Her assignments help me to think differently and work differently as well. When I studied in both college and university all I could think about is getting publishing deals and advertising or editorial commissions. Publishing deals and commissions have been a main focus in the illustration industry for decades but after joining her class I’ve been focusing more on the “product” side of my business. This is really good for my income and it makes me really happy every time I work on her assignment or sell a product in one of my shops (website and Etsy).
This class has also helped me to realise it’s ok to do what you love! I remember I always felt very paranoid about my illustration style the topics I was working on. I like to draw cute, happy and joyful things and a lot of time my teachers, tutors or classmates will ask me to draw something dark, grey, serious or not so happy. I think that’s why I always felt a bit stressed out but just like Lilla said, “People buy your JOY!” and “Draw what you LOVE!”. So I did and I love the work that came out from her class. I also started doing more hand lettering which is making my illustrations look better.
So back to my assignment for this month. The mini exercise was to draw immigrants from Ellis Island. I’d heard of Ellis Island before but didn’t know a lot about it. The most memorable thing about Ellis Island for myself is the film “Brooklyn”. I love that film and have watched it many times but before I talk about that film I have to talk about my life as an “immigrant” first.
I moved to Birmingham, UK, late 2007. My husband is British and at the time he decided to come back to the UK to continue his education and that’s why I’m here. Life was of course massively different and pretty difficult at first. Everything in the UK is so different to Taiwan and a lot of the time I didn’t even know which way I should look when I cross the street. Language is another challenging thing. In Taiwan we learn American English and I had the impression everyone might talk like Hugh Grant and also my husband talks very well. I can understand everything they both say but when I moved to the UK I initially lived in Birmingham and I found the accent a huge shock.
To this day I still don’t understand the Birmingham or Black Country accents. I also found people in Birmingham could be very rude, if not quite hostile, towards me (race thing?) but after a couple years we moved to Edinburgh. I’ve personally found Scottish are much more friendly towards foreigners, possibly because Edinburgh is such a popular tourist destination, but I’ve met some really lovely people in Edinburgh which has been great.
So when I watched “Brooklyn” it reminded me of my homesick, heart twitching experience of moving to the UK and then how things started to change and get better. One quote from Brooklyn; “Homesickness is like most sicknesses, it will pass” and that’s true. Now lived in Edinburgh for nearly 10 years I’ve gotten used to how things work and it now feels like home. I still miss many things about Taiwan but not nearly as bad as before. Being an immigrant changes and evolves you as a person. Of course not all immigrant experiences are nice but at least I think my experience and the ending of the film “Brooklyn” are better than most.
When I first started researching Ellis Island and the immigrants, I have to admit everything came out quite dark, depressing and sad. A lot of immigrants once they arrived in Ellis Island loved in extreme poverty and many children worked in sweat shops from dusk till dawn. Many immigrants died for various reasons and there weren’t a lot of happy stories about the immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island.
The official assignment asked us to draw “hairstyles” for immigrants from different countries and use their illustrations on coffee mugs. So I decided to focus on different countries’ traditional costumes. I started searching some of countries that arrived in Ellis Island and their costumes. I found traditional costumes and hairstyles from the Netherlands, Guadeloupe, Ukraine and Poland both beautiful and interesting, so I focused on these 4 different costumes and hairstyles first. If I have more time in the future I would love to develop this project further.
I drew their national flowers in the backgrounds as decorations as well. Ukraine is a sunflower, Poland is corn poppy, Netherlands tulip and Guadeloupe actually belongs to France so I drew a lily as their national flower. When i worked on this project I kept thinking about the song “It’s a small world”. I feel that even though we are all from different countries, different backgrounds and different cultures, if we were to treat each other friendly, respectful and nice maybe the world could become a happier and better place.
So again I like to focus on happy and positive things in my life. That’s my art direction for this project. I really like my illustrations on the mugs with different colour handles and I will probably make it into a fridge magnet as well. I think these illustrations are really suitable for printing on different products and could even be used on different countries souvenir collections. What do you think?