Drawing, Thoughts, Work In Progress

Slowly Does It

penguins 2Some days I think my growing fondness for scratch board, officially the slowest drawing medium in the world, is a curse, impractical and quite frankly idiotic.

Other days I think it is teaching me an important lesson.

Since Lighter Than My Shadow was published, I’ve been trying really hard not to approach everything in life like an eating disorder. If anyone is wondering how that comparison makes sense, consider that my former approach to making art involved a lot of lists, target sheets, unreasonable goals and considerable self-flagellation for not achieving them. It became clear in the aftermath of my book that this approach was not only destructive, but unsustainable and honestly not a lot of fun: it was removing all joy from drawing, purportedly the thing I love most in the world. And so I decided to learn to do things differently.

penguins1

Here’s where the world’s slowest drawing medium comes in. I have no choice but to let it go slowly. An A4 page takes me the better part of a week. My penguin poster has taken two months so far and is still not done. Yet I’ve just decided to also use scratch board for some (not all!) of the next Green Bean.

green-bean1

I am making marks every day, and by my old standards I do not have a lot to show for it. My blog is quiet because I am not churning out work at an unsustainable rate. When I do post, I feel like I’m writing the same thing over and over, justifying to myself that this slower pace is  OK. In truth, living with it is extraordinarily uncomfortable. The old pattern would have me down tools in despair, lamenting that there’s no point trying if I can’t conquer the world by tomorrow lunchtime.

I am not doing that. I am going back to the drawing board and making the marks I can make today; learning to let that be enough.

Crafting, Drawing, Knitting, Thoughts, Work In Progress

My Maker’s Year

Penguin in Progress

Knitting

In thinking about what to prioritise creatively for the year ahead, I’ve been particularly inspired by Kate of A Playful Day . Her project for 2016, The Maker’s Year, first caught my attention on instagram. Her goals include time to reflect on all aspects of daily making, and what I connected with especially was her phrase, “in a way the nourishes, not weighs down.”

This really strikes a chord with what I’ve really been grappling with personally for the last year or so. I chose my particular direction in life because I delight in making things, and yet so often I feel pressures and burdens that make it anything but fun. Most often, those pressures and burdens are self-induced.

One example of this is the idea I’ve held that I need to ‘be professional’, since my book Lighter Than My Shadow was published. You have no idea how much this nonsense has held me back. Another aspect of Kate’s Maker’s Year, which you can read about on her blog, is that it’s “not about driving further divisions between the words making, crafting or art but instead allowing a simple act of creativity the room to grow without hangup or uncertainty.” For me, that means not about sidelining certain aspects of my creativity because I’m worried they don’t fit. I’m seeking a sustainable way forward that feels more whole and honest, for my work’s sake and especially for my mental health.

Recovery is...

What does this mean in practical terms? Well let’s take knitting. I have knitted since I was about seven years old, but I really took to it about two years ago. In the aftermath of Lighter Than My Shadow’s publication, I relocated from Bristol, left my therapist of eight years and was not in a good place mental health wise. Knitting became a powerful resource in those months, and has remained so, but something else has also happened: I have become obsessed. I knit every day, I think about it almost constantly. When I visit a new city, it’s to the yarn shop I gravitate first, before the comic shop. I can no longer deny what an important part of my creative life this craft is becoming. Until now, I’ve held back on blogging about it because I’ve worried that it doesn’t ‘fit’ with my identity as an illustrator. But is that creative identity even appropriate any more?

Things I made in 2015

The more I think about the Maker’s Year, the more I relish the opportunity to acknowledge and respect these other aspects of creativity. Last year I learned to sew garments, a craft I’m really excited to explore more. I made toys, something that I featured often in early issues of The Green Bean but have not revisited since. I also learned how to tat lace, and how to weave. And what about the daily, small acts of creativity that are so easily taken for granted? The food I prepare, the decoration and care of our home? Why shouldn’t my blog also honour these things?

So thanks, Kate, for the wonderful idea and inspiration. I’m excited to explore what 2016 #themakersyear brings, and to learn from what it brings for others too.

 

 

Painting, Thoughts, Typography

Recovery is…?

Last week it was Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and I was thinking about recovery and what a misunderstood process it can be. My own recovery began almost 14 years ago, at which point I thought it was only about weight restoration (ha!). At various points in the years since, I’ve considered my time in recovery to be over, and while in some ways that’s true, in other ways it really, really isn’t. So I got to thinking about how I’d define recovery now, 14 years into the process, and put some of my thoughts down on paper. It’s worth saying that this is a very personal piece of work which you may or may not find fits with your experience – and I’d be interested to hear thoughts on that. Heck, in another 14 years I’ll probably have a totally new perspective again and laugh at this. But for now, in this moment at least, this is what recovery means to me…

Recovery Is

 

Comics, Drawing, Knitting

The Courage To Be Me

The Courage To Be Me Katie Green Title Page

I recently had the great privilege of contributing a chapter of illustrations to The Courage To Be Me by Dr. Nina Burrowes. Now available in full to read online, as an ebook or in print, this book tells a story of courage, self-compassion and hope after sexual abuse, following five women as they take the first steps to rebuild their lives. Doing this work felt very close to my heart as I have much in common with each of the (fictional) women portrayed. I hope the book’s reach will be far and wide, helping anyone who’s known abuse to realise they are not alone.

But as well as being a survivor of abuse, the character whose story I told, Maddie, was also a knitter. This balanced the very emotive subject matter with one of my favourite things to draw, and thus made the project very enjoyable as well as something I’m really proud to have been a part of.

The Courage To Be Me Knitting

Comics, Drawing, Work In Progress

Collaborating

did it really happen?

Lately most of my working time has been filled with a fabulous collaborative project, The Courage To Be Me, by Nina Burrowes. It’s an illustrated story of self-compassion and hope after rape and sexual abuse, inspired by a research project following five women in group therapy. Each chapter follows one of the (fictional) women through part of her journey towards rebuilding her life, and these stories build upon each other throughout the book. Each chapter is illustrated by a different artist: Jade Sarson, Nina herself, Alex Bertram-Powell and me. The first three chapters are available to read online already, beginning here. Mine is the last and will be available soon (when I’ve finished drawing all the trees…).

tctbm pages

Naturally this project is very close to my heart because I see something of my own experience in each of the characters in the story. But it’s been especially fascinating to see the book evolve through the eyes and skilful pens of a team of artists with different interpretations, guided by Nina’s vision. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but for the women in the story something transformative happens through the work they do as a group. The work Nina, Jade, Alex and I have done as a group has also been transformative for me, and through these fictional women I’ve found so much more compassion for my own experience. This, of course, is what Nina is hoping to achieve, and I feel confident that this story will be helpful to many. I’m excited to see the whole thing complete!