Updates every other Sunday with new artwork and content from the working life of a freelance illustrator.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016 and the Death of Idols

Personally, this year has been really intense and a steep learning curve. Here's a handy little list of some of the stuff that's gone down for me:

  • I quit working in retail, something I'd been doing on-and-off for 4/5 years and absolutely hated. 
  • I got a new job working in a college, then got an identical job at another college a few months later. 
  • I read 16 books
  • I signed a lease to move into a house with my boyfriend, which feels like a big, wonderful step to me
  • I took up my first professional commission as a freelance illustrator
  • I worked my first market as an independent seller
  • I explored Scotland and the Cotswolds 
  • I got to visit my wonderful, amazingly talented friends across the country several times throughout the year

In fact, when I think back I really can't recall anything particularly negative that's happened to me. My family and friends are happy and healthy, and despite occasionally feeling overwhelmed with stress my mental health has only improved. 

The constant deluge of celebrity deaths this year has made me feel very weird. Some have affected me more than others, but having experienced close personal loss myself I just don't understand mourning for someone you don't know (regardless of their talents) while 'ordinary' people are dying in their hundreds and thousands every day. 

It's like suddenly realizing that your gods are mortal. 

Despite this confusion, two deaths in particular have shaken me. That's Carrie Fisher and Richard Adams. On the same day. 

Carrie Fisher, not only because she spent a great deal of her life representing one of the strongest female characters in fiction, but for her unapologetic stance on mental health and feminist issues. As a geek, a woman, and someone that has struggled with mental health issues on and off throughout my life, she really was someone that gave me so much strength. 

Portrait of Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa, digital painting
Portrait of Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa, digital painting

Richard Adams has always been one of my favourite authors. Plague Dogs is one of my all-time favourite books. Watership Down, Shardik, and Maia are also great reads (the latter, a surprisingly sexy direction for Adams, was the inspiration for naming my mum's dog.. Don't judge me..). There is no doubting the effect the man has had on my artistic style. He wasn't fluffy and cute with his anthropomorphism. Everything was gritty and earthy, violent and dark but also spiritual, reflective, realistic. 

He also taught me that age is not a restraint with creativity, that I don't need to be in a hurry to write or draw a masterpiece. Sometimes the best stories just sort of happen. 

Rowf and Snitter (Plague Dogs) snoozing by a fireplace, ink & marker

In a lot of aspects this year has been a mess. All indications are that things will continue in that direction. But please stay optimistic, please fight the good fight, please don't get stuck in echo chambers. Have patience, be mindful, appreciate what you have and speak for the people, animals and environments who aren't loud enough on their own. 


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About Me

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Hi! I'm Claire Spiller, a freelance illustrator, vis-dev artist & storyteller based in Bristol, UK. I love animals, wild places, plants, handmade things, and creating characters and stories. My work often blends nature and fantasy, science and mythology. I also do bits of sculpting and needle felt occasionally as a hobby, and sell prints, original art and bits of arty goodness in my Etsy store!
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