On starting over

You know how when you start drawing on a sheet of paper and you’re happy that everything is going well? You’re in the flow of things – swish, stroke, draw, paint. This is the best thing ever! 

But then, oh crap. A slip up. No biggie. Let’s deal with that.

Ctrl-Z.

Swish, stroke, draw, paint. Hmmmm.

You erase, move on. Re-do. Undo. Paint over. Undo again.

Undo. Undo. Undo. Argh.

There’s a nagging thought at the back of your mind. This isn’t turning out so well. But it’s half done! It’s almost there! I can almost see it, I just can’t feel it… yet.

So you continue to throw more at it. Layers and layers of lines, paint, and paper. Until you don’t know how you got here. Everything looks like a hot mess. Crap.

Since it took you this long to flesh out the whole thing you decide to keep at it. More. Undo. More. Undo.

GAHHH.

At this point you start to sweat. You’ve done something alright, but you’re not happy. It doesn’t feel right. Or for that split second when you rationalise with yourself that hey, that’s pretty decent. Not great, but just okay. Nothing wrong with it being just okay, right? Right? Plus, look at all this time you’ve put into it! 3 hours! 10! What about the time you lost sleep over it? Surely it means you’re onto something worthwhile? No? What? No?

Listen, you’re not getting that time back. What you can do is to not sink more time and energy into something that you know deep down won’t work.

We can’t turn back time, but we can learn from it. Take your finger off the CTRL-Z button. No more undos.

Take a deep breath.

You know what you have to do.

You’ve got to start over.

It’s hard. Look, I totally get it.

But shittier things have happened. Natural disasters wiping away cities down to nothing. Earthquakes that swallow up whole postcodes. Families get torn apart. People divorce. But people rebuild. That’s what they do. They start from scratch again. Things will and can collapse, but we have a choice to rebuild. It’s not a question of do or don’t. It’s a question of when. When you fall down, you dust yourself off, and get back up.

Sure, you’ll mourn what could have been. You’ll stumble along the way. That piece of paper could have turned out great. Your time, effort and energy didn’t have to be wasted.

The same could be said of every disaster, hardship or challenge faced by people everyday. That accident could have been avoided. They looked so happy. No one predicted that the storm would be that devastating.

Today, it’s between you and that sheet of paper.

Starting again is scary. But so is holding on to something that you know can be so much better.

It’s natural to worry about the what if’s when you put aside that mangled piece of paper. It’s the fear that your work will never be the same again. Or that you couldn’t possibly recreate it again. It may not be a bad thing though. Let’s face it – your new work could go bad. Really bad. Or, it may very well be amazing. You could even outdo yourself. You could discover a completely new side to your work. Serendipity could pay dividends – but only if you’re willing to take the chance to walk through that door.

The point is, you’ll never know what will happen until you start fresh, without all the baggage that came with the old.

When we put so much expectation onto that one sheet of paper, it’s hard to move beyond the sunk costs. Darn it, I invested time and effort into this piece – it should pay off! I should be able to finish what I started on this sheet itself! It should look great!

But life doesn’t always work that way does it?

I’ve recently learned the hard way how true this is. The act of holding on to something that you’ve poured your heart, sweat and tears into, one that no longer fits – is painful. Learning to let go, to set it free and to try again takes a lot more courage than we dare to admit. But that’s what we have to do, even if it feels like conquering Mount Everest. Even if it’s letting go of a piece of paper.

So do yourself a favour – take one small step today.

Time to take out a fresh sheet of paper.

White. Empty. Fresh. New. The possibilities are endless.

Ready? Go on, make your mark.

Again.

And again. And again.

Pretty soon, you’ll realise that starting over gets a little easier everyday.

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As I write about starting over, I’m hitting the reset button myself. I’m launching a new online class in September (based on the feedback you lovely readers have generously shared with me!) More details will be afoot in a couple of weeks, so watch this space!

Illustration by Ryo Takemasa

A zine on friendships and loss

Friends,

I have been missing in action for a few months now, and I’m sorry I didn’t leave a note or an explanation. So many things have happened in between then and now – life got in the way (among many other things) and I just couldn’t bring myself to write for the past few months. The good news however, is that I’m easing myself slowly into being back into the groove of things (it feels like 2018 has just begun for me!)

While I didn’t do much writing here on the blog, I do have something new to show – I created a new zine in collaboration with Weng Pixin and it talks about friendship. Or rather, the lack and loss of it, all wrapped up and titled “This Ship’d Sailed”. Now, I’ve experienced friendships that have gone on and off, or perhaps even on again. We’re not bitter nor angry about them – we just felt that there’s a certain mystery about friendships, of how feelings and emotions tied to such relationships can affect us so much.


Who hasn’t lost a friend in their life? Or who hasn’t felt the stung of rejection that arose from not feeling like they belong? Or what about feeling less than memorable? So much so that you feel tossed aside and ultimately forgotten? It hurts a lot, and I can relate.

This was the reason why Pixin and I decided to create this zine – it’s 40 pages long (yes!) and consists of 7 artists sharing their stories of lost friendships – from friendly fallouts to eventual growing-apart-itis. It’s a less talked about subject – so many people were celebrating friendships that we thought that it might be interesting to talk about the flip side to BFFs.

Having had my fair share of friendships that did not turn out as well as I had hoped, I was hoping that I wasn’t the only one who felt hurt, left out and bewildered by such incidences. Turns out, it’s quite normal (if what I see and read from the contributors are anything to go by). Perhaps you’ve gone through something like this as well, to which I say sharing is really caring.

So do share with me:

Have you ever lost a friendship that was near and dear to you? Or perhaps you’ve felt a little sidelined by a group of friends before? I’d love for you to break open those floodgates and release your frustrations and feelings, and share them with me. Who knows? You might just help a friend or two (even if you don’t know them as one yet).

To see the insides of This Ship’d Sailed zine in all its full-colour glory, head over to my Etsy shop for more pictures and to get yourself a copy!

Review: Art Oracles: Creative & life inspiration from the great artists

Who doesn’t need a little bit of advice every now and then? I know I do.

Especially when it’s from famous artists, presented alá tarot cards, reminiscent of oracle decks for guidance. If mysticism is indeed and alive and well, why shouldn’t there be one in the realm of art? We look to old masters (and even new talents) for inspiration, so it makes total sense to revere the ones who has left an indelible mark on the world. If you’re nodding along to this so far, then you’ll be intrigued as I was with Art Oracles, sent to me by the lovely people at Laurence King Publishing.

Gifts for artists that are interesting and unique are far and few in between (which is why there’s so few review of them on here), but I’m very thrilled to have found it in Art Oracles. The deck has 50 cards, with a helpful booklet that details each artist’s biographies and instructions on how to use them. Basically, you select a card whenever you have a question that pertains to either life, work or inspiration, and glean what you will from the history of greatest artists, painters, architects and designers via fortune-cookie style proverbs. At a glance it may seem a little simplistic, but the more I delved into each saying, the more it made sense. Take a cue from Marcel Duchamp: “Making it look easy is hard,” or the wise words of Frida Kahlo – “Externalise your internal world.” Its cryptic brevity leaves the deciphering to the eye of the beholder. Magic!

Written by Kayla Tylevich and illustrated by Mikel Sommer, it’s a beautiful deck (gold-foiled, no less) that has the ability to be light and yet serious enough to work across all creative disciplines – a perfect counterpoint to the fast-paced, mad world of art and design. Think of it like a magic 8-ball for creatives, only more aesthetically pleasing with a whole lot more range to its answers.

Even if you’re not one for new-age mysticism, Art Oracles is enjoyable and insightful, and would make an excellent gift for yourself (or a friend). I’m not the only ones who think so too – check out the reviews and get it through Amazon.

Images from Art Oracles: Creative & Life Inspiration from the Great Artists by Katya Tylevich and Mikkel Sommer Christensen (Laurence King Publishing, 2017).