Monthly Archives: June 2015

Happiness Project Reflection 3: Your Imperfections are OK

banner_loresWelcome to my third installment of Happiness Project Reflection series blog post!

I want to make a quick announcement that I’m having an art show at Columbia City Bakery in Seattle during the month of July and showing/selling some of my original drawings from my 365 Day Happiness Project!  I’m having a mini reception on Thursday 7/9 from 5-7pm.  If you’re in the area, stop by and say hello 🙂

Ok back to our regular programming!

It’s refreshing for me to look back and reflect on my 365 Day Happiness Project.  When I was in a middle of it, I was focused on producing the work and not so much about the impact it was having on me or the people who followed my work.  Now that I had some time to reflect back on it, I can truly appreciate the lessons I learned.

What I wanted to accomplish the most through my daily sketch project was to go outside of my comfort zone every day.  I was never comfortable calling myself an artist when I first started sharing my drawings as an adult a few years ago.  I didn’t go to an art school.  My artistic style is very simple and child-like.  I felt like I was taking up precious space in the world filled with “real” artists whom I perceived to have a lot more talents and legitimacy.

It’s a cliche, but you’re your own worst critic.  You notice every single flaw in your work. You’re afraid people might think you’re dumb or so arrogant to think your work is worth being seen by others.

The truth is no one else cares about your work as much as you do.

Take for example your Instagram feed.  How many people do you follow?  What do you remember about your favorite artists’ posts yesterday?   Or even 5 minutes ago?  Do you keep a log of all of their flaws and mistakes?  I hope not.  Unless that’s your job.  Like the artist paid you to keep track of that sort of thing.  But I doubt it.

To you, the artist, it’s an obsession.  You don’t think it’s as good as it can be.  It’s not at your 100% level.  It would be so rude to subject your followers to such an atrocity!!!  NOOOO!!


To your followers, it is just another thing you posted.  And you’re probably among hundreds , if not thousands, of people they follow.  I’m not saying this in a negative way or saying that they don’t care.  It’s a perspective.

People value your work for different reasons.  Maybe your sense of humor matches theirs.  Maybe they love your corky style.  Maybe what you’re doing inspires them.  Whatever the reason, I guarantee you that no body is obsessed with how “perfect” your work is as much as you are.  In fact, I have a few artists I admire so very much, and in my eyes, anything and everything they do is great.  They can’t do wrong even if they tried!  Imagine someone may be feeling this way about you!


While I was working on the daily sketch project, I received consistent feedback from my followers that they can relate to my work so much and how it helped them appreciate little things in their life.  They weren’t art critics analyzing the techniques I was using or what art trainings I had.  People felt connected to my work beyond how “good” of an artist I was.  My work, including what I considered to be flaws, resonated with them.  It’s kind of like falling in love with someone: you can’t logically explain why, but you just are.

I’m a believer of lifetime learning and growth.  It’s important to be able to look at your work critically and figure out how you can improve.  You can do it on your own or ask for a constructive criticism from your fellow artists or your mentors. Yes, a total stranger may criticize your work or give you an unsolicited advice.  It probably means that  your work is triggering some reactions in them (which you do want), but they may not be the right audience for you.  You can take parts of their criticism that are valid or helpful and leave the rest.  It is perfectly fine that your work does not resonate with everyone.  Art is a very subjective and personal thing.

The world is one BIG place.  There are people out there who would be totally into the unique voice you can bring to the table.  Don’t wait until you’re absolutely completely sure your work is 100% perfect because it may never happen.  If you’re a chronic perfectionist, this video of Seanwes talking about the cure for perfectionism may help.  Ship it at 90%.  I try to remember his advice when I find myself obsessing about every single details and “flaws” in my work.

Don’t let your imaginary haters stop you from putting yourself out there!!

xoxo Yuko


Happiness Project Reflection 2: Creating When You’re Not Inspired

Inspiration_banner_loresHello friends!

I hope you had a lovely week.  Welcome to my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post No. 2!

Have you ever felt like your creative juice had stopped flowing and don’t know if or when it’s coming back?  Felt like you aren’t a “real” artist because you aren’t inspired to draw, paint, write, cook, or make something all the time?  Do you think all the successful creative people wake up every morning full of inspiration and motivation to create?

I used to believe it too.  But you know what?  That is not how it actually works.

No matter how passionate you are, the inspiration and motivation to create don’t always come naturally or freely.  Creation takes work.  It’s about having your own unique voice and experiences and using your skills to turn them into something others can see, touch, taste, hear, smell, feel, and appreciate.

The creative process can be painful at times: you may feel frustration, self-doubt, or disappointment.  You have a vision but what you create doesn’t quite cut it.  You feel even less inspired because what you’ve just created is far from inspiring.

You may have seen/heard this quote from Ira Glass before.  Every time I look at it, I feel humble and reassured.  Everyone feels this way, and it is totally OK.

Poster by Nikki Hampson
Poster by Nikki Hampson

If you love making things just for fun, it is totally cool to wait until the  inspiration hits you.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  I know many talented artists who choose not to pursue a career as an artist and are completely happy making art for fun.

But If you really want to turn your passion into a thriving career, then you need to create even when you’re not inspired.

When I made a public commitment to start my 365 day Happiness is project, I knew it was the kick in the pants I needed to keep a daily creative practice going.  On some nights, after I came home exhausted from my day job, I would eat dinner, do the dishes, and sit down at my desk staring at the blank page in my sketchbook without an inspiration.  I would browse the internet hoping an inspiration would hit and end up wasting over an hour reading my friends’ updates on facebook.  On other days, I would have a vision but couldn’t  execute it right.  I would draw, and it would look like crap.  I would whine and moan and feel like a fraud drawing about happiness.  Sometimes I felt like I was squeezing a lemon that had been squeezed 100 times to get just one more drop.

At the end of each day, I still managed to find something to feel happy about and made and shared a drawing every day for 365 days.  And that was so rewarding and worth all the pain and lost sleep!


Are you struggling to create every day?   Do you need a little push to get you going?  Here are some suggestions!

  1. Make your commitment public. Tell your friends and family.  Announce it to your followers on social media. This has been the most effective method for me so far.
  2. Take advantage of the “free” time you already have.  Doodle something while waiting for your drink at a coffee shop.  Create your post-it art collection while listening to a webinar.  It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece.  You just want the creative activity to be part of your everyday life.
  3. Make your goal realistic.  Maybe making an elaborate painting every day isn’t feasible but doing a 15 minute doodle is.  Consistency is more important than having a fancy goal you’re going to quit after 3 days.
  4. Set perimeters and limits for your creative project.  When you have total freedom, you may feel overwhelmed and don’t  know what to do.  Give yourself perimeters like “only draw with black ink” or “draw a cat wearing a suit in 30 different ways”.  After all, creativity is most required when you’re put in a box!  Ask someone to give you a prompt if that’s helpful.  My non-artistic husband is full of interesting prompts when I need them.
  5. Participate in creative challenges ! – there are many challenges out there – I found this article about Instagram Challenges, and Spoonflower has a weekly design contest. Speaking of which, I’m currently participating in a 30 Day Sketch Challenge on Instagram (#MakeWithMe with @janinecrum)  It’s nice to have a group of folks who are working on the same goal, and it’s always inspiring to see different styles of art people create!
  6. Clarify the connection between your daily practice and your long term goal.  I’m realizing this more and more.  When you know how your daily practice (e.g. daily happiness doodle) is helping you achieve your big goal (e.g. be a full-time working artist), it becomes more meaningful and engaging for you.

Remember, your goal should be about creating something on a regular basis, if not daily, even if it doesn’t look perfect or nobody “likes” it.  When you make a bunch of work, chances are, you will find more inspirations from your own work.  It could be the 10th drawing of an apple that turns out just right that makes you want to create a series of drawings of tree fruits.  Or it could be that someone telling you your daily sketch challenge inspired them to do the same.  You just never know until you do it!

Tell me what helps you create when you’re not in a mood.  We all have those days.

I look forward to continuing with my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post next Sunday!

Thanks for reading and take care!

xoxo  Yuko












Happiness Project Reflection 1: Finding Happiness on the Saddest Days of Your Life

pink-poppies_baner_loresWelcome (back) to my weekly blog about creativity, motivation, and growth!!  I’m so happy you found my blog and/or returned to read more!  Thank you 🙂

OK, I have to be honest with you.  This was a tough post to write.  But I wanted to be open and vulnerable with you.  Here is a peek into a not-so-happy side of my daily happiness project.

When I set out to start my 365 day Happiness is project, I didn’t think too much about how it was going to go.  I just wanted to start and see what happened, which is totally outside of my comfort zone.  Generally, I’m a planner and a  prefer-not-to-take-a-risk-er.

I didn’t know what I would do if I had days when I was overcome by sadness and grief.  Could I find something to feel happy about then?

That day came unexpectedly in January when our dear kitty Lulu had complications from her diabetes and got really sick.  She was suffering and we decided to put her to sleep a couple of days later.  She was really loving and brave till the last moment, and it still makes me cry when I think about that day.

I had her for about 12 years since she was a tiny itty bitty kitten.  I loved and adored cats ever since I was little, but my parents wouldn’t let me  have cats.  I daydreamed of having cats pretty much 24/7.  So I was ecstatic when I got my own kitties as an adult.  Lulu and her brother Shepherd, a.k.a. Sheppie, had been like my babies.

Lulu (left) and Sheppie (right)
Lulu (left) and Sheppie (right)

The connections you build with your animal friends are so special.  It’s based on love and trust you develop through actions.  There is no explaining your bad mood or tears.  They don’t take it personally.  They just want to love you and be loved.  They had been there for me through many life changes, just purring away, beaming love rays at me.


It was the saddest day of my life.  It hurt so bad.  Worse than bad break-ups or losing some of my human family members (I’m just being real here). It felt like I had a giant kitty-shaped hole in my heart, and I didn’t know if it was going to heal.  I could no longer feel the warmth of her fur or hear her soft purr as she slept.

lapwarmer_scan_loresWhat do you do with your daily creative commitment when you have such a loss in your life?  When all I could think of was how empty it felt to not have her in this world any more?

Of course, I could’ve taken a break.  That would’ve been totally OK.  I thought about it and yet found myself drawing in my sketchbook that night, and the next day, and the day after that.  I had never used art as a tool for healing before, at least knowingly.  But I can tell you that my pain would’ve been much worse if I hadn’t followed my creative practice during my time of grief.  It took my focus off of the sadness even for a little bit while I was drawing about happiness.  It created a tiny buffer between me and my grief.

While I was overcome by sadness, I searched for anything I felt grateful for.  In my search for happiness, I found tremendous amount of love and support that surrounded us.  There was no judgement of “oh, it was just a cat.”  Friends brought flowers, cards, and treats.  There were many hugs and tears.

My husband, Dave, stayed very strong for me even though he was also very sad. He really saved both me and Lulu.
My husband, Dave, stayed very strong for me throughout it all even though he was also very sad. He totally saved me.


Treats from friends.
Treats from friends.

hugs_webEvery day that passed by, my heart got a little lighter.  I began to remember fun memories of Lulu and not just her last days.

Our sweet girl.
Our sweet girl.


birdwatch_scan_loresMy daily happiness practice helped me appreciate what I have in the face of loss and grief.  It also helped me celebrate what I had that was no longer here.  Life is never 100% wonderful or terrible.  Some days bring more happiness than others.  Choosing happiness every day doesn’t make your problems go away but can create a small buffer in your mind so you can face them a bit more calmly.

In case you’re wondering, her brother Sheppie is doing just fine as an only cat of the house.  He’ll most likely remain as the only kitty of the house for the remainder of his time.

Happiness is black cats. My little boy brings me happiness, not bad luck :)

On a side note, my therapist recommended a book called Cat Heaven to me when I was talking to her about my loss, and boy, this is a wonderful book.  It’s meant to be a kids’ book but is good for adults too.  They have one for dogs, too, called Dog Heaven. I haven’t read it yet but am sure it’s also good.  The illustrations are so sweet and comforting.  I guarantee this book will make you cry like a baby, so choose a good time and place to read it!  I recommend it to anyone who is mourning a loss of a dog or cat friend.

cat heaven
© Cynthia Rylant

Ok friends, I will see you next Sunday! I’m going to continue with my Happiness Project Reflection series.  Next post is about finding your motivation when you’re not inspired to create.

Take care! xoxo  Yuko

Why I Want to Write Regularly


Good morning!

I’m so excited to start publishing a new blog post weekly starting today!  If you’re signed up to receive an email notification, THANK YOU, and expect to see me in your inbox every Sunday morning 🙂

So why am I making a big deal out of publishing a weekly blog post?  Well, these are a few reasons.

1. I want to get better at writing.

Like many other visual artists, I enjoy drawing or painting far more than writing about it.  Writing in a way that compels people isn’t easy.  I just don’t feel as comfortable writing creatively as I do with making something with my hands.  I’ve had this blog for about a year and a half now and only posted things sporadically and not super intentionally (except for the daily happiness project, but it was 99% visual, and not much writing was involved).  Now that my daily happiness project is over, I wanted to refocus the goals of this blog going forward.  We tend to avoid things we don’t like to do, like going to the dentist or the gym, or having a difficult conversation with someone – writing is one of those things for me.  Like everything else, you can only get better if you practice it, so I’m doing it publicly here 🙂

2. I’m holding myself accountable.

When you start doing something new – especially when it’s something you’re not super excited about, like things I mentioned above, you tend to procrastinate.  Especially when your inaction doesn’t really hurt anyone else.  If I choose sleeping in over going to the gym, who cares, right?  No, nobody really cares.  But what if you belonged to an online group where you have to report your fitness progress to your friends on a regular basis?  Sure, you could still skip going to the gym, but you may make your decisions about it differently.  I’m a pretty disciplined person, but I was definitely procrastinating starting  this weekly blog posts.  Oh, I have all these other art projects I want to work on that are much more fun, and nobody knows I want to do a regular blog post yet, so…. PAUSE.  Sometimes, in order for you to get started on something, you need to tell others that you’re doing it and by when you’re going to do it.  It sure helped me with my 365 day “happiness is” project!  I recently tried this method at my day job in starting a new career development program for employees, and it’s totally working! Win!

3. I want to help others who are in the same boat.

One of the things I know about myself is I don’t like making mistakes, especially in public. It took a lot of courage to start sharing my artwork on the internet because I never thought my art was that good, and I would’ve been so hurt if a stranger criticized my work.  Art is like a small piece of my heart and soul on paper.  But I knew I had to get over the fear if I wanted to be a working artist someday.  Doing my daily happiness post helped me a lot with getting over the fear.  Seriously, when you do something every day for a year, even facing your fear gets old 🙂  It’s not that I’m not afraid of sharing my work because I still do.  It’s more that I’m able to recognize the fear and insecurities, and they don’t keep me from going out of my comfort zone as much.  I want to use my blog to share my experiences and tips to help someone else who may be going through similar things.  I will be sharing mostly my experiences in art and creativity, but a lot of the themes will be relevant to anyone who wants to grow personally, too.

Future blog topics I can think of right now:

  • 9 Reflections on the Daily Happiness Project
  • How to Give Your 100% at Your Day Job While You Give 100% to Your Creative Dream
  • How to Find Your Unique Artistic Voice
  • Find and Work with Your Accountability Partner
  • Setting Goals and How to Document Your Progress
  • How to Find What You Need to be Successful
  • Why Self-Care is Important and What You Can Do to be Good to Yourself
  • Let’s Talk about Creative Rituals
  • Ongoing Topics – Updates on new products and works, my creative processes and tools I use, roundup of useful resources and inspirations, my life and interests etc.

I think this is a  good start.  Please let me know if you have a burning question or want to tell me what you’re struggling with right now so I may incorporate them in my blog 🙂

I decided to do weekly blog because it feels frequent enough so you don’t forget about me completely 🙂 and comfortable enough pace for me to commit to. I chose Sundays because I read somewhere that people tend to have more time and energy to read things that come in to your inbox on a Sunday.  I also thrive in a more structured environment, so having a regular commitment is better for me anyway.

I’m so grateful you will be on the receiving end of my weekly blog.  You have been a really supportive community for me, and I hope I can give you something valuable in return!

Speaking of value, I want to share a couple of inspirations that motivated me to focus on writing this year.  Hope you find them helpful too!

1. Seanwes podcast: I’m sure I will be referring to this podcast from time to time in my future blog.  But this show really changed my life and my mindset about being a creative entrepreneur.  A really high quality podcast packed full of tangible tips!  Can’t say enough good things! They talk about the importance of writing in this episode and this one.

2. Laura Belgray: Laura is a very successful copywriter and a funny lady.  I love how honest and practical her advice is.  You can download her “5 Secrets to Non-Sucky Copy” on her homepage for free!  I’m subscribed to her e-newsletter, and it’s full of gems as well.

Have a wonderful week 🙂  Talk to you soon!

xoxo  Yuko