April 19, 2017
now I know
The last post finished on a totally unresolved note. That was six weeks ago. Since then my journey has continued from Paris to London, to Whistler, to Vancouver, to Victoria, and now in Los Angeles. Documenting it has become a more private matter, at least for the moment. There have been some questions from dear friends who care about what I’m up to, so here are the answers.
Will you continue to do fashion illustration?
The answer is yes! It’s my main source of income which is a miracle I’m always astonished by. I enjoy it, I’m quite good at it and my clients appreciate what I do. My main gigs these days are live portrait sessions at fashion events or parties and commercial illustration, but I also get to do some technical drawing projects which I enjoy. Later this summer and fall, I will be teaching a fashion illustration course in collaboration with the CAFTCAD union in Toronto.
To my delight, my column at The Globe and Mail is continuing. Every two months I get to both illustrate and write the back page of the Style Advisor supplement and explore fashion ideas that either amuse or intrigue me. I’m very grateful to my editors for allowing me this space – as far as I know I’m currently the only working fashion columnist who illustrates her own column. The experience of writing for an established publication has been invaluable.
So what have you quit, exactly?
What I’m done with is knocking at fashion’s door. If fashion wants me, it needs to come get me where I am. I’m done with financing trips to fashion weeks. I feel like, now that the book is done, I’ve received the information I sought from this decade-long experiment. I don’t need to keep going back.
The ego-death I experienced in Paris closed the gap between image and reality for me. I realized what I was attempting to do was a resurrection of an extinct profession – the star fashion artist – at a time when the zeitgeist is wholly unreceptive to such a thing.
In order to “succeed” at this type of thing at the present moment, I would have to transform myself into a certain type of palatable social media presence which I’m constitutionally resistant to. Although I can certainly adjust myself to fit into that mold – and as a thin blonde the adjustments are fairly minor – any gains made from tailoring myself to an audience of corporate fashion decision makers felt unsatisfying. Any positive response received had nothing to do with the content of my work. If you fool people into liking you, who is the biggest fool?
After releasing the expectation of acceptance by the fashion industry, seeing other fashion illustrators who are able to pull it off no longer elicits any envy. To my observation, there is a flattening effect on both the work and the personas of these obviously talented women. If it is possible for me to make a modest living without sacrificing my idiosyncrasies, I’ll do that.
What do you want to do now?
After realizing I can’t continue as a fashion illustrator indefinitely, I am now facing the void and ask myself what I really want from my life. I have an unprecedented level of freedom at the moment to indulge that question, since I’m already on a journey of self-discovery. Seems like I booked these six weeks in LA anticipating that I’d need some time and space to conduct a transformation. With no purpose here other than to figure out stuff, I’m aware that this is a golden moment in my life. What a great privilege it is to be able to spend so much time and money doing what looks like nothing.
Oddly, given this vast expanse of time, sea and sky, there hasn’t been a great deal of soul searching to do. I know: I’m a writer.
Writing is the thing that people often compliment me for and even THANK me for. Writing is what I said I wanted to do as a small child, before I even knew that being a fashion illustrator was possible. Writers are my dearest friends and the people who fascinate me the most. While I can already say I’m a fashion writer, my true desire is to be a “real” writer, someone who writes about everything. Like Truman Capote, who I share a birthday with.
Even more certain: I already know what I’m meant to write. I have another book in me that I’ve drafted and abandoned several times in my life, feeling too terrified of the great amount of time and risk and commitment and confidence in my own artistry such a project would require. It’s already fully formed inside of me – I just have to get over my own fears in order to produce it.
Ever since Paris, while I’ve been moving through space and time, I’ve been writing, and thinking about writing, talking to writers, drafting, and journaling. Above all that, I’m negotiating with my own insecurities and anxieties, and allowing myself to play with words and ideas and thoughts and memories without pressuring myself to perform anything yet. At first this practice was hesitant, now sometimes it feels compulsive.
Are you OK?
With the previous post I tried very hard to neither victimize or valorize myself. In that moment I felt I had to take responsibility for my situation as it was, and not make an argument about it. It isn’t the fashion industry’s fault that my work isn’t appreciated for its quality. This is systemic and far beyond anyone’s control. After all, I had done fairly well at this thing. I am making a living and even have a book that I’m quite proud of to show for it. I simply didn’t succeed at becoming the fashion insider I somehow felt entitled to be. (This last statement amuses me, now.)
I hoped that by refusing to defend myself, any readers of the post would be able to identify with the mixed feelings we all encounter over various struggles and achievements. It was interesting to me that some readers assumed I was devastated by this apparent ending, while others congratulated me, so from that mixed bag I guess I almost nailed the impossible task of being objective with oneself.
I’m totally OK, in fact, I’m wonderful. I am experiencing a level of clarity I never knew was possible. A surprising series of synchronistic events and realizations have come one after another. I highly recommend failing publicly, to anyone, especially if you can do it in Paris. I want to share this sense of grace. Some day, you will read the whole story. It’s a good one.