Monthly Archives: March 2016

Illustrated Recipe: Simple Buckwheat Porridge (gluten & grain-free!)

I’ve been little obsessed with buckwheat breakfast porridge lately.

Buckwheat is awesome. It’s super nutritious (very rich in fiber and protein as well as Vitamin B-6, Iron, and Magnesium among other things), and is a good option for breakfast hot cereal if you’re on a gluten or grain-free diet. Despite its name, buckwheat is not a wheat or grain. It’s actually a seed!

Illustrated buckwheat recipe with Sakura Koi Pen & Pigma Micron Pen.

I get toasted buckwheat groats in a bulk section of our natural grocery store. I love the nutty, earthy flavor so much ❤

I use unsweetened soy milk for extra protein, and you could substitute it with other non-dairy or dairy milk, of course.

Some chopped walnuts and cinnamon are also good for this recipe! Or add some nut butter…mmmm. I just enjoy the natural sweetness of the fruits in this recipe, but you can definitely add sweetener of your choice if you’d like. Possibilities are endless!

I make my hot cereal/porridge pretty mushy to make it more digestible, so if you want it less mushy, you probably want to adjust the cooking time. Also, pre-soaked groats will cook quicker, so be sure to check after a few minutes if you don’t want yours too soft.

I hope you enjoy this simple and hearty breakfast!

xo Yuko


My Blog Workflow & Editorial Calendar


Hi there!

I shared my tips on how to blog consistently in my last post. Today I want to show you the app I use to organize my editorial calendar and workflow.

Until recently, I’d never really used a formal organization system for my blog. When I was publishing a weekly blog, I’d just jot down my ideas on a notebook and moved things around on a paper to sort of organize them. It worked out fine, but since I increased it to 3 times a week, it became a little harder to manage, and I needed a better organization system.

So I did a little research and found Trello. Trello is a free project management app (you could also pay for added services) to help organize all types of projects. All the reviews I read said how easy it is to learn and use, and they also showed an example of people using it as their editorial calendar, so I decided to give it a try!

I’ve only been using Trello for about a month, but I really like it! They have tutorials and blog posts on tips and tools, and their product is pretty easy to use. I like the simple user interface and drag/drop function to move my items along the workflow.

I pretty much copied their example for setting up my editorial calendar and created my workflow like this:

Trello workflow blog editorial calendar honeyberry studios

Article Ideas –>  To Write Next –> Writing –> Editing & Graphics –> Post & Promotion Scheduled –> Published

And here is what I do for each step:

Article Ideas:

Like I mentioned in my last post, I refer to Seanwes’ list of 62 blog topic ideas quite a bit to get inspired.

To come up with blog article ideas, I do a brainstorming occasionally and jot down ideas whenever I think of potential topics. I make a new card (which is like a sticky note you can write things and move around) in Trello under the list “Article Ideas” to keep them in one place.

You can add categories to each card (i.e. your virtual sticky note) if you want to. My general categories include themes like Products & Services, Tools & Product Review, Processes, Lifestyle, DIY, Art & Illustration, and Self-Care. You can see the list of categories (it’s called Labels here.)

Honeyberry Studios Trello Blog Categories

I try to mix variety of topics to inspire and encourage people to live a fulfilling creative life.

To Write Next:

When I add potential blog topics to my list, I also assess if any of them are time sensitive or relevant to publish during a certain time period to promote an event or products.

For instance, when I was a guest Instagrammer for Sakura of America last month, I wanted to let my readers know about it right before it started so I wrote a blog post about it and published it the day before it started. Or I try to share behind the scenes look and work-in-progress of my new products and services as well so my audience learn the story behind my creations in a timely manner.

Once you're in the "card," you can add the due date.
Once you’re in the “card,” you can add the due date.

Other topics can be more free floating and flexible. I try to share recent works from my sketchbook regularly and write a review on tools and resources I love.

I try to rotate topic categories regularly so my readers can enjoy learning different types of things from my blog. So I might write an article about my favorite tools one day, and the next one might be about my recent drawings, and the next one can be more focused on self-help for artists.

Once I determined the timeliness of the articles, I move the cards with the most urgent due dates to “To Write Next” tab.


Then I start writing my first draft in My first draft is very very informal.

I start with some kind of a working title. Sometimes it’s the final title, and often I change it depending on what my final article is like. This is also when I schedule the date and time for my blog to start saving. I just don’t want to publish my draft accidentally.

WordPress honeyberry diary draft schedule

Anyway, I just start typing whatever comes to mind about a topic in no particular order.

I might just put down some words and phrases and keep going.

This short video where Seanwes shares his writing process was super inspiring and helpful. He says when you’re writing your draft, pretend you don’t have a back button on your keyboard and just keep typing.

I used to get stuck on small details and was trying to edit as I went when I first start writing. And since I switched to this method, I just get more contents down on my page a lot quicker.

Even though I’m not as hard core as he is about not deleting or correcting something as I go (I still fix typos as I see it), it helps to get ideas out of my head and keep going. And as I get my thoughts out of my head on to the page, I think of more things to say and it makes my contents richer.

Some articles that are more contents-focused are naturally longer-form, and others like my sketchbook round-ups are more visual focused and usually short form.

Editing & Graphics:

Once I’m done with my draft, I normally come back to it a day later or so. It helps me to see my writing with fresh eyes and mind and helps with the editing process.

In this phase, I correct mistakes, typos, add or delete things, insert links where necessary, change orders, explain things differently, and try to make it flow better in general.

This is where I usually create or find images to use for the blog as well.

If it’s more content-heavy post, I normally create a new title image. I come up with a concept that represents the message of the article or create a handlettering piece that matches the title. I try to spend no more than 2 hours for creating the title image from start to finish.

If I’m writing a tutorial or tools review, I take screenshots or photos of the tool after writing the draft. Oftentimes, I realize I need more images for the article as I edit, so might do more photoshoots later.

Once I have the images, I edit them on Photoshop and upload them on to the WordPress media library to use in my posts.

And then, I go to the preview mode and read the article on the webpage. I often notice new mistakes when I’m reading it in the Preview mode. So I go back and forth between the preview mode and the draft page to fix mistakes and anything that doesn’t flow very well.

I repeat this process a few times.

I also test all the links in the preview mode to make sure they work. Nothing more frustrating than a broken link!

Post & Promotion Scheduled:

Once everything looks good, I create and schedule a post about the blog article on my social media, namely Facebook and Twitter.

I set the schedule for the blog post on WordPress when I start writing so I don’t accidentally publish it immediately as I write. But if I change my mind about the publishing date and time, I could change it here or later.

I copy the blog shortlink, which WordPress creates for you or you can use services like Bitly to shorten it. Otherwise, the link to your blog article can be super long and cumbersome.

I come up with a little blurb about the blog article to post on each social media platform so my audience has some ideas about what the blog is about. I also use one of the images (usually the title image) from the post and manually upload them on to each social media post. I’d like for my audience to see different images for each post rather than seeing the same old blog banner all the time as it’s kind of boring 😀

I’ve tried to use WordPress’ publicize feature, which automatically shares the post on connected social media accounts, but it was a little glitchy for me, mainly with the images not showing correctly or at all. I got tired of it not working as expected and that’s why I started scheduling the social media post separately manually. It was a long time ago, so maybe now it works fine. I just haven’t tried it for a while.

For my Facebook page (not my personal page), I just use their built-in schedule function.

For Twitter, I use Tweetdeck to schedule my posts. It was recommended by a friend, and I like it. It’s simple and easy to use. My only pet peeves would be that once I schedule a post, I can’t edit it? Maybe I’m missing something here, but only option I see is “delete.” So I end up deleting a post and re-creating another one if I needed to edit it. Which is not super awesome.

For Instagram, since I can’t schedule the actual post beforehand, I save the featured image on to my Photo app on my iPhone so it’s easily accessible when it’s ready to be posted.


And when the time comes, WordPress will publish your post at a scheduled time! Hooray!!

It’s satisfying to move my card to the Published column on my editorial calendar 🙂 I should probably empty them regularly as it’s piling up pretty quickly.

Screenshot 2016-03-19 07.42.44

I’m still new at using this tool and having an editorial calendar and am happy to share more as I learn the tool better!

Hope it was helpful 🙂

xo Yuko


6 Tips on How to Blog Consistently


I get a lot out of inspiring people through my art and love to help other artists by sharing and teaching what I know.

I’ve been blogging pretty consistently since last summer. A friend asked me for some tips on blogging the other day and thought some of you might also be interested in knowing what works for me.

I actually first started blogging in January of 2014. That’s when I started taking my art a little more seriously, and everyone was talking about how you needed to blog to make your business more successful. So I said, why not??

I didn’t have a clear goal for my business or blog back then and just shared things I thought people might enjoy.

Then I started my 365 Day Happiness Is drawing project in April of 2014 so that became the focus of my blog for a year.

Though I was posting my art every day, my blog was just another social media platform for me to share my art on, so I wouldn’t count that as “blogging consistently.” There was hardly any writing involved.

After I completed the year-long drawing project, I knew my next goal was to write more consistently. You might wonder why visual artists might need to write, but I knew I could build a deeper relationship with my audience if I shared my writing more. I also wanted to help other artists with more practical things, and writing would be a good way to do that.

I’ve written a blog post about why I want to write more here if you’re interested! (<– You can reference your own materials when you’ve written a bunch of contents, which is also pretty nice.)

So here are my 6 tips on how to blog consistently:

1. Have a bunch of posts in queue before you start publishing

I have to say this is the best blogging advice I received and follow to this day. So many people want to publish consistently and have the intention of doing so yet have a hard time keeping up.

Why not have a bunch of posts ready to go before you start publishing them? It helps with the consistency and creates a buffer for when you need it (e.g. you get sick, other life events etc.)

It may be hard to fight the instant gratification of finishing something and sharing it right away, but it’s worth it. I like the feeling of not being on a deadline all the time!

When I was publishing my blog article once a week, I had about a month worth of posts (4-5) ready to go. I still have the same number of articles in queue, but since I post more often now, I would like to build up more reserves when I have time. My goal is to have solid 2 weeks in a queue at any given time.

2. Determine the “why” for your blog

Just like having a clear goal for any other creative practice, it’s important for you to clarify your purpose, i.e. your “why,” for writing.

What do you want to accomplish by sharing your writing on the internet? What value is your blog going to provide for your audience? Is it going to help someone? Is it to help yourself? Is it to document your progress with your goals? Is it to share your life with your friends and family?

And when I say value, I’m not just talking about helping people make money. It could be something to make people laugh or cry, stay healthy, find solutions to what they’re struggling with, help them cook a healthy meal for their family, entertain them with your stories, amaze people with your creations, or inspire them to create a fulfilling life for themselves.

You want to find the “thing” for you. And don’t worry about creating something new that’s not already out there…because…it probably is out there already! That’s not the most important point. The important thing is recognizing you have a unique voice and perspectives on things that only you can deliver for your audience.

Having a clear goal and direction for your blog will help you focus on what to write and makes it easier for your audience to find and connect with your contents.

3. Try to write in your authentic voice

When you’re writing to reach people and connect with them on an emotional level, you want your authentic self to show up and not the formal, grammatically correct self (unless that’s your brand personality!)

This is something I struggled with a lot in the beginning and still do especially as an English-as-a-second-language writer. Because I learned proper way to write textbook English growing up, rather than learning it naturally in everyday life, I have a hard time breaking the rules and knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not.

But I wanted my audience to get to know me through my writing, and I want my writing to be friendly, warm, and approachable. I want my readers to have a consistent experience whether they’re reading my blog or looking at my art.

In order to accomplish that, I follow these tips:

  • Write the way you speak. You still want to be careful not to be too disruptive with informal grammar or typos, but you want your writing to sound natural when you read it out loud. If you read your sentence out loud, and you’re tempted to say it differently, you might want to consider changing it.
  • Imagine you’re speaking/writing to someone you know. I pretend I’m talking to a couple of my close friends when I write. It helps my writing to be more personable.
  • I loved Laura Belgray’s 5 Secrets to Writing Non-Sucky Copy! It’s hilarious and helpful.

4. Publish your posts on a consistent schedule

If you want to grow your audience through your blog, publishing on a consistent schedule will help. You want your audience to look forward to seeing your contents and  make your blog part of their routine.

When I set my goal to publish a blog once a week, I decided I’d publish every Sunday morning at 7am. There are many statistics out there about when you get a higher engagement for your blog etc. I didn’t really worry about the stats, though, and chose the day/time based on the fact that people tend to have more time to read on weekends.

Earlier this year, I increased my goal to 3 times a week so I can share more about my art and processes on top of my self-help-y contents. I thought publishing on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays would be a good schedule for me.

I wanted to avoid Mondays because it’s a busy day for most people going back to work etc. and your inbox tends to get flooded with emails that come in during the weekend. So Tuesday or Wednesday seemed like a better option. And by Friday, you’re ready to transition from work mode to a weekend mode, so you’re more likely to consume contents for fun and inspirations.

At least that’s how I ended up choosing those 3 days for my blog. I must say these are not scientific facts… 😀

Even if you don’t officially announce your schedule to your audience, having a consistent publishing schedule helps with your own accountability.

And if you do let your audience know and stick to it, they will learn to expect your contents on certain days of the week. For this reason, I would recommend publishing your blog at least once a week. It’s just easier for your audience to track.

5. Schedule time to write consistently

In order for me to stay ahead, I schedule time to write daily. Especially since I increased the frequency of my posts, I’d run out of my reserves if I become lax about it!

On my typical work day, writing is usually the first thing I do in the morning. Your brain is clear of information clutter and I can focus a lot better in the morning. I usually write 1.5-2 hours per day.

I know some people batch their writing, like for example, you can designate every Wednesday as a writing day, and you take care of all your blog writing that day.

I haven’t tried that method yet as that seems a bit much to me. Like making art, I like to write in stages and parts, then leave and come back the next day to add/edit. It helps me to look at my writing with fresh eyes, and I stay more productive that way.

6. Just start writing 

If you’re wondering what you should write or if you’re a good writer or worried about what people might think of your writing, just start writing something. Anything.

Oftentimes, you don’t know what you should or can write about until you actually start. And the blank page cant be very intimidating!

Like many things in life, starting is the hardest part. Just start writing about anything, like what you ate this morning and how you prepared it. Or how you’re struggling to start writing and how you’re feeling as you write.

Remember you don’t have to share everything you write! Write for yourself. Start journaling about what you do. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. You will start seeing some themes emerge and you’ll find your voice.

And, if you need ideas and inspirations for a blog post, you can get a list of 62 potential blog topic ideas in this Seanwes podcast episode! It’s totally saving my life as we speak!!

Writing never used to be something I enjoyed. I avoided it for a long time because I wasn’t comfortable. Now it’s part of my everyday creative practice, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. Who knew??

I’m gonna share my writing workflow and tools I use on my next blog post! Stay tuned 🙂

xo Yuko




My Updated Portfolio!

Yuko's portfolio screen shot

Do you have a task or two (or five) that you’ve been putting off? You just can’t get motivated to get started for whatever reasons. Maybe it’s too overwhelming, or maybe it’s a boring and time consuming task that you hate.

For me, updating my art and illustration portfolio is one of those things. Which is terrible considering that’s very important to my work!!!

I created my online portfolio 2 years ago in my Graphic Design certificate program at a local college. It was a requirement to put one together to graduate from the program.

I got a domain name “” (glad it was still available!) and used the same WordPress template I use for my blog (Twenty Thirteen theme) to create one.

At that time, I was still thinking I wanted to be a designer rather than an artist/illustrator because I didn’t think being the latter was a viable option for me. I believed being a working artist was something reserved for only super talented and special people. I didn’t think I was that person.

But then in my very last class after my portfolio presentation, my instructor saw that art and illustration was my true passion and encouraged me to follow my passion rather than settling to pursue design, which I sort of liked but not really. And just like that, I decided I’d pursue art and illustration more seriously!

So anyway, my portfolio had a bunch of work that were more focused on design projects from school. I’d worked very hard to put it together and was kind of over it when it was done. And left it alone for the past 2 years!! Yikes.

Needless to say, my work has changed since then. But my portfolio still had a bunch of old logo designs and wedding invitation designs which I didn’t really want to do any more.

Because I was feeling kind of embarrassed about my outdated portfolio, I hid it deep inside my website and didn’t really promote it for a long time.

I was making more work but did’t bother to update my portfolio for so long. I would post my new work on my social media so I figured, people can just find my work there, right? Or go to my Etsy store to see my new products, yes?

I also didn’t like the fact that my website and portfolio (and my blog for that matter) all lived at a different place – my website is self-hosted  vs. my portfolio and blog are hosted on I do my own design for the website (html and css all the way!) but use the template for WordPress for blog and portfolio because my coding skills are pretty limited.

I’ve been wanting to do an overhaul and get everything on one platform and thought that would be a good time for me to update the portfolio all together. But that’s a huge task and I haven’t gotten around to it. And when I realized I didn’t have a clear timeline for it, I just didn’t want to wait any longer.

So the other day, I went into my portfolio site and spent a couple hours getting rid of old categories and pages and just made one simple page where you can see a bunch of my new work.

I kept the same WordPress theme (Twenty Thirteen, same as this blog) to keep a somewhat consistent look. And I used their portfolio feature with square grid to organize the page to keep it clean and simple.

I chose pieces that show my current style and focused on work that I’d like to do more of. It’s a place for people to find more curated work of mine rather than seeing different bits and pieces on social media.

It’s still work in progress but at least my work is fresh and I don’t feel so embarrassed about it any more 😀 Since I got rid of a bunch of pages and categories, adding new work will be a lot easier, too, and that should make it easier for me to keep it updated!

You can visit my updated illustration portfolio here if you’re interested! I hope you enjoy what you see.

Thanks guys! Have a nice day 🙂

xo Yuko


5 Things You Can Do When Your Friends and Family Don’t Take Your Creative Pursuit Seriously


Since I quit my day job to pursue my passion full-time last summer, I’ve been in some situations where I felt my work is not taken seriously.

For example, I visited my old work place the other day, and one of my old co-workers asked me, with a grin on his face, “So, what time do you get up nowadays?” I told him 5:30am every single morning. He was really surprised to hear it. He thought I get to sleep in every morning since I don’t have a job to go to!

Or when my mom and some friends make a comment about how nice it must be to have the slow lifestyle and get to enjoy making art at my leisure.

Or when some people assume I could get together in the middle of a weekday on a whim because I have so much “free” time.

Situations like these bother me.

It bothers me because I feel like people think I’m just having a relaxing, semi-retired life, having lots of hobbies and mooching off of my husband or something!

Or more accurately, it stirs up my insecurity about what I choose do and how well I’m doing it.

I’ve been working very hard. I’m learning and growing. I’m moving forward towards my goals. And many people on the outside don’t know exactly what it takes to actually “make a living doing what you love”. Heck, I didn’t understand it 100% before I started doing it either!

But because I’m not making any significant profit from my business yet, situations like these fuel my insecurity and self-doubt. It makes me question my ability to build a successful creative business. Am I going to make it? Am I really cut out for this?? Or is it just going to be a hobby I spend a lot of time and money on?

I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s scary and keeps me up at night.

People ask you about your business because they care about you and are curious. And since I don’t know how to explain everything that goes on in my business, my vision, and fears in a way that’s reasonably understood in a casual conversation, I don’t usually get in to the hard aspects of it.

I’m worried that my sharing  the “unsuccessful business” story will make them worry about me and my future. 

And if I sense that they’re worried about me, 1) it’ll make me feel even more insecure and 2) I’d feel the need to take care of their emotions. And that’s not something I have the energy or willingness to do in a casual social setting. Especially when I’m caught in a self-doubt downward spiral! Eeek!

So, What do you do when people around you don’t seem to get what you do? Or you feel they’re not taking your pursuit seriously?

Here are 5 things I do to manage my response to these situations:

1. Try not to take things personally and try to appreciate that your friends and family care about you.

You just don’t know what other people’s intentions are and why they do what they do. For the most part, your friends and family are curious about what it’s like to run your own show and want to know that you’re OK. So try not to turn it in to something unhelpful or untrue.

Someone might think your life is stress-free and luxurious, and you get to do whatever you want whenever you want to. Know that it’s merely a projection of their own thoughts and ideas. Maybe that’s what they dream of doing once they’re retired from their day job. Who knows??

Try not to think that it’s a reflection of what you actually do because they don’t know what you do! Remember, it’s not about you. So don’t make it. It doesn’t serve you.

2. Share your successes and what you’re excited about with them.

When people ask me how my business is doing, I immediately translate in my brain that they’re asking me how my business is doing financially. And I cringe.

But that’s not what they’re saying – it might be what they’re thinking, but that’s not what the words say. It’s an open-ended question. You can make your answer about anything you want, and not just about how successful (or not) your business is financially.

In a casual conversation, I try to share a couple of my recent successes or what I’m excited about next. It gets people excited and be happy for you, and it’s a helpful reminder for myself to focus on what’s going well, too!

I love seeing other people get inspired by hearing about what I do! So do more of that!

3. Have a safe place to share your struggles and fears 

Inevitably, your business will have ups and downs. Sharing your struggles and fears with family or friends who don’t really understand it or trying to convince someone to see things your way might not be the most helpful thing to do.

But you gotta get support somehow. It will be a rough and lonely road if you don’t!!

Here are some suggestions on how you do that:

  • You can get an accountability partner. Find someone to meet regularly (in-person or on-line) who are on a similar journey with you and check in about your goals, successes and challenges. I wrote a couple of blog posts about my experiences with accountability partners here and here if you’re interested. It’s been one of the most helpful things for me!
  • Work with a professional. You can work with a mental health therapist to get help on a deep-seated fears and insecurities. You can also work with a business or creative coach to get practical help with achieving your goals. (In case you didn’t know, I help other artists individually as a creative coach 🙂 You can learn more about it here.)
  • Join an online community of like-minded people. As a busy, introverted artist, finding on-line communities of like-minded people has been really helpful for me. I don’t have to leave the house or make a special arrangement to ask for help?? GREAT! It’s also helpful for people who live in rural areas and struggle to find your people in-person. I’m part of Seanwes communityBuilding a Better Business in One Year  (though this has been a little inconsistent) and Creative Online Presence with Meighan O’Toole groups on Facebook.

4. Try to focus on the progress you’re making.

I feel low when I get asked how my business is doing when I feel like my business is not doing so well.

For example, I experienced a dip in sales in January compared to November and December, which is to be expected. Holidays are the biggest sales season of the year after all.

So instead of beating myself up about it, I compared my sales from January – February of last year to the same time period this year and noticed a significant growth! It definitely helped with my confidence, and I’ll continue to do so every month from now on.

I also try to measure my progress in other non-financial ways:

  • I track how many followers I gain each month for my social media accounts. Though these numbers aren’t the only way to tell how successful you are, it’s one indicator of your business growth.
  • I document what I get done every day on my calendar. Did I accomplish top 3 things I wanted to today? If yes, then that is a successful day for me.
  • I review my old work and recognize my growth as an artist. Occasionally, I look at what I posted on my Instagram a long time ago or some of my old work on my portfolio and see the progress I’ve made as an artist. Yes, I cringe 🙂 but also feel compassionate towards the artist I was, and it gives me hope that there is no limit to how much I can grow years from now!

5. Say yes to fewer social invitations and schedule them in advance

Your friends and family might think your schedule is super flexible when you work for yourself. And in a sense, they’re not wrong about that.

I do enjoy the flexibility of not having to clock in and out, actually. For instance, my husband Dave works from home too, so we do our grocery shopping during the week avoiding the craziness at the grocery store on weekends. Or I can go in for a doctor’s appointment in the middle of a weekday. Or I can take a nap on the couch in the middle of the afternoon if I’m not feeling well.

These are just a few benefits I get to enjoy while pursuing my passion! And I’m not complaining about that at all.

But I still keep a daily routine and treat it like my “real” job. And because I don’t have a boss to answer to, in a way it takes more discipline and commitment to stick to it.

So while I do have the flexibility and could make time to get together with friends during the week if I wanted to, I’m more intentional about what I say yes to.

When you think about it, your lunch or tea with friends might only take an hour or so. What’s the big deal, right? You have to eat anyway. Why not just do that with someone you like, right?

Here is the thing. You might be spending only an hour or so for the actual event itself, but you also need to consider the time you’re getting ready to leave, get to/from the location, and then transition back into your work mode again.

And if you’re an introvert like me, interacting with people, even if it’s someone you love spending time with, takes energy out of you, and you need to account for the time to refill your energy reserve after socializing.

So in reality, you’re spending more like 3-4 hours per social event you engage in during your workday. And that’s a big chunk!

At the end of the day, what I care about is not so much the time itself, but the loss of focus and flow of the work day. You can sort of get the time back by working extra later or on a different day, but it’s a lot harder to get that focus back. And focus is absolutely necessary for me to produce quality work.

So here is how I deal with engaging in social events during the week:

  • I say no to most of the social invitations. I might say yes to 1 event per week, but usually no more than that. I let the person know I appreciate being asked but can’t make it.
  • I schedule the social events in advance. While I say no to most invitations (especially last minute ones), it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see my friends! It typically means no I can’t do it then. I make sure we plan a get together for a future date and get it on my calendar in advance so I can plan around it. My regular sabbatical weeks are great for scheduling get-togethers with friends!
  • I schedule my events early in the morning or later in the afternoon. I usually like to schedule something at either the beginning of the day or later in the afternoon so my work day and focus won’t have to be broken up too much.
  • I combine the event with other business-related errands. I do this often when I’m needing to go out of my immediate neighborhood to see someone during my work day. I try to hit the art supply or hardware store or get done other business-related errands while I’m out and about.
  • I combine multiple social events in one day. It’s similar to my point above, but if I’m driving somewhere to see a friend, I’ll see if there is anyone else I’d like to see in that area. I might see someone for lunch, and then invite someone else to have coffee with me afterwards etc.
  • Enjoy your time with friends when you’re with them. Once I’m there with my friends, I try to be present with them as much as possible. There is no point in worrying about the work you’re not getting done or the focus you’re losing at that point. Nobody forced you to do this, so let it go and enjoy the here and now with the people you love!

Ok friends, I hope you find these tips helpful! The most important thing for me to remember when I feel discouraged by someone’s comments or behavior is to just appreciate the privilege I have to be able to follow my passion and having people in my life who care about my well-being.

The negative voice I’m hearing is mostly a reflection of my own insecurity. Life is much more enjoyable when you’re kind to yourself and replace the negative voice with the positive one ❤

Know that your art creates value for lots of people even if you’re not making money yet!

xo Yuko





My Favorite Tools: Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pens

Hi friends!

I love sharing the tools I use and love. Today I want to tell you why I love using Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pens a.k.a. Koi Pens for my drawings!


You might have noticed I use Koi Pens a lot in my drawings. These are just a few examples:

Koi pens & white gellyroll pen
Koi pens & micron pen
Koi pen & micron pen

I started using them after seeing my favorite artist Lisa Congdon use them. Many of her drawings are so colorful and lovely and made me want to try them, too!

Here are 6 reasons why I love drawing with Sakura Koi Brush Pens!

1. Beautiful Colors 

Koi Pens come in 48 brilliant colors! I first started with their 12 color set and gradually added more colors I wanted to try. My local art stores carry the sets but not individual pens, so I just bought additional individual colors online on Sakura’s website, which was sort of a pain, but not terrible.

And then when Sakura approached me to be their guest Instagrammer last year, they sent me a very nice care package of awesome art supplies, which expanded my collection.

They’ve sent me the 48 color set recently (Merry Christmas to me!!) and I love trying them all.

48 color set comes in a fancy container, too.

When you get their 48 color set, it comes with the card stock insert you can see in the picture above. The back of the insert doubles as a handy color chart!

One morning, I had a lot of fun filling in the chart with all their pretty colors 🙂 You can also create your own color chart pretty easily.


Color chart is nice to have especially when you have so many different colors to play with! Some colors are not exactly the same as the color of the cap, so the color chart can help you see what it actually looks like on paper.

Some of the colors I use A LOT in my drawings are: Light Cool Gray, Ice Green, Peacock Green, Light Sky Blue, Fresh Green, Pale Orange, and Naples Yellow.


These are all pretty subtle colors and I use them often to blend and layer with other colors.

2. They blend and layer nicely.

Speaking of blending and layering, they’re transparent and you can easily create your own colors much like watercolor.

I often layer 2 or 3 colors to create different colors and add depth to my drawings. To do so, I often draw with the lighter colors first and layer darker colors on top. You can see the example from a drawing tutorial I created last year.


I don’t typically do this, but you can also blend the colors together by using watercolor brush and water or their colorless blender pens.

3. They’re odorless.

I didn’t even think about this until I reviewed their product information more in depth to write this post, but Koi Pens are water-based and odorless. Which is a good thing because I’m pretty sensitive to smell and some art supplies with odor give me a headache.

I definitely have a better drawing experience when the materials don’t make me sick! 🙂

4. Flexible tip


Though this is not exactly like using a brush, it does allow some flexibility and you can change the thickness of your brush strokes somewhat by adjusting the pressure you add to the tip.

When you first start using it, it’ll be a little stiffer so it’ll be easier to draw fine lines. As you use it more, you’ll break them in and the tips will be more flexible.

The tips do become a little flared with more use, and making fine details may become difficult. If you want to keep it fine, you might just want to get two of the same color and try to designate one for fine tip and the other for medium/bold.

5. Portable

One of the reasons why I love the Koi Pens so much is because it’s so portable. When you’re drawing with these, there is no need to set up – you just grab what you need and the way we go!

I have a little zip pouch I carry my favorite micron pens and koi pens in when I’m out and about so if I have some extra time, I can draw and sketch anywhere. I’ve never had any issues with leakage either while I’m carrying them around.

6.  No Clean-Up Necessary

Unlike using paints and brush, there is no need for clean-up afterwards!

As a busy artist, this is a great news. I know often people want to have a consistent art practice but are discouraged by the hassles of set-up and clean-up. With these Koi pens, set-up is as easy as grabbing your pens and there is no mess to clean up afterwards!

Even if you make a mess or get some on your hands, it’s easy to clean up with water/soap because they’re water-based.

I store them in two groups – warm and cool colors.

I didn’t think markers would be my go-to medium before, but these Koi Pens had totally changed my view on markers and broadened my artistic horizon!

If you’re looking for new and fun drawing tools, definitely give them a try!

xo Yuko


From the Sketchbook

I was on a black and white line drawing kick for the past couple of months. I just love the simplicity of line drawing very much.

But it’s been feeling more and more like spring here, and I want COLOR! I can’t lie – colorful drawings make me happy 🙂 Do they make you happy, too?

Here are some drawings I’ve made in my sketchbook lately. With some colors 🙂


Peppers in watercolor and pen. Some of the bell peppers look kinda like pumpkins… Oh well. I like them all!


Summer squash in watercolor and pen. I draw the shapes with watercolor and brush and add lines with my Micron pen when the paint dries.


Tomatoes in watercolor and pen.


Rainbow Swiss Chards in watercolor and pen.


Daffodils in markers and pen. I saw beautiful daffodils on my walk around the neighborhood one afternoon. I love their cheerful colors.


Purple crocuses in markers and pen. It made me happy to see many crocuses on the sidewalk during my walk.

Napping is full time job

Napping is My Full-Time Job in pen and marker. I love how cozy he looks when he’s taking a nap…makes me want to curl up next to him in a giant cat bed!

OK, I hope you enjoyed these drawings and have a wonderful Tuesday!

xo Yuko


Illustrated Recipe: Easy & Delicious Marinated Tofu

The other day, I had a craving for delicious marinated tofu. So I went online and searched for a good, simple recipe. I think this recipe came up at the top – I had all the ingredients at hand and was craving for some Japanese-y, Asian flavor, so this was perfect!

It was super easy to prepare (which is very important to me… I’m a lazy cook by nature.) and delicious! I served it with some rice and veggies, and Dave and I just devoured it like there was no tomorrow.


Definitely making this again! Hope you’ll enjoy it, too!

Eat well my friend 🙂

xo Yuko


My Totally Relaxing Sabbatical Week

I was on my sabbatical week last week, and it was AWESOME.

In the past, I tried to be somewhat productive during my sabbaticals wether it’s learning something new or getting a project done. But this time, I was determined to just do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to. 

I had no agendas or goals. I just wanted to relax and unwind and that’s exactly what I did  🙂

Here is the report back from my super relaxing week off:

1. I read a bunch!

My husband Dave got me a Kindle for my birthday in January. I’d never had an e-reader before and wasn’t sure how I’d like reading on a device vs. paper books.

Well, it turns out, I LOVED it.

I love being able to get a bunch of books for free from a local library and also buy Japanese e-books through Amazon Japan for much cheaper (and quicker!).

Sadly, they don’t have a very good selection of Japanese e-books at Seattle Public Library, but I got an English version of Haruki Murakami’s book Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and enjoyed it very much.

Normally, I get to read like 15 minutes before I go to bed (if I’m lucky!) but during my sabbatical week, I just read whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted.

I still got up fairly early every morning, but instead of writing, I just read on the couch. It was such a luxury to spend hours reading during the day!



I also received an advance copy of Lisa Congdon’s The Joy of Swimming the other day and started diving in (pun intended!) during my sabbatical week.

Lisa is one of the artists I admire so very much, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be her friend on the internet. And I’m SO honored to be contributing a book review for this upcoming book!

I’ll write more about this beautifully illustrated book of hers in the coming weeks. But let me tell you it’s so delightful and inspiring ❤ The book will be released on April 17, and you can preorder it now here!

2. Cooking & Eating

You know food is my passion. I’m more passionate about eating than cooking 😀 but in order for me to eat good food, I’m often exploring different ways to cook with fresh, nutritional ingredients.


Growing up in Japan, I had a close relationship with fermented/cultured foods. Maybe it’s wired in my DNA 🙂 but I love the process of making fermented foods very much. Fermented foods are full of flavors and good probiotics that help your digestive functions.

I’ve been making yogurt, bread, fermented nut/seed spread, miso, pickled vegetables etc. for quite some time. Homemade fermented foods taste a lot better than the store-bought ones, and I feel good knowing exactly what’s in it and how it was made.

Yes you do need to put in some prep work, but after that, you just let them be and let the nature work its magic!

I feel like a little kid on a Christmas day every time I open up a crock or jar of fermented foods for the first time. It’s not always successful but after you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll get a hang of it. I love how everything turns out slightly differently every time even if you follow the same recipe.

Anyway, I made the vegetarian kimchi above with Chinese cabbage, daikon radish, and carrots, and it turned out yummy!


I was also able to take extra time to prepare yummy breakfast like this in the morning during my time off.

Funny thing is, I grew up in a household where we ate more western style breakfast (like toast and eggs) but I’ve been getting into eating more traditional Japanese food for breakfast. It’s nice to switch things around depending on my mood 🙂

3. Fun & Unproductive Things to Refuel

The rest of the week, I did things just for fun 🙂

I had a very nice (and overdue) facial at Luminous Skincare Studio using the gift certificate Dave gave me for our anniversary, had tea with friends, had a night out with Dave to watch Academy nominated animated shorts and just enjoyed each other’s company more 🙂


And of course, this guy really enjoyed extended lap time with his mama ❤

Overall, It was soooooo relaxing and exactly what I needed! I’ve said this before and will say it again – Deciding to take every 7th week off was the best thing I’ve done for myself and my creative business! 

Yay for self-care!!

xo Yuko



It’s OK to change your mind

changing-mind_loresHi! I’m back from my sabbatical week off. I’ll write more about what I did later this week! Stay tuned 🙂

I’m actually writing this post before I go on my sabbatical and wanted to share my thoughts on breaking commitments.

Let me back up a little and tell you that one of the ways I keep my focus and motivation is to tell my audience I’m going to do something. I’ll even set a due date and announce it to my audience like it’s a done deal. It’s called public accountability and it’s worked for me in many situations.

It works for me because integrity is very important to me, and I hate letting myself and other people down.

Setting a timeline and making the commitment known to the public give me the extra push when I feel like giving up. It doens’t matter if they remember or not. In fact, my audience is probably not tracking and remembering every single detail I share with them. What matters is that I remember. Remember that I put it out there because it was important enough for me to follow through.

Making a public commitment doesn’t make the process easy, per se, but it does help. It helped me with sticking to a year-long daily drawing project Happiness Is from 2014 to 2015. I also made a public commitment to publish a weekly blog last summer and did that until I said I’ll do it at least 3 times a week a month ago (so far, so good!). I’ve also been publishing a monthly newsletter since last summer, and I’d made a commitment before I started.

To be completely honest, when I make a commitment, I’m never 100% sure if I can deliver on the promise. I have the motivation and intention of sticking to it, of course. But things change. Maybe you realize your goals are different now than 6 months ago. Maybe you have more information about a particular situation and need to course correct. I’m still big on keeping my commitments in general, but I’m also learning to be more intentional and strategic about the commitments I keep and don’t keep.

I’m getting better at listening to my gut instinct and usually know if something wasn’t gonna work from the beginning. In those situations, I don’t have a hard time saying no from the get-go. What I struggle with the most is when I have to break my commitment after saying yes with a full intention of following through.

It’s interesting because when other people break their commitments, I get disappointed or annoyed but I’m able to let it go. But when I do it, even if I have a really good reason for it, it’s very, very difficult.

It feels somehow I’m not an honest and reliable person. I feel flakey. And that’s the last thing I want people to think of me as! I want to be seen as a person of integrity and want to be trusted by others.

Trust is so important. If you can’t trust me, why would you want to do business with me? I know my customers and audience won’t be able know me like my close friends and family do, but I want them to be able to trust that they’re going to have a positive experience when they are interacting with me.

If I change my mind and break my commitments, I’m afraid it’s going to negatively affect my customer’s experience. So my first reaction is to try my hardest to prioritize their experience over my better judgement.

But is that really the only way? Would my audience automatically have a horrible experience if I back out on my words?

While it is extremely important for me to do my best to keep my words, it’s also important for me to be honest and vulnerable when things aren’t working. You know what builds trust? You being brave and showing up as a real person. A real person with struggles and challenges.

And I have such a hard time doing it!! I’m afraid that showing up as a less-than-capable person is not inspiring to people. 

I often have to remind myself that when other people share what they’re struggling with, I get a lot out of it. It makes them more human. And if they’re human and accomplishing these amazing things, I can do it, too! It gives me motivation and inspires me to keep working towards my goals even if I hit a roadblock here and there.

In this recent Seanwes podcast episode, they talk about how people are encouraged by the fact that you showed up, not necessarily by how successful you are when you show up. I couldn’t agree more!

So I want to show up here today and share a story of me breaking commitments lately. This is not me making excuses – I’m pretty good at owning my decisions 🙂 but maybe you’re struggling with something similar and it’s helpful for you to hear my experiences. I want you to know that it’s OK to change your mind 🙂

I was planning on offering a creative coaching group in Seattle during April and May. It was going to be like a support group for creatives, and I was really excited about it. I had flyers made and had been advertising it on my website and social media for a couple of months.

But for the last few weeks, I had this nagging feeling whenever I thought about it. The class registration was about to open up on Febraury 15. I had already mapped out the promotion calendar and figured out the curriculum etc. But I just couldn’t get the excitement back when I thought about actually doing it. I was conflicted between wanting to do it and knowing it wasn’t the best use of my time and resources, considering my new focus was to grow the product side of my business (you can read more about refocusing my business goals here).

So I did the self-test and imagined how I’d feel if I cancelled the group. And when I did that, I felt relieved. When I imagined going through with it, I felt very unexcited and felt it was such a drag!

I had a few days before the registration opened and had to seize the opportunity then if I was going to cancel the group. So I wrote an email to the owner of the art school, where I was going to have the group, and let her know I decided to cancel the group. I was really anxious when I hit that “send” button. She’s been very nice and supportive, but I was afraid she was going to be dissapointed and think less of me.

A few days later she replied to me and was totally understanding and that was just that. I felt so much better and lighter!

Another thing I’m backing out of – I don’t know if you remember but I said a couple of months ago I was going to start another year-long drawing project this spring. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I had a really awesome experience when I did it the last time, and it’s continued to give me many opportunities now even almost a year later. I was also itching for a new creative challenge!

Then again, I realized it was just not the right time for me. Doing a regular project like that (especially a daily project) is like having another job. As awesome as it could be, it’s just not the kind of commitment I should be taking on at this time.

When breaking commitments, I remind myself that It’s not just about what other people would think or how they’re going to react to your decisions. You can never control those things 100%. What you can control is how you’re making your decisions and how to communicate your decisions to other people.

It takes courage to say, I was going to do this, but I can’t any more. Fear of judgement often creeps in and clouds your judgement. How do you know it’s not just a temporary feeling of cold feet? It feels scary to back out of things because the biggest opportunity of your life time might have been waiting just around the corner.

You’re right. You don’t always know. You just know what you know given the information that are presented to you at this present moment. So, how can you make the best decisions based on what you know?

My best advice is to listen to that little voice inside of you. Your intuition or gut instinct is there to protect you and guide you to make a decision that’s best for you. Imagine saying no to this opportunity. Imagine saying yes to this opportunity. How do you feel in your gut?

You can also talk about it with someone supportive, someone who is not emotionally attached to what you’re trying to do. It could be your partner, friend, mentor, a coach or a counselor. Even just telling them your situation and having them reflect it back to you can bring you a tremendous mental clarity.

In my recent situations, the big question I had to ask myself was – how is this going to help me reach my goals? It may seem selfish to think this way, focusing so much on what you’re going to get out of it, but you’ve got to. You have so much time and energy in a day to pursue your passion, spend with your loved ones, and to fulfill your other obligations. You want to choose a path that will allow you to meet your needs and needs of others most effectively.

If you’re choosing to do something that you know is not going to serve you, simply for the sake of keeping your commitment, you’re doing a disservice to yourself and people around you in the long run.

At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to deal with 100% of the consequences of your decisions. If I had not cancelled my coaching group, I would’ve had a very unsuccessful marketing campaign because I just didn’t have enough focus and time to promote it effectively. Maybe I would’ve had a very small number of participants sign up but still spent the same amount of time preparing and facilitating the group. And it would’ve taken away time and energy from focusing on my number one priority, resulting in me not being able to deliver the top notch awesome products to my customers this summer. Sad!!

Even if you make a decision to back out of your commitment through a thoughtful process, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people won’t be disappointed. They probably will, and that’s understandable. Just like you’re allowed to have feelings and emotions about changes, so are people on the receiving end of your actions. And if you’ve been cultivating good relationships with your customers and audience, and you’re being honest about the reasons for change, they’ll eventually understand.

I’m learning that nothing terrible happens when I break my commitments. As long as I’m making those decisions carefully and intentionally and communicate honestly about it, things usually work out. By saying no, I’m saying yes to a future me who is happier and more fulfilled. And that future me will produce better work and be able to provide a better experience for my audience long term. And that is something worth being courageous for!

xo Yuko