The move to Sweden as a self-employed ‘creative practitioner’ is a daunting prospect.

Well, perhaps not one really BIG daunting prospect, but lots of little teeny tiny daunting prospects – learning the language, the application for residency, does one pay tax here or back in Scotland, affording to live here on the money I make, whether to have money paid into my Scottish account, or whether to have a Swedish Account, should I make myself more expensive here, who to talk to about such things, clearing up debt back in the UK, paying off Student Loans (or not paying them if not making enough money), maintaining work relationships back in Scotland and convincing previous clients, employers, buyers that living in Sweden will not be an obstacle should they wish me to work/supply art for them.

There’s also the fact that I’m a 32 year old woman, with no capital aside from a rather large collection of artwork, and a heap load of stuff gratefully hoarded in my parents’ attic.  (Seriously, there are over 100 boxes, portfolios, sentimental items in there – should they insanely decide to move house in the next year, I’m stuffed. No amount of cheap Ryan air flights are going to cover that bitty beast – picture that bent grey old hag from the Jim Henson film Labyrinth with all her belongings on her back…).

So how did I end up moving to Sweden anyway?  Well, I guess it all started when a very good friend of mine Charlotte, who’s Swedish, asked a group of us if we wanted to go to Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the wall coming down. I had just completed a great couple of well paid projects and thought ‘F**k it, I deserve a ‘trip’ somewhere, and this would be an amazing event to draw. It would be a good reason to test-‘draw’ the drawing application on my NOKIA phone too’.

Long story short, I came to Berlin, stayed with Charlotte’s Swedish friend who part-owns a holiday apartment there. His name was Mattias, he was greatly intrigued by my drawings and I guess by me too. That was back in 2009.  I’ve now just moved in with him here in Stockholm – the commute was killing me. J

It’s a decision that feels right to me, but there are also a lot of other issues on my mind. Is he the one? Am I right for him?  Do I want to have children? How does his IT job, where he gets up at 6.30am and goes to bed about 10pm, fit in with my propensity to get up around 9.30/10am and head to bed at the earliest 1am?  Can I as an artist be inspired when imposing a 9-5 working regime on myself?  Will I hate him for ‘making’ me work more sensible hours just so I can see him some evenings?  Will I hate it if I don’t get to see him as much as I want to?  How can I contribute to this relationship equally if he currently and more regularly makes WAY more money than I do?  Should I get a part time job? CAN I get a part time job if I don’t know Swedish?  Is it going to take away from my job as an artist, or might it improve my Swedish to better aid getting creative work?  Is Stockholm too young, hip, corporate and image conscious for an aging, chubby, broody mare like me?  Where indeed is the creative scene, and do I want to be part of it?  Indeed, what creative scene was I part of back in Scotland, and really, does anyone actually care?

Gads, enough of my neurosis!

But nay, there are supporting facts.  My parents are getting ‘old’, I’m suddenly getting more conscious of staying in touch with friends and loved ones since it appears that if they haven’t got married off, are having kids, not getting out much because of the costs of mortgages, having a family, pets, affected by spending cuts, redundancy, house possessions, then they’re in a different country, or very sadly, they’re dying.  I feel like Rip Van Winkle suddenly waking up to an old new reality. Why in God’s name did I not start saving money, investing for when I’m old and grey, why did I fritter all my money on good times, travelling and creating my art?  I can thankfully be honest that I have frittered most of my money on creating my art, and surviving in the times when my art has not been making any money. It better all be worth it.

(I had an image for here in my head, but unfortunately it stayed there).

I moved to Glasgow 3 years ago after living at my folks for 2 years while I set myself up as a fully fledged visual/documentary artist. I got to do a lot of really exciting things, draw a lot of great original live music, theatre and other miscellaneous events, find new technologies for drawing, and discover so many new and wonderful people to collaborate with – mostly in the last 7 months of my stint in Glasgow…Before all that I lived in Taiwan for 3 years, so I should be better prepared for heaving myself off to a place of different culture, learning a new language, experiencing a different climate…

So here I am, starting again in not only a new city, but one where just finding out how to get a simple giclée print (never mind getting a cocktail for under £9!) is an arduous task.  I have however already started making contacts in the past year of visits, particularly regards the original music and arts scene having drawn Lustmord, Lloyd Cole, Florence & The Machine, The Black Heart Procession, and favourite gig so far here – Mogwai supported by RM Hubbert – great to see these awesome Scottish counterparts.  Regards Sweden’s stars, well my biggest ambition so far is draw any re-incarnation of The Knife, Fever Ray in particular.  In general, I’m just looking forward to learning more about the music and arts scene of the country that is the third in the world for exporting music and who’s design industry is legendary.  (I’ve also yet to see the original Millenium Trilogy by Steig Larsson although I managed to rip through the books)

I’ve also discovered Platform Stockholm – a collective of artists and a hub of creativity not too far from where I’m staying. I’ve signed up to various galleries and plan on doing a ‘gallery crawl’ sometime very soon. Moreover, I’ve made some great Swedish contacts and friends both at home in Scotland, and here – well, I guess it’s definitely my second home now – and am actually really looking forward to the wealth of potential projects to be involved in between the two countries, remembering that it’s only a cheap Ryanair/Norwegian air flight away (must also remember to do good deeds concerning the environment for every carbon footprint I make!).

I guess I should also mention that I got to draw at last year’s prestigious Polar Music Prize for Björk and Ennio Morricone – that was certainly one of the highlights of my life, Björk in particular being one of my all time idols, and experiencing the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra first playing Ennio Morricone’s music, and then hers – both of them sitting about 8 seats away from me with the Swedish Royal Family – absolutely awe-inspiring.  Here’s a picture of Robyn singing Björk’s Hyperballad.

And, (suppresses stupid girly blushing giggle) I have the total unbelievable honour of getting to draw this year too, though this time I’m actually ‘officially’ documenting. I shall also be drawing no other earth shattering combination than the (swoon!) Patti Smith and the incredible Kronos Quartet.  I shall play it cool though.  (Cough). I’ll be drawing them do their talks the day before, which the Polar Music Prize affiliates will then make into prints to be presented in gift bags to all the music/arts/art glitterati attending the ceremony. What a way to get introduced to the Swedish music and arts scene!

So I guess I have nothing to grumble about. AT ALL.

Nonetheless, here I am fervently settling in as much as possible, being domesticated (just did two loads of washing, drying, folding), made the bed (I mean, who DOES that? Isn’t art more important??  No. I need my bed made mathematically neat before I can progress with my creative day – seriously).  I’m doing it from the ‘confines’ of my new abode, a very tiny south facing 2nd floor bed-sit that I have to state is more than self-sufficient and very cosy.  It has the most glorious pine tree right outside so that all you can see is the sunlight shining through a spectrum of colours, shades, densities, textures which in turn create the most interesting reflections on the wall. This sunshine wakes me in the morning, which is helping me adjust to the same waking hours as my other half.

I’ve also been cycling, swimming, walking, camping, jumping into lakes, SUNBATHING for goodness sake! All giving me bag loads of happy energy, something I wasn’t great at experiencing back in Scotland. Sweden is also one of the best nations for parenting since both parents get a much better equilibrium of maternity and paternity time – I’ve never seen so many dads out with kids of all ages. In fact, I’ve actually seen more dads with kids, than mums. So if having a family is one of the things that happens – it’s definitely not on the cards just now while I set myself up – I should have a lot more support to be a ‘working mum’.  Not that I know what that will comprise of being a freelance visual artist/documenter/sometime art educator.

All I know is, moving myself and my creative practice to Sweden is a great unknown, but I have the artistic licence and luckily the belief/support of those closest to me to make the leap. I’m not doing it on my own, and what creative successes I do have are pretty much down to my own sheer bloody-mindedness to never give up, do the best I can and keep on drawing.  This relationship was founded on drawing, thus will continue being fundamental.  Just like I did when I started my stint in Glasgow, I will keep drawing, wherever I am, whatever I am doing…Everything is my creative scene.

Keep an eye on my progress here –

You can also see a bigger archive of my drawing the live original music and arts scene in Scotland here –

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ALSO!! Last few days to check out my solo show at the Arches if you’re in Glasgow – until this Sunday -


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