What do you call it when for personal, financial, aspirational and/or interpersonal reasons you decide to quit your day job, leave the city, and move back home with your family who you haven’t lived with full-time since senior year of high school? Say it with me now… a mental breakd-… an artist’s retreat*!
I knew as soon as it was decided, and rapid change was imminent, that perspective was going to be everything. I had give or take six months to be a free loader. To pour my energy out into passion projects and learning and recharging before finding a new job and returning to life at full speed. I also knew that, at 23 years old, this was likely my last chance to fall back into the lifestyle of a dependent without breaching social norms.
At least that’s what I would tell myself to help me sleep at night, surrounded by the tiffany blue walls I had picked out as a preteen. (They were the first thing to go, don’t worry). Staring up at the ceiling, with the one flashing light from the smoke detector directly above my bed, it was hard not to miss my expensive, busy, sparkly city.
Toronto can be overwhelming and fast-paced, but there is a certain peace in the anonymity. You can look out at the skyline and see a million other little lights from all these apartments, all filled with strangers squishing their lives into their shoebox units. Some of my friends who have lived in the city a while now complain that it feels too small, but I think when that big fish moment comes for me that’ll be my cue to check out a new pond. So, you can imagine how strange it must feel to re-enter a town where I can’t go to grocery store without seeing someone from my high school.
Being back in Windsor is quite a bit like being back in high school. Like I haven’t done an undergraduate degree or worked for a year after. Like I’m on some gap year and everyone’s wondering when I’m going to announce my plans for med school already. But I’m not on a gap year. I’m not idle. I am doing the things I have set out to do daily to keep myself from skimming my sisters MCAT prep books. Here’s what I’ve been up to in the last month on my “creative hiatus” …
I finished the painting that has been in progress since this time last year, but I never was able to get back to while in Toronto. I posted some behind the scenes online, which did well and now I’ve had more print sales in the last month that I’ve had over the last two years.
I created an arts CV. This is a big win for me. It’s been on my to-do list for ages, and now it exists, and I feel ready to apply for residencies and exhibitions and grants.
I’ve compiled a list of some of those grants to explore what options are out there for me if I did decide to do art more full time while returning to the city. Did you know that the CCA even offers grants for you to go and do artist residencies abroad? I do now!
I started teaching an art class for kids grade 3 through 6 every Thursday, which I look forward to every single week. They love still life and drawing from reference just as much as me, anime a bit more, and are amazing storytellers.
I was part of a group exhibition downtown at Pressure Drop with five other really cool artists. On the opening night I received so many kind words and even made some sales. Now the work is on display for the rest of the month.
I've been able to reconnect and spend quality time with MY people back in Windsor. The ones I want to run into always. Having to quickly adjust my social life has let me be more intentional about who I reach out to and spend my time with here. I also get to hangout with my siblings and puppies during the fleeting time left that we're all living under the same roof.
I’ve been able to spend the bulk of my month working on a 44” x 44” commission piece. This would have been an absolute pain to try to do in my tiny Toronto apartment, but here I’ve had the space to work on it and leave it and come back to it. Before when I had large commission work, I had to start my days around 5 am because these canvas sizes would take over the whole shared space. I’d set up everything and take everything down before my roommate got up and I lived for my mornings, but here I can live for my days too. It’s made me realize how important a studio space is and now that’s become much more of a goal for me.
I’ve reopened my commissions (FYI!) and started scheduling in pieces for this next month. I can make just as much, if not more, money from hours spent painting than I would working for someone else right now. (*Repeats three times*) Full-time art is still a scary idea for me; there is no promise that commissions will be consistent, have subject matter that excites you or come together quickly enough to feel worth it. But I have at least a month of evidence to show that it is possible and so many other passive income streams I have yet to explore.
Being home-free this winter means that I get to shut out the noise for a second and start collecting up the eggs I’ve scattered around in so many different places to put them back in one basket. I get to try this out, continuing if that’s what makes sense for me, or alternatively, I get to look back on all I have accomplished while putting in my full effort. Regardless, I will feel really proud of this life period as long as I’m committed to the bit.