Sunday, February 19, 2012

Funky Sexy Manifesto #33 Become an Illustrator

When I was a child, I had many dreams. One of my dreams was to be an artist. Luckily, I had a natural skill for drawing, crafts, and painting although as I got older I began to doubt the practicality of this skill and even my talent. Nevertheless, drawing came very easily to me. (I think this skill runs in my family since all of my siblings can draw.) I never felt anxious or inhibited when asked to draw something in art class since I felt very comfortable coming up with an image from my imagination or sketching a still life. I began creating my own picture books at the age of six. In fact, I felt more relaxed and in elementary school, I often asked the teacher if I could stay in at recess so that I could finish an art piece. Often my classmates said, "You are such a good draw-er" or "You're an artist." I entered my drawings and posters into contests and received honourable mentions. At the age of nine, I had the opportunity to paint a large mural of a picture I drew at the new wing constructions site at the Hospital for Sick Children. I even won the art award at my high school graduation. My middle sister and I both shared a love for art and would spend hours drawing together as children. As I got older, I spent less time with visual arts other than a few courses in high school. Art got pushed behind things like academics when I took more and more science and math courses, got involved in extra-curricular activities, and other ambitions. By the time I got to university, I rarely put my pencil to paper for drawing. (My sister however was smart and majored in art for a time in university.)

A few years ago, I began drawing characters, characters who had stories. I dreamt of doing a graphic novel and began to recover my dreams of being an artist. After creating several sketches, I enrolled in a community college course in Illustration. At first, I loved it. I was being exposed to so many techniques and materials but for the first time in my life, I was being seriously critiqued for my drawings and I wasn't the only "good drawer" in the class but surrounded by other artists. Although, I enjoyed the weekly assignments, I felt overwhelmed with the feedback and the intensity and I dropped the course. I have also participated in my own personal growth for years with a trained art therapist.

Fast forward a few years to 2011. Since my cancer diagnosis in late 2010, on several occasions throughout my journey, I have turned to the arts for inspiration. Not only writing, as you know, and music, but visual art. I created sketches and drawings and paintings in Art for Cancer workshops and on my own. I made thank you and birthday cards. In addition to my dream of writing books for young people, I wish to become an illustrator. I never had someone take me under their wing when it came to art or give me advice on how to make a living at it or even if my art was good enough to make a living at it. So I decided that this needed to be one of my Funky Sexy Manifestos, a survivor resolution. (It's never too late!)

So earlier this year, I had my first opportunity to get a professional (that is, paying) gig as a Illustrator. I was asked by the Spinlaw Organizing Committee to design a poster for the Spinlaw 2012 Conference: A Seat at the Table. (The conference is for law school students interested in social justice and it will take place on March 3rd, 2012 at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto.) The poster features Lady Justice as a woman of colour, holding a scale with a Ma'at feather, seated at a big pink boardroom table surrounded by a wheelchair, an Ashanti seat, and Chinese and Middle Eastern chairs. Members of the committee presented their ideas and through our collaboration, problem solving, and discussed, we get the finished poster you see below. I loved this process-- envisioning, sketching, creating drafts, finding techniques, and seeing what works best. I know there will be other projects like this.

Then this weekend, I had my first opportunity to participate in an Art Exhibit thanks to Cid Palacio, the founder of the Art for Cancer Foundation who asked me to participate. The Art for Cancer Foundation is showcasing some of my art as well as that of other survivors and artists at the City Hall Rotunda in Toronto City Hall this week from February 17-24, 2012. This is a free event.

I will also sell some of my beautifully illustrated handmade cards on Friday, February 24th from 1-6pm. A portion of the proceeds from these sales will go to the Art for Cancer Foundation.