I believe I heard someone say this, but all artists who pursue art as their profession are forced to discover and face who they really are behind all the layers. The art we make is in a large part a reflection of who we are, so if we don't find out who that person is, it's quite hard to create something meaningful or to find passion in the work.
A lot has happened in the year of 2017. From graduating University to travelling and becoming fully self-employed, not to mention enjoying a beautiful relationship with my boyfriend, meeting new people, discovering my love for cooking vegan food and running a half marathon. Also, living in downtown Toronto, adopting a cage-free pet rabbit, and saying goodbye to my beloved childhood dog, Caesar. Lastly, and most recently, welcoming a new member to our family - Bella, the Lab.
When I look back on the things that shaped my year, I feel gratitude, excitement, and a little angst... I feel like I am in the process of discovering the true gift of life and how precious it really is.
When I was first taught fashion illustration in University, I didn't think much of it as I couldn't see any quality in my work. This being said, I had spent the last 8 years or so creating paintings that relied mostly on realism - landscapes of beaches, mountains, cottages, anything that helped my mind escape at the time. Fashion illustration, on the other hand, falls into a much more expressive category, one in which elements are heightened, exaggerated and amplified in any shape or form.
It wasn't until I had one teacher who taught us about some of the historical superstars of fashion illustration such as Erte, Rene Gruau and George Lepape to name a few. I found such a passion in searching this work, I couldn't believe the images my eyes were absorbing. Endless beauty that reflected the decade, like the 20's flapper girl or Dior's new look in the 50's. I couldn't fathom the way that these artists captured the essence of the time and I knew I was onto something. This followed into hours and hours of researching, buying books, finding inspiration wherever I could and this led to drawing - all the time... and I haven't stopped!
Over the last year, I spent so much time exploring my illustration "style" and with much frustration, fear, doubt and undeniably, passion, I slowly started to see repetition in my drawings and my style started to develop.
I didn't really have a plan when it came to graduating University, but I knew I wasn't about to live a typical lifestyle of working a desk job somewhere when I wanted to be my own boss. This is also when I started reading lots of books about success, lifestyle choices and money. I quickly realized that I had all the tools I needed already to be self-employed, but I also knew it would take time to grow these outlets of income and when you're living in the downtown core of a city like Toronto, paying rent can get a little stressful at times, especially when you're getting on your feet.
I slowly became obsessed with the idea of living a lifestyle of freedom. Freedom to pursue my passion, freedom to spend time with my family, friends and loved ones when I want to and not when someone else tells me that I can.
I worked two part time jobs out of University, and took whatever illustration commissions came my way as well. Money was tight, but I knew I was doing the right thing. This transition out of University felt very odd to me and actually gave me a lot of anxiety. From the moment we are born, we constantly absorb direction from others in our lives. When we are young, our parents and teachers control most of our actions, our wants and our needs and we are expected to obey and receive. When we get our first job, we have a boss or manager who tells us how to act, what to do and what not to do. Every aspect of our lives, in some way, is most often controlled by the likes of others, and now being fully self-employed, I had to learn how to be my own boss and direct myself.
Full disclosure - I am nowhere near where I want to be in terms of discipline and focus, but I take steps everyday to get there and work towards it slowly. Becoming your own boss means that you are fully responsible for any and every mistake, every action you take is your responsibility as well as the actions that you don't take.
Being my own boss actually gave me a lot of anxiety where I thought it would make me very happy. Like most things that are unusual to us, there is always a learning curve and a growth period where we adapt and adjust. Do I have a schedule that I follow strictly day by day to get everything done? Nope (although I do try). Do I set an alarm every single morning and make sure to stop working by 10PM? Nope. Do I take small steps daily to become more and more disciplined, focused and driven? Hell yes. Day to day, I read books, listen to podcasts, workout, work on promoting my business, staying on top of my current projects and planning my long and short-term goals.
I feel SO incredibly blessed for the beautiful humans around me who support me and lift me up when times are hard or when I am feeling anxious in fear of my next move. I think behind every successful human is a tribe of their loved ones behind them, who support them no matter what and give them the courage to continue.
If I have to sum it up, I would say that 2017 has taught me to be bold, to be brave and to be a boss of my own life. We only get one life, regardless of how much money you make, how many things you have, the car you drive or the house you live in, the successes, the experiences and people you love are the memories that you will carry with you. I made a clear choice not to limit myself or to doubt my capability of persevering and working hard to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a world renown fashion illustrator (and buying myself a beach house!). This being said, 2017 also taught me to create balance in my life. To enjoy moments with my loved ones without wandering elsewhere or wishing I was somewhere else. To rid of anxiety, doubt and to live presently and enjoy the moments that pass me by day to day.
When you start living in a present way, you find beauty in every aspect of life. I can find beauty and happiness on the gloomiest of days. When little things go wrong, I challenge myself to let them go - like a game. I walk a little slower to reach my destination, so I can notice the people passing me by, and hopefully get a smile out of a handful of them, just to know that I made someone smile that day.
2017 truly taught me to love my life with all it's beautiful imperfections, to take charge of my life and to simply just live my life the way that I want to, when I want to and where I want to. 2017 was just the beginning of the rest of my life, and I can't wait to see what's in store for next year.
What were your biggest takeaways from 2017?