Check out the submissions page. One of my pictures is an example! (You can't see it from a mobile device). Can you tell which one is mine?
(For anyone who doesn't know me personally, it's the one with the mom and her kid with the sun streaming in behind them).
How do we remain open to serendipity while still aiming at concrete goals? It's a pull back and forth, like a yoga pose, I suppose.
The day my husband came home from work 2 and a half years ago and said that he'd been offered a two-year position in Malaysia, my heart did a flip. Many thoughts went through my head.
Thoughts like, "
Wait, what? Huh? Malaysia? Do I even know exactly where Malaysia is? Near Thailand, right? Oh God, isn't it hot there? I know so little about Malaysia. That's embarrassing! Super embarrassing! How can I move somewhere I know so little about? WHAT THE HECK???
Petronas Towers with birds and a morning moon
It was totally out of the blue for me.
I was on a path, after all. We were on a path. Here. In Bellingham. Weren't we?
For myself, I felt like my artwork and writing were improving, I was getting lots of positive response, I felt closer to being able to better share my art. I felt entrenched in several networks that I loved. It seemed crazy to up and leave.
My husband loved racing his bike here, we had plans for my son for preschool. We owned a house. We were on a path!
Other thoughts went through my head too.
Is this really happening? We could travel a bunch, couldn't we? I'd get to see so many places in SE Asia. I'd get to meet so many interesting new people. I could bury myself in my work when I wasn't traveling and just sort of retreat, couldn't I? Hmm... tempting. My son could be exposed to different cultures and languages when he's young enough for it to sink in deep. My husband could do something super cool with his work after supporting me for so long with my pipe-dreams. What a crazy opportunity, no? How can I say no when such a fantastic and fascinating opportunity comes my way?"
So I, we, said yes.
And I'll never regret that we did so.
The last few years I've grown and changed and seen so many interesting places and learned so many interesting things. My art has grown and changed. My son has grown and changed. My husband has. Our lives are richer, thicker with memory, more full of heart, because of our time in Asia.
But it did sort of mess up the PLAN. And now we are home. And I'm swimming in boxes and ideas.
Here's what my studio looks like right now...sigh.
Where do I go from here? How, exactly, has my work changed? What do I do with those changes? How has my family changed? How do I balance my feelings about previous goals not being met with my delight over serendipitous growth?
For me, the highlights of the SCBWI conference I attended two weeks ago — just over a day before our movers dropped off our container full of boxes from Malaysia (whew! It's been a busy month for me) — were hearing Melissa Sweet's keynote and also attending her playful collage workshop. She is one of my favorite illustrators. She incorporates collage in such serendipitous ways in her books. Yet the stories (in pictures) are certainly planned out. They have to be to get from the beginning to the end.
I made this collage during Melissa's workshop. The quote is from Picasso.
If you've never seen Melissa's work, do check it out (plus she's as nice as she is talented). My favorite two books of hers are
(which she also wrote, about the man who designed the first puppet balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade) and
, by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (an inventive picture book biography about William Carlos Williams). In both she uses collage in this serendipitous, spontaneous way, while still completely following a story arc in a clearly planned out way.
I love this about her work. I'd love to do this more in my own work. Balance the playful, unplanned serendipity with a carefully thought-through vision.
I suppose it's the yoga pose I'm in now. The pull back and forth between the spontaneous and the planned. The visioning and the surprises.
Here's to the journey.
|Firefly art: a collage I made in the last few weeks of living in Malaysia|
There are so many words I could write about it all, about the changes, about the experience, about what's to come, even about just the last few weeks or last few adventures. Heck, I never even mentioned on my blog that I went to Laos!
But for now, I'm just enjoying the last few moments here in this city I've grown to love. Saying good-bye to a few lovely people. Oh, and taking care of all the stuff that one takes care of when one moves (uffda).
What a strange, surprising, turn of life this whole experience has been.
I'll miss this place. But I look forward to going home.
....I have two weeks of adventures that await during the in-between time.
Yay for adventure.
I'm off for Hong Kong tomorrow.
It's only a few days before I lose all my studio equipment to a container ship for weeks and weeks.
Unfortunately all this transition doesn't line up with my drive to make art and work on my novel project.
At least I made this one piece I like last week.
Here it is in color:
I really wanted to get some black and white stuff made for my portfolio as I've been working on making it presentable in its own right (not meant just for sketches). But I'm feeling super picky about it, which I think is a good thing. Maybe I won't get it done for this conference. Perhaps the next one.
Meanwhile, I've only two weeks left in Malaysia. I have some adventures planned on the way home. Then, by the end of March, I'll be back in the USA for good.
I just have to get through these bumps with dignity and grace and hopefully a little work done and my relationships all in tact. If anyone else out there is going through any transitions, here's a shout out. I'm rooting for you!
I suddenly interrupted my crazy taxi driver's unwarranted tirade. "I guess I'm done with this experience," I said. And in the same heartbeat I threw five bucks at the guy and jumped out of his cab into the jammed traffic around us.
I put my hand out in front of approaching cars and wove my way through them, smaller then they — but more agile, to the side of the road. I took a deep breath of the humid tropical air and relished my freedom to be a little bit of my own kind of crazy.
I'm here to say that yes, do-overs are occasionally possible. Other taxi drivers do come along, eventually (especially when you huff it out, despite the heat, and seek another taxi stand). And sometimes it feels very satisfying to stand up for one's peace in small, but meaningful ways.
Here's to anyone who finds him or her self in a crazy chaotic space this week and chooses to say no to it. You have choices. I hope in just such a moment you are able to find yourself a little breathing space and a quiet moment of nice.
|I love relishing moments of peace in the midst of a busy city. Here's such a moment: the Petronas towers with morning light, a morning moon, and morning birds.|
|These are apples some Chinese friends gave us for the New Year.|
|Christmas in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam|
|Hmm, next time I whine about traffic in KL, remind me about Ha Noi, Vietnam...|
|Kayaking in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam with my son, Oscar.|
|Riding an elephant in Chang Mai, Thailand.|
|Enjoying the view in Hong Kong|
|My husband, "flying" in Nha Trang, Vietnam|
|Christmas, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam|
|Happy New Year! Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam|
|From a descent into Vancouver International Airport, near my home in Bellingham, Washington.|
Cheers to the possibilities!
The above picture was taken in Australia and the picture below was taken last week in Kuala Lumpur.
What do these pictures have in common (besides both having my son in them)?
They marked the beginning of two different canopy walks.
In Malaysia it was at the Forest Research Institute, where they reclaimed an old industrial wasteland and made it jungle again (above).
In Australia we walked among the giant tingle treetops (above).
But at both I found myself walking on tiny, looooong bridges, high, high up in the trees.
Amazing. Fantastic. I loved it.
But... these walks were not exactly for the faint of heart.
They felt like small practices in bravery (not to mention yoga breathing).
They were exercises in trust.
They felt a bit like what it feels like when you put your art out in the world, actually.
You trust that the journey will be a bit thrilling, you'll be glad you did it, you probably won't crash to the ground, but things will feel a little shaky and uncertain, even if exciting.
And your view on the world will be different, at least for a bit.
There may even be anchors along the way, to help calm your nerves, even while keeping the view.
You probably won't fly, but it might feel a bit like you are.
You might even decide to go for it again...
What a cheesy post.
But a bit of truth is there somewhere, I'm sure.
If not for being an artist, then at least for being an adventur-ess.
Now, back to the ground.
|A window in the Islamic Art Museum.|
|Painting detail by Yusoff Abdullah, a Malaysian artist|
* The signature here is from the painting at the top of this post. I mentioned that the artist's name was Yusoff Abdullah, a Malaysian artist who I could find little information on, which is why the uncertainty and the lack of links. Please accept my sincere apologies if I've given credit wrong! Also, please correct me, if someone out there knows better, I'd prefer to properly give credit and links if they exist.