Migrating artist

Art, Creative life, eindhoven, expat life, fibromyalgia

I want to talk about being an immigrant artist with a chronic illness, and how that has shaped my life and work over the last ten years that I’ve lived here in NL. I just touch on my own experience, and it feels like a good time to talk about it now. I’ve just finished jumping through the hoops (I hope!) of applying for my first residency document as a newly non-EU national, and have also finally had my doctor give an official diagnosis of fibromyalgia, after ten years of living with the symptoms. I’m in a good place for a bit of self-reflection!

I’m an immigrant, and proud of it. Call me an expat if you like, I fit that bill too. But I will never shy away from describing myself as an immigrant, because I think a lot of people are too quick to view that term in a negative light, when in fact expats and immigrants are exactly the same thing.

People emmigrate for all sorts of reasons. I’m incredibly lucky that I moved for relatively minor reasons, and it was not an absolute last resort, as is the unfortunate case for many people (hello upcoming global warming-induced mass migration). I was at a low point with my health, moved from England to the Netherlands for love, settled, then we broke up. It was amicable, don’t worry! And I’m now settled in N.L. with my man and my little son Q, so all’s well.

In terms of my career, well, being an immigrant adds its complications. When I moved here I was quite ill. It turns out I’d just had a burnout and developed fibromyalgia, neither of which I’d put a name to until a few years later. Bad health meant I struggled to find paying work (hello, I have an art degree. Talk about awkward!), get out to make friends or generally ‘fit in’. For years I struggled, when actually I should’ve been focusing on recovering and making myself better, not trying to please everyone else and The System. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve landed in one of the most diplomatic and open-minded countries in the world, and know that other people haven’t been so lucky if they’ve chosen, or been forced, to move countries. Just, being an artist AND an immigrant made things doubly hard. Not exactly condusive to a ‘steady income’ situation, and when you throw in chronic illness… I could barely get out of bed at one point, for goodness sake. But the point is, I tried. I worked very hard. I made several short-lived but very determined attempts at jobs that I was ‘allowed’ to do, mostly physically. Each one ended in exhaustion, or just a flat-lining of my health at rock bottom. I just wasn’t healing, mentally or physically.

These last few years have put me on good footing, both in my art career and personal life. Still, Eindhoven has never really felt very ‘me’, and the three of us are still looking for a place to settle in to a forever- home, which will take a few years to save for. Meanwhile, I’m trying harder to appreciate what postives Eindhoven has to offer me as a city. As a bumbling traditional artist from rural England, it is feeling more accessible and vibrant and less stiff and pretentious than it did in the past. Perhaps it’s me who’s reaching out and connecting more (ok, social-distancing aside). It has a huge expat community, but I’ve always felt they were in a different world to me. A lot come from ‘tech’ backgrounds, and I’m a complete technophobe. Part of being an immigrant is adapting though, and maybe I’m just finally overcoming my resilience to change, and to my belief in myself, that I can and am indeed ALLOWED to fit in. Isn’t imposter syndrome great? I also finally reached out, asked for and received an official diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which was a big step. It has been so influential in my ability to work and fit in here. Perhaps I’m ready to face the idea that having a chronic illness doesn’t define me, but is key in how I adapt to living my life. Anyway, things are steadying out, and I’m finding more ways to show the world (including Eindhoven) that I’m here and that I’m creating work. I hope anyone else in a similar situation, immigrant or creative or with a chronic illness, or a hybrid of all of those as I am, can see their own strengths and value and is not afraid to face anyone who talks them down. I’m here if you want to talk about it!

It has been people and their attitudes that have really made the difference between the first difficult years here and now. The other lovely immigrants at the naturalisation course, the friends I made around Eindhoven, my ex and his family who were kind enough to take me in, and lastly my now-husband and his wonderful family. My own British family and friends, who are all so positive and just plodding along doing their thing, and are there for me when I need to connect with a bit of home, no matter what is going on in their own lives. Britain and the British will always be my origins, my history. Immigrating never meant forgetting or trying to replace that slightly shambolic, eccentric and diverse rock and root of all of me. It forms the basis of my understanding of others, here, there and everywhere, and feeds in to my growing knowledge of human beings, my creative response to the world at large, and what being an immigrant can mean and provide society in these turbulent times. I’ve weathered xenophobic discrimination (only mild; I know lots aren’t so lucky) and will continue to reach out to connect and absorb the culture around me, whilst keeping my heritage in my heart. I will always be English, and I will always, always, take milk in my (Yorkshire) tea.

Big love to everyone,

Laura

P.S. If you’re a creative around Eindhoven, do drop me a line, tell me your story or just say hi! I’m up for connecting more locally. See above 😉

P.P.S If you’re an expat, creative or otherwise, and struggling to connect around Eindhoven, I’d definitely look in to some local groups. I can recommend the C.L.O. https://www.cloeindhoven.nl/ Center for Latin-Americans (friendly not just to Latinos!), International Creative Women https://www.internationalcreativewomen.nl/, and Hub2- the successor to the original Hub for expats in Eindhoven https://www.facebook.com/groups/hub2eindhoven

International Women’s Day 2020

Art, Creative life, illustration, Markets and events, Sustainable design, Uncategorized

We celebrated women of all kinds yesterday, with another successful and fun International Women’s Day fair!

Organised by the C.L.O Eindhoven and held at the Parktheater Eindhoven, it was a lovely and vibrant event as always.

Full of interesting conversation and women entrepreneurs (plus their families who are always welcome), it is a celebration of women, and promoting gender equality. I definitely recommend coming down next year, whether you’re a woman or not!

Here’s a selection of what was to see and do-

Plus if you’re a female entrepreneur, it’s a great chance to meet with other like-minded women. Thanks for all who came down, and for your kind words and support for my own small business!

Eco paper + Print Sale!

Art, Creative life, illustration, Sustainable design

I’ve always been committed to running my business and making art in the most ‘eco-friendly’ way possible (read more here). ‘Eco-friendly’ is a bit of a blanket term, but I think it’s important for all makers to take in to consideration, no matter what your budget-limitations or what products you make. It’s a tough and on-going challenge, but I beleive even small improvements to processes or materials will help.

One of the recent changes I’ve made is to my paper choice for my prints.

First I tried switching over to recycled, uncoated paper. Still on my beautiful ‘photolitho’ printer the prints were subpar, muted and undefined. Such a disappointment! I had desperately wanted this to be the solution, but I am also committed to producing reproductions that do the originals justice. Another aspect of sustainability that I value is ‘quality’. Better to buy one beautiful, archival print and have it hang for decades, rather than chucking it in the bin after a month. At least in my book.

Biotop v regular fineart print paper

Look at how vibrant the left-hand prints are, on my usual paper! I wouldn’t have been happy selling the prints on the recycled paper, seen on the right. It might have worked for a different style of illustration, or something where a warm muted look was required, but certainly not for these.

After that disappointment I spent ages trying to research quality paper for prints that have at least a nod to decent environmental standards. Let me tell you, that’s very difficult.

At last I settled on Hahnemuhle fine art paper. I was a bit reckless and didn’t even try a sample, just went straight out and bought a whole pack (hello €€€). I’m so glad I did!

The results are gorgeous, vibrant and of decent giclee quality with a watercolour paper texture.

 

Hahnemuhle were one of the few companies that I came across that have a fairly transparent breakdown of their efforts to be ‘eco-friendly’. You can read more here.

// SALE! //

To mark my success with another step in my ongoing ‘sustainability’ journey I’m running a sale on all prints in my Etsy shop! All prints will have 20% off (discount already applied) running today till 3rd December, yay! I’m making way for all prints going forward to be on the Hahnemuhle paper. My existing prints in the sale are also vibrant and on beautiful heavyweight paper, don’t worry!

I’ve also added my Christmas section goodies into the sale, as I’d like them to find new homes so I can make some more :*

 

 

 

 

Yksi Expo EHV- Sustainable Design

Art, Creative life, illustration, Sustainable design, Uncategorized

Me and the fam took a little trip to Yksi Expo, situated in Strijp, Eindhoven. It focuses on circular and sustainable design.

Seeing as sustainable design is a passion of mine in my daily life, and an aim in my business one, I’ve been interested in seeing this space. It’s worth a visit if you’re down in Strijp S.

There is also a lovely little shop (full of sustainable and zero-waste products of course), and a little cafe called Tea Stories. BTW they sell really good gluten-free (and I noticed also vegan) chocolate cake!

We stocked up on lentils in our re-usable organza bag. You can bulk-buy pasta and other dried goods here.

If you want to get involved in the circular design/zero waste scene in Eindhoven, they are holding an end-of-summer party on Aug 31st. You can contact them here to find out more and get tickets.

Strijp itself is a good location for sketching, though I don’t get out there as often as I’d like to do that. Managed to do a quick little one, with my little one, baby Q, in tow.

I’m planning some more products with upcycled fabrics, which is a good way to cut waste. I’ll keep you updated!

Laura

Custom wedding illustrations

Art, custom illustration, illustration

Sometimes custom projects come along that are so satisfying to work on from start to finish. Lauren and Stephen very kindly asked me for some illustrated North American animals for their wedding, which they then worked into their table names and seating plans.

The results were a mix of brush pen and ink, plus watercolours. Simple, quick and loose (read: fun to do!) but still cohesive as a set. This was the first time I’d done a series in a while, but I think it gelled well.

Illustrations printed and ready to ship

I was happy with my drawings once I’d passed them on, but boy did they come together with the gorgeous styling of the wedding! The photography by Georgi Mabee also showcased the event to stunning effect, so thank you to her for letting show off my illustrations with her photos.

Laura Carter IllustrationLaura Carter IllustrationIllustratorlaura on Etsy

Illustratorlaura on Etsy

Congratulations once again to Lauren and Stephen!

Laura

My Choice to use an Earthy Palette

Art, Creative life, Uncategorized

You may notice when you look at my art that it is often quite muted and earthy in colours, and that is a by-product of the materials I choose to use. I love bright colours in my personal life, but for my work I’ve chosen to go with a more muted colour palette, as it’s often better for myself, others and the environment. I prefer to keep my sustainable footprint as small as possible by working with found, recycled/rescued or upcycled materials where I can, and in particular ones that were made with as few harmful dyes as possible.

Of course, sometimes nature provides a way of working that gives spectularly pure colours (I’m looking at you, indigo), and some of the materials I’ve used happen to have been bright pops of colour, such as the off-cuts of industrial faux-leather I’ve used in my bags in the past.  More often though the less harmful dyes are of course, more earthy. I have used un-bleached cotton  and linen in things like my zipped pouches (I’m working on a new range!), which instead of bright white gives a lovely warm beige. Paper from recycled pulp is also often of mixed fibres, resulting in natural melange of soft colours.  I also love working with recycled paper for my lino prints and the handmade cards.

ACS_0007

Unbleached cotton for one of my hand-painted zip pouches

My pregnancy this year spurred me to make a change to my watercolour paint palette too. After a bit of research I am happy to have found what seems to be quite a varied palette with some rich colours, which is still less toxic to Baby Q and myself. Out went the obvious Cadmium hues and a few of the ‘older’ pigments (they’ve developed safer ones now). You can see a few changes I made in my swatch below. Scribbles look super professional, I know.

baby changes post 1.JPG

My adjusted palette swatches.

It’s not perfectly safe, but at least I’ve chucked out some of the scarier ones. No Vermilion-induced birth defects for us (it contains mercury)! I’d love to hear from you if you know any good resources for checking what are ‘safe’, or relatively safe pigments.

Here’s a recent painting I did for this year’s Christmas cards (the robin one was a very limited run… it’s sold out!)-

laura carter illustration robin

My biggest bug-bear is that I miss a bright red. The other hues in my core palette are very lovely, as is Indian Red (or Light Red, as named by some brands), which is the red I’m currently using. You can see the swatch tucked under where I’ve crossed out ‘Cadmium Red’, which I’ve stopped using. Light Red just misses that… pizazz that Cadmium has, and tends to muddy other colours when mixed. Light/Indian Red also varies from brand to brand. So again if anyone knows of any brighter, relatively safe reds, please let me know!

New work

Art, illustration, Uncategorized

In the last couple of months I’ve found that if I can work, I MUST work, for my sanity!

A series of one of my favourite subjects, doors and windows, has been the result of some snatched sketches and painting. The reference photos were taken by me over a couple of years with the theme in mind, so I have a couple of good ‘uns. I’m just finishing up the last one this week, and am pretty pleased with the paintings and also noticed an improvement in my technique. I was certainly quicker, after painting all those bricks and sandstones! Once it’s wrapped up I’ll clean them up and have a limited amount of 2019 calendars made, so do let me know if you’d like one reserved.

Here’s a quick glimpse of a couple (you can see more on my Instagram @illustratorlaura )-

 

Back to work!

Art, illustration, Uncategorized

I’m back in ‘work mode’ after the holidays, finally.

Can’t wait to get stuck in with my ongoing and new creative projects, I’ve so many plans!

I’m trying to share my work more with the world this year, so that people can see what it is I actually do! Some projects are too personal to share, or I can’t share them yet, but here are a few pet portraits I was lucky enough to be commissioned for before Christmas-

All watercolour, and the little wooden plaque was gouache.

Do contact me if you’d like me to do something personal for you, human or furbaby!

Happy New Year, and here’s to a creative 2018.

Laura

Home linocut: Part 1

Art, illustration

This is my first linocut in 10 years. The last one I made was at university, in a lovely print studio with a beautiful big press. I recently got into stamp carving, and thought I’d try to up my game a bit with some lino and a small handmade press I made myself (really a glorified flower press). Using a strawberry plant on my balcony as inspiration, I cut a small block to test the best setup.

I vaguely remembered lino cutting being painful, and needing to keep plasters close at hand. So I built myself a bench block, which helped a lot and actually (for the record) I DIDN’T CUT MYSELF ONCE. What.

Then I had so many variations on materials that I wanted to experiment with. I ended up dabbling around with two basic black inks: Akua Intaglio and Daler Rowney Water-Soluble block printing colour. I found barely any visible difference between the resulting prints, but preferred the more velvety texture of the Akua ink whilst working with it. Both are water-soluble and make for a quick and tidy clean-up, with no harsh chemicals that oil-based inks need.

I did the whole session on a big glass plate, occasionally putting the press on the floor to kneel on it so I could tighten the wing nuts, which worked a treat. Definitely an improvement on the low-pressure ”baren” technique. You can see from the photos that I still had issues with the paper creasing around the corners of the block, which I attribute to uneven application of pressure (I pressed too hard at the corners). I think this was worse on the Fabriano paper. I’d definitely go straight to the 100% cotton rag again; the 50% cotton Fabriano paper just gave more problems overall. It just didn’t seem to pick up the ink as well, though I did like the starker contrast between the white paper and black ink. The price difference between the two papers is worth it.

I then wanted to add colour, and kept it simple with green watercolour and red Prismacolor pencil (the red watercolour wasn’t as vibrant as I wanted). Both worked well with the ink and paper.

 

I’m pretty happy with the results. Of course there’s a long way to go until I’ve nailed a reliable setup and printing process, but I’m already happy enough to have given a couple of these away as gifts. It’s so satisfying to be able to pull multiple originals on my dining table, and I’ll definitely try it again. Small ‘snapshots’ of my balcony garden are something I’ve been wanting to capture for a long time, so I think I’ll be making a series. I’ll update with my progress next time!