The thing about the Internet is that it is so fast-paced: social websites thrive on what's current, and portfolio pages aren't of much use if you show decade-old artwork on there. However, the past creates the context for one's current work - what it was and how one got here.
The Sojourn Archives is a place free of the endlessly refreshing twittering and is not concerned with showing my current skill exclusively, for it is simply an archive. I present to you the bulk of my artwork since 2000 and onwards, so you know a little bit more than what's in the sparkly, shiny main page portfolio. Please, enjoy.
The year of trying to balance personal work, commissions, and unexpectedly falling down a fandom hole or two.
In 2021, I tried to keep the personal pieces going, in between commissions of course. The Huevember project came to an end. Neocities was the big discovery, and I created a whole new website to be the home for my artwork. You are here now - thank you. :)
The year of the pandemic that caused a lot of heartbreak and tough times. I leaned into a softer aesthetic, creating more personal work than ever before. Even though we lost Mixer as a streaming platform, many of my clients found their footing on Twitch and Trovo, and I continued to do fun stream art and hone my animation skills. I started the Huevember project as a way to work on personal art that isn't big or polished.
The focus was on a ton of stream art, learning to create better emotes and stickers, and having that rare opportunity to show my sense of humour. I experimented with some simple animations. In the summer I got inspired by the nostalgia/vaporwave vibes, something that would show up more strongly in the personal work from then on. This year I opened the Ko-Fi account and started doing monthly wrap-ups to keep mysef on track.
This year I focused mostly on building my freelance career, doing a lot of portrait commissions and stream art for people on Beam/Mixer. There was little time for personal work, but I didn't mind.
I slowly began to find my footing as a freelancer. This was also the year I started taking better care of my health and addressing the numerous issues that had piled up.
I finished the last of my gaming studio jobs and focused on private clients. A wonderful author - Uel Aramchek - contacted me to do some illustrations for his stories after seeing a piece I did inspired by his story. I'd met a lot of great people on Beam/Mixer, a streaming website, and did some emotes for them. I gave gamedev one last hurrah with a dress-up game named Ariana, just to show that I can make the whole thing all by myself if I wanted to. I engaged with the Guild Wars 2 community more, did my first personal commissions, and participated in the Wintersday Zine by painting a cute postcard for the project. Meeting new people with fresh ideas, who are excited to work together is one of the best feelings in the world.
In January I started working for the new game company. It was just a little bit better, now with a fixed schedule with no overtime, and a higher paycheck. Sadly, it proved to be a very disorganised place and I quit in April after the boss had yelled at me for something that wasn't my responsibility. I have had enough after three years of stress that was for nothing. My health kept getting worse, I was so tired I couldn't even walk to work in the last couple of weeks, and I had to leave.
For the first time in so long, I allowed myself to just do nothing. I doodled around, without pressure, filling out a Japanese album type of Moleskine with my original characters. My new relationship was going well and I started to travel to Sofia every couple of months, which was a good way to take my mind off things and see more than the four office walls. I did a lot of sketching on the long, now defunct train ride.
Around summer, I decided to return to the social media and the Internet as a whole - something I'd been ignoring for years by then, my old domain expired and my accounts deleted. I began to paint on stream and pick up the pieces where I'd seemingly left them, still painfully aware of the fact that my painting skills had declined by a lot. How? Stress was not the only reason, but the fact that my job consisted of overpainting photographs or 3D models. Essentially, I had to re-learn how to paint from scratch.
Guild Wars 2 was my fandom of choice and I got to know its vibrant community. Since my portfolio had become so gaming-oriented, I took upon one last casual game job - now as a freelancer, as PayPal had finally arrived to my country. I hoped to make it work, this time.
My stay in China turned out to be woefully short, between visa issues and a realisation that I wasn't cut out for the way they wanted me to teach. It was a beautiful experience nonetheless, and it was the first time I met people who were genuinely helpful and kindly gave feedback and compliments, without expecting anything out of it. After two years of working in a very unhealthy, competitive environment, this was the realisation that I needed to have: a different life was possible. I flew back home.
Things settled back into their usual, stressful array. My portfolio had gotten worse to the point of being unshowable, freelancing still wasn't a viable option, and that pressure from home to get a job was as strong as ever. My old game company did know about the 'work abroad' program and, prior to even hiring me, agreed on keeping my employment spot open. It was time to go back, as reluctant as I was.
Returning to what used to be a start-up company after about a year is quite an experience. I told myself that I would be wiser this time, that I would utilize better coping mechanisms, that I would stop worrying about work the moment I walked out the front gate at the end of the day, and I did all of that. On top of it, I did my best to do 30-day challenges at home just to keep some personal art going. I painted covers for my 8 Tracks playlists and even managed to sneak in a painting or two.
Things weren't great at work, and due to some 'system changes' I had been stuck with a Junior title while having Art Lead's obligations. The paycheck was directly tied to the 'official' title and the requirements for progression (and thus a better pay) were strange and nonsensical. I'm sure nobody will be surprised that I began looking for another workplace. I found something at the end of the year (that paid almost double than what I'd been earning) and gave my notice in December. On the personal plan, I'd just gotten together with someone I liked a lot for a very long time... which made the exit so much easier, as I had nicer things in mind by that point.
I hit the record number of personal art this year: zero. Aside from some unfinished attempts at fanart, it was all just work, work, and more work, often for 10 hours a day. Keep in mind that the artwork I'm showing here is the smallest fraction of what I did, which was mostly puzzles, small zoom zones, various bits and pieces that don't make for a portfolio at all.
I was extremely stressed, my health was getting worse, but I didn't tell anyone because I did not want to go back home and be stressed for different reasons, like I was in the years before. The people from the 'work abroad' program were getting impatient with me as well, because the time to find something there was running out.
I got an amazing new manager who talked me through the process again, making adjustments: I was to look for English teaching jobs, instead of art and design (there were few to none of those). I sent over 50 applications, got less than 10 replies, and landed 2 interviews. I say this because it taught me the reality of job applications: it often does take this much to get so few opportunities. Tough luck if you send one or two and hope you'll get it. I did quite a few interviews after that, and eventually quit my game job after the project I'd been on was finished.
Now that I had all of the time to myself, I could paint more and work on my portfolio, right? Very wrong. I was so tired and stressed and empty-headed that I did little else but play Saints Row 3. It made me panicky because I couldn't understand what had gone so wrong. At the end of the summer, I'd moved back in with my parents just so I wouldn't be hemorrhaging money I was no longer making, and focused on the work abroad program. By the end of the year, I knew I was going to China.
This year is one big blur. My beautiful sketchbooks turned to nonsense and by this point I had no obligations to anyone; no school or work. In spite of that, I'd managed to make only one personal painting and touch up a couple of older ones. The pressure to find a job returned and I struggled really hard, incapable of finding anything from my small hometown. In the summer, I signed up for a student 'work abroad' type of program. A day later, I landed a job in a casual gaming company (different from the one from last year, but as I'd come to learn - it was kind of the same). On my first day, I stayed at work until 6PM (2 hours longer than agreed on).
Everything that I worked on were various objects and environments, neither which I had much experience with, as I'd painted little but characters before. It was a whole new learning curve, one that unwittingly taught me a lot. Nowadays I have a lot of confidence in tackling subjects I have no previous experience with. My team was small, but every single team member was skilled, creative, and knowledgeable. The issues that arose and corroded my abilities - and theirs, too - always came from the managerial side. A very typical problem, turns out.
As I made my way into the industry, I read a lot of articles to learn more about it, and needless to say most of it left me horrified. Things were not better than anywhere else. If you take anything from this year, and the upcoming two years, here it is: stress and overwork will not make your skills better. They will, in fact, make them decline. Knowledge is power, being actively interested in the issues in your chosen line of work will allow you to recognise them early and know them for what they really are.
Life after college became a whirlwind as I tried to find a job and escape the pressure my parents put on me to find a job. I got a year-long work contract with the local children's library, where I did any artwork needed, got to illustrate a whole book for a young literary contest winner, taught a children's workshop over the summer, and worked at the library full-time in the autumn and winter. At the same time, I decided to get an additional Specialist degree at my old college, traveling to attend the classes every weekend. I'd picked up the odd job here and there, such as the census taking.
In the spring, on a friend's recommendation, I got to work remotely for a local casual gaming company. The whole thing sounded off from the start: the owner refused to show me the office or let me meet anyone I'd be working with face to face, and I was left very confused trying to work on something I'd never done before. Nothing was ever explained to me, and they refused to sign a contract I'd sent them because "it didn't sound friendly". It was a one-page contract. In fact, there was no contract between us whatsoever. I ended the 'partnership' after 2 or 3 months and they paid me only 50% of what they owed, making more excuses.
On top of it all, I agreed to illustrate another children's book. It was one massive crash course in my own limits and abilities, as I made all the typical beginner mistakes: quoted the price way too low (and it was for actual money this time, as they'd offered to send me a check), stretched myself thin, and ended up delaying the project multiple times. It was a stressful experience, mostly due to my inexperience, and not helped by the fact that they wrote "Ida dont remember" as my name on the cover mock-up - that was heart-breaking to see. In the end, it was a formative experience that taught me a lot about business and kowing one's limits.
On the much brighter side, I did some work (for more actual money, thanks to a non-PayPal service I was able to use) for the Sneaky Bastards website and their Stealth Jam. I braved the great outdoors and did quite a bit of sketching outside, mostly in various graveyards because it's so quiet in there and I figured nobody would bother me. Lastly, I finished the year by working on my diploma dissertation on women in Edgar Allan Poe's works, illustrating the four iconic women from his stories.
Life after college wasn't that grand. I moved back in with my parents and sort of free-floated all year, unsure what to do. I drew a lot on my Nintendo DSi, played ungodly amounts of The Witcher 2, and practiced creating environments. I almost got a job in casual gaming, but it fell through. The Witcher fanart was a nice chance to practice painting men, something I'd never really done before. I think it's clear from the artwork that I didn't feel all that great.
The Year of the Sketchbook. This was the time when I filled up two of my most favourite sketchbooks - a blank TeNeues Magneto sketchbook, and my very first, small Moleskine sketchbook that I'd taken with me to a trip to Portugal. A graduation gift to myself. The last semester of college was quite easy and uneventful for me, as we no longer had regular classes, so instead I spent a lot of time on conceptart.org browsing other people's sketchbooks and doing lots of studies on my own. I wasn't sleeping very well, often staying up for a few days at a time, and overall I had a lot of negative feelings while working at an unhealthy pace. I didn't have anything lined up after college, so some of that anxiety must've spurred me on. Nevertheless, I have a couple of lovely sketchbooks to show, and a lesson learned: if you don't schedule rest for your body, your body will schedule it for you.
Worth noting is that I got into Ballistic Publishing's EXOTIQUE 4 this year - a series of art books that no longer exist, but they were a big deal back then. My entry was a character painting done in 2007, for someone's contest on deviantArt. The person never sent me the prize I had won, but getting into Exotique made it worth it.
I did not have an Internet connection during the first two years of college (by choice), so I spent almost all of my free time drawing. My sketchbook doodles became more refined and detailed. I was working on a more polished illustrative style, and at the same time experimented with textured brushes a lot to add detail.
Stumbling through college! I was unsure about going the full graphic design route, and I quickly realized that I did not enjoy doing it. However, I started to incorporate simpler shapes into my illustrations. I did a lot of steampunk themed drawings as I'd fallen in love with the style and the band Abney Park. Watercolours were my medium of choice over the summer.
As I was finishing up high school, I took upon a job to illustrate a children's book about cystic fibrosis. It was my first time doing such a large project, and it was even more difficult since I was busy preparing for college. Nevertheless, I finished it, and it was my first published book. I have to make one thing very clear: there was no PayPal in my country until 2015. All of the work I did until then, was in exchange of random items people would mail to me. This hurt me a lot more than you'd think.
I started my first year of college this year, studying graphic design and engineering. To be frank, I simply continued to do hand-drawn illustration. I found a lot of inspiration in art nouveau and softer, rounded shapes and ornaments.
Digital art slowly took over anything traditional. Meanwhile, the traditional art I did was the type that I wanted to be really polished - ink drawings and large, fully shaded pencil drawings. I got a small blank sketchbook and drew in the class a lot - perhaps this is why I prefered the digital at home.
I started taking drawing classes this year, though it was almost exclusively drawing big shapes and still life. I made many attempts to create big, complex pieces - both digitally and traditionally - trying so hard to polish everything and add lots of tiny details. Everything had to look bombastic and busy.
This year, I decided to get back into drawing more seriously. I was inspired by so many artists on deviantArt, and I got my first tablet (a small Wacom Graphire 3) for my 16th birthday. The golden horse drawing is my first drawing made with a tablet! I got some coloured pencils, drew lots of fanart, tried to design original characters... it was a lot of fun. Many of these drawings are digitally coloured pencil drawings, made before I had the tablet.
The year I started high school, as you can tell by the increasingly bleak art. I was still not drawing on paper that much, but instead learned how to use Paint Shop Pro and create collages digitally. Yep, I was a part of the "learn digital art on pictures of Angelina Jolie" club.
I slowly started getting back into drawing over the summer, drawing lots of Tomb Raider fanart. Here's some of my first digital drawings, what we called "vectors" back then (it is not a real vector, to be clear!) Tracing over celebrity photos in a simple, flat style used to be very popular back then. These were made in Paint Shop Pro 7.
This was the year that I got my first computer, and I stopped drawing outside of what was mandatory for school. Here are a couple of overly saccharine drawings for the music class - you can see I got a 5- because I kept repeating the same "awakening of the spring" theme in my drawings, heheh.
I was 12 years old and still greatly obsessed with Starla and the Jewel Riders cartoon - a favourite since I was 8 or so. I tried to figure out shading and also create some new costumes for the characters.