My 5 Year Plan (C) and Some Recent Illustrations
I asked one of my workshop participants if he’d like to write a 5 Year Plan. I did this mostly because I believe in the power of setting intentions, and that the words you use can manifest those intentions (with real work, of course). In doing this, it had me thinking about my own 5 year plan. I’ve already written two and have read them out loud to myself a few times. Sometimes I like to read the words that other people have written out loud because they sink into me. If the sentences are inspiring, or if I feel like there’s a message I’m supposed to receive, then speaking the words out loud feels kind of like I'm casting a spell.
About 2 years ago I wrote my “5 Year Plan B,” and surprisingly I had accomplished some of the things on the list. But I also saw there were other things that I didn't accomplish. For example, creating a business in which I sell and license prints wasn't something I realized because it wasn't something that I cared about anymore. Although I believe that if I put in an honest effort into making this happen it would generate income, it’s repeatedly having to draw the prints over and over again that feels uninspiring. I’ve done it before and although I enjoy parts of the process, committing to this kind of work full time, and having it be at the center of my business and art practice would feel draining.
What I’ve learned in the years working as a freelance illustrator is that my process is sometimes unorthodox, that I can’t adopt someone else’s paths to success because our lives are relational, and dependent on so many things, such as our social and economic class, work related experiences, our family upbringing, geography, ethnicity, gender and the list goes on. I’m not as organized as I thought I was, I’m emotional, and more times that I should, have allowed some of my emotions to drive my decision making (which is probably why I’m not more successful). I understand that making art is work and that there will be moments when the work feels boring. It’s important to know these things about myself first before writing my 5 Year Plan.
In 5 years, I’ll be 48 years old.
I won’t be living in New York City.
Mikee and I used to talk about moving out of the city, even out the country and exploring the world together. This time, his job will take him to South America and so I’ll join him. I speak Portuguese fluently now, and my parents still laugh when I call them on the phone and speak to them in Portuguese instead of Chinese. Although I'm not sure that we'll be living in Brazil, Mikee and I will be living somewhere close enough that it won’t be a grueling flight over. I’m grateful to have become an American citizen 5 years ago. Having the mobility to come back into the United States is very important to me. My family are still living in Toronto, and since New York City is still my home base, it’ll be easy to see them.
I recently completed my fourth picture book in the past 5 years. The first three books were a struggle to make. It had been such a long process putting them together, one that began 5 years ago, but once I got past the initial hurdle of writing and illustrating my first book that's when the momentum began. Also, big news… this most recent book was awarded a Caldecott Honor! I’m currently working on a new one and I’m crossing my fingers that it’ll win a Caldecott Medal! Writing and illustrating picture books was not something that I even foresaw in my career; however, because my finances have stabilized through consistent illustration work and being commissioned to work on larger and more lucrative projects, I can finally devote more time to picture book illustration. It’s 2023 and so far I have 11 illustrated books under my belt, one of which is a book published by The Folio Society.
I also have a new body of artwork that I’m working on. This is something I haven’t stopped doing since 2007, making personal work. This particular body of work has piqued the attention of a gallery in New York City and so I’ll be flying back in a few weeks to meet with the owner. I asked her if she’d rather fly down here, but her schedule wouldn’t allow it.
Staring at my closet, it’s filled with speedos and crop tops. My fitness journey began seven years ago and I’m proud to have stuck with it. It was one of the best decisions I made in my life. Approaching 50, I look and feel nothing like what I imagined 50 would appear to be. I still wear a size Small, I feel energetic and I have begun to introduce psychedelic therapy into my life. How strange that only a few years ago this medicine was illegal in the US, but now it’s openly used to treat patients who have cancer, personality disorders, depression and alcoholism. Living in South America has made this much more accessible, for which I’m incredibly grateful.
I’m walking to the beach today. I’ve left my laptop at home and decided not to bring Shalby - she loves the beach, but it's a too hot for her to be out today and not be under any shade. I’ve been working this way since art college, taking my sketch book outside of the house to work; to the park, a café, or to the pond that used to be a few blocks away from my parents home in Scarborough. Mikee’s out of town, he’s giving another TED Talk about some creation of his that’s helping to make some people’s lives easier. He became an Occupational Therapist 5 years ago, and since then he's turned his profession into something much greater and is helping more people than he ever could have imagined. He used to dream out loud about his future, and it’s amazing how accurately it’s unfolded. In August it’ll be our 18th anniversary. Funny, but we still joke about being in our second marriage with each other. Like Margaret Mead said, every woman needs three husbands in her lifetime, one for sex, another to raise children and the third as a companion in old age. Mikee and I are in our second marriage with each other, but we have no kids. Ha! In addition to working on my new picture book, I’m also preparing a new workshop for those artists who don't have a lot of money or who can’t afford to study art. This was something that began 5 years ago when I first decided to do an online workshop called "Drawing Distance," and although I am still doing it (well, an iteration of it) and although it’s no longer free, it’s still affordable and it brings me joy especially because I don't teach at an art college or university anymore.
Now that i'm finally at the beach, I think I’ll chill for a bit before sketching. There’s a drink stand nearby, I’ll grab a Caipirinha first.