I can have a studio with enough daylight and space was to wait to move out of the house again and be able to afford renting my own condo unit where I will also live by myself. But that step won't be at least until the second half of this year and that's too long to keep my art constrained.
Then I had a dream about my grandfather who was a painter and illustrator in his days, and from whom I most likely inherited my artistic genes. After that dream I woke up with the idea of using the dresser table he made for my grandma (which has been passed on to me by my mom) as a drawing desk. The dresser has been stored in the garage because there is no space for it in the house, and the plan was I will take it with me when I move into my own more permanent space. Except that step will again take too long and the dresser is just standing there, gathering dust.
In a surge of inspired action I moved all my painting stuff into the garage and started fixing things. As I slowly moved in I also started painting my bigger pieces, and found a flow that I have been hoping to find. It took me around three days to really settle in. The old mango tree across the street watches over the gate and provides a much-needed natural view to complement the open sky above it. The bright natural daylight is balm to my over-strained eyes that have always squinted in the poor indoor lighting. The natural breeze soothes my oft-frayed emotions.
It is a rather open space. When it storms I will have to pull in my things closer to the house and cover them. But the gate is high enough to provide privacy, and I seriously believe the mango tree spirits are watching over at night to deter would-be thieves (Although I doubt the thieves will find anything they could make easy money of -- heck, even I have a hard time selling my own paintings! Hahaha!)
My grandma's dresser, with it's triple mirrors (when I close my eyes and look at the mirrors, I see myself in three forms), is now a vision/storywall of sorts. I've taken some key images from my own journal and laid them out in the open. Again another symbolic inside to outside move. I am putting out the images for me to see everyday, like practice, like reminders, like prayers. Last year were the seeds, and this year the garden rises to flower. And the flowers bring in the creatures and the beings. And the story makes itself even as I make it for myself. Always the flowers, beautiful and impossible and magical. And the ravens and the buttermoths, the dragons and the wolves and the foxes. The wild stag who is both hunter and hunted. The flower-marked with their riddles and their poetry. The lost sleepwalking kings with their magics.
I have repeatedly mentioned in previous posts that I want my inside to be reflected more on my outside. A more authentic self that I continuously work upon to grow and evolve. When I go back to that dayjob work I want this to be the case, that I am more the self I want to be and am becoming rather than the self that the dayjob tends to cultivate. I have to be clear and certain, and I have to be resilient and brave. I know that not everyone will get it, not everyone will understand, not everyone will agree. But I will keep claiming that space of fair partnership. And if it becomes a matter of life and death of the soul, then I know what I have to do.
This is horrible. I am now down to one or two days to finish the dayjob tasks I should have finished days ago. The deadlines are my own, but I like to be a bit ahead so I have spare time when the holiday haze finally lifts. However my heart has been so unwilling and my body has connived to shut down in one way or another whenever I would make the hard push to get things done.
I have been beating around the proverbial bush, in ever-widening circles. Although yesterday I managed to make a mental link somehow to the train of thinking I need to ride in order to do a good job of the work I must do. I'm still on board but I'm hanging by a single hand and foot and getting distracted by the passing scenery...
I have not been entirely unproductive though, let me make that clear. I was merely unproductive when it came to the work itself, but I was prolific everywhere else. It does seem like I have a lot to do still in making my disparate lives and selves play well together. The severe lack of space and sunlight in my spot where I live aggravate the whole situation.
Today I am dragging myself over to the cafe across the main street and will stay there all afternoon and churn out at least one of two sets of documents I am supposed to churn out. The rest I will do tomorrow morning, and finish just in time to for the changing of the year. For this I have pinched a budget from what I have left after Christmas (that paycheck delay has certainly added a dark cloud to everything), and I pinched enough to feed myself well afterwards.
I know very few people will relate, because most people are just somehow able to do what needs to be done when it comes to work duties and responsibilities, about taking care of the practical aspects of life. I used to be like that, before I realised what I really want to be and what I really want to do. I risk being labeled ungrateful, to be so resistant to this "blessing" of a source of income. But I cannot help how I look at things, and how I see beyond the immediate short-term rewards, and how the fruits of my labour are more than being able to pay the bills and buy necessities or even being able to pursue some personal goal. I keep hoping I could live as decently doing something else that do not contribute to the perpetuation of a society with values I wish, with my art, to inspire to change.
Lately I have been getting sick a lot. Small pains and aches and illy sensations every time I remember that I will be trading off a bit of soul for a bit of gold. I try to look beyond even more, lengthen my vision, try to calculate how in the end I will redeem myself and my decisions. That it will all even out, cancel out any ill consequences from the deals I made with devils, even earn me a bit of goodwill and perhaps even a divine boon.
Meanwhile, I eke out the occasional art piece, which has been quite a challenge as I awkwardly navigate through the repeated attempted shifts between being artist and being dayjob professional. I often end up straddling, as I always try to find an integration point. I hope to find it soon.
Just this morning it struck me. I am about to do a campaign in January in an attempt to truly shape my life the way I dream it to be, and in the process integrate all aspects of what matter to me into a synchronised whole.
The campaign will primarily be in the form of a conversation of exploration with a potential employer. As I was doing my update on my analog catalog of quotes and notes, I came across very specific passages that sparked a tiny chain of epiphanies and connections. Such is the reward of making the time and effort to revisit the words that have made an impact upon me. Such is the reward of nonstop learning and a continuous quest for understanding.
My challenge since I became an artist has been to integrate that life with the life I had before. I know that it is not simply a matter of putting together two separate things. There will be adjustments and compromises. It is, in a way, a marriage of my selves, and it has been a very difficult one. The key word is integration, to end up with a whole instead of just two things stuck together. There should be a harmony, there should be a flow and a flexibility between them. Order and chaos in balance. Reason and emotion in productive creative play.
What I want for my dayjob is not the norm. It asks for certain privileges, certain permissions and leeways. It also promises something that is intangible, hard to measure and even idealistic. It is a long-term thing, not an instant spectacular show. It is slow, low-key, and not flashy. It is quiet and involves a lot of invisible work. Only someone who will truly see and understand it will have the courage to invest in it, to create that job title or position, to hire the person who will attempt to begin the redefinition of the mainstream.
What I want for my dayjob is to reflect more of my creative life, to bring more of my creative insights into it, to bring more of my life philosophy into it. I wish to lessen the conflict and friction due to the difference in values that underlie the disciplines. If there is a way that I can somehow plant my own creative seeds into the dayjob that I do, if there is a way I can somehow fulfill, even for the tiniest bit, what an artist is supposed to give to the world by shifting the mindsets in my dayjob industry for the tiniest fraction towards that which is in favour of what I believe in -- care for nature, conscientious and conscious consumption, sustainable consumption, creation over consumption, essentialism, that sort of thing. If I can bring my perspective into those conference tables and in the process inspire the kind of work that is more thoughtful, less template.
I am inspired by Ann Hamilton's words that say : "It is the task of the artist to lead the leaders by staying at the threshold." Instead of being absorbed by the system, I want to help the system break free from itself and to evolve, to be enlightened and be brave enough to shift, even if so slowly and so small a way at first, to begin to explore new ways of doing its work, to take a few risks to be a pioneer towards a new economics, a new culture of consumption.
My dayjob is in advertising and marketing, often working for global multinationals who are all about shares and profit, and for whom the end justified any means. What I want is impossible, or so it seems. For now.
I'm a dreamer, aren't I?
I have heard enough soft and not so soft discouragements and devil's advocates, enough cold hard sharp reasoning swished about to rip my imagined possibilities into shreds. Even now I am troubled by the misunderstanding of why I might go back into employment, and how I am thinking of doing it.
But I still dream, and imagine, and find ways through, find new arguments and proof, find new inspiration. I cannot help it. My artist self cannot help it, and she has grown so much stronger now, less likely to fold and defer to the defaults. I am much stronger now. And much braver. And at this point, what is most important I think, I hope I have much better luck.
I started today with a mind sweep. It eased my thoughts a bit to be rid of the constant nattering of too many random reminders. I wrote it all down on paper first. Then copied it all into my Evernote, organising and clustering the tasks as I go. My mind then takes a visual snapshot of it to carry around - a single organised chunk that will keep still and quiet and accessible.
I have some dayjob tasks to complete this week so that is putting on a bit of a heavy cloudy mood. My way to deal with it is not to push or force myself too much but just to flow slowly into it. Thus I'll be getting around to it in a very roundabout way, taking twice or thrice the time to finish.
I have to finish reading two more books to complete the Goodreads challenge. I am already 90+% done with one. I think I'll make it.
I'm running late on a hundred things. The season always does that to me and yet I never get used to it. I feel harassed. I get so tired I can't even sit up long enough to finish a chapter or an episode.
The writing keeps me relatively steady. That is why you've been seeing a lot of posts lately, even long ones. I escape into the blank page and try to put some sense of order and control in my days by weaving my thoughts and feelings into words. Lately there have been a lot of unexpected intense flashbacks. I suspect it is because something is indeed going to shift in a big way, and the past will even be farther into another life, and the sudden recollections are like goodbyes. They will have less power in the new story that will unfold, they have been spent.
On a positive note, I am able to paint again. I have been finding it difficult to settle in my too-dark, too-cramped studio. Perhaps today, to widen the circumference of that roundabout to the dayjob tasks I will find it a lesser evil to squint and contort my way into finishing an art piece or two.
I am planning to do one more decluttering minimalising move. I'll gamble a bit on having literally next to nothing while I wait for the resources to be able to fill in the essentials. I will live empty (or as empty as I have ever been), as one of the runes sometimes advised in order to ready my self, my selves, for a true abundance.
In this country, Christmas lasts until the day of the Three Kings (roughly the first Sunday of the new year), so nothing goes down until then. The trees and the lights stay up. The 26th is merely a steadying pause after the intensity of Christmas day, and before the flurry of new year preparations begin.
My family (dad, mom, sister) and I spent most of Christmas day at the mall, where a whole lot of other families had the same idea. Lunch was a two-hour feast at a shabu-shabu & grill buffet. Then it was a series of buying more gifts for each other that were extensions of the gifts that were given the night before. My sister also had a few more gift shopping to do for other people. I wanted to shop for many things but the paycheck did not come in December so it was just a wee bit ache-ful to be so constrained. I also wanted to have bingsu but there was a very long line at the dessert cafe. Dinner was a simpler fare of breakfast-style meals because my dad was beginning to get tired of the string of rich and extravagant foods.
Meanwhile, I chafed at my lack of sufficient budget to give myself what I wanted. As the last few days ticked by I found myself growing a new wishlist. It's a very specific list, of things and experiences and circumstances and outcomes. Aside from my own lack of money, there is also a shortage of companions (with their own money and time) who could share and enjoy certain activities according to a similar philosophy and mindset. Still, the lack of companion is easier to remedy because I have long grown used to and fond of my solitude.
I am now thinking of revisiting, rewriting, and reviving my Life List, as inspired by The Mighty Girl. It helps a lot to write things down, and also being specific. My own personal rule about the list is that everything in it must be meaningful to me, not just items to do for the sake of doing it. Nothing half-hearted. Nothing that is expected by others, but only what I expect and demand of myself.
Sometimes I wish someone would just sweep in and whisk me off somewhere to make all my dreams come true.
For almost a week now I've been sick. I have been constantly having the threatening feeling of nausea or wincing through what feels like an acidic revolution in my stomach. I know it is all psychosomatic, and that I have been extremely stressed. The stress has become so intense that it is now manifesting physically in the same way it has always manifested since I was a child. My parents had often rushed me to the hospital doubled over with pain or throwing up, and the diagnosis would almost always be because of stress. Yes, I was very stressed even as a child. My stresses then had to do with school, and fearing failure (mainly because I feared disappointing those who would make their disapointments felt), and also occasionally out of fear of the things that go bump in the night (because I believed I could sense them in the dark, scratching through the thin walls that separated where they were from where I was. I was also a child that frequently had nightmares and would wake up screaming).
My stress these days is stemming from my decision to go back to employment next year, and also from the big demanding high-stakes project that I am scheduled to do for the first quarter. While it is very clear why I am making that decision, and also why I have said yes to the project, I still feel something akin to how a claustrophobic person would feel about getting into an elevator.
But I really, really want and need to do certain things in 2017. And from my experience no one else could make those things happen to me than me. I do not have a Stieglitz like O'Keeffe. (It is possible I do not even have a whiff of O'Keeffe's talent to merit a Stieglitz.)
So many little details are getting defined and sharpened in the last days of this year and it is painfully frustrating not to be able to move forward because of lack of resources. Yet another lesson on patience. Georgia endured years of being poor and having to work in uninspiring conditions. I cannot complain. I have to be resilient. I have to endure, even though it feels like I am many years too late, and all the odds are against me.
I am not too late.
There is always hope.
I am going to paint today.
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I am an artist-in-progress. I started my creative journey in 2012 and have never stopped taking steps since. Always one step at a time. Always moving forward. It has been an increasingly tough and occasionally rewarding road.
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