Monthly Archives: August 2015

What My Day Job Gave Me (Hint: it’s not just money!)


Hi guys!

I hope you had a nice week!

For those of you who followed me through my 365 Day Happiness Project where I posted a drawing about happiness for a year, I have a good news!  I finally turned some of them into art prints you can buy.  I opened up a brand new shop on Society6 and have listed many of my drawings there.  Let me know if you want my other works as prints because it’s fairly easy to add products to the shop!

In the last couple of my posts, you’ve been hearing from me about how I’m transitioning from a day job to a full-time working artist life.  It’s new and exciting, and I’m taking it all in!

But today I want to step back a little and talk more about the day job because it’s still fresh in my mind, and there is a lot to reflect on.

My day job not only helped me financially but also provided me with experience and skills that I will totally use in my future endeavors.

Just to give you a quick background, I worked for a non-profit organization that helps people who are impacted by domestic violence (DV) in their lives.  The organization provides wide array of direct service programs as well as prevention and outreach to the community.

It’s an awesome organization doing great work.  I believe in the mission and the values of the organization wholeheartedly.  I’ve worked with so many caring, dedicated, and smart people there.  That’s probably why I lasted there for almost 15 years!!!

I have held several different positions throughout the years, and that also helped keep me motivated for so long.

I started out as an admin assistant and then became a direct service advocate working with DV victims.  After several years, I was promoted to be one of the program managers, and when I felt done with that position, I took a position as their executive assistant and HR manager.

I was very fortunate to be able to work in so many different capacities.  I learned many different skills in each of the positions I held.

And most importantly, I learned a lot about myself.

I leaned that:

  1. For me to be able to enjoy my work, I need to be able to believe in the mission and the values of the organization.  Even if the job offered a lot of $$, if I didn’t believe in the cause, it would be meaningless for me.  Yup I’m an idealist, and it’s OK to be one 🙂
  2. I need to be constantly learning new things and be encouraged to be creative.  That’s probably why I changed jobs every 3-4 years.  It was perfect because I was able to learn and grown in one organization where I felt safe and comfortable in.
  3. I don’t like to make decisions for other people and tell people what to do.  Which is a lesson I learned from being a program manger and working in HR.  Being authoritative is not my most favorite thing.  What I like to do is to help people find their own strengths and support them in their own growth and development.

In April of 2013, I asked my boss to cut back on my hours so I can put more time and energy towards growing my art business.  She graciously agreed, and for the last two years I worked 30 hours a week and kept 10 hours/day x 3 days schedule.

Although long days were exhausting, it gave me two weekdays to work on my art business.  Which was great!

When I look back on all the different positions I’d held and think of one aspect I enjoyed the most, I would have to say it was coaching people.  Whether helping our clients find different coping strategies to stay safe and heal or encouraging employees to set goals and follow through on them, it was so rewarding to help people realize their potentials and grow.

The approach for coaching people, which is pretty similar to the method of counseling we use to help the DV victims, is based on empowerment of people and identifying and nurturing their strengths.

I think that’s why I’m so passionate about coaching people.  I don’t have to make decisions for people or tell them what to do.  I find things they’re good at and encourage them to do more of that!  It’s a win-win!

And it got me thinking – how can I combine my passion for helping people with my passion for art?  How can all of my non-art-related skills and strengths be put to use to take my business to the next level?

There are many ways to do this.  For example, I’m writing this weekly blog to share my experience and things that help me reach my goals in hopes that many of you will find it helpful.  I also do my best to answer questions from my audience around my processes.  I meet with other creative entrepreneurs regularly as accountability partners. (Note: there will be a blog post about this later!)

I’m also working on adding new services to help people achieve their creative goals through one-on-one coaching and group workshops.  I’ll keep you guys posted as things unfold!  I’m SO excited about it!!

So, one of my biggest takeaways for balancing a day job and pursuing my passion is this:

Your day job becomes so much more meaningful and engaging when you can see how your everyday work is helping you achieve your big goal. 

Although my day job was not directly helping me become a more successful artist per se, once I identified how it was helping me become a better business person in a long run, it became more meaningful. 

Everyone’s situation is different.  Not all day jobs allow the flexibility and development opportunities like mine did. I feel fortunate that I got so much out of my day job while they lasted.  If I need to get another day job someday, I probably won’t be as lucky.  And that’s ok too.

At the end of the day, your day job’s number one purpose is to provide you and your family with financial stability while you pursue your passion.

There is absolutely no shame in having a day job while you pursue your passion.  It’s actually a responsible thing to do.  You don’t want to worry about paying your bills and it becoming your primary goal for making art.  What happens next is you compromise your values to get work.  The quality of your work will suffer, and you will be burned out at some point.

The act of creating art will no longer bring you joy and meaning.  Wouldn’t that be so sad??

To learn more about balancing a day job and your passion, you can listen to this podcast from Seanwes where he talks about the Overlap Technique.  Basically, having a day job allows you to follow your passion without having to compromise your values as an artist/designer/maker.  Because you’re not desperate to make money from your creation, you can be intentional about how you grow your business.  And once your business is bringing enough consistent income you can phase out of your day job.

Full disclosure here: I was planning on keeping my day job for a couple more years because my art business is not bringing in enough consistent income quite yet.

I’ll share more about why I quit now and how I prepared for the transition in my post next Sunday.  It’s going to be a good one!  If you’re thinking about transitioning out of your day job some day, be sure to check back in.

Though quitting my day job cold turkey was my Plan B, I knew in my gut it was the right decision for me.  It’s scary not knowing how things will pan out, but I have not regretted my decision one bit.  And I absolutely LOVE working for myself.  I’m busier than ever, but it is so empowering to be able to make decisions about what’s best for me and my business.

I look forward to sharing more with you next week!  Take care until then.

xoxo Yuko





I don’t have a to-do list. I schedule it.



I shared on my last blog that I went on a solo retreat to start my full-time artist life and my process of creating my artist manifesto.  So that’s how I spent my first day and the morning of day 2 on my retreat.

Today I want to share with you what I did the afternoon of my solo retreat day 2.

My second big goal for the retreat was to organize and prioritize my goals and to-dos and schedule the action items on my calendar.

When I made the decision to transition out of my day job to become a full-time artist, my mind was filled with dreams and ideas.  As exciting as it was, it was also overwhelming.

My mind was going really fast.  At any given moment, it sounded like this…

“Maybe I should re-brand?  Oh, I totally need to update my website.  My portfolio is totally out of date.  How many shows am I doing this year?  When am I gonna create new pieces for my shows?  When is the deadline for the commission work??  Wait, oh do I need a new logo? “

That was going on in my head while trying to wrap things up at my day job.  Since I was there for so long, and there were many transitions happening at the same time at the office, it was crazy.  I was up to my eyeballs with everything.  I was putting in way too many hours at my day job and coming home exhausted.

It was just too much.  So in order to stay sane, I decided to just focus on my transition at my day job and wait to start organizing around my business until after I quit.

When I scheduled the solo retreat on my calendar, I could feel the stress level go down right away.  It gave me something to look forward to and gave me a permission to not think about all the “to-dos” until the retreat happened, except for some urgent issues.

Fast-forward to my retreat day 2 –  I was ready to tackle my ever-expanding to-do list.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks you need to take care of, this process may be helpful!

Unlike my brainstorming session for my artist manifesto, where I went from small to big, for this I went from big to small because I already knew the “big” tasks and needed to narrow down on smaller, bite-sized to-dos.

Here is my process:

Step1: Come up with the larger categories. 
For me, I started putting categories like “shows,” “website,” and “social media” on sticky notes and lined them at the top.

Step 2: List subcategories under each big category. 
For this step, you want to come up with smaller actions for each category.

For example, for my “website” category, I identified that I needed  to re-design the site, get new photos, and write new contents.  These are still sort of general categories but small enough to start thinking of what actions need to be taken next.

If I knew there were any hard timelines, like art shows, I would list them on the sticky as well.  Items with timelines are easier to schedule because I can schedule the action items by going backwards.

For instance, if I’ll be at a holiday craft show on November 5 to 7, I need to set up a day before (Nov. 4), I need to pack a day before that (Nov 3), and make sure I have everything I need at least a few days before then (Oct. 31) etc.

I can estimate how much of what to make and how long it would take me to make them.  I also need to think about how long it takes to order/ship the supplies to make my products.

Sticky notes are great because you can move them around.

Subcategories and action items go under each category.

Step 3: Put action items (i.e. your to-dos) on your calendar.
Once I felt like I got all of the ideas on the sticky, I sat down at my laptop and opened up Google Calendar.

You might be wondering why I would want to schedule them as opposed to just having a general “to-do” list?

It’s partly my personality – I’m an INFJ and do my best work in a structured environment.  I like having a plan.  I like knowing concrete steps to take to achieve a goal.  If you share similar personality traits, you’re probably nodding your head right now.

I also think it creates an accountability.  By putting things on your calendar, you’re making your intentions more tangible.

While I was juggling a day job and the art business on the side, I was using Outlook calendar and paper calendar at work and Google calendar for art.  Because my paper calendar already had a bunch of on-going meetings from my day job on it, I decided to ditch it and go on-line 100%.  I just needed a new start 🙂

Also, my paper calendar didn’t have enough room  for each day (I liked using the monthly calendar) to fit all of the action items.  It’s easier to edit and move things around online than on paper, too.

Here are some tips and things to think about while scheduling your to-dos:

  • I made sure to schedule regular time for workout.  I am a sedentary person naturally, and since I’m not getting any younger and don’t have a good health insurance any more (one drawback of not having a regular day job…) I need to pay extra attention to my health.  I was going to the gym 3 times a week before, and I’m upping it to 4 times a week now.  I like to get a good workout in first thing in a morning.  It gives me more energy, and it doesn’t interrupt my work flow later in the day.
  • I scheduled regular hours for recurring things, like planning for my monthly subscription services, blogs, newsletters and such.  I can reschedule this as needed, but it’s just easier to set it as recurring appointments.
  • I scheduled time at the end of each day to make a quick check list for the next day.  It is nice to end the day knowing I will attend to important things the next morning.  I also don’t have to worry about it while trying to sleep!
  •  Although it’s tempting to be doing short-term cash generating things all the time i.e. shows, commissions, products etc, I made sure to schedule a regular time to learn new skills and work on long-term goals as well.
  • For goals I didn’t have specific timelines for, like updating my website, I scheduled one hour a week to focus on it without any specific action items.  Each week, I will do something to move the project forward and/or create new action items for the goal.
  • I color-labeled items so I know at a glance if there is something different I need to pay attention to – for example, my regular work stuff is green.  For shows, I used pink – just a reminder that it’s coming and I need to prep for it way in advance.  For personal items, like lunch with friends, I used yellow.  For learning, I used blue.

I’m not gonna lie – it was super tedious and mind-numbing.  By the time I finished, my eyes were crossed and my brain was all foggy.

But it was SO satisfying to put everything on the calendar and toss all the sticky notes at the end of the day!!!  Woo hoo!


I’ve been working on my own and following my calendar for a couple of weeks now and have noticed a few things:

Things take longer than I thought it was going to.
This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far.  A quick email turns into several involved conversations.  Putting together a show application takes longer because I can’t figure something out on Photoshop etc.  I was scheduling my tasks pretty tightly back-to-back, so I’ve learned to put a buffer in or schedule longer chunk of time to be more realistic.  This way, if your task doesn’t take as long, you can tackle something else on the calendar or take a mini break.

When inspiration hits, be flexible.
Let’s say I scheduled one hour for writing a blog post, and I scheduled something else after it.  But if I’m on a roll and just coming up with awesome blog post, I won’t stop when the hour is up.  Seize the opportunity when inspiration hits.  That’s when you produce the best work naturally.

Except, be careful not to fall into the “productive procrastination” trap.  Let’s say I scheduled time to write a blog post but don’t feel like it.  I still have time til it publishes, and I have other fun stuff to do, like coming up with a new design for a block-printing project.  So I do that instead.  And I wait until the last minute to write my blog, and I’ll never be ahead in writing.

It doesn’t feel unproductive because you’re doing something for your business.

While it’s important to be flexible, if you scheduled something that you’re not super excited about, try to stick to it.  It’ll get done, and you can move on to something more enjoyable as a reward!

Take a break.
What I’m noticing is – it is true, when you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work.  So I want to do it all the time.

I’ve been working on my art business in evenings and on weekends for the last couple of years while having a day job, so it has also become my habit to just do the work whenever possible.  It doesn’t help that my husband is away for work most of the summer.  I just keep going all day, every day.

Over the last weekend after a craft show, I noticed how tired I felt, and my creative energy was drained.  I was experiencing a mini burn-out just two weeks into my full-time artist life!  That’s not a good sign.

I need to nurture my passion and creative energy for a long-term success.  So on Monday, I took it easy – I ran some errands, did some organizing around the house, and framed a couple of  new art and hung them on the wall.  It definitely helped.

My hero Sean McCabe takes one week off every 7th week for a small scale sabbatical.  That’s when he steps away from the day-to-day business and does whatever to recharge his energy.  I so admire that and want to schedule mini-breaks here and there as well.  Probably not a whole week off yet but one day a week to start with.  OK, I just scheduled my week-long mini sabbaticals on my calendar starting October!  I’m doing this 🙂

It feels scary to take a time off because I don’t have a paid vacation any more, and there are so much to do.  But if you get burned out, it’s all over.

I never want to get to a point where making art no longer makes me happy.

Self-care is so important guys!!

Oh, and here are some art that came out of my solo retreat 🙂  My friends’ gorgeous dahlias gave me plenty of inspiration between work sessions.



How do you organize and prioritize your to-dos?  I’d love to hear it in the comments.  If you have a more flexible, spontaneous  personality type,  how do you stay on track?

Hope this was helpful! Take care and talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. Have you signed up for my newsletter yet?  I’ve been getting lots of positive feedback on it.  If you haven’t done so yet, sign up here.



I went on a solo retreat and created my artist manifesto.


Hi guys!

It’s  been two weeks since I quit my day job!

My brain has started adjusting to the fact that I’m not on vacation.  I’ve been getting up early every morning excited and ready to go.  Although my day job was meaningful and good, I had never been so enthusiastic about getting up and going to work.  I feel so alive and engaged.  When I go to bed at night, I can’t wait for tomorrow to come.

I know I’m in a honeymoon period right now and will enjoy it as long as it lasts… 🙂

I shared on my last blog that I went on a mini solo retreat to start my new life as a full-time artist.  As I transitioned from my day job – where I spent a good chunk of last almost 15 years – to my entrepreneur life, I was overwhelmed.

I had many to-dos and ideas in my head and felt I needed to work on all of them all at the same time.   I was pulled in so many directions and didn’t know where to start.

Because I practically grew up at my work place, it was like my home, and my co-workers were like my family.  So I was going through some emotional stuff, too.  It’s a huge identity shift for me!

So I knew I needed to be intentional about switching gears.  I needed to be away from home, away from my daily responsibilities and chores and sit quietly.  I needed to be able to focus on myself and the beginning of my journey alone.

Last fall, I went on a mini solo retreat to spend a couple of days creating art just for myself.  It was lovely.  I rented a cute cottage on airbnb on Whidbey Island, about 1.5 hours from Seattle.  The weather was dreary and grey in a typical Pacific Northwest fashion, which was perfect to stay in and make art.  It was so peaceful and rejuvenating.

So when I thought of going on a solo retreat again, I immediately thought of going away to Whidbey Island.  I asked my good friend who lives on the island to see if I could come and stay in their studio, and they kindly said yes.  A peaceful solo retreat to begin my new journey.

whidbey house
The view from the studio.

As someone who thrive in structure and organization, I set two goals for my retreat.

  1. I wanted to create my artist manifesto.  It will be like my personal and business values statement.   It will guide my decisions and behaviors as I move forward as a working-artist and an entrepreneur.
  2. I wanted to prioritize and organize my immediate/foreseeable to-dos and schedule them on my calendar.

Here is an overview of my Retreat Day 1:

1:00pm – Arrive at the house.  Get settled in, set up work space etc.

2:00pm – late lunch

To start my afternoon, I made a simple quinoa salad for lunch. It was delicious! And my friend’s hand-painted bowl was perfect.

3:00 – 6:30pm Create Artist Manifesto – I broke down my process below.  This is obviously not the only way to do it, but something that worked for me.

Step1: Brainstorm your values for 20-25 minutes.
Ask yourself “what do I want in my life?  what do I value?”  Write down what comes to mind.  I used sticky notes to make the next step easier, but you can just use scrap paper or whatever works for you.  No order or reasons necessary.  You also want to put a timeline on this activity because it could go on forever, and it is ok to not get everything on the paper.  More will naturally come out during the process.  Also, no judgement!

Step 2: Review what came up and categorize them.
Do you see any themes?  Group them into categories.


In the photo above, you can see how I categorized my brainstormed values: Internal Resources (something I have or want to have internally), Big Picture Values (social issues/values I care about), My Foundation (basic things I need from outside world to thrive as a person), What I Can Offer (something I can do for others that are also rewarding to me), Self-Care (What I need to take care of myself.  You need to be well physically and mentally to be able to nurture your passion long term.)  Again, this is not the only way.  I’d already been thinking about my personal values a lot, so these categories came pretty naturally.

Step3: Create statements that reflect your values.
Start writing a bunch of draft statements.  They don’t need to be perfect in the beginning.

I used the various values  I came up with as something I will have if I follow my guiding statements. So I asked myself, what do I need to do to have these things in my life?

I tried to write “I will/do…” statements because I’m ultimately responsible for my choices and behaviors.  It is also empowering to acknowledge I have the power to decide what’s best for me and my business.

At this stage, I came up with way too many statements.  I combined some of them or chose the most relevant statements for me and my business.

Step 4: Fine-tune your statements. 
Although I could’ve written a paper about my values and beliefs, this needed to be succinct.  This is something I can look at and “get” without thinking too much.  In my mind, 7-10 statements seemed like a good number.

I worked on making them into simple, short (ish) sentences.

I did a similar exercise at my day job around our organizational values and strategic planning.  Our facilitator told us to use the language a 5th grader would understand because simple language, if used effectively, will have a bigger impact on your audience.

In this case, the audience is me, and my values statements needed to be meaningful and impactful to me.

More sticky notes.

I also tried to make them reasonable and achievable.  I needed to be able to follow and act on them (at least some of them) every day without stretching too much.

For instance, I have a statement that says “I will create every day.”  I didn’t say “I will create a masterpiece every day.” because that’s probably not going to happen, and it will be discouraging.

You want these statements to support and guide you, and not give you anxiety or reason to feel bad about yourself.

6:30-8:00 pm – Dinner with friends. My friends at the main house invited me over for dinner so we shared a wonderful meal made of their homegrown veggies and got to catch up.

8:00 -10:00 pm After dinner, I continued to refine my statements and started working on the fun part: making the manifesto pretty.

Sakura Koi Pens & watercolor. My favorite medium to work with.

I had a vision of creating a piece that feels calm, light and spacious.  I didn’t want it to be too busy, so I chose a limited color palette that included blue, yellow and pink.

Since I ended up with 12 statements, I started by drawing 12 bubbles in watercolor.  The layout was pretty loose.  I put in a few larger bubbles and filled in the blank spaces with smaller bubbles.

Once I had all the bubbles drawn in, I hand wrote my statements in the bubble with my Pigma Micron pen (size 01, which is my favorite for loose handwriting).

Typically, I draw or write directly with pen.  I like the casual and more relaxed look when I do that.

I often hand letter or hand write words or sayings in my illustration work, so I can kind of eyeball the space and know how it all fit in.  I’ve been using all cap in my work a lot too.  But sometimes I mix in lower case as well for spacing or emphasis.  I also vary the size of certain words for emphasis.

After all the statements are in, I add embellishments.  This is also a very loose process.  I start adding patterns and different elements around the bubbles using watercolors and markers.

I see the balance of colors on my page and sprinkle different colors here and there.  I also drew some elements along the edges to create a frame.  I added some pen line work to give a little bit of weight and depth to the piece.

And then I stopped when I felt like the piece was done.

Here is the finished piece!  I’m very happy with how it turned out.  I still need to varnish it so it won’t be smudged.  I will then put it up where I can see every day to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Artist Manifesto, 9×12, marker, pen & ink, and watercolor on paper.

Do you have a manifesto?  Your guiding principles?

This exercise was so helpful for me, and I know I will refer back to it whenever I feel discouraged or off-centered.  It was a perfect tool to put me in a different mindset and prepare for the exciting future full of unknowns.

I will be learning a ton as I move forward and am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.

I will share my process for organizing and prioritizing my to-dos in my blog next Sunday!  There will be more sticky notes involved 🙂

Talk to you soon,

xoxo Yuko








Happiness Project Reflection 9: Was It Worth It?


Hey guys!

How was your week?  I hope you’ve been enjoying summer wherever you are.

Here in Seattle, it’s been sunny and beautiful.  My husband’s away for work most of the month, so I’ve been taking over taking care of our veggie gardens.  Some things in our gardens are growing like crazy (thumbs up to beans, eggplants, and cucumbers) and some not so much (thumbs down to tomatoes and zucchinis… Sadface.)


So I had a full week since I quit my day job last week.  I can tell that it will take a long time to mentally transition to my new life 100%.  I can still feel the anxiety of “What am I doing at home?? Shouldn’t I be in the office?” from time to time.  I just take a deep breath and try to let it roll.


One thing I did to start off my new artist life on the right foot was I went on a mini solo retreat over on Whidbey Island for a couple of days.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, guys.

This is where I stayed. So peaceful and beautiful <3
This is where I stayed. So peaceful and beautiful ❤

There is a saying in Japan that loosely translates to “When in hurry, take the long way.”  I was overwhelmed with all of my “to-dos” in my head and didn’t know where to start.  Although it didn’t feel “productive” to sit and think for two days, it was exactly what I needed.  I’ll write more about my solo retreat on my blog next week 🙂  There is so much to share!

Today’s post is the last of my Happiness Project Reflection series I’ve been writing about various learning moments that happened while creating art about happiness every day for 365 days.  But I don’t feel like I’ve properly acknowledged how awesome it is that I accomplished the big goal I set for myself.


So today, I want to celebrate it by sharing the highlights of my growth and some opportunities that came out of my 365 Day Happiness Project!

You ready?  Here goes.

These are the highlights of what I’ve gained internally.  They’re powerful because these are things I will keep forever and will tap into in my creative journey ahead.

  1. I gained more confidence as an artist. 
    This one is big for me.  I’ve talked about it here often, but I’ve always felt insecure about my art.  It’s wonky and child-like.  But through the project, I’ve heard from so many people who appreciated the unique voice I added to the world by providing art that was mine.  I also heard from people that it gave them the confidence because they made art that was also kinda wonky.
  2. I’ve developed a discipline to keep a consistent creative practice every day.
    I rediscovered my love for art as an adult after not engaging in any sort of art activities for many years.  I would draw or paint when I felt like it but realized I needed a more consistent practice if I wanted to make a living by doing art.   By making a public commitment that I will be making and posting art every day for 365 days, I created an accountability measure for myself.  It really helped.  It helped create a habit to create every day.  Even though my daily project has been over for several months, I still make time to make art for myself every day no matter how busy it is.  It’s like workout – you just miss it if you stopped going even though working out is not always fun!
  3. I’ve deepened my artistic style.
    I talked about this in this post, but consistent daily practice is the most effective way to establish and deepen your artistic style.  You probably already have a style (or styles) you’re drawn towards – daily practice will give you many opportunities to find inspiration and hone in on your signature style.
  4. I’ve used art as a tool for healing.
    I knew art has many many intangible effects, but I experienced its healing power when I lost my kitty.  You can read more about the experience here.
  5. I took a risk every day by putting myself out there.
    I think this is reason enough for a celebration.  I don’t enjoy being vulnerable in public.  But I knew I had to get used to it if I wanted to become a successful artist.  It does get easier – after a while, being afraid of faceless/nameless haters gets old.  You learn to focus your energy on what’s helping you accomplish your goals, rather than what’s holding you back.
  6. I learned art is my passion and is worth pursuing with all of my heart.
    This is an interesting one.  I knew I liked drawing and wanted to pursue it.  But through the project, I really knew I was passionate about it.  I experienced how art feeds my heart and soul, and I experienced it on a regular basis.  It made me realize how much I wanted to experience that even more every day and that I needed to do whatever I could to pursue it.
  7. I learned hard work pays off.
    This is another big one.  I’ve heard many times “You work hard and put yourself out there, and the results will follow.”  But I didn’t know if or how it was going to happen for me.  This project has opened many doors for me as an artist in a way I didn’t expect to.  I’m a believer now 🙂

And, I’ve had other more tangible results as well!   Here are some:

  1. I have 365 new illustration pieces I didn’t have before.
    I mean, sort of duh, but I still think it’s splendid that I created 365 pieces of joy that didn’t exit before.  I may have mentioned before that I want to turn some of them into prints – I haven’t gotten to it yet, but it’s moving forward, so stay tuned for an announcement!
  2. I/my project was featured in a presentation my hero Lisa Congdon gave in Portland, OR.
    Lisa is one of my art heroes.  Her work  and the ways she approaches her work and life really resonate with me.  I talked about how Lisa’s daily projects inspired me to start my own in this post.  She was looking for people to submit their sketchbook project to include in one of her presentations, and I sent her my Happiness Project.  I was so honored when she said she’d include my project in her talk!!  I admit it: I’m a total fan girl – I was walking on clouds when she introduced my work as “her favorite” during her talk ❤  It was never my goal (and it still isn’t) to get a recognition from my heroes, but I was lucky enough to get it from someone I admired so much.  It was even sweeter because she was the reason why I started the project.  We remain friends, and she keeps inspiring me ❤
  3. I have 4 art shows this year, compared to 0 last year.
    Having an art show was a secret dream of mine this year.  I can’t remember why it was a secret 🙂 but it wasn’t something I was pursuing very hard either.  But after the Happiness Project finished, I had so many art pieces and felt they needed to be seen by more people.   So every chance I get, I was asking people if I could have a show.  Although it may feel awkward, you really need to ask for it if you want something.  You never know if someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer!  By asking for a show, I got 4 shows at local cafes and a restaurant!  They’re pretty low-key, low-pressure venues which is perfect to get my feet wet.  I just ended a show at a super cute cafe, Columbia City Bakery, in my neighborhood in July and received very positive reviews.  The coordinator has asked me to contact her again when I have new pieces to show 🙂

    Me and my mom at the show <3
    Me and my mom at the show ❤
  4. I received a generous care package from Sakura of America.
    You may know Sakura of America as a company who makes Micron pens, which I’ve used many of to draw.  They have been following me on Instagram since the Happiness project and asked if I wanted a care package from them!  I immediately said YES.  A few days later, I received a box full of beautiful pens, markers, and paints to play with.  What a wonderful surprise!  I’ve been having lots of fun creating with the new drawing supplies I received from them.  (My title illustration for today was created using their Koi Brush Pens.)  Sounds like I may be one of their guest Instagram posters in the future (in 2016) and may also be creating some tutorial videos for them.  Stay tuned!

    I even decorated pen holders using the new markers & pens <3
    I even decorated pen holders using the new markers & pens ❤
  5. It gave me at least 10 blog posts!
    It helped me tremendously to kick off my goal of publishing weekly blog posts.  I think of more things to write about the more I write, so I’m sure there will be more posts related to my experience from this project! 🙂
  6. As of today, I’ve brought in twice more $$ in sales and commission work this year than the entire year of 2014. 
    Granted it is not a lot of money at all (I would share the real number if it was more!) but still something to celebrate about!!  Woo hoo!  Growth is good even if it’s small.
  7. I’ve created communities that support and value my work.
    I wrote about how relationships are what fuel me to create and grow in this post.  And it’s really true.  My communities are continuing to grow, and I get so much encouragement and inspiration from them.  It is definitely the best thing I’ve gotten out of this project!!

When I started the project, I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t know if I would finish it or if anyone would care.  Yet I gained so much from it.  Much more than I’d ever expected.

They might be small wins but it means so much to me.  It tells me there will be more exciting opportunities for me as I continue to work hard and keep sharing what I have to offer.  I mean, imagine what I can accomplish now that I don’t have a day job to go to?  I want to squeal and do a lap around the apartment when I think of all the things I want to work on!!

Sure I’ve lost some sleep and fun social time, and that’s not to be taken lightly.  But was it worth it?  Absolutely.

Have you been working on any daily/weekly/monthly project?  Tell me about it in the comment!

p.s. This month, I’m working on a Daily Sketch Project with my fellow illustrator Janine Crum.  Check out my and other peeps’ daily sketch on Instagram hashtag #MakeWithMe.

p.s. 2 – Have you signed up for my e-newsletter yet?  I just sent out my first one and have been hearing very positive feedback about it 🙂  Join me here

Thank you guys!  It’s been a pleasure having  you in my community 🙂

xoxo Yuko



Happiness Project Reflection 8: Nothing Good Happens When You Compare Yourself with Strangers on the Internet


Hey guys!

Happy August!  As I shared a couple of weeks ago, I quit my regular day job this past Thursday!  WOO HOO!  I’d worked for the organization for almost 15 years…  I know, LONG TIME.  It’s one of the biggest life transitions I’ve ever experienced, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I don’t work there any more.  I’ll share more about it in my future blog posts!!

OK, so, I have a confession to make.  When I set a goal of publishing a new blog post every Sunday, I had also planned on having at least 3 posts in a queue.  I wanted to make sure I can consistently post every week.  It would have been better to have more in a queue, but 3 was all I could manage before I published my first post.  I was consistently writing 1-2 posts per week on my days off from my day job so I could stay ahead.

And then July happened.   July was such a whirlwind!  I gave my notice at my day job at the end of June.  My organization was going through many transitions already, so as their HR Manager, I was already pretty busy.  Add my own transition to that mix.  It got pretty overwhelming pretty quick.

My mom was also visiting from Japan during that time.  Granted she was not staying with us, I spent a good chunk of time with her for two weeks playing tour guide and an interpreter.

Gorgeous view from the Vista House in Columbia River Gorge, OR
Gorgeous view from the Vista House in Columbia River Gorge, OR. My mom and I took a weekend trip to Oregon.

Let me just say my mom is a very sweet lady.   Since we live so far apart, we don’t get to see each other very often.  And though I really appreciate spending time with her, it does get a little tiring to hang out with your parent for an extended time.

Between work craziness and mom’s visit, I was swamped.  My stress level got pretty high, and I was feeling drained.  I had a custom illustration deadline as well on top of that.  And an art show.  My plate was pretty full!

When I’m under stress, I revert back to what’s more comfortable and familiar.  It takes more energy to stretch and go out of your comfort zone when you’re stressed.

This is how I felt most of the month...
This is how I felt most of the month…

Writing requires more focus and energy from me than, say, drawing.  Although I’m getting better at it as I write more regularly, it is a muscle and I need to be intentionally using that muscle to keep getting better.

I got behind on my writing commitment in July.  My blog was still being published every Sunday, but I wasn’t adding anything new to the queue.  I was dipping into my “savings” if you will.  It didn’t feel good, and I was getting anxious.  I had a little voice telling me all kinds of “shoulds” – “I know you are tired, but you should stay up and write.” or “you should say no to hanging out with your mom today.  You haven’t written any blog posts this week!”

It was a lose-lose situation.  Eventually, I was able to see that my priority was to enjoy my time with mom and to be present at my job.  After all, I had built up the reserve for situations like this.  I made peace with the fact that I wasn’t writing as regularly as I wanted and let it go.

Let it go so you can grow!

So I’m finishing up this post a day before it’s scheduled to be published.  I’m happy it will go out at the regular time.  I will be upping my writing goals for a while until I have extra posts in my queue again.  A word of advice for anyone wanting to start publishing blogs regularly – have a bunch in a queue before you start publishing 🙂

Thank you for letting me share that – I think it’s important to share the challenges as well as successes.  It’s never an easy road all the time.  And if it is, you’re probably not growing or learning very much.

So, let’s get back to our Happiness Project Reflection blog series, shall we?  This is our 8th post in the series of 9.  I hope you’re getting some value out of these 🙂

Today I want to talk about a common disease called “Comparing Yourself with Strangers on the Internet Syndrome.”  Does it sound familiar?  Maybe you’ve gotten the diagnosis before.  Don’t worry, you’re not weird if you got it.  Study shows that majority of people who have access to the internet get it at some point in their lives.  (Note: OK, I don’t know about a study, but I’m sure it’s accurate.)

Symptoms include, but not limited to:

  • Consistently spending more time than you had planned on the internet oogling beautiful images other people put out in the name of “research” or to find an “inspiration.”
  • Feeling inspired by those beautiful images at first and then start wondering why your work doesn’t look like that.
  • Feeling small because you don’t have as many followers and cool client list and a book deal.
  • Feeling depressed and anxious that you’re never gonna make it.  Also feeling down because you know you should be making your own things but now wasted hours oogling other people’s stuff online.
  • Continuing to click to see more stuff because you don’t think it’s gonna make any difference if you stop now.

Hey, I’ve been there, too.  It is so easy to do especially if you can’t find a motivation or inspiration to create.

People you admire on the internet seem to have everything together, always putting out awesome work and working with fabulous clients, right?  You think, gosh, they’re so talented.  They must’ve been discovered by a high-power art director one day, and work keeps coming in just like that.  And they have nice hair and work in a beautiful, minimalist art studio filled with plenty of natural light.  It seems like just a luck of the draw.  What chance do I have?

But is it really just a luck of the draw?

I’ve read, listened to, and talked to many artists who I consider very successful to know that “overnight success” happens to only a few people.  Yes natural talent gives advantages to people, but it’s not a guarantee for success in and of itself.  Just like any other skills, you need to practice, work hard, and persist to take your creative skills and business to the next level.

For instance, I’ve been admiring and following the works of Sean McCabe and Lisa Congdon for a while now.  They’re both prolific with their creation and business and commercially very successful.  Neither of them went to an art school or business school to learn what they do.  And they didn’t get “discovered” and became famous overnight.  They followed their passion and worked very, very, very hard for many years before anyone knew who they were.

I remember in one of her interviews Lisa was talking about how people thought she was this overnight success, but it was just that not many people knew who she was for several years before she had her initial success as an artist in 2008 although he was already putting out her work consistently.

One of the statistics Sean shared during this podcast episode resonated with me very much:

The best work of composers was after their 10th year: 497 of the 500 most popular symphonies were made after the composer’s 10th year of work.


When you’re oogling other people’s work and feeling depressed, you’re likely looking at a body of work of someone who had been putting many hours of practice and reached a level you haven’t reached yet.  It doesn’t mean they haven’t been where you are before.  It is likely that they weren’t very good when they started out. It means that they didn’t stop creating when nobody noticed their work.  Potentially for a very long time.

My 365 Day Happiness Project gave me a structure to create every day for a year.   Some days, I struggled to find the inspiration to draw.  I’ve been sucked into the unproductive, self-loathing internet hell many times.

But I continued creating because I had to.  I did it because I told people I was going to do it and didn’t want to be a flake.  Inspiration or not, I needed to put my work out there every day.   Every day, I had to make a choice: Do I waste hours not reaching my goal, or do I conjure up the energy to do one thing to help me become a better artist?


Because I had to squeeze in my art time around my day job, I also needed to be practical.  I had many days where I stayed up until 11 or 12 to work on my drawing because I spent more time than I should clicking away and looking at other people’s work.  I don’t function very well without a good night sleep, so that taught me a lesson to make the right choice.

If you’re struggling with the “Comparing Yourself with Strangers on the Internet Syndrome,” these tips may help:

  • Try to remember that everyone starts somewhere.  While it’s OK to admire the works of the masters, know that they probably started somewhere similar to where you are and got where they are by working hard for a long time without a significant recognition.
  • Also remind yourself that you don’t know everything other people go through to become successful.  Making assumptions or feeling jealous of other people’s situations do not help you reach your goals.
  • Instead, compare where you are now to where you were a year ago.  3 years ago.  Or 5 years ago.  How did you improve?  How much time and energy have you been spending practicing your skills?
  • Create a time in your day to focus.  A lot of people do 30-minute or even 15-minute drawing a day.  Set a timer.  Put your cell phone in the airplane mode.  Turn off your push notifications and close your internet browser tabs.  Arrange with your family so they know this is your alone focused time.
  • When you notice you’re comparing yourself with others and feeling bad, take a breath.  There is nothing wrong with being self-reflective and wanting to improve.  But if it’s keeping you from creating your own thing and appreciating it, then it’s not helping you.  It may help to jot down positive things you or others have said about your work so you can come back to it whenever you need a little encouragement.

I hope this post was helpful to you.  I still struggle with this and think it comes and goes for many people too.

My next blog will be the last of the Happiness Project Reflection series!  I want to sum up the benefits and share all the great things that have come out of the project 🙂  Stay tuned!

I will be slowly adjusting to my new life as a full-time artist (!!) in the next few months to come.  I want to document my processes as much as I can so I can share with you my challenges and successes.  If you’re hoping to quit your day job (or significantly reduce the hours) and pursue your passion full-time some day, follow along  🙂

And don’t forget to sign up for my new e-newsletter here!  I have many exciting news to share and would love for you to hear it ❤


Thank you for reading!! Have a wonderful week!

xoxo  Yuko