Thoughts, Zines

Clearing The Decks

Clearing The Decks

clearng-the-decks

Alternative title: The day I deleted my portfolio, and decided it didn’t matter.

I’m not much of a one for resolutions. I’ve lived with my mind long enough to know that change happens in almost imperceptible increments, with continued effort, not by waking up one day and deciding to be different. Nonetheless, I get caught up with a feeling of shiny newness this time of year, and find unexpected energy to, well, attend to things.

When this happens, one of the very first things I want to attend to is my website, which seems to be perpetually two years behind what I’ve actually been doing. Does anyone else have this problem?! Who knows how it happens, but I certainly need to attend to it. And so I began, making subtle tweaks and changes to the look, and barely moments later I managed to delete my entire portfolio. Excellent start to the year!

I spent a few minutes days lamenting my idiocy, and then a wonderful feeling of clarity came over me. I don’t need to sort through those old images, figure out what stays and what goes. I don’t need to get my head around how exactly I tweaked the code two years ago or whenever it was to get it all aligning nicely. I have a blank slate, a fresh start, and it’s no bad thing.

So currently I’m an illustrator with a portfolio-less website. Hopefully I won’t let it sit that way for too long, but no promises. The accidental loss has opened up a lovely blank space in which to think about which piece of work I most like, have most enjoyed, and what I want to do more of. I am prepared to be surprised by what I pick.

Having this unexpected space and freedom to begin again got me thinking about other things that might benefit from a fresh start. In 2015 I so especially wanted to get my zine, The Green Bean, back up and running and I did not. I laboured over several pages because I felt I really ought to: over the course of the year I managed to gather together about three quarters of a new issue, but I could never bring myself to finish anything. There always seemed something more appealing to do.

And then this idiotic thing happened with my portfolio, and I got to thinking: I began The Green Bean almost six (SIX!) years ago in a burst of enthusiasm, and it was filled with energy and joy. Over the years it came to feel more of a obligation and a burden, and I had this sudden realisation that I’ve been trying to keep it the same. In six years I have grown, evolved, changed and so has my artistic practice: no wonder I don’t feel excited by trying to create work that belongs with who I was six years ago. It all seems so obvious.

So as well as deleting my portfolio (accidentally), I have ditched over twenty pages of drawings for a new Green Bean (intentionally). Just plonked them in the recycling. Just like that. I have cleared the decks and I feel relieved, liberated, and best of all excited to afford my dear little publication space to grow and evolve into something new.

Drawing, Knitting, Thoughts, Work In Progress, Zines

Things Happening Slowly Around Here

Green Bean Progress 1

One of the things I’ve found odd about my work as an illustrator over the last few years is a need to be secret. If I’m working on a book, a comic for a magazine, or some other commission, it’s not always OK to share work in progress.

When I first started blogging, back in 2008 (alas, you won’t find evidence of it – I botched the transition from Blogger to WordPress and lost everything), one of the things that kept me doing it regularly was sharing every stage of every thing I was working on. I was also…how shall we put it? A little on the compulsive side. I blogged a lot. I didn’t sleep much.

Since then, I’ve slowed down for my health and sanity, but for the pleasure in my work as well. I’ve learned that over long periods of time, my creativity actually doesn’t respond well to me cracking the whip. I burn out. I stop having fun. It becomes a treadmill and a chore, and for a career path that’s also financially challenging, that makes no sense. It needs to bring me joy. So these days I’m trying to remember that and embrace a slower process, though it’s not always comfortable.

Green Bean Progress

The pages above are from a Green Bean issue that has been on and off my drawing board since February, weathering losses of confidence and direction and needing to be laid aside often for commissioned work. Sometimes I miss the days when I could confidently churn out a Green Bean every two months (heck, I did it every month in the first year. Madness!), but those days are gone.

Now, I regularly take breaks to sit with my knitting. Working a few rows has become a kind of daily practice that reminds me of the rewards of patience, and that the best part of any creative work is the process itself, not the end result.

Jumper In Progress

It was knitting, in fact, that helped me navigate my way back into drawing after my burn out. It began with drawing comics for Pom Pom Quarterly, the first of which was published in winter 2014. The latest, due in the winter 2015 issue, is what’s been absorbing most of my time for the last two months. I remain obsessed with scratch board, again a significant factor in my exploration of working more slowly. Scratch board is about the most labour intensive medium there is. When I worked on Lighter Than My Shadow, I routinely drew 12 pages a week, at times up to 18. For this latest comic I scratched one. One gloriously absorbing, meditative, financially unsustainable but who-cares-because-I’m-hanging-out-with-the-dog-and-enjoying-making-art-again page a week.

Sadly I can’t show you much as it’s a secret until publication, but I’m chuffed with it. I think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve ever drawn. Here’s a little peek…

Scratchboard for Pom Pom

Now that the Pom Pom comic is finished, that Green Bean, the one that’s been on and off the drawing board, will get some attention. I won’t finish it this week, perhaps not even this month. Who knows. What I do know is that it will be one of the most thoughtful and beautiful of all the Green Beans. And so will the one that follows it. All in good time.

By the way, that “I am doing a new thing” card, pictured at the top, was a design created especially for Green Bean subscribers, to explain what on earth has been going on and why they haven’t received a zine for so long. It was inspired by this embroidery, by talented lady and dear friend, Mollie Johanson.

Drawing, Zines

Thirty Favourites

The Green Bean Volume 4 Issue 5

I turned 30 last year, and instead of joining in the trend to fulfil a “30 before 30” list, I sat down and mulled over my favourite memories and experiences, picking 30 of them to illustrate for a new issue of The Green Bean. The kind of things that cropped up as especially memorable surprised me. I found I treasured many memories to do with animals, and many that took place outside. I realised how much I value my family, and reading, and live music. Hardly any had anything to do with grand achievements: most were tiny, spontaneous moments when I was fully absorbed.

The resulting zine is a collection of small moments that have stuck with me over time, the drawing of which taught me a lot about what’s really important and valuable, and perhaps what I might like to prioritise in the next 30 years. Subscriber copies of this new issue will be posted on Monday 31st March, and your copy too if you place an order here before this weekend.

Have you ever thought about your favourite memories? If you’ve done a similar exercise I’d love to hear how it affected you.

Baking with my Mum

Comics, Drawing, Zines

What is The Green Bean?

What is The Green Bean?

I’ve been publishing The Green Bean for four years now, and I still get just as excited about bringing out a new issue as I did the first time around. It’s become such an integral part of my life, my work, everything! And I love it.

If you’d like to give The Green Bean a try, or you’re a long-time collector with some gaps in your collection now is the perfect time. I’ve made all the back issues available individually at a special price of just £4, for this weekend only. Complete volumes and year-long subscriptions are also available, all here in my shop.

I’m just putting the final touches to a new issue, about my recent birthday and challenging the ’30 before 30′ lists you see. It will be out and on its way to subscribers next week.

Zines

A New Green Bean

Green Bean 4-4

It’s always a happy moment when a new Green Bean is ready to send out into the world. Even after twenty four (twenty four!!) issues, I haven’t tired of the feeling I get cropping those corners and colouring those beans.

This newest issue is all about my recent relocation from Bristol to Devon, adjusting to new surroundings and a different pace of life. There are comics, book reviews, a recipe for delicious pistachio and white chocolate macarons, deer, Dartmoor ponies, maps and lots more, all rendered in fine micron pen and delivered to you on lovely recycled paper. You can find the new Green Bean here, or subscribe to forthcoming issues here.