Joana and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

 
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Have you ever had one of those weeks when everything you make is just, well, shit?

This has been one of those weeks for me. Dear Joana: happy new year, now all your work is a big fat turd.

As a result, my wastepaper bin is literally overflowing with the torn-up pages of my shitty attempts at drawings and paintings. The 100-sheet sketchbook I bought a month or so ago is down to its last few pages; the sad void between its covers emblematic of my complete and utter inadequacy.

To be fair, I've never completed a piece and thought, 'This is so great, I rule!'. But there is usually at least a small sense of accomplishment, or somewhat not hating the result, or feeling like I'm on the right track.

Not this week. It doesn't matter if I'm sketching for fun, working on a commission or illustrating for a personal project, every piece I've produced this week has left me with an overwhelming sense of doubt and defeat.

I've tried taking breaks. I've tried pushing through. I've distracted myself with snacks (#nevernotsnacking). I've gone to the gym, watered the plants, scrolled through my phone ad infinitum. I've looked through old work I like. I've tried taking the pressure off by drawing something super simple and low-risk and for my eyes only. Nothing has worked.

Instead, I've been walking around this week with a pit in my stomach; this nauseous, anxious feeling that stems directly from my failed attempts and the subsequent belief that I absolutely suck and why the hell am I even doing this. It's a horrible feeling that has filtered into everything else in my life. I've spent this week in an angry haze. And I know how completely ridiculous and frivolous and stupid that sounds. There are real problems in this world and I'm wringing my hands over some not-quite-perfect scribbles of my travels or meals I've eaten or whatever the hell else I usually draw. And that compounds the feeling that I am a shit person who should just fucking give up.

I've always been a person who creates things, even when I didn't really create that many things. But I didn't know that choosing to really throw myself into creating consistently and for a li'l bit o' money would be so. damn. painful. I know it's because I'm super green and that once I establish a foothold of some sort I might feel a bit more self-assured, but then again, is it? Does that pain ever really go away? That pain of knowing that in this exact moment, you are worse at your craft than you will ever be in the future? That in order to get to the less-shit work, you have to keep pushing through and producing the shit work?

Even if no one sees my shit work (and god knows the shit in my wastepaper bin will never see the light of day), I know it's there. I know I made it, that I'm capable of producing it. And that's ... gahhhhhhhh. That's hard.

And yet. I received an email the other day from someone who literally just felt compelled to tell me that they recently found my work, they loved it, and they hope I continue with it and find success. They thanked me for my work. I'm struggling to even find the words right now to express how that makes me feel. Like, wow. It's amazing how you can feel like a fraudulent piece of shit and then someone else can be so moved by your work that they email you about it—which, I don't know about you, but I think is a pretty huge deal because I can't tell you how few times (zero) I've emailed someone just to tell them I love their work. Also, note to self: start telling people I love their work just because.

I don't mention this email as a humblebrag AT ALL BECAUSE I SUCK. I just find it funny that I can be having the worst week I've had in a while and then this email just arrives in my inbox out of the blue. It hasn't fixed my bad week—I probably ripped up a dozen different attempts this morning alone—but at least I can kind of see things from a different perspective and remember that maybe I'm not that bad and maybe there is hope for me after all? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

TELL ME: Do you ever have bad hours/days/weeks where nothing seems to go right in your work? How do you deal? I need to know!

 

 

Best of 2017

 

So. 2017, hey?

So much shitty shit shit happened around the world that I kind of didn't realise the (somewhat) fruitful and fun year I had until looking back on it now.

There have been ups and downs to be sure, and I don't feel that I managed to achieve all that I set out to do at the start of last year, but all up I think it was a pretty good one, obviously if you don't count everything that was ever reported in the news in 2017 ever.

On a personal level, the biggest thing that probably happened for me this year was that I moved back to my hometown.

At the start of March, my husband and I made the well-trodden journey over the Nullabor from Melbourne to back to Perth. It's the fourth time we've moved across the country together, and the eighth time I've done it in my life. And it's a move I'm still coming to terms with—it's not one I would have made independently, and it's one I argued against, but here I am.

Not to suggest I was forced into it, at all. Ultimately, the decision to come back seemed to make the most sense financially and we reached it together, but that doesn't make it any less painful. I've spent my whole adult life up to this point searching for a place that really feels like home, and the irony is I found it just before I had to leave it. I left behind the one neighbourhood I ever really felt a part of (ILY, Flemington!), a city that inspires me, a creative scene unlike any other in the country, and a lot of people I love, including all of my family.

I still hang onto the hope that one day we'll move back (honey, you listening?), but for now we're in Perth. We went from renting a teeny little two-bed built in the 1800s that I loved despite its many drawbacks, to buying a 1930s-built home I love despite it, well, not being in Melbourne.

 OLD HOUSE: Flemington, Victoria.

OLD HOUSE: Flemington, Victoria.

 NEW HOUSE: Maylands, WA.

NEW HOUSE: Maylands, WA.

Before we left Melbourne, I took a bunch of photos of my 'hood (also wrote a post about it for Outlier) that I still wistfully look back on. 3031 4eva!

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2017 is also the year I started making ceramics. It started as a one-off workshop gifted to me by my husband on my birthday and then progressed to a TAFE course and now a little set-up at home.

It's not something I ever really envisioned myself doing. But I'm finding myself trawling Gumtree for kilns and looking into wheels and researching glaze recipes and buying respirators and discussing wax resist with the woman at the pottery store, and it's ... fun?

Don't let the science degree fool you: I am not inclined towards chemistry or maths in any way whatsoever; I had to use my calculator to add up 29 and 12 the other day just in case I got it wrong. And pottery—glazing, in particular—def requires some basic grasp on this stuff lest your work explodes in the kiln due to a dud glaze recipe. So for me to have an interest in this stuff is indicative of how swept up I've become in the whole thing.

Anyway, I'm still working on my first release of ceramics, which I'll hopefully begin selling from this very website soon, so watch this space!

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Unfortuntely I didn't get a chance to travel overseas in 2017 (something that will be rectified in 2018!), but I did manage to get to a few different spots around the country. I went to Sydney for the first time in a few years and spent a few days hanging out with my sister who lives in Coogee, and also attended the Make Nice Unconference, which was so great.

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In September, my husband Brett and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, which rolled around wayyyy faster than expected. We spent it down in the south west of WA in Margaret River, thanks to my former boss in Melbourne who bade me farewell with a voucher for a two-night chalet stay in Margs.

At the time, Brett and I were in the midst of a six-week paleo challenge so there wasn't much drinking or indulging, unless you count the pizza we ate and the visit to Colonial brewery we made. But hey, you only celebrate your first wedding anniversary once.

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I met a LOT of amazing people in 2017. Many of them were women, and many of them I met through Outlier. It's so outside of my comfort zone to approach people cold and then sit down with them to ask intimate questions and photograph them, but I sometimes forget that because I've been doing it so much lately. It seems like a small thing but it's something I'm proud of myself for doing. I hope to meet a lot more incredible women in 2018.

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I also drew a lot this year. It was sometimes for work, mostly for pleasure (a ratio I hope to tip more in favour of 'work' in 2018). I also plan to draw a hell of a lot more for pleasure, too, as there were definitely times this year that it felt like a massive chore due to my mental state. While we're on the topic, def need to work on my mental health in 2018, too.

One of my fav commissions this year was to create a promotional poster and album cover for a Melbourne band called Lava Lakes. It was a really fun process to bring their ideas to life and I can't wait to see some of the merch I designed out in the real world soon!

 
 
 
 

I also participated in this year's World Vision 40 Hour Famine campaign. I created an artwork alongside 39 other artists on the theme of refugees and displacement, which is something I'm very passionate about. The whole thing was kind of a 'pinch me' moment—many of the other artists who also worked on the campaign are people I consider almost like my creative heroes, and it was weird and exciting to be part of a campaign that so many people saw and were hopefully moved by.

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One of my other favourite jobs was from the start of 2017 when I was commissioned to create a two-page illustration for Treadlie, a really great cycling magazine that I've loved since its debut issue came out a few years ago. I didn't really like the final piece, but it was the first illustration I did that was printed in a nationally circulated publication, which was really exciting!

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And here's just a small selection of things I drew for myself this year and actually like somewhat:

 Shibuya restaurant at night.

Shibuya restaurant at night.

 MoMA visitors.

MoMA visitors.

 I mean, 2017 was the year of T***p, right?

I mean, 2017 was the year of T***p, right?

 Young Japanese skater girl loitering in Harajuku.

Young Japanese skater girl loitering in Harajuku.

 Dinner at Spicy Joint in Shanghai.

Dinner at Spicy Joint in Shanghai.

 Scrap scribble of me at my wedding.

Scrap scribble of me at my wedding.

 Old men playing soccer in Hong Kong.

Old men playing soccer in Hong Kong.

In 2017, I also managed to finally get a (loose) handle on animation, which is something I've been wanting to do for a while now. I hope to look back on these this time next year and cringe at how poor they are (translation: be way better this time next year than I am now).

 Animated response to same sex marriage legislation in Australia.

Animated response to same sex marriage legislation in Australia.

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In 2017, I also had a lot of fun doing lots of different things: weddings, parties, doggo playdates, Snapchat filters.

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I have high hopes 2018 will be a great year—so many ideas and goals to get started on once my hangover from last night dissipates lel.

Wishing all three of my readers (lollll) a safe and happy new year!

Gif the shoe fits

 
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If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you'll have noticed I'm posting a lot of hand-drawn animated gifs lately. I can't seem to stop making them. I haven't illustrated anything destined to just be static since last week when I made my first gif. It's become an obsession.

I first took the plunge into animation a few months ago, via my accidental Skillshare subscription (note to self: remember to cancel free trials before they end and you're automatically billed for a whole year in USD. Before). I took a class in animation using After Effects, except I didn't really take the class properly because I'm impatient and skipped over important information and then got so frustrated with my terrible animation that would. not. work. that I just abandoned the idea of ever getting a handle on it.

Since then, I always kind of figured animation was beyond my reach. And though I love the appearance of scrappy hand-drawn animations, I found the idea of actually making them a little unappealing, since you have to manually draw each frame. From the outside looking in, it seemed like an insurmountable mountain of work to draw frame after frame after frame of identical but slightly different content. Which is why I thought I'd start with After Effects, to just manipulate an existing illustration with anchor points. Which was a terrible idea.

But the other day I saw a simple hand-drawn animation on Instagram and decided to give it another go, this time using Photoshop. I thought I'd keep it super low pressure with something really simple, so that I didn't waste hours of drawing frames if it didn't work, because when I'm burnt by something it's difficult for me to come back to it #notveryresilient, and I didn't want to destroy my interest in animation before it even started.

So I started with a simple gif of my dog, using a clip from my phone that I took of him running in our front yard. I drew 12 simple, scribbly frames that took me about 10 minutes all up. It was a low-risk gamble that paid off, because as soon as I saw the motion worked I was hooked. Though I did accidentally animate the sequence in reverse and posted it on Instagram before I noticed the error. The one below is looped in the correct order.

 Gif of Wally running.

Gif of Wally running.

This one was my second ever animation, which was a little harder because I only had a couple of reference images rather than a video to work off. So had to kind of fill the gaps in the movement by making up a couple of the frames. It's a bit jumpy but I'm pretty happy with it!

 Daisy Watt at her loom, for  Outlier.

Daisy Watt at her loom, for Outlier.

Last weekend I saw Paul Kelly play live at Kings Park, and it was so excellent it inspired me to create this gif of PK playing the guitar, using a YouTube video as a reference. This one consists of seven individual illustrations, some of which are repeated within the animation to create a total of 10 frames.

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My longest gif so far! This one's a whole 51 frames and five seconds, as opposed to the other looping ones which have from around seven to 12 frames and run for less than a sec. Admittedly, I only drew the hoop eight times, so they loop over and over, while the girl is an original drawing in each frame. I added colour to this one and experimented with drawing a background, which I didn't end up using #toomuchwork. Baby steps!

 Nothin' But Net.

Nothin' But Net.

And the walking animation at the top is one I just made now, a kind of lame attempt at a gif to go with the lame title of this blog post (puns are not my strong suit). It's extremely scrappy and the painted colour didn't scan very well, but I really wanted to make an animation with a background and with more colour. It took much longer to make than I thought it would, and while it's really rough and rushed with obvious blurring from my dodgy Photoshop work, I'm mostly happy with it. Though I suspect I will look back on this entire blog post in a few months/years and shudder at my shitty work ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sketchbook tumblelog #1

 

I often feel like I don’t draw enough.

Like, I look at the tumblelogs of illustrators I admire and it’s just like a million different amazing sketches and exercises outside of their actual published work and I’m just like HUH I am very bad at this illustration caper.

Up until a couple of months ago, I didn’t really sketch very much. Like, at all. Sure, I would draw, but I would sit down with my pencils and paints with the sole intention of illustrating a piece for Outlier, and that was it.

I didn’t really grasp it at the time, but I was putting myself under of a lot of pressure. I would expect myself to create a perfect illustration the first time, every time. This was partially the result of working full-time in a job that drained the shit out of me (poor turn of phrase?); I would come home after work and illustration was kind of a ‘have to’ thing if I wanted to grow Outlier. The pressure I put on myself to nail a piece on the first go meant I started dreading illustration, and I think it really shows in some of the work I did before I took a step back and decided to loosen up a bit.

Failing to sketch also meant illustration got boring for me. I had no room for fun or play or experimentation. It was more of a ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ kind of deal; get in and get out with something I could publish and then move on to the next piece.

But since I started making an effort to sketch more, I’ve started to enjoy illustration again. My style has also changed in a huge way, and it’s still evolving. I’m slowly finding what kind of artist I am and what kind of artist I want to be, just by drawing within the safety of my private sketchbook.

I feel really stupid to have just figured this out now. I also wonder why I never felt compelled in the past to just sketch for the sake of it—am I not really that into drawing after all? Should I maybe not be pursuing illustration if I have to force it?

These questions do trouble me sometimes. But ultimately, I think I was crippled by fear. I was afraid to let loose and see what would come out. In a weird way, my regimented approach to illustration protected me: from judgement, from my own self-doubt. Until it didn’t, and I had to do something about it.

There’s a lot of shit in my sketchbook, and some of it also makes me think GAH WHY AM I DOING THIS. But I have to keep reminding myself that it’s part of the process. So here’s some of it from the past few months: some drawn for publication, some drawn just for myself.

 
 Tourists at Fushimi-Inari, Japan.

Tourists at Fushimi-Inari, Japan.

 Chinese workers resting on steps along the Bund.

Chinese workers resting on steps along the Bund.

 Portrait of illustrator  Gizem Vural, for Outlier .

Portrait of illustrator Gizem Vural, for Outlier.

 Dinner with Thao at Just Falafs in Fitzroy North.

Dinner with Thao at Just Falafs in Fitzroy North.

 Quick pencil study of female form.

Quick pencil study of female form.

 Woman cooking bindaetteok at Gwangjang Market, Seoul.

Woman cooking bindaetteok at Gwangjang Market, Seoul.

 Couple looking at produce outside a shop in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Couple looking at produce outside a shop in San Francisco's Chinatown.

 Sketch of artist and designer  Abbey Rich for Outlier .

Sketch of artist and designer Abbey Rich for Outlier.

 People navigating Shibuya Crossing.

People navigating Shibuya Crossing.

 T***p.

T***p.

 
 Spacey.

Spacey.

 
 Me jumping into Halong Bay.

Me jumping into Halong Bay.

 Man dining in at a ramen place in Tokyo.

Man dining in at a ramen place in Tokyo.

 Collage of designer and illustrator  Beci Orpin for Outlier .

Collage of designer and illustrator Beci Orpin for Outlier.

 New York Stock Exchange.

New York Stock Exchange.

 

Camera roll: September to November

I always carry my film camera when travel. It’s an ancient Ricoh FF-3AF that my husband picked up somewhere years ago and bestowed upon me recently, an upgrade (downgrade? I think it’s from like 1982) from the Lomo Diana I used to use that ended up being just way too unpredictable to bother with.

But while I always carry my camera on my travels—it’s actually always just in my day-to-day bag for, you know, day-to-day Kodak Moments™—I always end up taking far fewer photos than I intend to.

I don’t know why. Actually, I know why: I always feel a bit self-conscious. Case in point: a few days ago said husband and I were wandering around Melbourne’s CBD when a dude quickly walked up to another dude sat real casually in that graffitied nook of Centre Place where it turns into the arcade and took his photo and then just kept walking.

My immediate reaction was one of discomfort. Like, he just walked up to this strange guy and took his photo like it wasn’t no thing. I was like, “Did you see that?” Brett was like, “Yeah, it’s street photography, mate”.

I don’t know if it’s my experience of working in events where every attendee has to sign a consent form for photography, or a general lack of confidence, or being a woman, or a combination of all of those things, but it kind of seems … invasive? Like I imagine I would get yelled at for violating someone’s right to sit there and not be photographed by a stranger, which I feel would be fair.

I mean, I remember randoms taking not-so-stealthy shots of Brett and I during our travels through China last year (mostly Brett as he’s tall and has a real bushy beard and wears myriad hats and things), and it made me super uncomfortable. I hate the thought of making people uncomfortable like that.

I guess there’s a part of me that also doesn’t want to be judged for taking a photo of something that the onlooker deems stupid. The fear of what other people think has held me back from doing a lot of things my whole life, and it’s something I’m always working hard to overcome, but it’s still there, and it sucks.

ANYWAY. The point of this little overshare is that I’ve been lucky enough to visit some really lovely places around Australia in recent months and I managed to overcome my camera awkwardness to photograph some of them.

 Almost sunset • Gnarabup, WA.

Almost sunset • Gnarabup, WA.

 The view from Think Thornbury's workshop space • Melbourne, Victoria.

The view from Think Thornbury's workshop space • Melbourne, Victoria.

 Exit to Mammoth Cave • Boranup, WA.

Exit to Mammoth Cave • Boranup, WA.

 No idea: I wanna say Sydney somewhere?

No idea: I wanna say Sydney somewhere?

 Guildford Hotel • Guildford, Perth, WA.

Guildford Hotel • Guildford, Perth, WA.

 Tree against the sun • Boranup, WA.

Tree against the sun • Boranup, WA.

 Wall • Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW.

Wall • Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW.

 Sydney Harbour Bridge • Sydney, NSW.

Sydney Harbour Bridge • Sydney, NSW.

 It me! • Perth, WA. (this one's by Brett)

It me! • Perth, WA. (this one's by Brett)

 My little pottery nook at home • Perth, WA.

My little pottery nook at home • Perth, WA.

 Dumpster • Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW.

Dumpster • Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW.

Film process and scan by the wonderful people at Hillvale Photo in Melbourne.