Off With Productivity's Head
Since starting on the self-employed route in 2020, I've become more and more angry with our 'always be productive or else you're lazy' culture – a feeling I know is shared by many. So, slowly but surely, I created a schedule that's gentler on my mental and body health. As someone who's from the school of 'working hard is the most important thing', it hasn't been easy to let go of constant productivity. I don't always succeed, and when I do I sometimes still feel guilty about not doing more, but I'm getting better at it.
At the moment I do client work three days a week, 9am to 5pm. The other two days are filled with doing business or life admin, illustrating, going to an exhibition here and there, and sometimes taking on other small work contracts. I even treat myself to a nap once in a while. Mind you, I don't make a big salary. But I make enough to sustain the way of living my husband and I have chosen.
An ode to my local park
All of this is to say that because I've taken on an illustration commission this month, I chose not to overwork myself by creating a personal illustration on top of it! So I'm writing about one I did almost a year ago: the ode to my local park, the magical Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.
In hindsight, choosing to illustrate a gravestone for an ode to something that helped with my mental health during a very tough period is, er, interesting... It might be because it's the only element of the park that stayed the same throughout the year. The flowers, leaves, sun, (too little) snow, rain, dogs and dog owners, bird songs, my own thoughts and feelings, came and went. The gravestones were always there. And so was the ivy, something green and alive alongside the stone.
I didn't read anything into it then but maybe there's some deeper meaning to be found in my choice after all. In a pandemic world where nothing was (and still is) ever stable, the gravestones were reassuring in their permanentness. Maybe I could feel that something in me and the world at large was changing, or dying, to make space for something new. Maybe in a way I was mourning that change, because as Garth says in Wayne's World "We fear change."
Then again, maybe I really just thought it was aesthetically pleasing and that's why I drew it.
My inspiration, the park
Speaking of productivity and wanting/needing to slow down, I found this article by Abigail Bergstrom fascinating!
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