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 šŸ˜‰

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

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.Ā  More often though the less harmful dyes are of course, more earthy. I have used un-bleached cottonĀ  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.Ā  I also love working with recycled paper for my lino prints and the handmade cards.

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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.

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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!

Small Steps

Creative life, Uncategorized

It’s been very quiet around here, but I’ve been busy. We welcomed our little baby boy, Baby Q, in July!

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A common scene at my desk

Over a few months of adjustment I’ve managed to sneak in some illustration work time, and you can see what I’ve been up to over on my InstagramĀ @illustratorlaura.

It’s been tough, having to work around the schedule of a completely new human, who has no clue what a schedule even is. I’m constantly tired, and you can throw any expectation of plans right out the window. Any work is nibbled at in tiny ten minute bites, mostly with an ear out whilst I hold my breath and hope the wee man doesn’t wake up. Luckily there are a couple of hours of babysitting time a week, which is heaven. And yeah: mini human. Super cute.

Having so little ‘me’ time has made me realise that illustrating is such a necessary part of my life, and it’s renewed my drive to fit it in, no matter how drained I feel. I’ve been working on a new series, which you can get a peak at over on Instagram (and I’ll share here shortly).

I’m also a bit nervous about this but I’m doing it anyway: another market! It’s been a couple of years since I was doing them regularly, and it’s a bit of pressure to prepare for it at such a busy time. Markets are always fun though, great to get yourself and your work out there, and I do love a challenge.

If you’re in the Eindhoven area on the weekend 24/25th November (I’ll only be there Sunday 25th) get yourself down to Etsy Made in Eindhoven pop-up market and show some love for local makers and sellers!

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