Artist Anne Belov (a/k/a Bob T. Panda) has published Pandamorphosis despite numerous obstacles and has taken a short pause catch her breath. She is guest posting for me today in honor of her recently lost friend, Jude:
BE THE BEAR AND PANDA ON
by: Anne Belov
The last couple of months, hell, the last five years have been an exercise in Jobian forbearance. It’s made me think about the many other challenges I’ve faced in the past, and where they have led me.
Bad stuff happens to everyone, of course. I’ve learned to use it as fuel to feed the flames of creativity. Not that it is a barrel of laughs, mind you. But maybe that’s why one of my creative outlets has evolved into the humorous consideration of pandas.
In the past 26 years (among other travesties and nightmare situations) I have been forced out of a job for being outspoken, my first house on Whidbey Island burned down, I’ve lost several very dear friends to cancer, one within two years after the fire, and another last month. The recession severely damaged my fine art career.
I’m no Pollyanna, but each time there has been an earthshaking upheaval in my life, there has been a corresponding development for good. I’m not trying to imply that there is some cosmic balance sheet: If this, then that.
With each calamity, I’ve received a moment of clarity, a cosmic kick in the butt. If I pay attention and turn my thoughts inward, I find I know what to do. Usually the answer has been there all along, and the only thing that stopped me from paying attention to that voice is fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of trusting my own instincts.
“What is the lesson I am supposed to learn now?”
That’s the question I’ve learned to ask when another debacle comes knocking.
26 years ago, when my union organizing activities got me on my employer’s shit list, the lesson was:
“Go and paint full time. You are ready, you’ve done the work, and if your money runs out in six months, you can find another job.”
I moved to Whidbey Island, and 26 years later I am still defiantly (if not always lucratively) self-employed.
When my rental house burned in 1995, and my dear friend Annie C. was diagnosed with cancer, the lesson was:
“Take chances; feed your artistic fire; go after what you want, fall in love, don’t wait.”
My career started flourishing, I found true love and built my dream house.
When the economy went to hell in a hand-basket, I started writing and drawing panda cartoons. I didn’t know where the pandas were leading me; I only knew that they gave me joy. The lesson:
“Follow joy, wherever it leads. The path will become clear eventually. Trust the process.”
This last round of loss has been harder. Two and a half years ago, when my friend Jude was diagnosed with cancer, we were hopeful she would beat it. She did not. She was an enthusiastic supporter of my work including Pandamorphosis, my newly released picture book.
Pandamorphosis has taken years to plot and draw. It has been critiqued, submitted, rejected, and praised. I’d put it away for a while and last fall, showed it to an editor at a small publisher, who loved it. I signed with the publisher, but a sudden upheaval within the company upset the apple cart on the very day that Jude finally passed away.
I asked myself what advice Jude would have given me. Do I stay with this publisher, go back on the trail of looking for an agent and/or publisher, or do I take the plunge on my own? I think she would have told me to trust my gut, listen to what my inner voice was saying. In the end, I withdrew my book, paid the designer myself, and continued with the preparations for my book launch, to publish independently.
The team of panda satire enthusiasts that have grown to love my work have stepped forward with a rousing Huzzah! The lesson:
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, trust the process, build your tribe, be the bear. Publish the book now.”
We can’t control everything that happens in our lives. We can’t waste time or energy comparing ourselves to what others have accomplished. If we have the strength to get up after life has knocked us down, we should go on.
Be the bear!
Anne Belov has been drawing and painting since the time she could hold a crayon. After receiving a BFA from The Philadelphia College of Art, she moved west and, since she didn’t learn everything the first time, went to art school again, receiving an MFA in painting from the University of Washington. She now makes her home on Whidbey Island. There are, to her knowledge, no pandas in her backyard. Her main regret in life is that there is no MacArthur genius grant awarded in the field of panda satire.
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Images by Anne Belov.