The Real Best Nine

I had a look at my Instagram Best Nine yesterday. It seems to show me doing quite a lot of work, which puts it at odds with my own version of events... Also, I had such a lovely response to another Instagram post (below) that part of me wanted to talk about it a little bit more. Another part thinks this blog is a stupid idea, so we'll see who wins...

I made a really big decision about 9 months ago, and for a few weeks I felt totally amazing. I strode about the fields feeling lightheaded with relief, imagining hundreds of wonderful possibilities and singing Sisters are Doin' it for Themselves at the top of my voice. But it turns out that if you've spent a few years slowly learning that your feelings aren't important and all your energy ignoring your thoughts, then even Annie and Aretha can't help you. It's quite hard to work at all when you are your work and you're fairly convinced you're rubbish at all things. I even wondered if I should give up being an illustrator and get a proper job, which considering illustrating is basically the only thing I've wanted to do since the age of about 7, was slightly out of character.

In the end, I had to give myself a break and accept that 2016 might need to be my year out. I am incredibly lucky to have brilliant friends and family, who have been endlessly kind and supportive. Other things that helped: talking, running, singing, yoga-ing. This is my personal prescription for depression, should you ever require it. Also read this piece by Isabel Hardman.

However, quite unexpectedly and really wonderfully, I've now realised that this really horrible year contains quite a lot of happy memories, and this is something to be CELEBRATED. Well, this is what I thought yesterday when I'd just got back from a run and started writing this blog, still full of the joys of exercise. Who the blog is for is a bit of a mystery to me; I suspect it might be for myself, in a cathartic sort of way, but hopefully it's also for you, if you are lost or sad or alone.

I have a sneaking suspicion that should I ever reach the grand old age of 70 (Brexit, Trump, climate change and antibiotic-resistant superbugs permitting) I'll look back on the last 12 months as some of the most important of my life, rather than the worst.

So, although I am incredibly glad to see the back of 2016, I'm also very grateful for, among other things, the following:

I've linked some of the photos to blogs I've already written, but really these are all about incredible people who've kept me from losing the plot.

THANK YOU for supporting me and my business in 2016. It's meant more to me this year than you can ever imagine.

Here's to a courageous 2017!

Singing for Illustrators

In the same way you're supposed to do pilates or something to stop yourself becoming a hunchback with a slipped disc, I think every illustrator should join a choir! (I mean, ideally every human being would, there'd probably be fewer wars and more shared cakes.) Singing in Lichfield Gospel Choir is basically the exact opposite of what I do on an average day in the studio; instead of sitting at my desk, alone, covered in little bits of paper and glue, serenading my dog, I stand in a school hall and sing for two whole hours with about seventy other lovely people, led by our brilliant musical director, Themba Mvula. It's enough to make a freelance illustrator positively giddy.

I've been a member for just over two years, have finally learned all the words (quite a lot in Zulu), and can now both clap and sing at the same time without a look of extreme concentration (I think). There is nothing better than choir practice on a Tuesday evening to make the world feel like an exceptionally glorious place.

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I'm so proud to be part of this fantastic group. If you'd like to come and see us perform we're singing at Lichfield Garrick Theatre this Sunday, 24th April, and taking part in Community Spirit at Birmingham Symphony Hall on 22nd May, which is rather exciting.