Long time, no see, y’all. Hey, September.
I always seem to ghost out on this blog for a few months, and come back apologizing. But what an insane year this has been - just as many high highs as there were low lows. Let’s see: I’ve moved into a new apartment with (most importantly) sweet new studio space, got to travel a ton and visit friends (white resisting the siren call of California), I got to hand feed giraffes behind the scenes at the zoo (their tongues are so long!), and finish up some work I’m really proud of.
There’s no reason to rehash the bad in detail, but one thing deserves a little explanation: I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease this Spring. A diagnosis was actually a huge relief, instead of feeling like I was losing my mind for feeling so off for so long. Having your health fail you is so so frustrating, and when you work for yourself, there’s no such thing as calling in sick. I missed a lot of work, and a lot of life. Instead of blaming myself for being lazy, or weak - a lot of that guilt is off my shoulders with a diagnosis. I’m not out of the weeds yet (it seems, I’ll always be in weeds) but everything from here on out seems downhill.
There’s no way to get through this without a bit of refocusing, I took Spring Cleaning pretty seriously. With my tattoo work, I’ve referred to the future when I can choose exactly what I want to tattoo - and having my health issues seemed to steer me right in this direction. From here on out, I’m no longer taking client-proposed projects, along with the rest of us at Butterfat Studios. It seems like people assume I’m doing this because I have gotten too in-demand, but it’s more a move in favor of the work. By creating my own designs, it plays to my strengths and ability to push the boundaries of what tattoo work can be - rather than rehashing on past successes and relying on trends. It’s the same philosophy and practice I have as a painter. And to put it this way, you wouldn’t go to Sukiyabashi Jiro and ask for a spicy tuna roll. (to be clear: I’m not the Jiro of anything, but maybe like, the Jiro of frozen pizzas.)
This way, there is more diverse work out there, and it ensures that I’m enjoying the work and keeping my stress manageable. Slowing down has been the hardest part of all this, I run primarily on anxiety and stress. But being more deliberate has certainly taught me some things about myself and my work from here on out.
So for old and new followers alike: The best way to get work from me is to follow me on Instagram. I post new projects periodically - but I will eventually start offering them through my website, in a system that (hopefully) isn’t so much left to chance. There’s tons of current work, and the projects and results that have come from them…they’re exciting and work I’m excited to do! I’m looking forward to sharing them here, too.
I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at the Chicago chapter of Creative Mornings last month, and while I would hardly consider myself a public speaker, was thrilled to have the opportunity to present myself and my work. If you aren’t familiar, CM hosts monthly talks nationwide with creative individuals to talk about their stories and processed in the work they make, in sort of a Ted Talk kind of format - I strongly encourage checking out their other talks, or attending one! I was flattered to be invited considering some of the people they’ve had speak.
Of all the topics I covered in the talk, I could probably speak an hour about each of them. Hopefully the presentation was distilled down to the essentials: where I started, how I got here, and how I do that thing I do. I won’t lie, I was shitting bricks about being filmed (the worst existential exercise: watching yourself on film) but I’m grateful it was, since it gives me the opportunity to share with the people who couldn’t attend. Beyond that, hopefully to a wider audience who may not be familiar with tattooing and the work, care and dedication that goes into it. All the feedback that I’ve gotten from the talk has been so so rewarding.
If you have an hour to spare, check it out.
After 6 or 7 years in Chicago now, I’ve learned to weather these winters the best way I can: accept defeat, embrace hibernation. But now that I have a little more freedom, I can get the hell out when February/March drags on. I had such great foresight to plan a trip to Costa Rica this year for a much needed defrosting, to unplug and shake off the apathy and frustration of this brutal winter. I had a loose idea of what I expected the rainforest to be, but it’s nothing short of magical. I’ve never been somewhere that was so lush, so overwhelmingly dense with flora and the sounds of the fauna around you - and when your flashlights are out, the darkest, most choking blackness glittering with the bioluminescence of fireflies. It hardly felt like it happened, but I have some sketchbook field notes to prove it ( and a monkey bite! [seriously] )
This past month has been very trying, and this trip to paradise couldn’t have been more welcome. Between some health scares, some financial and personal hurdles and personal achievements, I’m still trying to scrape everything together and get caught up from the weeks I’ve let my email slide. I apologize if I’ve let anyone hang, I’m just a little overwhelmed and need to keep my work load to a manageable noise, even if my instinct is to do it all. I’ve got so many ideas, and to be kept from your work because your health betrays you is excruciating.
Getting away gave me some time to think about my my practice, the work I am doing, and the work I want to be doing and what that future holds for me. I think I’ve found my footing again to refocus, and you will be seeing the evidence of that here. Call it Spring Cleaning, or what have you, but I’m pretty excited to get my hands dirty.
Octohawk (or alternatively, Octosquawk) finished February 2014.
If you have an hour to kill on the morning of February 28th, I will be giving a lecture about my creative process in tattooing and painting with a following Q & A. Tickets are free and registration opens on February 24th for seats. The talk will be filmed and available online afterward as well. Creative Mornings hosts talks from all sorts of artists and creative professionals around the world - Check out their many other talks, I eat up any information about an artists’ process and stories and I’m excited to share mine!
Self portrait after Frederick Sandys - Love’s Shadow
Somehow I’ve manage to post more in the past two weeks than I have in the last eight months - while I’ve been more productive in a long time, the truth is…it’s cold here in Chicago. Really fucking cold. I feel like I’ve been dressed like this for two months, blankets are my best friend, and there’s hardly any temptation to…you know, leave my house, even when I’ve been microwaving the same cup of coffee over and over again. As someone with a homebody inclination, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I think everyone is very restless for some warm weather.
Don’t worry, here are some important youtube videos to keep warm thoughts in your brain: one, two, three, you’re welcome.
This year has really revealed the range of projects that I enjoy working on, most are elaborations on an idea of clients (fig. 1 & fig. 2) some are completely my own invention, from start to finish (fig. 3), some are tattooed reproductions of existing artwork (Waterhouse’s Soul of the Rose fig. 4) and others I particularly love the intention behind - like a collection of Illinois birds the wearer preserved as specimens at the Field Museum (fig. 5).
These are just bits and pieces. Big pieces are fun to do, but can take a very long time from start to finish - sometimes sessions can be months (or years!) apart for any number of reasons - but seeing them come together is always exciting.
2013 was a year of major upheaval: starting anew, and leaving the things behind that needed to be left. Moving out, moving in, left the old studio, started at a new studio, success, depression, dating, not dating, weddings, traveling to Iceland, Alaska, learning about balance, learning about fear, learning about myself. It was a real fuckin’ doozy.
2014 will be a great year, there are great things ahead. Be gentle/be brutal. It’s good to be back.
As the summer ends, I’ve been finishing up some bigger projects, and starting new ones. And of course, once again, I’ve left the blog in the dark - but there’s a lot happening! For more current updates, definitely look me up as “feralcatbox” on instagram.