The rugged and remote Indonesian island of Sumbawa is part of the world that most people can only imagine existing. Here, far removed from the modern world – life is one of simplicity. Travel by horse and cart is still a ‘thing’ and cows, goats, sheep, chickens, horses and ducks wander freely along the roadside. Instead of grocery shops and malls, market stalls line the roads in every village and women sit chatting behind fragrant piles of chillies, limes, garlic, ginger, galangal, and not so fragrant dishes of fly-covered fish. Many people live in tiny stilted huts where they tend to their fields, their skin wrinkled and darkened from the intense tropical sun. Women forage in the ocean at low tide, carrying baskets on their head, and tiny colourful wooden fishing boats line the shores.
For almost three years, Sumbawa has been home to me, and PRINTSPIRING has grown from an idea into a reality here. Ironically, as I sit down and weave the sentences of this story together, it is actually coming to and end. The last chapter of this Sumbawa story will close as we leave on a seaplane one final time in less than two weeks. I thought it was a good time to go back to the beginning and share a little of my journey and how saying ‘yes’ to this adventure of living abroad on a remote and rugged island has influenced my creative work.
Once upon a time
At the end of 2013 I packed up my comfortable life in Australia, left behind family, friends, my sweet Buddy dog, the English speaking population, my winter clothes, drinkable tap water, and followed my man and his mining career deep into the jungle of the remote, developing island of Sumbawa, Indonesia.
For me, the timing was everything. After years of developing myself as an artist, I was feeling drained creatively. I had been doing large scale acrylic on canvas work, and had just taken down a collection of paintings in what had turned out to be a fairly unsuccessful exhibition. I’d also been doing commissioned paintings, and had just handed over a huge painting to it’s buyers. This particular painting had taken weeks and weeks of painting and re-painting. The whole process was a struggle, and it showed in my work.
Up until this point, I had worked so hard towards being able to wake up and paint every day. I had worked at various soul-sucking office jobs, while developing myself as a fine artist after hours. I painted numerous paintings and made hundreds of prints. I sold my work online, at markets, and displayed my paintings at exhibitions and in cafes. I had been hired and fired, accepted and rejected. I’d been asked “When are you getting a ‘real’ job?”, more times than I’d like to remember.
It had been an uphill road, but there I was, finally in a position where I was able to wake up to paint every single day. Living the dream. It should have been exciting and rewarding, but I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I knew I wasn’t on the right path, and the pressure and expectation I felt robbed me of the joy that painting had once brought me. I had knots in my stomach at the thought of returning to an office job and I was creating from a place of fear.
Saying ‘Yes’ To A New Adventures
When were given the unique opportunity to relocate across the ocean, I was ready to embrace the adventure – knowing that it would be a heart opening, and life-changing experience. The hard decisions I was going to have to make about my creative career were removed from me overnight. Far outside of my comfort zone in a foreign, developing country I felt free. There was no longer pressure to earn an income. Nobody was asking me when I was getting a ‘real’ job. Life became about living. Learning a new language. Exploring the jungle, mountains and ocean. Meeting new people and making new friends.
I took my art website and blog offline, and closed that chapter of my journey with relief. I didn’t pick up a paintbrush for a whole year. I flirted with creativity, and explored all of my interests and ideas. I immersed myself in books about photography. I started to experiment with calligraphy and hand lettering. I wrote about our adventures here in Sumbawa. Each day, as I navigated my way through the different experiences that a new culture and language brought, I began to learn so much about myself. Travel and living abroad has a way of placing us outside of ourselves, providing us with a brand new perspective of ourselves and who we believe we are as a person. Change is inevitable.
As my heart expanded, I experienced a deeper level of passion and inspiration than ever before. I began to think of a way I could combine all of the things I am most passionate about. Painting and design, writing and the power of words, wellbeing and personal development, nature, creation and colour. Living so remotely made many ideas an impossibility. The postal service in our jungle village is next to non-existent, and the only ‘shops’ nearby are more about selling bananas and coconuts than paint and sketchbooks.
Printables! I could create art, upload the digital files to an online shop and buyers could download and print the art at home! While creating printable wall art was the perfect solution to my isolated geographical situation, the plan was far from flawless. I didn’t even have a printer of my own. I had limited art supplies. Our jungle internet connection makes the dial up internet of yesteryear look fast and efficient. My only workspace option was a tiny, warped company-supplied dining table. I believed I could make it happen though, and I got to work. Whenever we left the island on the seaplane, I would return with some art supplies, (and a printer on one occasion!) in my suitcase. I shared my progress on Instagram and found myself surrounded by a supportive and encouraging tribe.
PRINTSPIRING is still evolving, a work in progress. Being able to indulge my creativity full time without the pressure of earning a reliable income has been a unique opportunity and a privilege I’ve woken up grateful for every single morning. Now, almost 3 years since this journey began, the time for us to relocate back to Australia has arrived. I have mixed feelings and emotions about re-entering the ‘real’ world. It is my dream that I can continue to pursue my creativity full time, and I’ll be working towards making that dream a reality. As the Story of Sumbawa concludes, I find myself once again saying ‘yes’ to new adventures!