This week is the closest I've ever been to throwing in the proverbial towel as far as my work goes. I've been thoroughly finagled, attracted my first facebook stalker (who thinks I'm really working for a secret French cult - yes, seriously) and just feel generally tired by the push and pull of it all for the first time in nearly three decades. In the last year I've been paid with a tree and hit by a bus. Yes, seriously and don't ask - but recent interactions have brought crushing disappointment.
In addition to spending my time working on a website for Finnish sauna products, (which has surprisingly been really enjoyable) a few other things have got me through. A short talk by the wonderful Vasanti Unka last Saturday at SCWBI and the sage advice of two fellow designers.
Ever since her watery, dreamy and slightly kooky illustrations appeared in the free copy of Grapevine magazine in my letterbox, I have loved Vasanti's work. It was a treat to see it close up, but that was not what I took away with me. What resonated was how much work it has been for her over so many years. How her fabulous creation 'The Boring Book' was born out of sheer frustration on a day when everything wasn't working out right. That she too has had those moments was a kind of relief in itself.
Lately everything has been a bit pear-shaped. Projects have stalled, friends have turned out to be anything but, the septic tank has begun to pack up. An author I know has literally had a paper tearing tanty under similar pressures, both creative and financial. Whilst it seems I'm not alone in experiencing this, added is the constant refrain from nearly everyone I meet that as an artist I must be either totally self-indulgent or rolling in money or both. In addition the inference is clear that what I do, what I'm skilled at, is not really considered work. Big nope to all that. If you are thinking of suggesting that to me (anyone, anyone at all?) - Please don't go there girlfriend. I can guarantee it won't be pretty. Last time I looked it was an 'occupation' which even has its own range of sub-categories within ACC levies (from memory I pay slightly more as an illustrator to mediate the risk of stabbing myself in the eye with a pencil, than if I was listed as purely a designer. I stand to be corrected on that). It's work like everything else. Just saying! Glad we cleared that up.
In the midst of this several people from very unlikely quarters have suggested that once the awful outside events were sorted, something great would come along. In the worst moments of the past week I've had my serious doubts about that, hence the aforementioned conjecture on towel throwing. But, like some annoyingly pithy internet quote, they proved to be right. I've had a glimpse of something lovely in the past few days and it might be just the thing to lift me out of the gloom.
Also worth mentioning - this past week marked the announcement of the Storylines Notable books. I'm so delighted for the authors I know just even slightly who have made the list . . . Sue Copsey, Suzanne Main and Nikki Slade Robinson in particular. All wonderfully talented people who have worked tirelessy to produce great stuff and contribute to a tradition of excellent books for children. If you don't know, our children's literature community in New Zealand is pretty damn amazing. A more supportive, clever and thoroughly dedicated bunch of people you are never likely to meet. Behind every 'successful' author and those 'lovely' drawings are countless hours of sheer slog and as a direct result they are all happy for each other. Genuinely gracious, encouraging and kind above all else.
It's been so hot in Auckland this past few months, sweltering in fact. Some afternoons I've managed an hour or so just to draw, the barn being only slightly cooler than the house. While the kids are shreiking at each other like banshees about whose turn it is to squirt the other with the hose, I've been drawing. For no particular reason, with no pressing project in the works and no concrete research to do. Silly things, like elephants in the rain and purple octopi. Things my kids will like, things I like. Just me and the pencil and the pink elephant on roller skates. A dirty job, but someone has to do it (and yes that is actual grime underneath my fingernails). Just saying!