A residency is not a placement, nor is it in any way affiliated with a university or tertiary studies. I'm not gaining any credit towards my studies, and I will not be working or interning under any individual or organisation. At the same time, it is not a holiday. So what is it?Read More
I have always regarded myself as being a perfectionist, both in life and within my creative practice. I will never forget a time in which I created an artwork that I truly hated, however at the insistence of my peers, still posted it online. That piece was soon recognised by an organisation called Project Okyo, who then collaborated with me in order to manufacture the artwork onto a series of 250,000 sustainable coffee cups distributed around Australia and New Zealand.
I have sacrificed a lot for my art practice, more so this year than ever. Lately, it has been daunting to think of how much of myself I invest into art, because the risk of failing now carries so much more weight. And that's a terrible word rattling around my head recently: failure.
Today, somebody told me to look inwards, to truly make sense of what failure is, and why the prospect scares me so much. The job market for an artist is dishearteningly unstable, and I have always been someone who craves stability and assurance. The future keeps looming closer and closer, and I continue to weigh up my relative successes (residencies, internships, sold artworks, client work) against my imagined failures (the battle for recognition, the competitive and saturated nature of the art world, the horrible little voice that tells me that my art won't get me anywhere).
It's a difficult boundary to navigate, and I'm sure many artists can relate to this. From the starting line we are already heaped with the added weight of the 'starving artist' stereotype; the social stigma linking creative arts students to unemployment. We're not given much encouragement to begin with, so we try harder than ever to prove everyone wrong. If we can't achieve that - the disappointment is immense.
Over the past few days, I have faced unbelievable challenges that have tested the faith I have in myself to the limit. I am proud to have overcome these situations, and it has made me realise more than ever that our concept of failure and success is totally arbitrary and subjective.
I am not the sum of my my sold artworks or the number of exhibitions I've had per year, or Instagram followers. I am not the sum of any praise or criticism from my peers or clients. I have value simply by virtue of existing. I am here on this earth, breathing, living, moving around the globe. Seeing things, writing things down, creating pictures.
I think it's an important message for all people - but especially artists - to hear. Yes, the future may look bleak sometimes. People may question the feasibility of your goals. But always remember to have an unshakeable faith in yourself. I know what I am capable of, and I know I am more than any sum of parts. I will become more than I know, and more than you ever thought.
I am an immigrant. My sense of self has always been intrinsically tied to the places I inhabit, so I have never felt a solid connection to one particular place. I was born in South Africa, but can only remember my experience there though the lens of a child. I arrived in Australia when I was seven: foreign, new, and desperately teaching myself to say yeah instead of ja. But I wasn't even connected to South Africa, really. My whole family is Greek, and I spoke fluent Greek before I could even speak a word in English. So after migrating, my patriotism fluctuated between a strong connection to my birthland, and a loyalty to the new Australian culture I was trying to assimilate into. Amongst all that I still felt a deep pride for the passion and vibrancy of my Greek culture.
However, after my recent visit to Greece only a few years ago, I felt oddly 'outside' the culture - my accent was that of a slangy Australian, forced to relearn old customs and languages. More importantly, I began to realise that the two countries I had lived in for most of my life came with a dark history of racism, segregaton, and the colonisation of Indigenous communities. I therefore had to reconsider my loyalty to any singular place. Suddenly, I was in limbo - untethered to any singular place, I simply existed.
Growing up, I became more interested in this connection between people and place. By nature, people form groups, whether they are as small as social groups in schools, sports teams, or neighbourhoods; or as large as governing bodies of states. We form groups to make some sense of our surroundings. These are my Australian friends. Those are my Greek cousins. That's a picture of my South African classmates. Each one neatly classified and tucked away. I always seem to emphasise one culture more when I am around people of the like. I do it unconsciously, without really knowing why. Is it an attempt to fit in? Or an attempt to reclaim some sense of community and culture, given that I have three (or none)? It makes me wonder who I really am.
I've been exploring these thoughts recently, particularly in relation to my upcoming residency in Iceland later this year. The basis for my proposal centred on people and place, and how we try to comprehend the unforgiving nature of the environment around us by tethering people to the land. I have coordinates of my birthplace and a compass tattooed on me, a permanent reminder of this concept of people and place. I always remember places most vividly through the interactions of the people that were there.
The vastness of our planet and the grandiosity of nature are overwhelming to the human race. It reminds us that our place on earth is insignificant and temporary. And that may be why we try so hard to attach ourselves to places, because it gives them meaning. Being unattached to a singular place can therefore be a vulnerable and unsteady position. In reality, it actually allows you the freedom to explore boundlessly. Lately I've had this sensation of being adrift. But maybe that just means I have whole oceans open to me.
If it feels like every year gets wilder, more beautiful and more terrible, it's probably because it's true. As we grow, we are more exposed to current affairs and experience constantly changing environmental, global, and political climates. 2016 has been a challenging year for a lot of us, but I also feel that I have become stronger, more independent, and happier than ever before. I covered the Virgin Australia Fashion Festival and allowed my creative practice to expand into fashion, beauty and style. I completed two internships, had my first solo art exhibition, and worked with some amazing clients. Relationships ended, changed, and formed. I learned to fend for myself. I'm entering 2017 with an open and hopeful heart, and I can't wait to see what's in store.
2017 New Year's Resolutons / A Manifesto On Art and Life:
- Respect your creative practice, no matter what it is.
- Keep your workspace clear at all times.
- Always work with music in the background.
- Stay true to your aesthetic.
- Love yourself.
- Project love into the world.
- Eat a good breakfast every day.
- Engage with other creatives from different disciplines.
- Leave your home and studio regularly. Inspiration strikes outdoors.
- Work hard and work often to hone your craft.
- Be receptive to the universe. Learn more about space and astronomy.
- Have many muses and lovers in your lifetime.
- Visit the ballet, the opera, and the theatre.
- Light more candles.
- Explore extremes. Visit a desert and a fjord.
- Move with the tides of the sea and the orbits of the moon.
- Create work that will outlive you.
- Never be idle.
- Read often and learn new philosophies of thought.
- Look at the stars in the night sky.
- Listen to yourself before all others.
- Be boundless, be infinite, and open your heart to any possibilities.
I am very particular when it comes to the tools, mediums, and processes I use to create my artwork. My art style is extremely precise and considered, especially as I primarily work with black and white. Since I work as a graphic designer as well as an artist, of course I can be flexible, and have created designs in full/spot/Pantone colour. But the linework is always drawn in black and white, and colour almost comes as a secondary addition once I bring it into Adobe. So for the purposes of this post, I'm going to be concentrating on the tools I use for my hand drawn work, as that's what I love most and do best!
1. Find the right paper
Before you even begin thinking about pens, you want to consider the surface you're drawing on. I previously always used high gsm cartridge paper (which essentially just means it's very thick and dense paper), which is a good alternative to boards. But these days I swear by Arches watercolour paper. It might sound silly using watercolour paper for fineliner work, but the reason I use it is because it has a gritty, textured surface (designed to absorb the watercolour) meaning that the lines you draw immediately look so much softer as a result. Arches paper can be a bit pricey, so it's a good idea to buy the bulk pads. Eckersley's is a good retailer that stocks Arches, as well as a lot of other fine art supplies.
2. Go big or go home
Nope, we're not done with paper yet! If you've made the decision to spend on getting the larger size of Arches paper, opt for the paper cut from a roll. The reason I'd recommend this is because you then have the option of hand-torn paper, instead of machine-cut. This will give your paper an artisanally frayed/distressed look, which looks amazing in floating frames (but more on that later). There's an actual term for this effect, called deckle edge. If you're buying single sheets of paper, that's okay too, just make sure they have deckled edges! Eckersley's usually has plenty in stock.
3. Pen options
Now the fun part! Pens, pens, pens! When it comes to drawing black and white artworks, I have experimented with a number of tools, from paint and Poscas to quills and Indian Ink. But I always come back to my tried and true favourite: the fineliner. There are quite a range of options here, as there are many good fineliners on the market. UniPin is a good place to start, as their fineliners have a good range of sizes, and they are readily available at places like Officeworks (and most stationary stores). Of course, Copic Multiliners are known as the unrivalled champions of the fineliner game. And while they are absolutely of a high quality, with fluid ink and sturdy nibs, I personally don't think the difference in quality is that much more substantial than UniPin. The good thing about UniPin pens is that you can buy a pack of five for under $10, whereas Copic Multiliners cost about $5 for one individual pen.
4. What to look for in a pen
There are three things that are crucial to look out for when buying your fineliners: nib size, size range, and price. These will vary depending on your needs, but I personally look for the smallest nibs, the greatest range of sizes, and the most affordable price. UniPin generally covers that trio pretty well. However the one thing that is undeniably better about Copic Multiliners is the fact that they stock a size 0.03mm nib, which is by far the thinnest I've seen on the market (I almost wept when I found a smaller size than my cherished 0.05mm UniPin). So I tend to buy a bunch of 0.03mms for the fine details, and then get the UniPin packs for the bulk of my artwork. I go through a ridiculous amount of fineliners per artwork, so it's necessary for me to be economical!
5. Pens for lettering
Hand lettering is a whole 'nother kettle of fish, and one that probably deserves its own post. It's an incredibly time-consuming and precise art - even if the end result looks unruly and handwritten, it probably took a lot of practice and labour to get that effect! You can use fineliners for handlettering, but I suggest doing this only if you have some experience with script writing. The finer the pen line, the more evident your mistakes will be. So for beginners, brush lettering is a really fun and fulfilling method! It's super easy to create words or phrases using a brush because it does a lot of the work for you. But don't be fooled: there's a real technique to lettering, which I'll be discussing in next week's post. As far as tools go, although you can use a paintbrush and ink, I am absolutely devoted to my Tombow brush pen. It's so convenient to carry and use, and it has by far the most fluid ink + firm bristles combination I've encountered.
5. Tracing your outlines
It's no surprise that I am a bit of a neat freak. So I don't really like using pencils to trace outlines because there is a risk of smudging, as well as the dreaded eraser flakes. I often just draw freehand, however when I draw my portraits, I prefer to use some sort of outline just so I can be sure my proportions are true to life. If I must use a pencil to trace my outlines, I ensure that it's a very blunt 2B or HB (the softest pencil size). I use a very light touch when I'm drawing to ensure as little lead is on the paper. Personally, I like to use a 0.03mm fineliner to draw very thin, light dots as an outline instead of a pencil outline. This means my drawings are created using 100% fineliner (no pencils), and it also creates a nice, sharp edge. (Just be wary of making your edge too sharp - especially with portraits, you don't want any harsh lines at all!)
7. Filling in the spaces
I'm a huge advocate for white space (both in drawings and general visual styling). However some artworks call for a coloured background - it all depends on the tone of the piece. Posca markers are my go-to for filling in big areas with black. If you're working with fineliners for the entirety of your piece, Poscas are your only option for filling in big spaces - believe me. I have tried sooo many Sharpies, paint pens, actual paint, and textas against the colour of a fineliner, but they all result in a black hue that is either a more grey-black or deep black than the fineliner. Poscas also come in a range of sizes, so you can fill in both the big spaces, and the finnicky small areas close to the fineliner work. Here's a tip: if you want to turn your newly coloured-in background into a galaxy, just take a white gel pen and start drawing clusters of dots. Easy!
8. Finishing digitally
Luckily, working with 100% fineliner artworks mean that there's no need to bother with varnishes or top coats as you would with paintings. So once the last dot or line has been drawn - you're done! There are a variety of routes you can now take with your artwork. With lettering or commissioned designs, I will scan them at a high resolution (600dpi, greyscale) and neaten them up in Photoshop. This can involve brightening, adjusting the levels and curves - essentially making your whites look extra white and your blacks look extra black. At that point you can then consider vectorising your art/lettering, adding colour, or even inserting it onto a PSD mockup, depending on the needs of your project.
As far as fine art goes, I always frame my artworks. Framing your work is like filling in your eyebrows - absolutely essential, and it shapes the way your whole surface looks. There are tons of framing options, but I strongly recommend avoiding standard Ikea or Kmart frames (even I'm guilty of doing this). Your artwork is extremely precious, and you've spent a long time on it. Plus, the paper size will often be a custom size, so standard frames will often not fit your work correctly, or just look very cheap and tacky. Custom framing is definitely expensive, there's no doubt about it, but it's an expense that I consider an absolute necessity with my art! There are tons of different framing options, from traditional frames to mounted or Perspex frames, but my personal favourite is a floating frame. This is when your artwork appears to be 'floating' off from the background mount board. I love floating frames because they not only give your artwork an element of space, airiness, and breathing room, but it also emphasises your work in its entirety (including the deckled edges!) much more.
So there you have it! The essential tools and techniques to creating my signature stippled/hand lettered/black and white artwork and linework. Is there anything you'd like to know more about? I have a lot of tips and practical advice from years of experience with lettering (and even glitzier/tricker techniques like silver leafing) so let me know if you're interested to learn those techniques too!
See you Friday!
I've always been a very neat and organised person. I live for headings and sub-headings, lists, schedules, folders and dividers. So naturally, my environment is quite orderly and clean. But I recently made the decision to completely declutter my life and become a minimalist, and I was surprised at how much more there was to get rid of! But minimalist lifestyles aren't all about getting rid of things. It simply means that you become a conscious shopper, making considered decisions about the items you purchase and the way in which you organise your life. I've broken my process down into nine simple steps.
Set aside a day to declutter your room/work desk/home/environment. I'd recommend using two bags: one for items you want to sell or donate, and one for items you want to throw away. Try to be as environmentally and economically conscious as you can, and only throw away items that are too ruined for anyone else to get any use out of. Don't forget, a lot of retailers recycle old textiles, so it's worthwhile doing your research!
2. Don't be sentimental
My personal philosophy is that if something means enough to you, you will always have the memory of that event or person. I used to keep a lot of nostalgic trinkets around, but I soon realised that I didn't need those material possessions to remind myself of the great experiences I'd had. The experiences that really matter will always stay in your mind, so don't be afraid to get rid of sentimental items!
3. Keep your surfaces clear
The problem with having decorations or knick knacks on display is that they collect dust very quickly and clutter the surface, making your environment look smaller and messier than it actually is. I like to keep my surfaces as bare as possible, emphasising one centrepiece (usually plants or a lamp) rather than displaying lots of little items.
4. Invest in folders and storage solutions
Speaking of packing things away, there are some incredible storage solutions available at the moment (especially now that small-space homes and offices are becoming more popular). Places like Ikea, Kmart, Target, Big W, Officeworks and even Coles are your go-to retailers for this task. Stick to basic colours and designs, and look for function over style. Use folders to organise your important papers, and put those folders in cupboards with closed doors. I even stack my spices, oils, rice, and tins in separate boxes in my pantry!
5. Invest in basics
Basics are your best friend. Whether that's clothing, stationary, or furniture. Instead of purchasing some wild design or statement couch etc., stick to very subtle and basic styles. Try to avoid excessive decorations (like rhinestones, buttons, feathers, carvings, etc.,) and stick to empty surface areas and block colours. There's a reason places like Ikea and kikki.K are so popular--Swiss design is renowned for being clean, minimal, and practical. Shop wisely and frugally, so you can be certain that these staple essentials will match anything and everything else you own.
6. Don't shop according to trends
There was a time when galaxy clothes were the hottest item available. A couple of months ago adult colouring books were all the rage. String chokers are already starting to lose their hype. It's very easy to get swept up in what's trendy, because that's the precise aim of marketing: creating hype in order to get audiences to buy a product. Instead of buying according to the latest trends, go for basic, practical, and lasting items. If there's something on trend that you really want, give yourself a couple of weeks or months and come back to it, before you consider purchasing it.
7. Go digital
I'm a huge advocate for the digital movement--and not just because I'm a graphic designer! Moving things to the digital realm makes life so much more efficient and neat, and best of all, it's much more environmentally friendly. Instead of printing off forms, receipts, and folders, save everything on your computer, and back it up on a hard drive or the Cloud for extra security. The trick here is to name all of your folders, and even include sub-folders in order to keep everything neat. Create bookmarks in your browser to save and separate recipes, instructions, videos, music, and documents. This way you can minimise the amount of paper and discs in your home or office.
8. Stick to a colour palette
I personally love the elegance of monochrome and neutral palettes, but of course, everyone will have their own preference. The key thing is to keep your palettes small (ie. don't pick twenty colours) and consistent. I'm particularly adamant about the consistency factor, as I have removed as much colour from my home, wardrobe, and social media as I can. Now, you don't have to be as extreme as me, but try as much as possible to stick to one colour scheme. It not only looks aesthetically pleasing, but also gives the illusion of coordination. Even the messiest of office desks can look more put-together if they are colour co-ordinated!
9. Shop small
Essentially, 'shopping small' is another way of saying 'buy local'. Although buying items from local/small businesses can often seem more expensive than buying a mass-produced item from a big retailer, it's important to know exactly where your money is going and who will value it more. In the long run, if you've made the decision to limit your expenses to just the essentials, then you can afford the luxury of spending just a little bit extra, knowing that your money will go towards supporting small businesses instead of a billion-dollar corporation. Take it from a freelancer - we appreciate all the support we get. In any case, hand crafted goods are often so much more durable and unique than mass-manufactured products.
Embracing the minimalist lifestyle was one of the best decisions I ever made. It's amazing how much your environment affects your mental state. Surrounding myself in a clean, considered, and spacious environment makes me feel like I have a lot of breathing room to focus on other things. What do you think? Have I missed anything? Let me know if you have any other space-saving, decluttering, or minimalist ideas!