Sunday, 19 January 2014


I have been struggling lately. It's hard to admit, and even harder to actually write down but it feels good to be honest and I think I'm not the only one. I'm talking, of course, about the seemingly herculean battle of creativity. The motivation to keep going. To keep pushing through the doubts, the endless rejections, the fear that what you put down on paper will not live up to the elusive perfection in your mind (am I just talking for myself on that one??) and, perhaps hardest of all, the brick wall. That brick wall. It comes at you from nowhere and then plants itself directly in your path that, up until then, had seemed blissfully clear. After banging your head on it for a while things can sometimes feel pretty hopeless. Am I right?

At the moment my brick wall is the fact that I seem to only be able to bring my illustrations up to a certain level of completion, then I get stuck and that's it. The images themselves look okay as they are and as I don't know what to do next I feel alright about leaving them, but they're missing the finishing touch; the thing that's going to get them noticed. They are unsatisfying. After a year of feeling that I've been improving and learning about, and understanding, the way I work, I've now reached a block in the road that seems unmovable and impossible to figure out. How do I take the next step? To make myself feel better and get a little inspiration I've been typing the names of illustrators I like into google and trawling through their pictures in the hope that I'll somehow soak in some of their pure awesomeness through osmosis. If some of you are reading this thinking, Merle, you are a GENIUS!! Why didn't I think of that before?!?! then let me warn you now and save you the time, that it rarely ever works! In fact, more often then not, I've come away feeling even worse about my own work then before. I have been told (although perhaps not in so many words) that pilfering ideas and storing them for later use is practically the art of an artist and I agree ("No man is an island" and all that) but if you've come to a dead end (I fear my metaphor-ising may be getting out of hand!) looking at the work of other artists who seem to have got it so right can be like eating that whole tub of ice cream in the freezer; it seems like a good idea at the beginning but by the time you've demolished the last spoonful you feel a teensy bit sick....and then possibly depressed after all the sugar burns out. The truth is, comparing your work with others is never going to help you feel better about your own (unless you're pretty darn sure you're the best artist out there and I'd like to think there are some of you who feel that way) and so should not be indulged in.

There doesn't seem to be a right answer to help solve such creative blocks (although there are clearly plenty of wrong ones!) and talks with family and friends often end up with me saying "that's not what I mean, no, that's not what I mean and that isn't what I mean either." I suppose, what I want them to say, what I want to say now, is: "It's okay." That's it. No golden thread to lead us out of the maze, no single sentence to sum it all up. Just the sure and uncomplicated knowledge that it will all be, no matter what "it" is, okay. We will all of us come across a wall or two (or three or four or.....) in our creativeness and it's okay. That's why I wrote this post. It's not meant to be depressing (really-truly-cross-my-heart-honestly not depressing!) or all poor mememe. It's for everyone who has felt the same. You are not alone (there's at least me here waving the creative block flag) and it's okay.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Mud at the Market.

With an abundance of cards to sell and a growing realisation that, if I really am going to make it as an illustrator (I clutch an imaginary tail and utter "I do believe in me, I do believe in me, I do, I do, I do, I do, I doooooo believe in ME!") I'm going to have to make it happen on my own, I very optomisticly booked myself a table at the Plawhatch Winter Market in December last year. Now, the operative word here, and it later became apparent, the one I should have heeded, was Winter!!!  I should really have been a little more conscious of what I was taking on when I said yes to an outside market in the middle of the coldest and wettest time of the year. And it should have come as no surprise that the 21st dawned not bright, cold and cheery, as I had gloriously pictured in my head, but dark, wet and windy. Infact, as predictions of the downpour clearing up by noon became a distant memory, the greatest miracle was that someone managed to keep a blazing fire going all day....that's right chaps...all day!!! But the real surprise came when, at the end of a seven hour stint standing under a marquee with the wind and rain buffeting myself and my stock from all directions and with the dubious feeling that, like a house with rising damp, the muddy puddle I was standing in was gradually seeping through the thick soles of my D.M's, through my socks (several layers of) and up my legs, I'd actually sold some stuff and enough to make a wee profit to boot! Now, I can't say I'll be jumping at the chance to do an outside market again in the middle of winter (who would really?!? I mean, really?!?!) but the whole experience was a welcome confidence boost.

Here you can see me with my table (which I shared with a talented chocolatier mmmmmmm.....). I think it's a shame you can't tell from the picture just how wet it actually was, although you can see how muddy! All in all though, it was a very successful day and I'm looking into doing more (inside) markets. Watch this space.