READER OF THE MONTH: Katsumi’s South American art odyssey
Hey folks, here’s another beautiful Reader of the Month entry. Meet Katsumi. She shares a similar story to mine. If you’ve ever thought about breaking free from whatever situation you’re in to travel the world and rediscover yourself, then read on:
Hello! My name is Katsumi, I’m a 35 year-old Brazilian, although my parents are Japanese. I grew up in love with drawing, and was surrounded by comics my whole childhood and adolescence. But when it was time to “grow up” I studied Multimedia Design at college and left the drawing behind. I focused on learning more about design and programming, because I thought it would be more helpful to my career. I came from a strict Japanese tradition, so I was always studying and doing what I was told to be “successful”.
I worked as a graphic designer for a big corporation for seven years. I was feeling so empty. I tried to study other things, make some innovations in my work and eventually sought therapy for the emptiness. But even with all those efforts I began to have panic attacks and had to take medicine.
Two years ago I discovered Zen Pencils. Gavin was in the same situation as me, he was unhappy in his design job and left everything behind to follow his passion. The site sparked my memories of how I loved to draw and that my childhood dream was to make my own comics too. After nearly a year of planning, I took the courage to ACT. I left my job, grabbed my backpack and I started traveling around South America. Why travel? Of course traveling is incredible, but I was also thinking rationally as I can spend less money traveling than living in São Paulo – one of the most expensive cities in Brazil. I needed the freedom to give myself the most precious thing we have: TIME. Time for me to start drawing again.
I’ve been traveling for eight months now using Couchsurfing, Workaway, camping and staying in the cheapest hostels I can find. I’ve been through Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia and am currently in Peru. I’m not a rich person, I’m using my life savings on this trip and making every penny count. Traveling alone can be lonely sometimes because although you meet a lot of people, it’s only for a few days, and eventually everyone goes their own way. But it’s amazing how I’m finding myself. I can see how people live in different parts of the world, from the rich to the very poor. And the most amazing feeling is to be completely free to do what I want.
Just before starting the trip, I started a blog and Facebook page to share my comics. Now I have nearly 9000 likes, which is not huge, but every “like” makes me proud. I started getting many wonderful messages from people who identify with my comics or were inspired by the way I think. I never thought of myself as an artist, but I’ve learnt it’s just about sharing what you feel inside with others. To connect with people, so they will not feel alone and neither will I. If I didn’t have my comics to draw, I think I would have given up on my trip. It’s something that drives me forward.
A few days ago, I was feeling miserable. All my comics seemed stupid and poorly drawn. I looked at myself: a woman of 35 years, alone and staying in a cheap hostel with teenagers. I was thinking: “What am I doing? I’m a total failure, I can’t draw, my cartoons are shallow, I don’t even have a relationship and all my friends are married with children. I should go back to Brazil and start having a life like a normal person!”
Yes, I was in a great state of self-pity. So I started reading some Zen Pencils comics again, I was reading all in one afternoon with tears in my eyes. I have a lot of comics that I like, but this Ira Glass one was a slap in my face.
All I need is perseverance and hard work. I found my passion and I will endeavor to continue to walk this path. My plan is to continue to travel and make comics. I’m hoping I will figure out something along the way. I want to reach Mexico at least, and possibly move on to Europe, but it will depend on my finances. I can always go back to Brazil, but I still have to travel and be alone for now to understand myself and learn more things. Maybe I’ll feel lost sometimes, but I will have my art and more Zen Pencils comics to motivate me 🙂
What an amazing story Katsumi! We do have a similar history: miserable designer quits to make comics. What is it about Graphic Design? I probably hear from more disgruntled graphic designers than any other profession. And don’t worry about doubting your ability, we all do that. I often scroll through other, more-talented artists’ feeds on Instagram and Tumblr and ask myself: “Why do I even bother?” But that feeling goes away … eventually. Safe travels! – Gav