Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My Last Blogger Post... Thank you and Farewell!

This may be my last post on this blog.
I have no idea what compelled me to post today, I was writing about transitions over on my patreon page and thinking about the last blog entry I posted here just before we moved back to Canada and I 'officially' left my career in veterinary medicine for a full-time career as a visual artist. I had written this post and was in the process of editing it, tidying up formatting, adding links and such. I thought 'Hm, I wonder how long the blog was live? When did I start it?' and so I looked and saw that my very first post was....
September 19th, 2008.
Precisely 10 years ago today.
Okay. That is kind of creepy. All right then. Here I am... EXACTLY ten years later, and I feel that I can honestly say the events I wrote about on Sept. 19th, 2008 were truly the spark that started... well...everything. When I started this blog;
I had just left clinical veterinary practice. I tried my hand at making a career of my art. I failed. I returned to veterinary medicine as a consultant. I loved my company and coworkers, but the art still called to me. I moved to another country. I moved to another country again. I couldn't continue as a consultant. I tried making a career of my art again. I failed again. I returned to veterinary medicine as a teacher. I loved my students and colleagues, but the art still called to me. I moved back home. I tried making a career of my art again. And now I am here, exactly ten years later, and this time... This time it has worked!
I am a full-time independent artist/illustrator now. I'm not saying I am financially 'there' yet, but part of the work over the past ten years was building up a 'nest egg' to facilitate this career transition. As the start-up capital keeps things going I am gradually increasing my art income. I am learning the ropes of being self-employed, being a 'business owner' (which still sounds very strange to me), getting over my hang-ups about getting paid fairly for the work I do, getting over my hang-ups about self-promotion, and feeling SO GRATEFUL that I have been given this opportunity!
The reason that this is likely to be my last post here is that being an artist, particularly an independent one, means that my online presence is my business now. I still suck at 'curating' my presence, so my posts remain random and inconsistent (pretty much everything you are NOT supposed to do to promote yourself, that's what I do..erry day - or rather NOT erry day, that's the problem.. but I digress..) what has changed is WHERE I am posting - to wit, the bulk of my activity now is on where I'm trying to create a 'home base' where I can gather fans of my artwork.
If you are interested in seeing what I'm up to these days then come on by! I post everything from scratchboard pet portraits (of course!) to children's illustration, to webcomics, to Critical Role fanart, and even the occasional acrylic painting! The vast majority of my posts are entirely public and so is available to anyone who wanders by (though if you do come over I'd really appreciate a 'follow').
The platform of patreon does allow fans to subscribe to artists whose work they wish to support, so there is that option if you are so inclined - since this is my full time job now a dollar or two a month is greatly appreciated and will help me to continue to create art and share it with the world.
And as this is my final post here I would just like to say THANK YOU to everyone who followed and read this blog. I hope there was something in it that helped or entertained you. Thank you for coming with me on this journey - it's turned out so much better than I ever thought it would be!
Good-bye and much love!
In March of 2018 I travelled to St. Kitts as I had every fourth month for a year. I went to teach for the last time at the vet school down there. It was the end of a very tumultuous 18 month period in which my husband and I moved (one international move followed by two more local moves), he started a new job and I completely changed careers.
Well, not completely - because I continued to teach as a locum as I organized my life as an independent/freelance artist. (LOL.. organized my life.. that's a good one!).
To get back to the salient point - I had decided that March of 2018 was to be my very last teaching locum. Though I had been calling myself a recovering *ahem* retired veterinary internist since we moved back to Canada, I was still doing vet related work. And it was time to let go of that old trapeze bar and hope I had a good enough grip on this new one
Leaving behind a career that has pretty much been the focus of my life since at least high school (though I wanted 'to be a veterinarian' since before I could spell or pronounce 'veterinarian') - well, let's just say it was a big transition. I did all the things I knew that I needed to ease that transition but on the final days of March I was facing an airplane trip that would mark;
The end of a lifelong career
The uncertainty of a new career, in a completely different field, which happened to be visual arts (the thing my mother had warned me could not be done as a career)
Leaving behind the amazing students and faculty I'd come to cherish at RUSVM
Leaving my BFF (though arguable we get more done and drink less being a thousand miles apart... ).
This was coupled with excitement about being able to put full focus on my art career and my dreams of what I might be able to do with that. So suffice it to say that it was an emotionally... complex time.
As the month wound to an end the weight of the LEAVING was hitting me hard and I had growing anxiety - 'What if this was a stupid decision? What if nobody ever responds to my art? Is this a Very Bad Decision that I'll regret later?'. You know, the normal kind of stuff.
Then, on my last day of teaching, I got a message from my friend and local amazeballs artist Rosey that someone wanted to purchase some of my art from her gallery! Skip ahead a bit and two of my acrylic paintings were sold to a couple visiting the island on vacation.
"Surrender" and "Inner Thoughts"
It was the confidence boost that I needed just at that moment.
Knowing that my art spoke to someone enough for them to want to put it in their home - that is just an amazing thing!
Needless to say, I left St. Kitts still with a mixture of emotions, but feeling confident and optimistic about my career change! And now, six months later, as Jon and Madeleine share with me a photo of the paintings in their new home I can report that this was the right decision for me.
So here's to life transitions!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Eight of Cups

I go through phases where I will draw a Tarot card each morning. The way I view Tarot is much like many of my other interests, a tool for introspection and growth. Today I drew a card while thinking about the major life and career changes going on as I prepare to leave behind this Caribbean island that has been my home for more than three years and the veterinary profession that has been my life for over twenty years. When I looked at the Eight of Cups in my hand I had to smile.

(c) Stephanie Law - my favorite Tarot deck
The Eight of Cups is a card of change and transition. The card evokes an immediate reaction of sadness and a sense of solitude. The subject in this card has turned their back on all they have accumulated or accomplished before. 

I haven't blogged about The Art in a very long time but as many who know me on Facebook or IRL are aware, we are repatriating back to Canada and I am officially starting my career transition from veterinarian to full-time artist.

I think it will be more useful to write about the process of transition after I've done some of it - until then I would simply be speculating. As you can imagine, I am filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation as I take this very big step. My decisions and process are well thought out and have been planned over a LONG period of time, but that doesn't mean the actual realization of my goal is any less daunting.

I've also been shying away from promoting my art on social media and struggling internally to have compassion for myself about that. My knee-jerk internal reaction is still, as always, to push the Artist in me harder and get 'real results' sooner. Luckily I have spent the last several years learning to differentiate the helpful internal voices from the unhelpful ones and acknowledge the latter without mindlessly obeying them. My Artist has developed a voice, and I can hear her... she speaks softly, and only when she has something very important to say, and often in feelings more than words - but what she communicates is tremendously valuable.

"If you want this to work - to really work this time and not become a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, then you need to be patient. You need to rest. You need to fill your creative bank account (thank you Jake Parker). You need to create some space and let the Art return. You need to come back to your centre and rest in a place of peace. Then, and only then, will you achieve what you know can be achieved. If you make this transition from a place of love and faith you will be successful. If you force it to fit a timetable and process imposed by the part of your brain that doesn't understand art it will be more difficult and take longer to get where you are trying to go."

I have devoted more than half of my life to veterinary medicine. I have given it everything I had (and at times more than what I actually had to give). I have had triumphs and failures. I've laughed and cried. I've had times when I've patted myself on the back and times when I've drank myself to sleep. My greatest successes and failures dance readily in my mind.

Now it is time to give my art full, undivided attention and love.

Last Friday was my 'official' last day teaching veterinary medicine. I use the quotes because I still have intermittent teaching to do as a locum (and will happily continue with that until my work here has all been handed over to my very amazing colleagues - a process that is already well underway).

Elkhorn Coral from a reference photo by my amazing friend Michelle Dennis!
I don't think the strangeness of it has really hit me yet. I've tried to 'be an artist' a few times in the past, and I've always come running back to veterinary medicine before too long. This time is different, for reasons I may expand on someday but right now are mostly locked in the nonverbal, deep parts of me. And this time I want to leave them there for awhile. I feel that if I try to capture them in words right now I will change them, force them to fit the limited forms of language, and they are too new and fresh - I just barely have a fingerhold on them. Once I am comfortable that I understand it all better then maybe I will try to speak it. Or maybe I will paint it. Who knows?

And the 'sadness and solitude' of the Eight of Cups... well, I am also not very good at dealing with BIG things, like moving away from the best group of friends and colleagues I think I've ever had. I might not actually deal with ~that~ until after the move is done and reality truly starts to set in.

For now I will distract myself with 'Getting Stuff Done'. I am posting this simply to share some of what is going on here at Cat-in-a-Box, wake up this blog in preparation for more regular posting in the future, and most of all - take a step to shake me out of my insecurity-induced paralysis about my career transition that I've been stuck in recently.  Cat-in-a-Box ain't going to relaunch itself!

Now it's time to do some ART!

~ Pam

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Goodbye Ginger

It was over two decades ago during my first year of vet school that I lost my childhood cat, Blackie, and found myself going with a mentor to select two new cats to adopt from the colony that lived at his farm. It was with a heavy and reluctant heart I looked over the crowd, drawn by their dinner of cat food spread in a wide dish in the center of the barn floor. I didn't want another cat, I was still grieving the loss of Blackie, but we lived in an old country house and mice were a very real issue out there.
These are not the droids you are looking for.
From the many cats of varying ages, colours and sizes one that I picked was a small orange-and-white female who we named Ginger. I chose her because she was one of the last cats still eating at the communal food bowl after everyone else had dispersed, I figured a good appetite and persistence meant she was probably robust and healthy. I was right. Today, at just shy of 23 years of age, we said goodbye to Ginger. 
In those first years in Prince Edward Island she learned to hunt, and what a hunter she was! While we lived in the old house she kept the mouse population in check. When we later moved to Saskatchewan her hunting options were greatly reduced but that was fine by her, she was just as happy to sit in the sun. 
However, once in a while she would catch something, but instead of making a gift to us of a dead mouse or bird she would give it to Michael (the lovely but dumb-as-a-post three-legged cat). He would toss his 'prey' in the air proud as punch as she sat somewhere nearby grooming her paws and watching him smugly.
Vomit on me one more time Michael...

On one of our numerous cross-country (and inter-country) moves she even sat with Michael in the back of the car. At least until his motion sickness got the better of him and he vomited on her head., at which point Michael was banished and it was several days before he made it back into Ginger's good graces again. 

Ginger was an old soul. Never really excitable, she loved to get affection, she loved to sit in the sun and contemplate life, she loved to take a little walk about the yard and nibble some grass and most of all she loved her food....

She was heathy most of her life, except for a mild rhinitis that flared up from time to time. She developed thyroid issues in the past few years and, as is common for old cats, some mild kidney issues. Over the past months though her health had started to deteriorate with a few low points followed by a rally when we made changes to her treatment.
We've said goodbye to many (many) pets over the years and one thing we've observed is that if you are paying attention they usually will tell you when it's time. She had significantly declined in the past week and this morning she just looked spent and was having trouble walking. True to her nature she still ate a bit for us when we brought her a fresh can of Friskies, but you could see in her eyes how tired she was. We knew that today it was time. 
We sat in the warm Caribbean sun on our back patio. She had some food and water and then just slept while I stroked her. Placing the catheter barely bothered her. When we had said our goodbyes and started to inject the barbiturate she sighed once and left us.
It's strange. 
We are sad, of course. It is the sorrow of loss. It is the empty space she has left in our household. 
But at the same time it's hard to feel too sad when we think about her life. She was happy and healthy for close to twenty-three years. She has lived in many places; from the east coast of Canada to the broad prairies, from the suburbs of Chicago to a remote town six thousand feet up in the Colorado mountains, from the freezing cold of Saskatchewan to the tropical heat of St. Kitts. She was an elegant old lady and lived a long and full life. 
So we are sad, but at the same time we are happy for a good life, well lived. 
Tonight we raise a glass to Ginger!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday in the Studio

I'm in the studio this afternoon - it's a quiet, peaceful day today. This weekend is a long weekend here in celebration of St. Kitts' Independence and I expected downtown Basseterre to be crazy busy but instead it's actually surprisingly empty.

Flamboyant (St. Kitts' national tree) in Independence Square from the studio window.
The weather today is relatively cool (for this time of year), it is grey and overcast. We've had a fair bit of rain so the air, normally very muggy, is even more soft and thick and fragrant. I forget during the drier seasons just how lovely this place smells when the plants are fresh and the flowers in bloom. It's just one of those days I love! I even have a couple of companions on the roof outside my studio window....

Two pigeons keeping me company today
And in spite of this post I actually ~AM~ getting work done! I am trying to capture the progress on one of my current pieces 'Lickfoot' to make a timelapse video like I did once before with my lion scratchboard (HERE). I think I have found a camera setup that might work! My setup isn't the most technically advanced (yes, the camera is clinging to a piece of wood taped to an easel XD) but it seems to be getting the job done - no promises, but I'm hopeful!

First stage of a scratchboard - the sketch!
Now back to work!

~ Pam