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preparing for my residency in tokyo

Hi reader! It's been a long time since I posted something on this blog. A lot has happened since April 15, 2021. I wanted to dedicate this blog to updating you on my freelance life, and to announce something really exciting.

In October of 2021 my then-boyfriend and I visited Napels. This happened in the very few time windows we were allowed to travel due to Covid. In the morning, I was browsing on my iPad when I stumbled upon the wonderful place that is Almost Perfect, in Tokyo. During the day we walked through the lovely narrow streets of Napels, but all I could think about was Japan. How wonderful would it be to visit that place and draw for weeks and weeks on end, not disturbed by clients calls and zoom meetings and deadlines and errands? I decided to apply, because if Napels doesn't distract you from this dream, you might as well chase it, right? (Don't worry, by the time the pasta hit my plate I started focusing on Italy again).

Fast forward eight months and here I am, packing for Japan! I was very lucky to be selected for a residence for three weeks, with an exhibition at the end. My first solo exhibition! In Tokyo!

So what is an artist residency?

Ex-resident Ryan Gasparini made a very cool video about the place:

So essentially, an artist residency is a place where artists can work, usually for a limited time. Sometimes it's an initiative by a museum or gallery, who invites artists to create work in return for an exhibition. Sometimes it's an institution or city who likes to have an artist perspective on a certain project. In all cases, the artists gets time and space (and usually a bed) to work on their art. A chance to experiment, with new materials, in a different location or culture. In return, they engage with the community and produce new work for them to marvel at. There are different kinds of residencies all over the world!

Sometimes, an artist gets funded by the government or a foundation that wants to give their work a boost, or to strengthen cultural ties between different countries. I'm very lucky to say my residency and exhibition will be funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan!

Almost Perfect is located in Asakusa, Tokyo. It's situated in an old rice shop, renovated by residency owners Luis Mendo (illustrator) and Yuka Martín Mendo (works in sustainable fashion). On the ground floor is a gallery, where artists can exhibit. On the first floor there's the studio for work, and the Tatami room. Here's where I'm staying, overlooking the quiet streets of Asakasa. On the top floor is the Terrace room, a larger stay with a rooftop shower. At the time of my residency, illustrator and muralist Alexandria Olivia Hall from Nashville, Tennessee will be staying there.

Last but not least, a cat named Señor will be roaming around the building.

Illustration by Luis Mendo.

A residency is meant to meet new people from all over the world, exchange views and knowledge, and learn from each other. I can't be more excited to meet all these people (and hopefully more!) at my stay in Almost Perfect.

what are you hoping to gain from this?

First of all, more illustrations. I need to fill an entire wall with paintings or illustrations by the end of my residency, created within three weeks! It sounds like a lot of time, but it's actually quite tight: I need to come up with ideas, sketch, create final work, maybe print some digital print or experiment with other materials, frame everything and put the exhibition together. Three weeks is nothing!

Luckily, I'm in the busiest city in the world I think, so I'm confident inspiration will strike very early. I'm leaving a couple of days early to explore the city and get to know the Japanse way of life a little bit more before joining the residency. A residency is no holiday, so I will be working full-time on my exhibition. The three full days I have before arriving at Almost Perfect will be dedicated to sight-seeing (which is, of course, nothing for a big city like Tokyo).

I've been freelancing since August 2019, most of the time within a pandemic. I'm very lucky to say things are going great: I've got lovely clients, my work's entertaining most of the time, and I bring in enough money to survive in Amsterdam. However, I've got little time for personal projects, and sometimes the projects I'm working on don't really fit my portfolio. It's hard to steer them in a way you like if there's little time for personal work, to finetune your style and tone of voice. I also sometimes feel that I've been doing illustration a certain way, and it's hard to break out from that routine. My way of working became like a recipe that's been done over and over again. A sign that I need time and space to experiment!

Last but not least, I've not traveled much in my life. I've never been outside of Europe apart from one week in New York to visit a friend. I usually go on holiday in (the South of) Europe, which I think is very very interesting, historically and culturally. And of course, the weather and the food is very nice. But I believe me (and my work) can benefit from other cultures. Travelling can make a mind grow with perspective, and I can't wait to learn from the Japanese. I think they're a fascinating culture with a rich history and amazing art. And, again, I've heard great stories about the food.

In the end, I hope I Tokyo will give me some perspective on my work. I've been illustrating professionally for six years now, and when I look at my work, I'm not dissatisfied. But it never feels it's a full interpretation of my voice. It might be a life-long journey, but I hope to find some answers in a new culture.

Can i follow your journey?

Yes! I'm bringing my laptop and hope to write more blogs about my journey, artistic choices and the exhibition. But I will also be posting Stories on my Instagram. Follow me there for daily updates!

If you made it this far, thanks for your interest and reading this blog! I will be sure to update when I can.


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