Rebecca, 40 x 40” / 101.6 x 101.6cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019
Dreaming isn’t doing. It can be the start of doing, like, you’ll start doing because you were dreaming it, but until you take actual, purposeful steps toward making them come true, they’re ‘just’ dreams.
When I was a kid I used to say that I’d work really hard until I was 30, live off of what I’d saved working real hard until I was 40, and then die. I’m 45 now, so I guess I didn’t take those actual, purposeful steps, haha.
As I write this, I can’t help thinking about two things. The first is my first post on the jillablog, which I wrote about this same time two years ago. That was when the, I won’t say ‘first’ thing, but I would say ‘thing with the greatest impact’ occurred to set all of this in motion.
The second is my last show, Aviary, where I painted a lot of birdcages which, while it really had been something I’d always wanted to do, just felt ‘fitting’ or most suited to the times, at the time.
Looking back, I guess I really sort of can trace how everything led to me being here, two weeks in (and two years since) to my finally starting to settle down in what I’m trying to set up as my own little studio-slash-home.
Dreams can come true
See, I’d always dreamed of having a little house (at the bottom of a hill, lol) where I could just paint and, you know. Grow sunflowers, I suppose. Up until recently I’d always thought it would be the house I grew up in. I had this idea that I’d get super rich, buy everyone else in the house their own homes, so I could kick them all out and have the house to myself, haha.
Well, I guess that all happened in reverse. ^__^ And while I’m not at the bottom of a hill (which would be a dangerous thing, given the possibly flood-prone locale I’m in now), and this is a little apartment, rather than a little house—I really do think I’ve landed on my feet. The ‘new jillahouse’ I’m renting now is just the right size (think Goldilocks) for little ol’ me.
I know many artists live and work in separate places, but for me, I’ve never been able to picture myself not living in the place where I painted, or made stuff. Maybe because I’ve always lived and painted in the exact same place all my life.
I also guess it’s because I’ve gotten used to working long hours into the wee hours, and having somewhere to lie down right there when I was done, was handy. I remember even just working in the backyard and having to go upstairs just to sleep was irksome. Then again, of course, having a bed nearby had its drawbacks, too, in the fighting procrastination department. ^o^
I think the art classes I’ve been taking this year (and which I’ve had to take a break from, for the moment, because of my move) also had a key role to play in making this happen for me. I’d spoken about how online studio visits were a major ‘thing’ in the classes, and I’d attended or watched the recordings thinking about how I would do it if and when I ever had the guts. Or you know. An actual studio, LOL.
How artists move house
I was very fortunate to find this apartment when I did, because I had been just about to move into a single room in a small condominium closer to everything that was familiar to me. What drew me to this room was how one entire wall had floor to ceiling windows, which really spoke to my imagination (not that the view was so great, lol).
But then I would not have been able to take everything with me—‘everything’ meaning all my unsold canvases and framed pieces (some of which are on the large and heavy (for me) side). And as much as possible, I didn’t want to have to leave any of my ‘children’ behind. Besides, there were also all my other works and studies and all my gear and so on.
I came to realise that moving for an artist has its own ‘challenges’ that may not apply to most other people moving house. Kind of like how I had to think about how I was going to pack the french easel and my 7-foot tikbalang instead of packing a sofa or a refrigerator (neither of which I have, lol).
The 7-foot tikbalang. His name is Tagak (because he turns into one (a heron).
(No, I don't think this is life-size; I'm pretty sure he's bigger and taller (and his spear is straighter ^o^)
I have a cousin about 10 years or so younger than me who’s been living abroad for 10 years, and it was in her flat I wrote that first jillablog post. I remember thinking to myself, I could so live and work in a flat like this and I really rather envied her. I mean if she could do it at her age, why hadn’t I done it at mine?
Anyway, that cousin told me she’d needed three suitcases to move all her clothes. I ended up needing three moving vans (well, same van twice plus a smaller van) to move all my stuff (clothes and teddy bears included).
‘Bakery’s downstairs, upstairs is home.’
I was just really happy and grateful (and relieved) that I was able to take everything, and that everything fit, and that there’s just enough space left to work in.
So I’m turning my entire downstairs into my ‘studio’ (-slash-office, because I still, thankfully, have my work-from-home day job). That means I don’t really have a dining or living room because that’s where I’m stashing all my larger paintings. The smaller paintings, works on paper and crates of art stuff go into the second bedroom-cum-store room upstairs.
I'm afraid the jillahouse is still a jillamess at the time of writing
but I'm hoping turn it into a 'proper painting factory' before too long.
I suppose it might’ve been nice to have a living or dining room but then I’ve gotten used to working, sleeping, eating and relaxing in my ex-half of the room at my one desk, anyway. I’m planning on turning my bedroom into a -slash-living room of sorts, so that’s all right, too.
The upshot of all this is that I finally got what I wanted. Of course I could always do with more space to work in, because I still dream of making larger and hopefully better things, someday. But I am used to managing those in smaller spaces and I know I can make things work, if God grants me the strength.
As soon as I’ve gotten things straightened out (which I haven’t been able to do since getting here because of work and this art project I had to finish ASAP)—I am so looking forward to making things here.
La belle dame has regrets
I admit I very much regret the circumstances (which I can’t really talk about here) which directly caused me to be here, especially if they made my Mom sad. But even she understood that I need space. I’d actually spoken about that a bit, in a previous post, about how artists need literal and figurative space to work on stuff.
Earlier this year, I read somewhere about this author who said that to work on his novel, his little children were made to understand that for certain hours in the day, he wasn’t to be disturbed. ‘Daddy needed time to work on his words’ or something like that.
Here in my new ‘painting factory’, I have all the time and space I need, and I won’t have to worry (as much) about stepping on anybody’s toes to make sure I get it.
Which finally brings me to how I feel like ‘Rebecca’ up there, at the beginning of this blog. Ever since I’d first heard Skyray’s Girl in a Birdcage (which has inspired 'Mikaela' and 'Mikaela II'), I’d somehow always seen myself as some sort of bird in a cage gilded by Mom’s TLC and my father’s largess.
When it comes right down to it, I suppose that cage door was open the whole time and I could’ve flown out any time I wanted to. Heaven knows I had tried, more than once, but I always ended up flying right back in. Maybe deep down (as in deep, deep down), I didn’t really want to leave.
You know, one of my bosses once confronted me about this—he asked me whether I couldn’t or wouldn’t leave home. I was honestly stumped, so I said I would get back to him on that. Now I guess I know what to say.
Early in my art career, I knew that if I wanted to have shows and get somewhere, it was up to me. No one was going to give them to me (although some of my major shows did honestly happen that way), and if they were going to happen at all, I would have to make them happen. So that’s what I did—I got out there, ‘applied and applied until I died (of shame)’ and made them happen.
So I guess if I’d really wanted to realise this dream of having my own jillahouse for painting, working and dreaming some more, I should’ve applied this same energy to moving out. Maybe I didn’t want it enough. And, like I’ve been told, (maybe) the things I regret that pushed me to move had to happen for this dream to come true.
I honestly, truly wish it didn’t have to happen the way it did. But it did, and there’s no changing it and no going back. And while there is no such thing as being ‘perfectly happy’ in this world, this is about as close to happiness as I can get right now and I’ll gladly and gratefully take it and whatever comes with it.
So yeah, I look forward to the birth of more jillamonsters here and to hopefully be able to share them all with you. And if you have any advice for, you know, settling in and well, ‘adulting’ for first-time ‘finally on your own’ artists like me, I’d be super, super grateful if you could let me know.