At the intersection of creative pursuits

Billy Bishop

Before I became a perfumista, my passion was for portrait sketching. It wasn’t your typical weekend hobby, though, because it took dedicated time and intense concentration. I had to be in the mood for it. After I got a cursory outline on the paper, the meticulous work of fine detailing and shading began, and soon it would feel like the drawing possessed me rather than vice versa. As others have attested with their own artworks, it looked worse before it looked better.

To me, the portraits drew themselves.

Fixating on one detail was the key to revealing another, and after most of the initial shading was done, I would suddenly notice more subtle curves of a brow or jaw on my reference photo, and chase after it with my pen or pencil. I would reach a point, usually after a couple of hours hunched over the paper with my fingers in tight grip and soul drawn in (pun intended) to the project, where it felt like this picture would “never” be finished—so close, and yet so far—until gradually, one stroke at a time, it would show itself complete.


As it were, I might have momentum for a span of days, when I would draw multiple sketches in a row, and then months could go by without any. I have heard artists who work in different forms of art (eg, painting, perfume, music…) say that they compartmentalize them to focus on one at a time, sometimes in intervals of months. For me, perfume has taken over in the sense that most of my “free” time and energy gravitate toward reading and learning about it, as well as dabbling in hands-on experimentation with aroma materials.

My other creative pursuits are more one-off, which is not to say they are diversions, but that they don’t have the kind of continuity that perfume has held for me. A telling moment was a few days ago when, after a hiatus, I resumed a portrait sketch. The usual, familiar, obsessive mode of observation set on, and I sensed myself being pulled into the zone as always… but something in me resisted. That was a new feeling. I wanted to be 100% in the drawing, and I would say my heart indeed was, but my mind wanted to get back to the perfume reading I had started earlier!

I pressed on, and finished the portrait, and am quite proud of it. A work that’s “done” and signed is very satisfying, no matter the medium!


I’m grateful for them all—the olfactory, the visual, the tactile. (Music is an art form I haven’t had much luck in making, but I love it too.) Compartmentalization seems to be a good strategy, although each doesn’t have to take an equivalent stretch of time. The magic is that they fuel each other.






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