Job changes, moving house, and a tentative return to graphic art: TaylorJohnson.art in 2021

Good morning everyone! Welcome back to TaylorJohnson.art. It’s been quite a while.

This is the requisite explanation: A hellish retail job and unsafe living situation (the cliché of “it’s a long story” applies there) sort of took over my life for most of 2021. As of this writing, it is November and I am sort of getting my head above water for the first time in months, maybe a year.

I got a retail job in October 2020 and pretty much let it take over my life – or, at least, my schedule and my self-worth. I have not often had jobs where I cried after most shifts, but this was definitely one. By the end of it I had been sent to “go get yourself together” a few times for crying on the job.

It was a mess, and I have a lot to say about it, most of which I won’t say. For various reasons, mostly legal, I won’t be naming the company I worked for, nor which location. Suffice to say it was a large retail establishment and part of a national chain. My comments will, for now, remain minimal, but I do have a lot I wish I could say.

I was also going through the devolution of a reasonably suitable living situation into a highly unsafe one. Again, it’s a long story that I won’t go into on a public platform yet; I may at some point, but for right now, I’m remaining silent. Suffice for now to say that I am safe, I am secure, and I have a place to stay that is not as dangerous.

Maybe someday. But, for now, back to the art.

I haven’t been drawing, sketching, or painting much for about a year. I have had a few moments of inspiration here and there, but for the most part, retail sucked out so much of my soul that I just didn’t have anything left to draw from. And so I didn’t draw. I had planned to release a card deck, the Path of the Magdalene Oracle, in July 2021. I completed some illustrations for it, but that all fell by the wayside with work.

It was only the day I quit my retail job, that very night, that my inspiration and ability to draw at all returned. I actually stayed up an extra hour that night so that I could sketch out characters and ideas for a few graphic novel concepts. No commitment to any of them at the moment, and I don’t know if any of them would make anything good. I just know that as soon as I quit that retail job, the mojo was back.

Now, it’s not like I’ve “quit the day job” and gone to full-time art. I wish. I’m still working – but I now work as a receptionist for a very chill, small, independent hair salon in my area. It has one location, four stylists, and me – and I love it. It’s still work, but it’s work that I can do peacefully and with much less stress and better pay than my previous job.

I deeply appreciate the stability and peace of mind that this job has given me, and I hope that it will continue to work out as well as it has so far.

And now that I have some peace of mind, spare time, and stability…what am I going to do?

Well, art, for one.

I did do some art over the past year, but my soul wasn’t in it. I attempted a “draw every day” challenge; that DEFINITELY did not happen, but I did over 100 full-color digital illustrations in about 8 months.

It was a good exercise, but I do wish I’d gotten to attempt it in a year that was less of a mess on a personal level than 2021 was for me.

But what am I going to do now?

Nothing formal, for now; I need to let my muse heal, and pressure just doesn’t foster that for me. Past (hard) experience with severe burnout and intermittent artist’s block has taught me that I need to give myself some time without strict deadlines in order to recover my creativity in a healthy way. Pushing myself is only going to impede the healing process; for me it would be like breaking a leg and then walking on it before it’s fully healed.

For now, I’m just letting myself play with art, and tuning in to things that have inspired me before. I’m reading a few manga; Princess Jellyfish, Sakura-Hime, and Tokyo Mew Mew (an old favorite) are all on my reading table right now. I’m also working my way through The Right to Write, a gorgeously written invitation to the writing life by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. My late grandmother gifted me a copy of The Right to Write back in my teens as a vote of confidence in my creativity, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

At times, I read a passage and feel like I can hear her highlighting it and saying, “That’s a good point.” She was an avid reader, deeply creative despite low self-esteem, and hilarious. I miss her dearly, but re-reading books she gave me has eased the pain of losing her last August.

And finally, I am playing around with media, trying different things and just experimenting. I’ve been very drawn to digital art recently, and have been doing some of that. I’m considering illustrating my upcoming oracle deck, the Path of the Magdalene Oracle, digitally rather than by painting. It’s going well so far, and I do think this is potentially the route I’ll go with this one.

A digital ink version of the first card in the Path of the Magdalene deck.

So that’s where I am. I realize this blog post has turned into a novel-length narrative, but it’s been many months since I posted here, so perhaps it’s only natural that there’s a lot to catch up on. I do hope this post finds you well, and, if you’re reading this, thanks for reading to the end. As always, feel free to subscribe for more updates, including progress on the Path of the Magdalene Oracle.

Creatively yours,

Taylor

What I Made This Week |Quarantine, Sewing, Sustainability, and…kawaii academia? | taylorjohnson.art

Sometimes, when stuck at home for extended durations while the wider world goes mad, one goes a little stir-crazy. This stir-craziness can manifest in many ways… In my case, my art just seems to get a little more unusual.

My old computer shuffled off its mortal coil last week on Wednesday, so Thursday and Friday I was limited to my phone for entertainment. I actually have been lapsing back into Quarantine Insomnia, so I found myself sitting on the sofa on Friday night, wondering what the hell people did back in the day when there wasn’t a nearby laptop or tablet on which to happily squander the brief hours of one’s life.

I couldn’t get my mind off this one project I’ve been tentatively wanting to work on: gradually shifting my personal wardrobe from its current state (too many garments, very few of which I actually like, and all of which probably came from sweatshops), to something entirely new.

I had a few criteria going in. First, I wanted to make sure that the focus and purpose of everything I did was to move away from fast fashion, overconsumption, and unsustainability. This is one of the reasons I’m not doing my whole wardrobe re-do all at once: The #1 most HARMFUL way to fight fast fashion is to buy 600 yards of fabric to sew yourself a brand new wardrobe and replace everything instantly. Because really, this is all about us buying LESS…right? DIY, but don’t DIY all at once or in excess.

Second, I wanted to ensure that what I made, I’d actually wear. I’ve never been one to own a lot of fancy clothes, but I still end up with dresses I wear once and sometimes forget I even own, or jeans that “I just never wear.” To this end, I sat down and tried to assemble some kind of game plan. I looked at what I’d like to wear, what I never wear, and what I DO wear already, and made a little map for myself of what a basic “enough to mix and match for a week” wardrobe might look like. Making clothes myself does mean less support of the fast-fashion garment industry, but it’s still harmful to the environment for me to have excess clothes, even if I make them myself. (Production and dyeing of fabric is often damaging to the environment, and plus, if I never wear something, it may end up in the trash – and there is way too much garment waste in landfills already.)

Third, and most fun: I have dressed, for most of my adult life, in a rather toned-down, conservative, “don’t notice me I’m just the receptionist” way. I have held back on the more whimsical, colorful, patterned, pastel styles I’d really love to wear, out of some strange fear of not being taken seriously. At some point around age 30, though, I realized, life is short. And life is too short to not wear the style you dream of. You think you’re too tall, too short, too big, too skinny, too masculine or feminine or androgynous, or otherwise “unfit” to your desired style?Well, life is short. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to lie on my deathbed saying “Gosh, why didn’t I ever put a pink bow in my hair and go out in a pinafore and rainbow tights?”

So I started cutting out fabric, and by Sunday noon I had this skirt. It’s a simple cotton skirt from pattern #1369 from Simplicity, and while I did change a couple of things about the assembly and finishing, it’s largely just view A straight from that pattern. I usually wear a size 16/18 and I made a 22 in “pattern size” (for those not familiar, clothing patterns and clothing stores operate on a nominally similar but effectively unrelated sizing system).

I love this thing. It’s so comfortable and light and flowy, and, well…me. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d like to wear in the future. And with any luck I’ll be wearing it for quite a while yet.

The specific style of this supposed future wardrobe is actually something I’m still feeling out. I originally thought about taking inspiration from the “dark academia” aesthetic, which is, in my limited understanding, basically the look of a Victorian university student majoring in occult studies and possibly practicing magic in their spare time. But for my tastes, it was a little too much black and a little too muted.

In the planning phases, I considered Edwardian styles, or some kind of modernized Regency, or even the Gothic Lolita and Sweet Lolita looks originally popularized in Japan. Finally I came full circle and realized that what I wanted was essentially “dark academia, but make it pastel.”

And so “kawaii academia” was born. Yes, it is an inherently made-up aesthetic. It doesn’t actually derive from any real place, time, or tradition; no person, group, or location can be indicated as inspiring it. It’s just the best way I can describe the way I’d like to dress.

I don’t expect it will happen overnight. Mst of my wardrobe is still the same old items, because I don’t intend to actually throw things out before their time. (Even when things wear out, I generally salvage some of the fabric for doll clothes.) But I do plan to keep making items, as appropriate, and I will be posting on this page about it. You’ll find a new section under “My Works” labeled “Kawaii Academia,” which will house a gallery of garments I make in this series.

Thank you for reading. If you’re curious about the future of this or other projects, be sure to follow the blog to be notified when I post again. You can also follow @kawaiiacademia on Instagram to watch the wardrobe unfold and evolve there.

And until next time: Be safe, be well, and make something today.

Bye!

-Taylor

(This skirt was made with the Simplicity pattern #1369, somewhat modified.)

Blog: When Nothing Is Certain, Anything Is Possible | taylorjohnson.art

Hello all! Today I’d like to discuss some of the changes (some imminent, some already in effect) regarding my social media presence. In my own situation, little has changed; still, things are going to look a bit different for the “taylorjohnson.art” brand, so I figured I ought to set out a bit of an explanation.

I am reluctantly leaving YouTube. I’ve had my issues with them over the years, but honestly I grew to love creating video content there. Sadly, video editing literally burned down my last computer: my Acer Aspire 5 kicked the bucket, after just a year and 3 months with me. Death was declared at 2:12pm on Thursday, Sept. 3. The attending surgeon (my computer-builder boyfriend) and I did our best, but honestly it was beyond repair. That computer has gone to the Big Electronics Store in the Sky.

So, did I go out and get a computer that COULD do video editing? No, not really. I did get something new, and that will come in shortly, and I’ll post about it when it does; but for right now, I’m actually drafting this on a Samsung Galaxy Tab A, with a Bluetooth keyboard. 

I briefly did consider purchasing a desktop setup that could really handle long-term, heavy video editing; but honestly it just seemed to me that buying such a machine would be overly expensive, and sadly an impractical investment as well:While I do enjoy video editing, YouTube was never a big success for me. So investing in the needed tools to continue creating there just wasn’t a good move financially.

Instead, I’m actually going to be focusing more on this blog, my Facebook, my Instagram, and the Etsy shop I’ve been building these past few years. These are platforms where I do have some measure of success, and I really think that focusing on them rather than spending 10-15 hours a week on YouTube is going to be the wiser move in the long run.

So what DID I buy to replace my old laptop? Well, the Galaxy Tab A, obviously, is my current machine; it’s no replacement for an actual computer, but it is surprisingly powerful, and quite handy for doing school assignments and Zoom calls (and, of course, drafting and posting blog content). But I also have something much bigger and much more exciting coming in the mail.

(Stay tuned. The Archangel touches down this coming week.)

Although I was honestly really bummed about losing my laptop, I am now seeing it as a chance to redirect my focus, reevaluate my business plan (such as it is), and really get clear on what I want to do in the future. I have some exciting projects coming up, so be sure to subscribe for all the sewing, writing, and 3D modeling I’ll be working on in the coming year.

Thank you for your support. I truly hope you all are safe and well despite the current situation. 

And as I used to say at the end of my YouTube videos: Be safe, be well, and make something today!

All the best,
Taylor