Until you’ve experienced true loneliness, you will never truly appreciate how precious the people in your life are.
I have taken for granted so many relationships, and I thought I could suffice to myself, but isolation proved me wrong.
During lockdown I have woken up with low mood for days on end, needing a hug from someone. Everyday it felt the same, and I craved human contact so much. And today I realise how important this experience has been.
I have become more humble and I have learned more about my needs and vulnerabilities.
Even though I still need to spend long periods by myself from time to time, I now appreciate the value of a hug more than ever.
Loneliness hurts, and loneliness can kill. We need to be kind with each other.
If we think that inequality and racism in the world is not our problem, as white people, we are part of the problem. We cannot simply show solidarity on social media, and think that we have done our part. The risk is that, in the same way as trends pass, the attention for the Black Lives Matter protests will phase out, and the state of things will remain unchanged. If we do not help promoting representation of people of colour in position of power, equal access to jobs, or prosecution of hate crimes, our solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement is mute.
White people have shaped the world as we know it. We have build the one narrative which has priority over the “other ones”, and white supremacy is something that we see as a natural order of the world. We are born knowing that we are first-class citizens, non-white people are born knowing that they are second-class citizens, to quote the title of Buchi Emecheta’s novel (beautiful, recommend it!).
Racist prejudice comes in different shapes and forms and it reflects the history of colonialism and inequality in different parts of the world. Can we watch the protests in America thinking that it is not our problem? Absolutely not. Black people are systematically excluded from representation and disadvantaged in workplaces everywhere, and Fascist racist movements are on the rise in many countries.
Black migrants becoming the target of hate in italy
African migrants and refugees have been targeted as invaders, by the far-right and Neofascist parties in Italy, which both grew in popularity and gain a vast number of votes in 2018 election, fuelling hate towards the black community and justifying hate crimes by the hands of Italian citizens. The former Ministry of the Interior, now leader of the party of the opposition, Matteo Salvini, made his priority to block the ships of NGO organisations that saved lives in the Mediterraenean Sea from entering Italian harbours, closed down a migrant centre in Sicily where African migrants were hosted, and tried to convince the public opinion that the migrants, although fit for work, would prefer to spend all day doing nothing and being fed by the public money of tax payers. He blamed them for being exploited in the fields, working for 12 euros a day picking tomatoes, living in shantytowns and trafficked by Italian criminal organisations. This campaign of hate shifted the blame for Italian corruption, inefficiency and unemployment on people who tried to save their lives fleeing war, hunger and torture, who survived a boat journey crossing the Mediterraneanea Sea, separated from their families, and ending up working as slaves. Still this humanitarian crisis is going on, and the real numbers of undeclared workers is not known, the migrant workers employed illegally in the fields are estimated to be around 600,000. For Italian society, these lives are invisible.
UK is notinnocent either
Too many people are invisible in the UK too, although born and raised in Britain. The disproportion of wealth distribution and consequent access to education silences black minorities. The roots of this discrimination lay in history, particularly in Colonialism and in the role of the British Empire in the slave trade. Bristol was an important hub of the slave route, and still today the city commemorates slave trader Edward Colston, with a statue of him near the city harbour and a concert hall named after him. In a way it is important to remember this figure (well maybe not with a statue!) and how slavery contributed to the city’s growth. Similarly it is also important to remember how the Black Caribbean community helped rebuild Britain after the war, and how they have been repaid.
Between 1948 and 1970, nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean British colonies to Britain, which in 1948 faced severe labour shortages in the wake of the Second World War. To encourage people to come and work in the United Kingdom an advertisement had appeared in a Jamaican newspaper offering cheap transport on the Empire Windrush ship. The immigrants were later referred to as “the Windrush generation“. The British Nationality Act 1948 gave Citizenship of the UK and Colonies to all people living in the United Kingdom and its colonies, and the right of entry and settlement in the UK. The people who came to work from the West Indies endured frequent episodes of discrimination, being denied housing, employment or even entry to pubs and dancehalls. Fascist groups promoted violent actions and police brutality towards people of colour, leading to a number of clashes and riots in the 1970s and 1980s. Years later, many Windrush-generation children, often traveling on their parents’ passports, and not formally naturalised, faced eviction and deportation as a result of Theresa May’s hostile environment policy.
After a few years spent in the UK I realised that very often school programs would favour a patronising view of British colonialism, in the same way as Italian schools avoid teaching about the horrors of Italian colonialism in Ethiopia, Somalia and Lybia. I have heard too many two-sided stories about British colonialism by English people, comments such as “but the British Empire did something good too, I mean we’ve built railways…” will usually be thrown in the conversation, and this is another way to justify the historical injustice. It’s another way of saying “it is what it is”, the white man had the “burden”, to quote Rudyard Kipling’s horrid poem, of bringing civilisation to those who were not civilised (according to the European standards). Here is where the narrative gets reversed: we shouldn’t call it empoverishment of the colonised countries to trade goods, to trade slaves, to exploit human labour and resources for the benefit of the white countries. We should instead consider it as a service towards those countries which needed the intervention of the white hand, the oppression had to happen, for a lesson had to be taught, the white man has shown the light to the rest of the world.
Pity is the other face of Racism, connected to the ignorance and the arrogance of European people who think their culture is the only culture, therefore it has to be imposed to the rest of the world. It is time to reverse this supremacy. To introduce a non-white point of view. To read books written by people of colour, by black historians. To read stories of black women, of black queer people, of black disabled people, of black communities, and reject the dominant narrative we grew up with.
As we continue to experience a suspended reality, we are getting to know ourselves a bit better. We are confronting all aspects of our personality, of our personal history, our best and our worst. The first week for me was the messiest one. I was waking up each day and didn’t know where to start. I had more time, but I wasn’t used to working from home, and during the early stage of the lockdown panic buyers had wiped off so many essential products from the shelves. Simple things such as food shopping or going to a pharmacy were so difficult! I couldn’t go to the shops in the evening like I used to, because everything I needed was gone, so I had to shift my working hours, and that little change led to chaos in my daily schedule for a good couple of weeks (I know it takes very little to disrupt my habits! With all the problems in the world I falter because I find a few empty shelves in the supermarket…).
On a more personal level, I found hard to deal with different feelings at the beginning. Worrying about my family and not being able to see them, trying to understand the current situation and what was the best thing to do in my position, how I could help. I have found myself in the midst of too many feelings at the same time. I have felt overwhelmed and lost focus, and often felt guilty because of this. Fortunately my work is my “therapy” and once having established new healthy habits, I have learned to appreciate the little things I have taken for granted for a long time. These are a few things that are giving me balance and inspiring me:
Being gentle with myself, and choose calm over efficiency. I found strength in accepting my limitations and my vulnerability as human being. My days are less hectic, I don’t have to spend time on a commute five days a week. I have a lot of time, but that doesn’t mean I should put more pressure on myself to be productive. Readapting to an unprecedented and unknown situation has been a challenge for all of us, and each person reacts in a different way. Let’s not forget that we have all experienced a wide range of emotions in a few days, and to understand and accept reality took a lot of work. This is not the moment to expect results from ourselves.
Spending more time observing nature. When you are too busy going from point A to point B you often miss the little things around you. During my sparse errands to the shops I have shamefully acknowledge how much time I was spending indoors before the lockdown even began! This year Spring has been phenomenal, and the reduced traffic have allowed the people who live in cities to appreciate birds’ chirping and the sound of leaves moved by the wind. Walking and exercising in nature have reconnected me with my passion for the natural world and made me feel happy just for being able to breathe, walk and live my life everyday.
Finding the routine that works for me, and being flexible. It is a common problem for people spending long hours working at a desk to feel like your brain has turned into a mushy puree. Before I would fight this feeling and push through and sometimes lead myself to exhaustion. Neglecting my needs has caused my shoulders to ache more often, and has discouraged my creative potential. Taking the time to connect with friends and family, to plant seeds, to cook, to do yoga and to keep my flat tidy are giving me peace and are keeping me sane. All these activities have now their own dedicated space in my daily schedule, helping me being connected to the present moment, fostering new ideas, and making me feel centred and energised.
My personal projects reflect what is important for me in this moment. I have dealt with a lot of different feelings, worried for my family and a few friends and suffered from anxiety, like never before. But it has also been a humbling experience, that has taught me how our ego sometimes gets in the way and distract us from pursuing our true purpose in life. Lockdown has enabled introspection on a deeper level, and it has helped me reconnecting with my creative essence, with what is important for me.
Celebrating small weekly victories. The uncertainty we are experiencing can cause a lot of anxiety and frustration, but it also releases the obsession for control over the future. I have set a weekly schedule system, which has become my Sunday ritual: I highlight the priority of my week (work deadlines, food shopping, cooking meals) and the personal projects for the weekend, then I make sure I balance off those duties with exercise and gardening. Once those tasks are completed I indulge in a “reward”, which can be a glass of wine, a movie, a videochat. This is ideally how my week is planned out, but I allow flexibility so I can move around the tasks on different days, depending on how things work out. I do not overload my schedule so at the end of each week I have some time to use the way I want and feel good with myself for having ticked all the boxes on my checklist!
Keeping learning and working on my weaknesses. Sometimes enjoying the process is more rewarding than finishing a piece, especially when you draw something without a particular agenda, just for the pleasure of it. I keep a folder that I can access anytime from my laptop or iPad with photos I would like to draw from. It is always very refreshing and productive at the same time to do this type of drawing exercises. It is also a perfect way to practice your weaknesses and improve your skills. At the present time, the type of illustration I would like to get better at are interiors, and food illustrations, so I make sure have plenty of images to practice with.
Building something little by little. No plan, no agenda, just trusting the flow that happens in the moment, rather than trying to imagine what the end result will be like. Just as all our expectations for the future are paused right now, I am learning to switch off my inner critic and keep going, whenever direction comes more natural for me. I believe that if your work is aligned with your values you just need to keep creating, and it will all make sense eventually. I think art can have an important role in the world to endure the difficult times that we are living in and to reimagine a fairer society, finding beauty and connecting people. This is the direction I want to give to my work at the moment.
What is your best advice for a happy creative lockdown? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.
January is the month of New Year’s Resolutions and reflections. My January has begun with a series of reflections on my past, which led to set my intentions for the new year. I thought about the battles I had with my low self-confidence and how I managed to pull myself out of a few rough patches. I traveled back in time and gave my old self a good pack on the back, then I asked myself what my plan was for this year.
For me lists, schedules and goal-planning can often be very overwhelming, and sometimes produce the opposite effect of what they are supposed to do: they make me want to do everything that is not on the list! But I love what I do, so why does it come easier when I don’t have a list? If you’ve read my previous post you know I was on a long bus journey in that moment, and I started asking myself a lot of questions. How can I work towards my goals without obsessing over results? How can I be my friend and ally instead of being my own cruel judge? How can I improve but also have fun? It was then that my future self sat next to me and discussed a bunch of issues. These were some of the answers she provided.
Enjoy the discovery
What you are requesting from yourself is quite unfair. You want to jump to the end of your creative journey by skipping a few necessary steps. You want things to happen now, and you want them to be perfect, but you can’t predict when you are going to be fully happy with your work. The trick is just to keep working, and refine the work as you continue learning.
Do more, edit later
You want to make all the decisions in advance, and have control from the beginning, but if you accept the unpredictability of your creative process you will finally embrace a whole range of possible solutions. Forget your schedule and let loose. Have fun painting, without a particular reason. Don’t decide what it’s going to be before you start it. Keep producing, and once you have a lot of work, edit it and choose what you are going to use and how.
Develop your effortless style
While you are in that place where you are having fun and enjoying the process, do not analyze what medium, textures or shapes you are using. Produce a large body of work, and then pick the features and the techniques you are more comfortable using. Don’t force yourself trying to reproduce something you have seen and would like your art to look like, because that’s not you. It will come to you once you have cleared your head, and you are only looking at your work.
Remember your story
Your strength lies in your story. The experiences from your life, your sensations, your values, your memories. They all compose your voice and your uniqueness. If you stay true to that voice you will produce work that is consistent, evocative and powerful. Trust that voice and people will listen!
If you wait until you feel ready, it might be too late
You will learn how to deal with uncertainty and you will learn that believing in yourself is the first step to translate intention into action. Do not wait to start doing the things you love, because if you don’t get something right the first time, you will get it the second time, or the third time. You remember that idea that sounded just great, and you waited and waited, and the same idea eventually found someone else whilst you were waiting to be ready? Yeah… it sucked.
Drop the not 10/10 Projects
For your side projects choose the ones that resonates with you and with your voice. Don’t spread yourself too thin and don’t try to commit to too many projects at the same time. Make the wisest investment on your time and energy in order to put 100% into something that is really worth the effort. Also start with the project that you can complete with the skillset that you possess at the present time. The time for your ambitious projects will come one day but you need to learn a few things prior, so don’t worry about those for now.
Do not choose something because it feels safe
The rewards and the possibilities that you would want to open up will only happen if you exit your comfort zone and make a brave decision. Think about all the fears which you thought will always stay with you and you managed to conquer. Recognise if fear is preventing you from achieving your goals and explore a different approach, which could be a little uncomfortable for you at first.
Do not expect an opportunity to be life-changing
There have been moments when you had put so much expectation on an opportunity to open up and finally change the cards on the table, and felt so miserable when things just fell through, or revealed not so ground-breaking as you hoped they were going to be. Keep building your portfolio, keep pushing yourself and doors will open up. Cultivate ideas and expose yourself. It is not a big break that will turn your life around, because a setback can happen just as fast. The only safenet for your career is constant improvement of the quality of your work, and the best things will happen when you least expect them.
What you have built was based on experimentation, constance and research. Try not to stay in the same place, and open up to new territories. Maybe the thing you are looking for is something that you haven’t tried yet.
I wish you will maintain focus and motivation to bring the future you desire closer and closer to the present. You know you are in the right mindset right now. Go for it!
This year on New Year’s Day, during a four-hour coach journey, I went time-traveling and met my past self from three years ago.
We had a long chat, she told me that she felt discouraged, that she was full of ideas but loathed everything she put onto paper, and that she couldn’t see what direction her work was going to take.
I listened to her quietly, then I wrote her a letter. When we said goodbye, I hugged her and thanked her for trusting her intuition, in spite of all the bad moments she was going through, and I gave her the letter. This is what I wrote to her:
Dear Past Self,
I know now that dealing with your insecurities is part of the game, and starting something new entails being unsure and vulnerable. I remember how it feels to be dominated by fear. When we are afraid to take a chance, we can tell ourselves an awful lot of excuses, and not realise that the fear of failing is actually the one thing that is holding us back. You will familiarise with your negative feelings too, and the dark moments will be as important as the positive ones, because you will learn about the power of resilience.
The three years ahead of you are going to be an adventure and a learning curve. You are setting the foundation for your dream to become true, and will overcome struggles and obstacles. You are in the trial-and-error phase, and you are disappointed and frustrated with your results, but through your mistakes you will find your path. It is the only way, trust me, and the work that you produce that you think is bad is important too, because it is goingto lead you to what you really want.
Almost everything I have learned was by making mistakes and readjustments, and sometimes by falling flat on my face! I can’t make things easier for you, but I promise that you won’t regret the choices you have made. It will take some time for you to believe in yourself and you have to go through many trials and errors to understand what is right for you. I would like to give you three pieces of advice to support you during your journey. I hope these can help you through tough times.
Focus on the process rather than on the results.
Things take time, and you need to allow yourself a few tries before reaching the result you have in mind. Artists usually never share their initial steps, and you don’t know how many attempts it took to get to that piece of art you love so much. Also, some projects require a lot of different skill-sets, and you may not possess or master all the skills you need for that particular project. Just relax and keep working, you will adjust your craft on the way, also ideas will come, valid ones, I promise.
Find the discipline that works for you
Practice, practice and practice. Do not let long periods of time pass without drawing at all. Understand which moment of the day is the most productive for you, and try to plan your activities in order to keep that time available for your work. When it is not possible to use that time, try to spare a few minutes every day, but do not put too much pressure on yourself to complete the piece that you are working on. If you are too busy with your job or if you have more urgent things to take care of, don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t work long hours to make up for the time you couldn’t draw or paint. You will only feel frustrated if you do that. Do not wait until you have a whole day to spend on your illustration, do a little bit everyday because regular practice is the most important factor for your artistic and professional growth.
Focus on your natural strengths and sensitivity
When you feel genuine pleasure in the work you are doing it means that that is the work you should be doing. Of course you need to challenge yourself and find ways to improve, but if you are not enjoying what you are doing it means that it is not your best work, that is not you. Think about the most enthusiastic feedback you’ve received, and when friends commented: “that is really you!”, what were the characteristics that defined your work? What is important to you? What are your values? Explore what gives joy and meaning to your life, and you will find your voice.
Thanks for your hard work. Don’t worry, it will pay off.
After meeting my past self, I still had two hours to spend on my coach. So I reached out to my future self and asked if she had any advice for me.
I will tell a little about the conversation we had in the next post.
Hello everyone! Welcome to my fresh new blog and to this new decade!!
My mind and body has fully recharged during the holidays, I have been working on full power over the past week (probably fuelled by panettone, chocolate and all the sugars I have eaten over Christmas), and I am exuding optimism and new ideas.
I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a long time and sharing thoughts about illustration, art, life as an artist, and in the spirit of new beginnings I have decided to jump right into it and start. Yesss!!
Let me introduce myself: my name is Camilla, I am an Illustrator, and I was born in Italy, where I studied illustration for three years, so if I sound funny or make grammar mistakes please forgive me as English is not my first language! (Also please feel free to point out if there is any mistake in the comments so I can correct it.)
My illustration adventure commenced in 2016, in the lovely city of Bristol, which is situated in the Avon region of England, where I currently live and work as a Creative Artworker in a design company.
Honestly I still haven’t fully realised that this is my life now, some days I wake up feeling I have absolutely no idea of what I am doing, and others I wake up feeling invincible. There has been many highs and lows, and I want to share how these three years of my life have been.
We live in a society that encourages us to always show how successful and happy we are. What I am hoping to start is an honest conversation with friends and fellow creatives, about what I have learned through my experience, to give a little insight on my creative process, but also to share some of the struggles I have gone through and expose my vulnerabilities. I want to be talking about lots of nice things that make me happy and inspired as well as how I carried on my illustration projects while having a full-time job, how I have dealt with bad days, how I got out of many creative slumps, how I have dealt with rejection, fear and lack of motivation.
By no means I intend to give career hacks, or give lessons on how to build a creative career, because I am still in the initial phase of my creative journey, so if you are reading this and you are an experienced artist or designer it would be very helpful if you leave a comment, if you can. Opinions and advice are welcome and strongly appreciated. So without further ado, it is time to finish this introduction and move on to the first content, I am feeling jazzed up and have a lot of things to say!
In my next post I will explore a recent conversation I have had with myself (as if often happens when I have a long coach journey), and it is going to be about the ugly side too, so… keep reading, and leave a comment if you like!