Monthly Archives: October 2015

Will you be my accountability partner? (Part 1 of 2)


Hey friend,

I’ve shared in my past blog posts about how my accountability partners have helped me stay motivated and focused on my goals.

Accountability partners are someone you meet regularly to check in about your goals and provide support. Maybe you don’t need any external support to achieve your goals, but many of us do better when you know someone else is counting on you!

I used to practice Bikram Yoga (a type of hot yoga) a lot. The instructors often said “showing up is the hardest part of the practice” and it’s so true. You know it’s going to be hard. In the beginning of the class, I always thought “Why am I here? I’m going to DIE!!!” It’s SO hot in there. You sweat and hold difficult poses. You feel so beat and uncomfortable. But then after the class, you feel amazing. You feel so refreshed and renewed.

What motivated me to show up oftentimes was that I had a couple of buddies to go to the class with. Sometimes I gave them a ride, and the other times I just met with them at the studio. Either way, I chose to go to my yoga class because I knew they were expecting me to show up in some ways.

And once my yoga buddies moved on, it naturally became more difficult for me to consistently show up for the class. Boo!

Today, I want to shine a spotlight on one of my accountability partners, Whitney. We’ve been meeting monthly since June of this year. Whitney and I used to work together at our old day job and became friends. She moved on to a different job a few years ago, but we kept in touch because she’s a really cool lady and we like each other 🙂

Hi Whitney! ❤

Whitney has since gone back to school to get her Master’s in Organizational Leadership. She also quit her day job earlier this year to start her own consulting & coaching practice!  Her thoughtful approach to helping others grow has really inspired me.

We were having dinner one day, and at that time I was contemplating getting a different day job that might be less stressful and draining. Whitney had just quit her day job then, and I had another friend who had just made a big switch to pursue her creative passion full-time.

I was totally inspired by their ability to quit their day job to pursue their dream and wanted a bigger push to make something happen in my life, too. I was telling Whitney about how my accountability meetings with my other partner, Stef, have been helping me stay on track. Whitney was going through her big transitions then and thought having an accountability partner might be helpful for her, too.

Naturally, we felt like we would be a good match because we knew and trusted each other already. We were also at a similar point in our life starting something new for ourselves and experiencing similar challenges. Plus, it helps me, an introverted homebody, get out of the house to actually see a friend regularly!

We usually meet once  a month over a meal (brunch or lunch). Monthly seemed reasonable for both of us. You could agree to meet more often if it feels necessary and doable, but I wouldn’t recommend no less than monthly especially if you’re a procrastinating type 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to hear how our accountability meetings have helped her achieve her goals, so I interviewed her!

Without further ado, meet Whitney.

Please introduce yourself to my readers.  Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi, I’m Whitney Thoren. I am originally from Colorado. I moved to Seattle about 6 years ago, which is when I met Yuko! I’m married to musician/designer, Irene. We live with our two cats in a funky old house in the north part of the city. I love to ride my vintage Honda motorcycle.

Earlier this year I left my full-time job, in an unrelated field, to start my own innovation consulting practice, Whitnums. I create and facilitate experiences related to change and growth for both for individuals and larger systems. I am inspired to help organizations be kinder and more empowering places for the people who work there. I’m currently in the process for building my reputation and finding clients.

Why did you decide to become my accountability partner?  What were your initial expectations?

The idea of an accountability partner seemed to emerge organically for Yuko and me. We were both in similar places in our professional lives, and agreed that having someone to offer a more specific type of support would be value in our process.

Not sure I had any initial expectations? We talked about the ways in which we can hold each other accountable for the tasks we set for ourselves. I think saying out loud, what you are working on when you work for yourself, helps to keep you moving forward. When you work alone it is much easier to let yourself off the hook 😉

I experience our accountability relationship as space to bring our challenges, personal and professional. We don’t always need an agenda. One of the great things we can offer each other space to share our fears and insecurities too. Sometimes those meetings are the most helpful.

How has having an accountability partner helped you?  Any examples of the changes you’ve noticed or progresses you’ve made in your own practice since you started meeting with me?

Our meetings gave me the push to try blogging! I feel insecure when it comes to my writing. It felt like a big leap to share something publicly, but I pushed through, and it was a real success. Now I just need to keep it up…

In your own experience, what are the most valuable things about having an accountability partner?

For me, it’s been really lovely to have someone going through a similar transition in life to talk with. Yuko understands the challenges AND the value in this process, no explanation required. Additionally, the consistency of our meetings is awesome. If I know I have a Yuko hang coming up, I better get my butt in gear 🙂

What do you think are important to look for in an accountability partner?

Someone who is serious about being there for you and has the space in their life for the commitment. Someone who is open to you and your feedback. Someone you trust.

 Any words of wisdom for someone who’s thinking about having an accountability partner?

Go for it! Nothing bad can come from it. It is truly a special relationship to gift yourself with.

 And where can people find you?

You can find me at:

And you can learn more about my professional coaching practice for the alternative professional here –> Straight Talk with Queer Whitney

Thank you Whitney for sharing your experience with us!   I’m so fortunate to have you as a friend and my accountability partner!  I always look forward to our next meeting 🙂

Well, I hope you get a better sense of how helpful an accountability partner can be!  In my next blog post, I’m interviewing my other partner, Stefanie Robbins.  She’s an amazing person, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!  Stay tuned 🙂

Have a wonderful week, my friend ❤

xo Yuko



Let me tell you what I did on my first sabbatical week.


Hello guys!

It’s so nice to be back from my mini sabbatical week! For those of you who haven’t heard, I decided to take every 7th week off to step back from the day-to-day and recharge. I just had my very first sabbatical week the previous week, and it was really awesome!

As promised, I wanted to report back and share how I spent my week off. To me, this was not a vacation, per se, but an opportunity to breathe and do something I don’t normally get to do.

1) I created a new drawing tutorial.

Some of you may have seen it, but I participated in a blog hop with Kelly Johnson of Wings, Worms, and Wonder on Wednesday October 7 as a guest blogger! I had always wanted to do tutorials, so I was excited and honored when she approached me to join her.

She asked each participating artist to come up with a tutorial that inspires people to connect/re-connect with the nature. I thought about what I could teach people and decided to create this Fall Leaf Marker Drawing tutorial! I’ve received positive feedback from folks that it was very accessible and inspired them to try marker drawing. I really enjoyed the process, too, and hope to create more tutorials in the future!


2) I cooked more.

I might have mentioned this here before, but I’m not that into cooking. I don’t dislike it but just don’t enjoy spending a lot of time cooking up some gourmet meals (that’s more my husband’s thing, which I’m very grateful for!) I enjoy eating simple tasty meals that are quick to make.

But there is something about non-regular cooking, like making jams, baking, and making fermented foods that I like. It might be because the process is fairy simple, and you get to enjoy the products over time? Canning and fermentation make me feel very empowered, too. You can turn some fresh ingredients into things that last for a long, long time. Magical!

I used to do these things more often before I got serious about my art business. Even though I’m not juggling a day job and art any more, I’ve been plenty busy and was feeling like I didn’t have the energy to do much else.

My husband had been asking me to make more jam because we were out for a while. So I decided to tackle that during my sabbatical week!

We buy fresh fruits in bulk during the summer and freeze them. I prefer to make jam when the weather has cooled down because our apartment gets super hot during the summer, and it wouldn’t be fun to do water bath canning then… :p


I made three kinds of jams this time! Our all time favorite blueberry, apricot, and I made a new addition, spiced apricot with cinnamon and clove. YUM.jam02_lores jam03_lores

It’s kind of a long story, but I’ve been on an elimination diet of no grain flour for a while. But after making so much yummy jam, I really wanted to have something to eat it with. So I did some research and found this easy almond flour muffin recipe!

almond-muffins01_lores almond-muffins02_lores

It was really quick to make and was delicious! It has a nutty, earthy flavor, and the texture is very similar to cornbread. It went really well with my jam too!almond-muffins03_lores

And I just generally spent more time cooking during the week. I love to eat and am happy when my creations turn out yummy!

3)  I made art for fun.

I still make something every day, but nowadays I spend much less time making art just for fun. During the sabbatical week, I tried to turn off my work mode and doodled my little heart out.

Here are some of the drawings I made!




green-blue-bowls_lores green-yellow-cups_lores pink-purple-cupcakes_lores

Aren’t these fun?? As I shared in this blog post, I always get new inspiration and fresh ideas for future work when I’m playing around.

4) More friend/family hang out time

I had a few dates planned with my friends but ended up having just one for one reason or another. It worked out fine because, well, I’m an introvert and I recharge by being alone 🙂 My husband was away for work for a few days too, so it was a good balance between having a nice quiet time alone and hanging out with him when he was home!

5) Veg out!

Don’t worry, I wasn’t being productive and doing things all the time, either. I did sleep in and just veg out too! In one afternoon, Dave and I just watched a whole bunch of Netflix shows on our couch. It was very nice 🙂

He was helping me be a couch potato!
Our kitty was helping me be a couch potato = his special talent

It took me a couple of days to turn off the work mode, but I really enjoyed the slow week. I totally feel more energized and calm this week. I’m really glad I decided to schedule regular time-off and can’t wait for my next mini sabbatical! I’m gonna need it 🙂

Have a wonderful week!

xoxo Yuko


Why I Decided to Take a Mini Sabbatical

sabbatical_loresHey guys!

This is my very first sabbatical blog post.  By the time this post comes out, I’ll have finished my first sabbatical week!  Woo hoo!

I’m following Seanwes‘ advice (I pretty much follow all of his advice) to take every 7th week off to step back from my day-to-day and recharge.  To learn more about the small scale sabbaticals, you can watch his short video or listen to this podcast episode.

If you’ve been following along my weekly blog, you probably know that I quit my day job to pursue art full-time at the end of July this year.  Ever since, I’ve been hustling pretty much non-stop.  I’m grateful for all the opportunities and all that I’m learning every day.

At the same time, I was drained.

It’s weird right?  You’re following your passion and are able to do what you love all the time.  I should be happy and more full of energy, shouldn’t I?

The thing is, it’s still work.  In a way it’s even more taxing than being in a day job because now you’re 100% responsible for whatever happens. I’m mentally more engaged every day, making all the decisions and thinking ahead.  And making a lot of art can be hard on your body, too.

When I was toying with the idea of taking a week off regularly,  I was hesitant at first.  I just started doing this full-time not too long ago, and my business is still at an early stage of growth.  Is it smart to take a week off now?  It’s not like I have paid vacation any more!  I started thinking, well, maybe I can take sabbaticals later when my business is bigger and then I can afford to take a time off.

And then I had to shift my mindset around a few things to really recognize the benefits of taking a regular time-off.

By taking a week off every 7 weeks, I may have a small loss in sales or client work.  But if I put off taking care of myself, I’m going to burn out for sure.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.  And if you’re burnt out, there will be no passion to pursue.  That’s the worst thing that can happen to any creative people, right?

When I worked with people affected by domestic violence in my old day job, we often talked about self-care as an ethical obligation.  Working with people with trauma could cause you to have secondary trauma, which will lead you to burn out.  If you don’t recognize the signs of burn-out and take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to help people effectively.  Not to mention your own happiness, and your personal relationships will suffer too.

I know that growing a business is hard work that could take many years.  If I put off taking care myself until I could “afford it”, 1) it may never happen because there are always things to do, and there is never a “good” time to take a time off, and  2) my business may never grow to the point where I feel like I can “afford it” because I’ll burn out and quit.  Neither option sounds good, does it?

So I’m making a commitment to take every 7th week off to step back and recharge.  I’m not going to wait to implement a good plan that’s going to help me and my business grow long term.  My future sabbaticals are already on my calendar so I know not to schedule any “work-y” stuff, like client meetings and project deadlines during that week.  I’ll probably stay away from my regular blog-writing though I might continue writing for a different project or for fun.  I’ll prepare a shorter blog post for each sabbatical week, so you won’t miss me 🙂

Some sabbaticals may just be me relaxing for a week.  But here are some of the things I’d like to do during my week-off:

  • Make art for fun and/or exploration
  • Learn new skills and information whether it’s about creativity, business, or something totally different (like cat whispering!)
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Focus on my long-term project – e.g. web redesign, new service development, future visioning etc.
  • Enjoy other creative things like crochet and sewing
  • Cook more
  • Pamper myself

I know for sure that the long-term benefits of taking mini sabbaticals far outweigh any short-term losses.  Plus, one week is not that long…  It’s not as big of a deal as taking a year off or something!  If you get behind during the week off, I’m sure you can catch up in the following weeks because your time off will make you even more productive.  Win win!

Oh I can’t wait to report back what I did this past week in my post next Sunday!

See you soon!

xoxo Yuko



Draw Yourself Back To Nature Blog Hop Day 3: Fall Leaf Doodle Tutorial!


Hi everyone! Welcome to the special edition of my blog post today!

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I usually post an article about creativity and motivation every Sunday. Even though I’m on a mini sabbatical this week, I get to show up for you twice… How cool is that?

For those of you who just discovered me through Kelly Johnson’s Draw Yourself Back to Nature Blog Hop, it’s so nice to meet you 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to stop by! NOTE: There is an announcement about a cool giveaway at the end of this post, so don’t miss it 🙂


Before we dive in to today’s nature drawing tutorial, let me take a moment to introduce myself! My name is Yuko Miki, and I’m an illustrator, print-maker, and a blogger in Seattle, Washington. I was born and raised in Himeji, Japan.

HImeji is best known for its beautiful castle! Photo credit by Yoko Miki (a.k.a. my mom)
HImeji is best known for its beautiful castle! Photo credit by Yoko Miki (a.k.a. my mom)

Himeji is a pretty big city, but I grew up in a rural part of the city surrounded by rice patches and mountains. My grandparents grew rice and many of the vegetables we ate. I used to take it for granted and didn’t really think it was anything special. I even thought farming and growing up in a rural area were kind of uncool!

Beautiful view from Mt. Syosha, Himeji, Japan
Beautiful view from Mt. Syosha, Himeji, Japan

I moved to Seattle about 19 years ago to study English and ended up staying here for good. Seattle is a great city, but I was pretty disconnected from nature and growing food for many years. I re-discovered the wonders of nature and re-connected with the soil when I met my husband, Dave, almost 9 years ago. Dave is a permaculture designer/teacher/author and helps people create an ecologically sustainable life. He inspires me and many others to choose a way of living that is kind to people and the earth. Yea I know, he’s pretty cool 🙂

We got married a little over 2 years ago. Boy time flies!
We got married a little over 2 years ago. Boy time flies!

My journey as an artist has taken kind of an unconventional route, too. As a child, I enjoyed drawing but moved on to other interests in my pre-teens and didn’t engage in any visual art for a long time. About 5 years ago, at my day job I was doodling some cartoon during a meeting, and my co-worker really liked it and wanted me to draw more. I started drawing here and there for fun and for friends, and I loved being appreciated for what I can create on paper.

A drawing from when I was little. Not sure how old I was. I love how dynamic kids' drawings are!
A drawing from when I was little. Not sure how old I was. I love how dynamic kids’ drawings are!

I grew to like drawing more and more, but I never thought I could make it as a professional artist. I never went to an art school, and my drawings are pretty wonky. So I enrolled myself in a Graphic Design program at a local college in hopes to become more creatively employable and finished a certificate in 2014.

But in my last portfolio review class, I started freaking out a little bit. My work didn’t really look like other designers’. My design was pretty wonky and focused a lot on my illustrations. Oh no, I thought, I’m a bad designer!!

I nervously finished my final presentation to the class. Then our instructor, Susan, said to me, “You know, you’re not a bad designer. But you obviously are more passionate about illustration. Why don’t you just pursue illustration?” And I knew then and there that’s what I needed to do. I’d been so concerned about how unpractical my dream was and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my work even though people around me saw my potential. It’s so funny how you sometimes feel like you need a permission to follow your dream!

Anyway, then I started a daily drawing project back in April of 2014 where I made a drawing about happiness and shared it on the internet every day for 365 days. It helped me gain some traction, and I developed a daily creative practice helped me grow as an artist.

A lot of my daily happiness drawings were inspired by nature.



And somehow the universe aligned, and I was able to quit my day job at the end of July 2015! If you’re interested in learning more about how and why I quit my day job, you can read it here!


I’ve been enjoying being my own boss and hustling to take my art business to the next level for the past two months. I talk a lot about my journey and share my learning on my blog here, so do follow if that’s something you’re interested in 🙂

OK I think you got a good sense of who I am and what I’m about… Now, back to our topic for today!

I was stoked when Kelly Johnson from the Wings, Worms, and Wonder approached me to join her Draw Yourself Back to Nature Blog Hop! She’s asked the participating artists to provide a nature drawing tutorial, and I was so excited to join because I’ve been wanting to create tutorials for a while and hadn’t done one yet.

My tutorial is loosely related to Kelly’s nature journaling tutorial prompt No. 1 from her ECourse (which by the way is packed full of awesome resources and tutorials, easily worth more than what you pay!) where she teaches you how to draw nature by breaking them down to simple shapes.

I like using simple shapes and lines, and most of my work is pretty flat as opposed to photorealistic.

So here is my brand new Fall Leaf Doodle Tutorial I created for you! Follow along the steps and create your own nature-themed doodles. Have fun!

1) Materials you need for this tutorial: sketchbook, coloring markers & drawing pens.

I used Bee Paper Super Deluxe sketchbook, Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pens, and Pigma Micron Pens (size 01 and 08 in black are my favorite!) in this tutorial. Of course this is not a requirement to use these specific brands/products, and you can use what you already have and are comfortable with.
I enjoy drawing with different mediums (watercolor, gouache, colored pencils, etc), and I like the portability of the markers when you’re on the go. Since you can layer and draw without worrying about the colors bleeding into each other, you have more control over the piece as well.

For this tutorial, I used Pale Orange, Yellow, Vermilion, Coral Red, Woody Brown, Orange, Fresh Green, Light Sky Blue, Light Warm Gray, and Ice Green Koi Coloring Brush Pens.

2) Gather your inspiration and references!

For this tutorial, I’m drawing fall leaves that spread and fill one page of your sketchbook. Since I typically draw things in simple and stylized manner, I like to look at several different images to get the feel for what I’m going to draw. Like Kelly mentions in her tutorials, you can do a goodle image search and/or go out and pick up leaves from outside!

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.47.15 PM
A quick google images search for “fall leaves” returns lots and lots of pretty images.
And I found these pretties on a quick walk around my neighborhood.
And I found these pretties on a quick walk around my neighborhood.

3) Pick a couple of leaves from your references and practice drawing them with a marker.

Like Kelly mentions, we’re not trying to be scientific botanical illustrators here. As a commercial illustrator, it’s more important to me that my drawings have my voice (a.k.a. my style) than how accurate or real they look. My style is simple and whimsical, and it makes my art fairly accessible to people.

You might be wondering, “I don’t know what my style is. How do I find it??” Well, unfortunately, there is no shortcut for finding your style. But you can find it by 1) paying attention to what you’re attracted to aesthetically, and 2) practicing a lot.

Whether you’re attracted to more realistic art or stylized illustrations, only way to get better and deepen your style is to practice.

So turn to your sketchbook or any scratch paper, and start making simple drawings of the leaves you chose with special focus on their shapes. Don’t worry about any mistakes or details. Draw it big. Draw it small. Maybe exaggerate certain aspects and see what you think. If it’s wonky, that’s OK. Nobody is going to see this, so just relax and have fun 🙂 Think of it as your visual brainstorming session! There is no need for judgement or order. Don’t be precious with this. Just go for it.

If you’re intimidated by more complex shapes (like the maple leaf), start with the basic oval-almond shaped ones!

Some examples of how your marker sketches can look like.
Some examples of how your marker sketches can look like. Very simple.

4) Experiment with layering different colors.

One of the things I like about drawing with markers is that I can layer the colors in a very controlled way. Sometimes you have a good idea of what it looks like with multiple colors layered, but other times it can be a total surprise. Occasionally, you mix two colors (e.g. any complement color combo) that you thought were interesting and get a muddy mess. So just test them out on your sketchbook or a scratch paper.

Example of layering colors. I used Yellow to draw the first leaf and layered Orange in half and Woody Brown on the other half.
Example of layering colors. I used 1) Yellow to draw the first leaf and 2) layered Orange on the left half and Woody Brown on the right half. You can achieve more subtle hues by layering colors.
Similarly, in this example I show the 1) outline 2) filled with Vermilion and 3) layered with half Light Warm Gray and half Burgundy. Layering with gray colors is a great way to darken a bright color.
Similarly, in this example I show the 1) outline 2) filled with Vermilion as a base color and 3) layered with half Light Warm Gray (L) and half Burgundy (R). Layering with gray is a great way to tone down a bright color.

On a side note, I like having a color chart of the makers I have so I don’t have to test it every time.

You can simply draw small shapes with each color, put their name below the swatch and keep it somewhere handy!

5) Once you practiced drawing some shapes and layering colors, let’s fill your sketchbook page with them, shall we?


STEP 1: Chose one base color. I prefer to start with a lighter color to make it easier to layer on later (I’m using Orange marker here). To make this tutorial simple, I’m going to use one basic leaf shape for this piece. Draw a few larger leaves with your base color. Don’t place them so tightly together as you’ll be filling the white space in the following steps.

I like to just go for it without drawing with pencils first, but if you’re nervous or have a specific pattern in mind, feel free to draw the shapes with the pencil first and fill it in with the marker.


STEP 2: Chose another base color (in this case, Yellow) and draw a few more leaves in the white space. Again, leave some space in between.


STEP 3: Using the same base colors, add in smaller leaves in the white space. Vary the directions, sizes, and shapes slightly to fit in the space. Leave some white space between the leaves.


STEP 4: OK, now it’s time to layer some colors on top of the base colors! I added Woody Brown color to some leaves. It’s a nice subtle fall color. Koi Brush Pens work sort of like watercolor so the base color still comes through the layers. For some leaves, I covered the entire shape, and for others I just layered on half of the leaf.


STEP 5: Then I added Vermilion on top of some of the leaves. This color really pops!


STEP 6: Then I went over the leaves with either Yellow, Pale Orange, or Coral Red. I typically layer 3 times (base + two layers) either with 3 different colors or same color multiple times to get the hue and depth I want.


STEP 7: Once you’re happy with the leaves, let’s decide on the background color! I wanted the warm fall colors to pop, so I decided to go with the blue-green hues (their complementary color scheme.)  You can learn more about color theory here.


I picked Fresh Green, Ice Green, and Light Sky Blue for my background.


STEP 8: Fill in the background! I like to draw lines around the leaf shapes as I go so I don’t accidentally draw over the leaves. When I’m filling the larger space I can go faster in bigger strokes, and the lines around the leaves signal me to slow down. I like to leave a small white space between the leaves and the first background layer. I’ll tell you why in a minute.




First background layer is done! You can see the strokes pretty well. I like the look but if you prefer not to have stroke lines be so visible, you would need to pay more attention to the directions and length of your strokes.

13_first-backgroundCU_lores 14_second-backgroundCU01_lores

STEP 9: Let’s add another layer to the background! I’m using Light Sky Blue here.

14b_second-backgroundCU_loresSo this is why I like to leave a small gap between the leaves and the background. As you add second and third background layers, you can come in a bit closer to the leaves than the first layer did to create a boarder with only two or one color layered.

This creates lighter colored boarder around the leaves, which helps the leaf shapes pop. You don’t need to be precise about this process. Play around with it to find what you like.


After two background layers.


STEP 10: Add the final layer. I used Fresh Green marker here. You can probably see that I layered it on pretty loosely. Again, if you prefer a more uniform or flat look, you just need to be more mindful of your strokes.


Close-up. At this stage, the background colors go up to the edge of the leaves to fill the white boarder around them. I still leave some white spot peeking through.


STEP 11: This is the final step! Add the veins with your drawing pen! I used the Micron size 01 in black.

You could try a few different styles of veins, like straight lines going all the way to the edge of the leaf, shorter ones, curved veins, tightly spaced vs. widely spaced etc.

I like to add the pen lines at the end because it sometimes runs if you go over it with the markers. And the black lines are sharper/crisper when you add them at the end.

Voilà!! And you’re done!!

I love this method of doodling because it’s really accessible and fun. My favorite time to doodle with markers is after dinner when my husband and I sit down to watch our favorite Netflix shows 🙂 Because I’m drawing simple shapes and not worrying about details so much, it’s a perfect activity to relax and unwind with.

You can also play with combining different shapes like this one below:


Or add interesting patterns to the leaves like this one:


And this one is created entirely with markers:


Possibilities are endless!

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial! This was my first time putting together a tutorial, and I had a lot of fun and learned from it too.

OK, before you go off to create your own doodle masterpiece, I have a few quick announcements!

1) Tomorrow’s blog hopper is Carolyn Lucento of Magical Movement Company! Be sure to check out her blog here for another tutorial and a sweet giveaway!

2) Kelly Johnson’s hosting a live hour where she’s doing a simple journal making tutorial and having a Q&A on Friday the 9th at 1 pm EST. More info here.

3) And last but not least, I’m giving away the original drawing I made for this tutorial to one lucky winner!! To enter, simply comment on this blog post before the end of this Sunday 10/11 at midnight EST. I’ll pick one winner, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday 10/13 on Wings, Worms, and Wonder’s blog!

Fall Leaves, 5.5″ x 9″, markers, pen & ink on archival paper.

Thank you again for hanging out with me!! If you’re new to my work, let’s connect on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Have a wonderful week connecting with nature and creativity 🙂 Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko




Work Hard and Play Often


Hello friend,

It’s October!  WOW!  I feel like I’m saying this every month…but where has the time gone??

At the time I’m writing this post, it’s still September.  September turned out to be a really busy month.  I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve gotten, and I definitely over-committed.  Plus we had a loss in our family and had to take off several days to attend an out-of-state funeral on top of it.

So I’ve been working a lot to stay on schedule with my commitments and due dates and not doing a very good job of taking a break.  I don’t like it, but I signed up for this.  Sigh.

I’m still planning on taking a week off to step back from my day-to-day and recharge (a.k.a. small scale sabbatical) starting Monday, October 5th!!

I’m still preparing a blog post for you next week, so don’t worry 🙂  It’ll probably be a shorter “sabbatical” post but still be a good one.  I’ll also report back what I’ve done in the sabbatical week in my future blog.  Stay tuned 🙂

I’ve been talking a lot about why you want to work hard every day to achieve your goal. Today I want to share how “play time” is also very important for artists.

When I say play, I’m not talking about go-carting or laying on a beach in Hawaii.  Yes, those things are important, too, but I’m specifically talking about creative play time.  It can be doodling or any self-directed creative projects.

I’m gonna talk about doodling here because most of my self-directed projects start with doodling.

Doodling is great.  It’s free-flowing.  It’s loose.  You can experiment all you want, and nothing is a mistake.  Nobody is telling you how to draw or what it should look like.  It’s fun and engaging.  Because doodles often represent the core of what you like and do well, they are great tools to discover and deepen your voice too.

I love Lisa Congdon's doodling manifesto so much <3
I love Lisa Congdon’s doodling manifesto so much ❤  Doodling rules!

In doodling, you might find a medium you like or discover a composition you haven’t thought about.  Because there is no mistake in doodling (YES!), you can try all sorts of color combinations and styles, too.  I sometimes start doodling and don’t like what I draw.  But then I look at it later and re-work it and end up liking the results.

By doodling every day, you exercise your creative muscles every day.  You’re building a creative muscle memory of how to get into your relaxed yet focused mode.  And that is the optimal state you want to be in to do your best work.  It’s kind of like meditation.  The more you practice being present, the easier it gets to access that part of you.

Because my doodles often represent what makes my work unique and special, I find inspiration for most of my future work from my doodles.

Here are some of my doodles that turned into actual work/products:

1) Watercolor abstract paintings

When my husband is not traveling for work, we usually watch a couple of shows on Netflix during and after dinner.  I usually doodle while we’re watching (or listening, more accurately) something in the evening.  I like doodling sort of abstract motifs while watching something because it doesn’t require the precision and care that more representational drawings might require.  If it’s wonky, it’s OK.

Anyway, I doodled a series of small watercolor abstract paintings over a course of several days.  Just loose, fun, and flowy experiments.

But I really liked how they turned out, so I turned them into postcards!  I used Moo Printfinity service so I could print multiple designs without committing to printing a larger number of each.  I’m very happy with the quality of their postcards!


I made the postcards for my monthly art subscription customers for September.  And I showed it to the manager of my neighborhood art gallery, and now they carry them in their gift shop among other goodies I made.  These are also available for purchase here.


I also showed them to the owner of Geraldine’s Counter, one of the best diners in Seattle :), and he’s agreed to show my work there during the month of October.

I managed to finish 8 pieces to show.  And here is me and a few of my artwork!


I can also turn these new paintings into postcards, prints, phone cases etc. not to mention selling the originals.  Possible multiple income streams from artwork that came out of fun doodle projects!

2) Sumi drawings

I like drawing with sumi ink and brush.  Like so many other Japanese kids who grew up in Japan, I took Japanese calligraphy lessons every week.  Having a nice handwriting is highly valued over there.  We’d sit up straight on a little cushion on the floor and practice writing on a rice paper with a brush dipped in sumi ink.

It’s such a zen experience for a kid!  Writing with ink and a brush really forces you to concentrate.  And the sumi ink smells really good…

I took an art class a couple of years ago, and in one of the classes, we drew with sumi ink and brush.  That was so much fun!  I thought sumi ink was for serious writing only.  But no, you can also be free and fun.

yellow flower
Sumi ink & oil pastel drawing I made in a drawing class (2013)

Anyway, I started incorporating sumi ink in doodles and casual sketches too.  I just love how rich the black is.  And the smell reminds me of the quietness in calligraphy lessons and my childhood in Japan.

One day I was doodling teacups and teapots in sumi ink.  I just like drawing everyday things and wanted to see how they’d look as ink drawings.  Well, I loved how they turned out so much that I sent them to the print shop right away!



Some of you know that I participated in the August sketch challenge with Janine Crum #makewithme – I’d receive a prompt for a drawing every morning and would share it with the community.  On day 5, I had this brilliant idea of starting a sketch in sumi ink for the rest of August.




As I was looking at my growing sumi drawing collection, I thought, why not turn them into a calendar!?  I’ve been wanting to do a calendar for a while, so it was perfect!  I’ve created several new drawings to add to it, and my 2016 calendar is available on my Etsy shop!



3) My botanical doodles  

Flowers and plants are my most favorite subjects to draw.  They’re so perfect and break my heart a little bit.  They’re my go-to motifs when I don’t want to think too much about what to doodle.

Here are some of my recent botanical doodles:




They’re so much fun to make, and can’t you just imagine them as fabric or wrapping paper designs?  That’s totally on my list to do 🙂

See how creative play time isn’t just for play?  When you work as an artist, there is no clear boundary between work and play.  When you create art for yourself or just for fun, it’s still helping your art practice and professional growth, too.

I have just a few practical tips on doodling:

1) I use sketchbooks that are good quality but not very expensive.

My favorite is Bee Paper Company Super Deluxe Sketchbook (6×9), and Canson Mix Media Sketchbook (9×12) for everyday drawing.


I know if I use more expensive sketchbooks, my doodling experience will be more precious, and I really want to keep it as casual and accessible as possible.  Also, smaller sized sketchbook is good for carrying around when you’re out and about.  You fill up the page pretty quickly, too, so that’s satisfying when you don’t have a lot of time.

2) I have drawing materials that are portable and easy to use.

If you’re not a daily painter, just a thought of setting up to paint may deter you from having a daily doodle practice.

Except for sumi drawing and my serious watercolor painting, I use pens and markers a lot.  My favorite is Micron pens for line drawings and lettering, and Koi brush pens and Gellyroll pens for coloring (They’re from Sakura of America).  I also have a stackable watercolor discs (don’t know who makes them but you can get it at many art stores) and water brush pen from Pentel and love them!

I conveniently have the photo of everything I’m talking about!

They’re handy for carrying along with my small sketchbook, too, when I’m out and about.

3) Doodle every day.

You knew this was coming, right?  Doodling is art practice!  Incorporate it in your daily life.  My favorite time to doodle is when my husband and I watch shows on Netflix after dinner.  I also find pocket of time, like while I’m waiting for a friend at a coffee shop, to doodle.   Many artist have a daily practice when they get up in the morning, like August Wren, who does beautiful 30 minute painting every day!

If you need extra inspiration for creating time for a daily practice, read my previous post on this very topic!

Do you feel inspired to doodle more now?  If you take away one thing from this post, it would be “relax and have fun.”  OK, technically that’s two things, but you know what I mean 🙂

Just put the pen to the paper and see what happens.  Draw lines and shapes!  Layer a bunch of different colors!  Some people experiment drawing with their non-dominant hand.  Don’t have a sketchbook?  Just draw on a scratch paper.  Or add something new to your old drawings!  Possibilities are truly endless.

And I have a special blog post coming this week that may help you get started! I’m participating in a Draw Yourself Back to Nature Blog Hop this coming week with Kelly from Wings, Worms, and Wonder! What that means is, from Monday 10/5 through Friday 10/10 Kelly and other artists will create a special blog post and give nature drawing tutorials.

hop 2 day 3 graphic

I’ve always wanted to do tutorials and was very excited when Kelly approached me to join this collaboration. So even if I’m on sabbatical this coming week, you get one bonus blog post from me on Wednesday 10/7 🙂 I’m also doing a sweet giveaway for folks signing up for my newsletter in the post, so don’t miss this opportunity! (If you’re already signed up for my newsletter, you can still enter :))

See you guys next week!

xoxo Yuko