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