The end of another year, and I’m looking back at the past 16 months, since they mark a two major shifts in life. The first was mentioned here. The move to a warehouse turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of my adult life. Once we’d moved in, it became apparent that the landlord’s version of what we were promised, was very different to what we believed it had been when we moved in. We spent months freezing through the tail end of winter, chasing leaks in the roof when it rained, then roasting through a brutal summer – desperately trying to block the sun from the windows and keep the heat out. Our neighbours, as far as we could tell, were putting human excrement on their garden, so every week or so there’d be a reek so pungent you couldn’t step outside. The suburb itself, may as well be a demilitarised zone. All night you’d hear the sounds of idiots in hotted up cars.
It’s a low socio-economic area, and frankly when you see the way people drive, you can see why. I watched someone overtake a car which was stopped at a red light with a pedestrian crossing, on the crest of a road bridge over a rail line. To do this, they crossed an unbroken centre line onto the wrong side of the road & ignored the red light. I saw someone else driving down the main road overtaking cars that were waiting to parallel park, by driving on the other side of planter boxes and pedestrian islands that separated the two lanes of traffic. My car insurance went from $800 for a $17k vehicle, to $1100 for a $14k vehicle, per year.
Two months after we moved in, we were flooded. Several inches of water throughout the building, sewer breathers underwater, so bathroom drains backing up, and that neighbour’s garden, which was uphill of us, flooded all of its contents in as well. I lost a about a third of my college drawing work to the water. We were flooded again, to a much smaller extent, almost a year later. This time the water simply came in through the base of the walls, because the building’s dampcourse was too close to the ground.
The extra distance from the city did a large amount to kill off the social life I’d enjoyed previously. Night buses became enough of a pain point, that the non-taxi distance we were just made going out more effort than it was worth.
By early 2015, It was apparent that this wasn’t going to work, so I started working on an escape plan.
Artistically, the year saw a number of major things happen. My sculpture out at UWS was destroyed in a wind gust (at least that what they said happened), or rather, it was destroyed as a result of being left in a damaged state for 2 days before I was contacted. So I brought it back home in pieces, and then scrapped it – something I’d never done for a large work. I managed to finish off all the drawing for Surfing The Deathline, and I finally got to the top of the panoramic photography mountain I’ve been climbing for 15 or so years, by getting a hardware and software workflow that produces super-accurate and predictable results.
My biggest artistic achievement of the year was the exhibition of The Metaning – as far as I know, a first within Australian comics. The exhibition had some hiccups – most regrettably, there was no video recording of the opening speeches, but overall was a success.
With the exhibition out of the way, I was able to prepare for the most significant event of the last year – leaving Sydney.
For 40 years I’ve lived in the one city, half of that in the same small enclave of the inner-west. However, Sydney has become an insane city, ruled over by the avarice of property developers, and a police force drunk with power. Every bit of life is being squeezed from the town. My year away from the inner west saw many of the things I loved about it disappear, and as rents inexorably climb, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t afford to live anywhere in which I’d actually want to live.
So, I left. I moved 700 miles north, into the sub-tropics of the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland. It’s a very different life up here. For the first time, I don’t feel a constant pressure, a constant stress of anxiety and fear. Granted, part of this is because I’m staying with family (but still paying market rents). Most of it, however, is an absence of a part of the experience of Sydney if you’re renting – constant fear of the whims of landlords. Will they raise rents in retaliation for asking for necessary repairs? Will they be so heavily geared, they’ll go bust and the bank will sell out from under you, will they put the place back on the rental market, because they know they can get a higher rent, just by getting a new tenant in?
Here, things are different (for now). It’s a short walk to some nice bars, with a view over the river, everywhere has separated bicycle paths, so I bought a bike, my car insurance is down to ~$600 / year, and I’m getting significant work completed on Surfing The Deathline – the end is in sight for a project that has been a constant in my life for the past 12 years.
One that’s done, I need to look at the next stage artistically. I’ll try to look for what the options will be in terms of new things. I’ve already attended my first local comics convention as an exhibitor, and the first week of the year is scheduled to be concluded delivering a workshop to children on Manga and comics design. Getting my sculpture practice back up & running is going to be a bit of a challenge, but I’m going to get much more heavily into photography, until then. The other change I decided to make, is to get a Lynda subscription, and teach myself to program software. With Apple launching a new language that looks like it’s going to be a pretty big deal, and the little bits I taught myself to do for the EPUB comics I released, I think this’ll be a good use of my time between finishing Surfing The Deathline, and having a workshop again.