Category Archives: Hand Lettering

From the Sketchbook

I like reviewing my sketchbook because it tells me how I was feeling and what I was interested in at that time. When I look at my old sketchbooks, I realize 1) my drawing was not as bad as I thought and 2) I’ve gotten better 🙂 It’s a great way to gauge where you were and how far you’ve come!

Also, it’s more playful and experimental. It’s so important for artists to not lose touch with our playful side and not be afraid to try something new. I get most of my product ideas from my casual drawings in my sketchbook by the way.

I want to share some of the recent drawings from my sketchbook today! Enjoy 🙂

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As always, I enjoy drawing food! I’ve been interested in making more illustrated recipes lately. It’s a fun way to to combine my love of drawing, handlettering, and eating 🙂 This simple ginger tea is awesome on a cold day or if you’re having an upset stomach.

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I made this lettering piece for one of the blog post. It’s such a simple message and drawing but makes me happy and inspired 🙂

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Whenever I feel stuck creatively, I draw flowers. I just love them so much! I bought dahlias at the farmers’ market almost weekly this past summer. I just couldn’t get enough of them! I usually photograph them to draw/enjoy later 🙂 And I added this beautiful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Swoon!

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It’s time for me to start designing new products for summer! I think it’s going to be veggie/summer garden themed 🙂 Some warm-up sketches to get my creative juice going. Excited to see where this will lead me.

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Though I love simple pen & ink line drawings a lot, I was missing more colorful watercolor drawings the other day. Dave gave me beautiful roses for Valentine’s Day so I decided to make a painting of it to encapsulate their beauty 🙂 It’s always fun to make a loose painting with watercolor and brush.

And just in case you’re wondering what kind of sketchbook I use, my current favorite is this Canson Mix Media sketchbook! I like the thickness of the paper, and the size is great, too. I used to work in a much smaller sketchbook but wanted to challenge myself to work a little bigger. Granted this is not that big, I’m learning to expand my horizon a bit 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed getting a peek into my sketchbook today! Have a great day 🙂

xo Yuko

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My Favorite Tools: Micron Pens

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One of the things I’d like to share more in my blog is to share the tools and apps I love!

I want to start out by sharing the drawing tool I use the most in my work and play: Pigma Micron Pen by Sakura a.k.a. “Microns.”

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You might have seen many of my sketchbook photos I share have Microns, and I was recently asked why I like drawing with them, so let me tell you why!

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I started using Micron pens for drawing only a couple of years ago. I chose them simply because some of the artists I admire, like the handlettering artist Sean McCabe and artist Lisa Congdon, use and recommended them.

My favorite thing about it is how smoothly and evenly it writes/draws. Its pigment based ink is waterproof and fade proof as well, so I feel confident that my artwork will maintain its quality for a long time.

I like and use size 01 (0.25mm) for most of my work. It’s pretty fine, but since the ink flows out so evenly and the line is so consistent, I can trust it to handle some small detail work nicely.

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It works well with my simple and clean illustration style as well. I also like to add my handwriting/handlettering to the piece and this size is my personal favorite to do so.

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I use size 08 (0.50mm) sometimes when I want a little bit more boldness. This drawing was done in size 08 Micron.

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No matter which size I use, I typically stick to using just one size within the same piece. I like the consistency of the look.

As far as colors go, I like drawing in black ink the best. I do like other colors and do draw with them occasionally to switch things up.

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Floral line drawing in blue/black
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Old buildings in Paris in purple
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Mushrooms in blue
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Berries in Jars in rose

I pretty much use my favorite Micron for all my writing and journaling too.

When I make my drawings, I typically just draw with the pen and no pencil sketch first. I used to sketch with pencil first and trace over it with pen, but when I did my 365 Day Happiness Is drawing project in 2014, I quickly realized that I simply didn’t have the time to be sketching first and making a perfect drawing every day!

When I draw with pen, my drawings have more spontaneous and organic look. It’s the key factor that makes my drawings wonky 🙂 Of course, I don’t always get it the first time when I draw with pen. So I start out sketching or practice drawing with pen or pencil a lot before I work on the actual piece. It’s a bit scary but I like the drawings I make this way better than any other! Plus you can use Photoshop later to touch up small mistakes 😀

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If you want to see how I make my line drawings with a Micron pen, I share my steps in my upcoming tutorial here. And I’m guest Instagramming on Sakura’s feed this week in case you’re looking for more inspirations!

I’ve used other pens to draw before, but this is the one I keep coming back to. If you’re in a market for good quality drawing pens, give them a try 🙂

Talk to you soon!

xo Yuko

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Check out these beautiful artist manifestos!

proud-artist_loresI offered a free 4-week Creative Coaching email challenge during the month of January. I had about 40 creatives join me and sent out one prompt/challenge every Monday. I had a great time coming up with the challenges and enjoyed helping other artists explore their creative passions and make plans to achieve their goals.

First week’s challenge was to create an artist manifesto. What the heck is an artist manifesto, you might ask? Well, you can think of your manifesto as your personal or professional values statement. It’s a set of guiding principles to live your creative life by.

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No matter what your creative pursuit is or where you are in your journey, it’s absolutely critical for you to understand why it’s important to you. Following your creative passion is a very rewarding but often lonely and scary journey. When the road gets rough and you start wondering if it’s all worth it, I want you to remember that you’re choosing this path for yourself. You’re saying yes to your creative passion because you want to, not because someone is forcing you to!

Your artist manifesto is like your compass. When you feel lost in your creative endeavor, you can always come back to it, and it’ll help you make a decision that is best for you.

I thought this was a perfect way to kick off our challenge for the month, and a lot of participating artists thought so too!

I asked if I could share their beautiful work and the process with you, my lovely blog readers, and I’ve got an enthusiastic YES from a handful of the artists!

I hope you enjoy meeting these artists and get inspired by their work as much as I did 🙂


Lisa Kaye

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I am a painter/mixed media artist. I am truly my best self when I am immersed in the creative process. I was struggling with self-promotion, balance and finding a direction that was authentic to who I am as an artist. I was growing in many different directions at once without any real focus.

Working with Yuko I was able to create a plan and even narrowed down a direction (for now) that will support my continued growth as an artist (just even being ok with referring to myself as artist was a big deal).

I liked creating my personal manifesta because instead of just writing about my creative process or who I wanted to be as a painter; I was able to shift my focus to the bare bones of who I am and how I move through life as artist.

You can find me on Facebook or http://lisa-kaye.pixels.com/

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Lisa’s Artist Manifesto, or as she likes to call it her manifesta 🙂

Beth Colletti

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I’m a mixed media and embroidery artist living in New Jersey and am always on the lookout for moments of wonder that I can capture in my work. I love to combine paint and thread to highlight beauty in places that are easily overlooked. My desire is to invite my audience to find reasons to delight in life’s ordinary, yet magical moments. Currently I’m working on expanding my product line beyond wall art to include other home decor items.

I actually had a lot of fun working on my manifesto – it came at just the right time when I was floundering a bit with my work and feeling a little lost. This project helped me really drill down to why I’m doing what I’m doing and gave me the momentum I needed to keep pushing forward. I find without reminders like this, I can get lost in the weeds of busyness and start comparing myself to other artists too much. My artist manifesto reminds me I’m on a unique journey filling a role that only I can fill.

You can find out more about me and my art at www.bethcolletti.com or follow me on:

Facebook @bethcollettiart
Instagram @bethcolletti
Pinterest @bethcolletti
Twitter @bethcolletti
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Beth’s Artist Manifesto

Tania Denyer

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Tania Denyer, 46 years old, have been an artist since ever I can remember. I sew, crochet, draw, paper craft, cook, bake… if it requires my hands and my heart, I am there. In 2014 (after an unexpected and traumatic job loss) I decided to start my business, Ginger Quilts.

I make custom quilts, teach quilt classes and do longarming for hobbyist quilters. Just before I lost my regular job, I was reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron on the train and her introduction had me in tears. It was the start of realizing that my creativity was not something crazy I had to hide but a gift that I could celebrate and share 🙂

Creating my artist manifesto was at first a bit daunting, then as the thoughts came and I worried less over what I should and should not say (silencing the critic) it was fun! I felt empowered. I decided to write it out and doodle a bit (I have a doodling heart) and tape it somewhere I would see it instead of hiding it away. I felt it needed to be somewhere I could see it, read it and remember it… putting it on my sketchbook (I try to sketch everyday) was exactly where it needed to be.

You can find out more about me:

Tania Artist Manifesto
Tania’s Artist Manifesto

Emily Vanderlinden

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My name is Emily Vanderlinden and I’m a volunteer, artist, and self-guided learner. This means I have decent say in how I spend my time so I try to balance it between being in community with those around me, researching topics related to my Open Masters (find out more at www.openmasters.org), and block-printing on fabric.

Most days I manage the social media accounts and website for Innisfree Village, a lifesharing community with adults with disabilities, and participate in art making with those adults. Whenever I can squeeze in some time, I read books about the optimal human experience, how to find flow and happiness in our work, art therapy, and printmaking.

I also go on walks and hikes to get inspiration from nature and create block-printed patterns according to those findings. I have a degree in Graphic Design, so I also do some freelance work for friends when I can!

I do a lot of my work on the computer so most of my brainstorming for this manifesto happened in rapid typing and stream-of-consciousness sentences! I’ve thought a lot about this in the past so it wasn’t particularly difficult, though finding a format that made sense was a challenge!

I chose to do my artist manifesto in a circular form to remind me that this is continuous and I can always add to it. After completing the writing, however, the paper felt boring and I wanted to leave the text clean so I chose to attach with a brad it to a colorful backing by one of the artists I work with. This way it spins for easier reading and reminds me what colorful people I have in my life to draw from!

By the time my manifesto was finished I realized that content AND function are a huge part of why I do what I do.

My website is emilyruthopenmasters.wordpress.com

You can also see what we do the art studio here at Innisfree Village at innisfreeart.wordpress.com

Emily's Artist Manifesto
Emily’s Artist Manifesto

Isn’t it so cool to see how different artists come up with their artist manifesto? Every time I received an email from the participating artists and read/saw what they were working on, I got the chills. It was such a humbling experience to be the witness to their struggles, joy, and growth.

I was so honored to have them and others join me and learn with me in January! Make sure to check out their work and follow them on various social media platforms 🙂 BIG thanks to everyone who participated!!

I created this PDF A Guide to Creating Your Artist Manifesto in case you missed the challenge and want to make one!

I’m pretty sure I’ll be hosting a challenge like this again in the future – if you want to be kept in a loop, you can sign up for my e-newsletter here.

OK friends, I hope you have a creative day! ❤

xo Yuko

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An advice for a 13-year-old aspiring artist

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The other day, I was at a craft show with my booth selling my paper and hand block printed goodies.

It was going pretty slow for me. But I always enjoy getting to know my fellow vendors and chatting with the people who stopped by my booth.

In the afternoon towards the end of the day, this mother and daughter stopped by to look at my products. They were saying to each other how cute they thought my stuff was, so I thanked them and let them know they can pick up/touch anything and ask me any questions.

The mom started chatting with me about what I do and asked me how I became an artist. So I gave her a short version of my background and told her how I started making art for fun as an adult and gradually became serious about pursuing it as a career and eventually quit my day job at a non-profit social service organization last summer.

She seemed delighted to hear my story and proceeded to tell me her daughter is an aspiring artist. Her daughter was standing next to her looking a little uncomfortable now the focus was on her. She was about 13-year-old and wasn’t saying very much at this point.

Her mom started showing me the pictures of her drawings on her phone and was so proud of all of her daughter’s work.

I told them I liked her drawings – they were Manga drawings she’d made on her mom’s phone, and it reminded me of my Manga-drawing days of my pre-teen years, too. She smiled a little shy smile. She started scrolling the photos and showed me more work and told me a little bit about each – about the outfit her character was wearing, what the scene was about etc.

Her mom then asked me if I had any advice for her daughter for becoming a working artist some day. I thought for a second and shared my thoughts with them.

You’ve gotta work hard.

Practice drawing every day. Don’t try to make your work look like someone else’s. Your skills are important, and having your own style is even more important. Find something that’s uniquely you and let it shine through all of your drawings. Enjoy the process. And put your work out there! Let people find your gift.

I get pretty fired up about people pursuing their passion, so I may have been a little intense. But that’s the best advice I’ve gotten and wanted to pass on to anyone who is wanting to choose a creative path.

She nodded as she listened to what I had to say. After our little chat, they thanked me for my time and advice and left my booth to get on with their afternoon.

As they walked away, I felt a huge sense of fulfillment and truly wished her dream would come true some day. And I was once again reminded of how privileged I was to be able to pursue my creative passion so wholeheartedly in my current life.

And also, how cool is it that her mom is super supportive of her daughter’s creative passion? It’s so important for creative people, especially young people her age, to know that what they create is valuable and internalize that message. Having a parent who is so excited and encouraging of her creative path would help her future endeavors tremendously!

Try to encourage young people in your life to stay creative. And you can be a role model by staying creative yourself 🙂

xo Yuko

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DIY Lifestyle: Soaking Almonds

Happy Friday!

How’s your week been? Hope it’s been a good one!

As I’m redirecting my art biz goals this year and subsequently expanding the scope of this blog a bit to bring you more inspirations for creative and happy living, I thought it would be fun to share some of my other creative projects I’m working on from time to time. I always enjoy it when other artists share their non-work-related creative projects, so I hope you’ll enjoy mine, too 🙂

I’m sure many of you creatives can relate, but I like doing/making stuff from scratch (or as “from scratch” as possible). I find it so satisfying and empowering to learn to make something and do it myself. I know it’s not always practical to do things myself, but at least I learn how to do it, and I appreciate having the knowledge.

I’m particularly excited about DIY-ing when it comes to eating healthy. I’m passionate about eating organic, fresh, whole foods as much as I can. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming middle-aged, but I’ve been noticing more and more the effects foods have on my physical and mental well-being. I’m learning to listen to my body more and becoming more proactive about taking care of myself.

I can’t create inspiring and joyful art if I’m not well mentally, physically, or emotionally, you know?

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A fun Northwest themed book cover I worked on a few years ago.

I’ve been learning more about food and nutrition and trying different ways to incorporate more healthy eating habits in my everyday life.

So today, I wanted to share with you how to soak nuts for healthy eating. Enjoy!

First of all, let me confess: I’m nuts about nuts. I’m especially nuts about almonds. It’s kind of an addiction… They’re great snack packed full of beneficial nutrients and taste SO good! Mmmmm.

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As much as I love them and want to keep eating them all the time, sadly, my body doesn’t digest them very well, and I’ve noticed weird taste in my mouth if I eat a lot of them. Yuck.

I’ve been reading about nuts and learned that there are some toxins that are present in nuts, seeds, and grains to protect themselves, and soaking them will help remove the toxins and will help make it more digestible in human body. (Just a disclaimer: I’m no nutritionist and haven’t done any extensive study or anything. I got a ton of information about how to soak nuts, seeds, and grains and nutritional benefits of it on this website in case you want to learn more!)

We usually buy our nuts in bulk at our grocery store, but they don’t carry organic soaked almonds there. So I decided to soak almonds myself and see how they turn out!

Here is an illustrated recipe of how to soak and dehydrate almonds!

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Information from healthyblenderrecipes.com. Note: you don’t need to dehydrate them if you’re using your almonds for soups or dips right away.

Here are some actual photos from the process.

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These almonds had been soaked for a few hours already, and you can see the gunk in the soaking water already.
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You want to soak them in filtered water (about 2x volume of nuts) with a tea spoon of celtic salt dissolved in it.
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Cover the bowl with a thin flour sack cloth or other breathable cloth. My 100% cotton block printed artichoke tea towel did a perfect job!
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After soaking them for about 24 hours, I drained and rinsed them throughly. Then I put them in the dehydrator to dry.
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They were dried in the dehydrator for about 24 hours. Then I turned them off and let them cool/dry for another 12 hours or so.

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This is an extra step, but I love roasting nuts! I think they taste so much better when roasted. So crunchy and extra nutty.

After the nuts were completely dehydrated, I roasted these in a baking sheet at 350°F for 10-15 minutes. You need to check/stir occasionally to make sure they’re not burned. When they burn, they burn very quickly and will continue to burn even after you take them out of the oven! I had an unfortunate accident a couple of times before 🙂 I listen for the crackling sound and the aroma of almonds and pull them out when I start hearing/smelling them.

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Ta da!

I must say, it was kind of a lot of work just to eat some nuts, but I’d imagine it’ll become less of a hassle if I do it more often and it becomes a routine. I hope it makes a positive difference for my system!

Eat well and have a lovely weekend, my friends!

xo Yuko

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7 Tools to Find and Keep Your Motivation

motivation_loresI’m often asked where my motivation comes from.

My short answer: it comes from my deep desire to make my art business successful. I daydreamed about becoming a full-time artist for so long, and once I had the opportunity I wanted it to work out so badly. I hate letting myself down. And since I’m just a one-woman show right now, if I don’t hustle, it won’t happen. And I’d be a very sad person if I failed!motivation

Even though I had a great job, it’s no surprise my heart wasn’t in it 100%. I was sad that I wasn’t following my creative passion all the time. I was frustrated that I couldn’t devote more time and energy into my art business. I had this yearning to have my life centered around creativity, and my reality wasn’t matching my vision.

When I quit my day job last summer, my reality finally matched my vision. And the scary thing was, I didn’t have any more excuse for how slow my business was growing. There was no “oh, well I have a day job and don’t have time to do my art and make my business happen!” It was time to hustle. It was time to do what I said I wanted to do for a long time. People around me seemed to think I could do it, and I had to prove to myself I could do it, too.

It’ll have been 6 months since I quit my day job when this post comes out, and the best thing about running my own show is actually not the fact I have more time to make art (because actually, I do a lot of other stuff to run the business than making art…), but it’s the fact I get to make decisions about my work and do what I love on my own terms. It also means if I slack off, it’ll take me longer to achieve my goals or not at all.

Sure it can be hard and stressful, and there are many annoying things about being your own boss. But it’s also extremely fulfilling. I just love it and want to protect it as much as I can!

With that said, I have other tools to keep me motivated and disciplined for the long run. Hope you’ll find them helpful!

1. Find your “why”

When I work for a goal, like working out regularly and sticking to a healthy eating habit, I need to have a very clear purpose. If I don’t understand why I’m doing something, I tend to be less engaged with the process, and it usually won’t last.

So when I quit my day job last summer, I spent half a day creating my artist manifesto. I went through a whole process to clarify why it’s important for me to have art and creativity as a center piece of my life. It’s a declaration of how I want to be in the world. You can peek into my process here.

My artist manifesto is put up on the wall by my desk, and every time I look at it, I feel encouraged and centered.

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My artist manifesto

2. Seanwes podcast

I get SO much motivation about creativity and business from a handlettering artist/entrepreneur, Sean McCabe’s contents (especially his podcasts and YouTube channel). When I feel like slacking off, I listen to his podcast and get fired up immediately. You must check out his work if you’re a creative entrepreneur!

This 2-minute video always gives me the motivation boost! Show up every day for two years.

 

3. Public Commitment

When I’m working on something big or new, I like to let the public (i.e. social media & blog) know that I’m doing it and when. It worked really well when I worked on my 365 Day Happiness Project from 2014-2015. Even though my audience probably isn’t tracking what I’m doing as closely as I am, it gives me the extra motivation to say it out loud to the people who support my work.

4. Track your progress 

I like to write down what I’ve accomplished every day. For most days, it’s small things like, writing a blog, sketching ideas for new work, or shipping my Etsy orders etc. But I’m no longer saying “What did I do today?” and actually see how productive I’ve been. And if I hadn’t been productive, I could review the day to see where I got stuck.

What’s great about tracking your progress, ideally every day, is that you can see how your everyday small accomplishments are helping you achieve your big goals. What you do every day, though it might seem unimportant, counts.

I hate doing finances. I just find no joy in the bookkeeping activity! But I make myself do my finances at the beginning of each month. I usually have a pretty good idea about how much revenue I had the previous month, but it’s nice to see the actual numbers especially if it’s more than what you thought! And it makes the year-end tax preparation a lot easier…

I also started tracking my social media following monthly a few months ago. I don’t want to put too much weight on how many people follow me on social media, but it’s good to know that my audience is growing 🙂

5. Accountability Partner

I have a few accountability partners I meet on a monthly basis. Having a one-on-one accountability and a dedicated time and space to talk about your goals and challenges is very helpful. It’s like when I know we have a visitor, we do a better job of cleaning our house. When I know I’m going to have my accountability meetings, I’ll be extra motivated to get stuff done. I wrote my experience with my accountability partners here and here if you’re interested!

6. Set a deadline for a project (even if it’s fake!)

I’m not gonna lie – If I don’t have a deadline for a project, it will NOT get done. It’s a fact. When someone (usually a personal friend) wants me to do something for them and tell me “whenever you have time, no rush!” It just won’t happen. I need a hard deadline to get motivated!!

So when I don’t have an external deadline assigned to me, I usually set one for myself and pretend it’s the hard and fast timeline to get something done by. I often combine this with the public commitment piece for extra motivation!

For example, when I had offered to teach my block printing class and group coaching sessions this spring at a local art school, I set the dates and time for the classes first and started promoting them before I had the contents. This way I have to make it happen, and it helps me backwards plan all the steps to execute it.

7. Develop habits that set you up for a long-term success

Of course, I’m human, and if I’m on all the time, I’ll eventually burn out. I believe firmly that avoiding burn-out is one of my top priorities for my long-term success and well-being. If I lose joy in what I do or get sick because I neglect to take care of myself, all bets are off, right?

Some of the habits I’ve developed for self-care are: getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night, getting up early and do something productive first thing in the morning, workout regularly, eating a healthy diet, no social media during meals, making sure I have plenty of alone/quiet time, and taking every 7th week off to recharge.

As you can imagine, maintaining these habits are not always easy! It means you have to say no to many things you enjoy doing. But that’s the thing about habits – once you get used to doing something over and over, you’ll start to feel off-balance if you don’t do it! And even if you slip every once in a while, it’ll be a lot easier to get back into it. If you’re trying to replace some of your unhelpful habits with more helpful ones, I say go slow, focus on one thing at a time! Be patient and kind to yourself if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want. Developing new habits takes time.

Finding your motivation isn’t easy – especially if you’ve been trying hard for a long time and haven’t seen any significant results. These tools have helped me find a motivation when I felt like crawling into a hole and forget about everything. I hope it’ll inspire you to come up with strategies that work for you!

Take care, my friend 🙂

xoxo Yuko

p.s. My Creative Coaching service is officially open! Let me know if you’re a creative person needing help getting stuff done. Learn more here.

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I love you!

Hello!

Today, I wanted to introduce you to a new line of products I made just in time for Valentine’s Day! ❤

When I create art for products, I imagine who’s going to use them. I imagine that it’s going to be loved by someone who is creative and wants to live her life full of joy and happiness. Someone who values simple things that are made with love and care. I imagine someone who likes to make things themselves, perhaps a gardener, who believes in taking care of themselves, people around them, and the earth. And I imagine that the person smiles a lot 🙂 I imagine their cozy home with lots of light, art, and books.

I wonder, “What would make them smile? How can my art products inspire even more creativity and happiness in their life?”

And, those are the essences that make all of my products so sweet and joyful. And these new Valentine’s Day goodies are no exceptions!

OK, but before I tell you the story behind the new gift collection, let me back up a little to the winter holiday season last year. You may remember I created this 2016 wall calendar with my sumi drawings.

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This calendar became the best seller during the holiday season. Anyway, the Style & Design editor of Seattle Magazine saw them at one of the pop-up holiday shops and emailed me to ask if I had a Valentine’s Card  they could feature in their publication!

They wanted something unique – something that’s done in my sumi drawing style and different from the traditional red & pink design.

At that time, I didn’t have any – BUT when a magazine wants to feature your product, you make it work (of course channeling Mr. Tim Gunn here!)

The turnaround time was pretty short, and I knew I didn’t have time to create something from scratch. So, I took a couple of images from the calendar and added some floral/heart motifs and created two brand-new Valentine’s/Love cards!

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This sweet sumi drawing Tea for Two Love Card is a perfect alternative to a traditional red & pink Valentine’s Card. You can invite someone for a lovely afternoon tea date ❤

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I also created this design using one of the images from the calendar. I imagined this kitty sending a music of love to his love ❤ This sumi drawing Cat Violinist Love Card will be sure to make any cat lover in your life smile 🙂

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I also turned them into art prints! Gift of art will remind your special person how much you care throughout the year 🙂 The 8×10 giclee print of Tea for Two sumi drawing would look very nice framed.

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The simplicity of these sumi drawings is timeless. Give a gift that fits right into your loved one’s everyday life. Cat Violinist sumi drawing is also available as 8×10 giclee print!

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“Sea Otters hold hands while sleeping so they don’t drift away from each other.” Now, this is ADORABLE. This pen and ink drawing of sea otters holding hands was a happy accident I created for a fun personal project in January. But when I posted it on Instagram, people loved it and asked if I would sell prints. So I did! I didn’t create this specifically for Valentine’s Day, but this Sea Otter art print (8×10) will also make a lovely gift that will add extra sweetness to any home.


OK, I think that’s enough adorableness for today! (or can you ever get enough???) I’ll be back tomorrow with more inspirations for your Valentine’s Day gift ideas! Be ready for another dose of cuteness 🙂

Have a wonderful day!

xoxo Yuko

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On Humility and Tenacity

so-humble_loresHappy almost February!  I hope your new year is going well so far.

I have a lot going on on my plate right now! Registration for my Introduction to Block Printing class and my Creative Coaching service will officially open tomorrow February 1, 2016! So I’ve been working many hours to prepare.

And as I wrote last week, I’m also shifting my business goal a little bit this year to focus more on my art products. Of course, I’d made a commitment to add on all these new services (teaching, coaching etc.) before I realized I needed a better focus for my business…, and I’ve been trying to figure out ways to tie them all together so they’re all part of a cohesive brand. Which is easier said than done…!

I’m very excited for all these opportunities and at the same time feeling very humble. I’m learning and growing at a hyper speed and for sure make lots of mistakes in the process.

Making mistakes isn’t fun for anyone especially if you’re a perfectionist. Disclaimer: I actually don’t consider myself a perfectionist, per se, (my husband might disagree…). But I always want to do a good job and feel bad when I make mistakes.

Growing up, I did pretty well academically without trying very hard. I was no genius, but I didn’t struggle very much to “get” whatever we needed to get good grades. I’d study some and did good enough across the board. I was naturally a pretty good artist and did well with languages, too. I’ve never been athletically inclined, but other than that, I was pretty much able to coast from childhood to college.

As nice as it sounds, I realize now that I didn’t develop a strong tenacity as a child. I read this study once that one of the key factors for success is not necessarily your innate talent but it’s your grit: your ability to stick to it long-term even if things get hard.

I faced some road blocks and struggles when I moved to the states after high school just because it was such a big transition! Learning to navigate a totally new culture and systems in a foreign language took some time and effort. It was like I reverted back to being a small child again. Granted I was still young and didn’t have as much of a hard time adapting as my older counterparts, but still.

Once I got in to the university, I struggled to keep up with the classes. Studying college level materials in my second language (not to mention in  Women Studies, which involve a lot of very complex ideas and critical thinking…) was very difficult! I couldn’t just coast any more. I had to study very hard just to get mediocre grades.

It was a very humbling experience and helped me to develop the tenacity I was lacking growing up. Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I’m grateful that I didn’t end up being the big fish in a small pond forever.

I had a big transition again last year when I left my day job to pursue art full-time. It was a very exciting change but also one of the scariest. For my day job, I worked for the same organization (though in different positions) for 14+ years. I knew the people, how the organization ran, the community, and the work really well. I realized once again I’d become very comfortable in my environment and wasn’t trying very hard to challenge myself.

Even though I had been working on my art business on the side for several years up until that point, now I really had to do it. I was leaving what I knew and a huge part of my identity to figure out where I belonged in the world again. It was like my teenage flashback all over again! Ahhh!

But what was different this time around was that I’d had more life experience and knew from the get-go it wasn’t going to be easy. I expected challenges and a long road ahead of me when I took the leap of faith. Instead of being ashamed of not being able to just pick it up and be successful over night, I was ready to be patient with myself and allow grace for my growth and learning. I see my mindset shift as a sign of maturity, and it makes me hopeful that there is no limit to a person’s growth no matter how old you are!

I’d rather welcome experiences that make me humble than staying in the comfort zone and being stagnant. 

When you’re naturally good at something and not used to making mistakes, it’s discouraging when things don’t go as smoothly. It almost feels personal. It makes you vulnerable and makes you want to go back to what you know and feel safe. But when you learn to sit with your discomfort and appreciate the fact that you still have room for growth, you’ll find the courage to push forward. And the more you do whatever scares you, the easier and less scary it gets! I know and have experienced this first hand many times now 🙂

If your fear of mistakes is keeping you from following your passions, you’re saying no to so many opportunities and possibilities. You’ll experience the world much more fully when you act with bravery and courage every day.

You’ll probably still feel bad when you make a mistake (I do!), but don’t let that stop you from getting up and trying again. Yes, do let yourself feel whatever emotions that come up and be kind to yourself.  But instead of blaming yourself/other people/the circumstances, focus on what you can do to change the outcome in the future. It’s so empowering to put the power back in your hands.

Be brave, my friend! I know you got it.

xoxo Yuko

p.s. As I shift my business focus this year, my approach to this blog will shift a little bit too. I’ll still be providing these self-help-y contents because I like to help you! I’ll also be highlighting more of my creative processes, what I’m making/doing, and things that inspire me. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing my posts more often, and that it will continue serving as a source of creative inspiration!

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I had a moment of clarity during my sabbatical week.

believe_WT_loresHello!

How’re you? I’m back from my mini sabbatical week this week and have lots to share with you!

For those of you who are new to my blog, welcome! 🙂 I take every 7th week off from my regular work to step back and do things I don’t normally get to do, like learning new skills and pursue my other creative passions. (You can learn more about where the idea came from here.) I write a blog post about my sabbatical week afterwards to share what I did with you. It’s helpful for me to reflect on my sabbatical, and it also helps me to hold myself accountable to actually take the regular time off!

Since I’d just taken a few days off over the holidays, I wasn’t too much in need of relaxation/vegging out time. Instead, I focused my time and energy on learning, business planning, and organizing.

Here is a few highlights of what I’ve done!

1)  Future Planning & Refocusing My Business Goals

It’s been almost 6 months since I quit my day job (hooray!), and I’m now beginning to realize I need to tweak my strategy for my art business, Honeyberry Studios. My strategies have been to work hard, do more of what I’m good at, and put myself out there consistently and see what sticks. Yes, I’ve been getting exciting opportunities by doing these things, and my business is growing for sure. But I knew I needed a clear focus to take my business to the next level. 

I had a privilege of having a mini coaching session with Cassie from Modern Thrive (and Maker Mentors) the previous week. By the way, both organizations offer very practical professional development resources for creative people, and I’ve taken a few of their workshops before. I’m currently signed up for their One Year to Build a Better Business free training and Cassie had offered limited number of coaching sessions to the training participants. (FYI – She normally doesn’t do individual coaching, so you won’t see it offered on her sites.)

Anyway, during our coaching session, she went right in to the heart of the matter: my business lacks focus. I sell physical products. I do commission work. I write a self-help blog. And now I’m starting a coaching practice! It was definitely an elephant in the room I was trying to ignore for a while.

She suggested I pick one thing and focus on that first. And once that one thing starts to bring in enough income, then I can start to expand.

I’d heard that message over and over from different sources before, but I was so close to everything I was doing and was in denial about it until then. But as I was hearing that from Cassie, it finally clicked with me. I was in the right place to really listen and understand that I needed to niche down to be more successful. 

Of course I had a mini panic to think I had to just pick one thing and go with it. The reason why I’ve been doing many things is because I’m good at them and like doing them!

I’m sure many of you can understand the fear of just focusing on one thing as most creative people have more than one passion and talent… Am I gonna be bored? What if I choose a wrong thing to focus on? But then people won’t know I’m good at other things, too! Ahhhhh!!

Whenever I’m faced with difficult situations, I usually freak out a little bit. Then I calm down and start processing more logically about what’s going on and figure out the next steps.

For this situation, I freaked out thinking I needed to do a major course correction for my business, pre-mourning the loss of things I don’t get to pursue, and then began to feel hopeful that having a clear focus is going to help me be more successful.

Cassie asked what I wanted to focus on. I thought for a minute. If I had to choose one thing, what would it be? I answered, it’d be working on my illustrated products.

If I’m truly being honest with myself,  commission/client work is not my first choice even though it helps with the cash flow the most. There is often a lot of back and forth with the client, and it takes a lot of energy to create something that meets their goals while accomplishing my vision for the project. It can be really stressful. I think part of the problem is that I’m not charging enough… But that’s another story!

Going back to my preference to focus on products – although it’ll take longer to make a profit from selling products compared to doing commission work, and there is a lot of work involved in having a successful product based business, I’d much rather be directing my own creative vision and how my voice and values are reflected on what I provide for my customers.

Just to clarify, and I was happy to hear this from Cassie, too, it doesn’t mean that I’ll quit everything else I’m doing now (i.g. blog, teaching, coaching etc).  I’ll still keep my other ventures going on the side to continue to build a community and to bring in supplemental income. I just need to put most of my time and resources into building a successful product business this year. And when I say product business, I’m talking about growing my Etsy shop (e.g. greeting cards, art prints, and stationery), mostly!

I’ll also be shifting the focus of this blog a little bit. I’ve been focused so much on providing contents to help other artists  with creativity and motivation this past year. AND I’ll definitely continue to provide the same, helpful contents because that’s my passion, and I won’t be fulfilled if I let that go completely.

The future of my blog is actually very exciting! I’m envisioning my blog to become a channel to bring you even more creative inspirations in the coming year! You’ll definitely be seeing my posts more often, and I’ll be sharing more behind the scenes creative process, new products and services to inspire a creative lifestyle, and things I learn along the way!

Though unknowns are always a bit uncomfortable, I’m feeling grateful to have a clearer direction for my creative business. I hope you’ll enjoy learning different aspects of my creative life on my future blog! 🙂

2)  Learning Opportunities

Another thing I did during my sabbatical week is to learn! I participated in a few really great learning opportunities.

  • I participated in the Money Management for Creative Types webinar with Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt. I’m not bad with money and am generally frugal, but I’m not super comfortable with money, either. Numbers just don’t excite me. But this is one of the things I needed to have a better grasp on in order for me to grow my business, and the workshop was awesome! Melanie shared a ton of practical tips and tools on how to manage your finances and increase your income. I feel more confident about my money management skills now!
  • As I mentioned earlier, I’d signed up for the Building a Better Business free one-year training with Maker Mentors. We receive one email every week for a year with assignments and challenges to help our creative business grow. I worked on the challenge from the first week, which was to create a business plan! The timing was perfect as I was recalibrating my business focus, so I spent quite a bit of time working on that. I still need to refine it, but it gave me a good place to start.
  • OK, the universe does send you messages and nudge you in the right direction, doesn’t she? As soon as I had my conversation with Cassie about shifting my focus to product-based business, I saw a Facebook ad about this free video training about how to build a successful handmade business with Renae Christine. I immediately signed up and devoured her contents as I received her videos in 3 parts. The videos were short and sweet and packed full of helpful information!! I took a bunch of notes but need to go back many times for sure.

I always feel energized and pumped after great trainings and webinars. Now off to put into practice what I’ve learned!!

3)  Office Purge

I confess. I’m not a very organized person.  My physical space that is. Like crunching numbers, I’m just not excited about organizing stuff. I organize my working space every once in a while but it doesn’t stay clean for very long. I like to have things around where I can see, and it gets cluttered pretty quickly.

I’m often envious of other people’s beautiful minimalist studio spaces I see on the internet. I kinda like having a little bit of clutter though (I get inspired by the little things I have!) and don’t think I’ll ever have a super clean studio. But my space had become less functional over time, and I recruited my husband Dave to help me with an office purge. Dave, unlike me, grew up in a very OCD household and gets energized about organizing things! Talk about a perfect match 🙂 So we scheduled a purge date during my sabbatical week and got to work.

My ultimate goal was to organize my “art shelf” that is right by my desk in our shared home office. It was so packed, and things were kept in random places, and I often couldn’t find what I needed. We had stuff piled in front of the shelf, too, so it was very hard to get to things on the bottom two shelves. It was definitely not helping me to be creative!

On Monday, we spent several hours going through everything on the shelf. Dave helped me to assess what I need to have on the shelf vs. what could be stored elsewhere. We reorganized our storage room to make room for extra supplies, threw some things away, and took the rest to Goodwill.

Here is my before and after photo!

before-and-after

OK, maybe it still doesn’t look totally organized :D, but believe me, it’s 100 times more functional! I want to get nicer bins and boxes for my tools and products eventually, but for now, this will do! Things are much more organized and easy to access, and I feel spacious. Breathe.

We only tackled this one area in the office in one day and talked about scheduling a regular purge session to tackle other parts of our house. Sounds good to me! I like taking baby steps 🙂


There you have it! That’s what I did on my sabbatical week. As you can see, I did a lot of planning, learning, and organizing, which was just what I needed. Even though it may not seem like a relaxing week off, I’m really fired up and energized about the direction my business is taking this year!

Looking forward to sharing more with you as things progress! Thanks for being on this ride with me 🙂

xo Yuko

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My 3 Daily Self-Care Habits

take-care_loresHello!

How was your week? I hope your new year is off to a good start and that you’re able to get back into the groove of things after the holidays.

It’s been almost 6 months since I quit my day job! Hooray! Boy how time flies! My next 6 months are already filling up with exciting opportunities, and I’m so grateful 🙂

I’m opening up my Creative Coaching service officially in a couple of weeks, will be guest teaching for the Journey Within e-course in March, and offering in-person Block Printing workshops and Creative Coaching group sessions in Seattle in April and May. It’ll be a hectic few months, but I’m not complaining! If you build it, they’ll come, right?

By the time this blog post comes out, I’ll have taken yet another sabbatical week! I decided to take every 7th week off to step back and recharge last fall following Seanwes‘ advice, and this is my 3rd one already! Taking a regular time off makes me anxious a little bit especially when there is so much to do, but I have no doubt my mini sabbaticals are keeping me from getting burnt out. When you’re following your passion and work for yourself, it’s so easy to just work, work, work. It’s engaging, and you want to see the results fast. But you’ll eventually get burnt out if you don’t take care of yourself. And then what?

Taking regular sabbaticals works for me because I can plan things around it in advance, and once you get in a habit of it, one week off every 7 weeks isn’t that big of a deal.

But I understand that it’s not always feasible to hit the “off” switch regularly if you don’t have the flexibility to do so. Maybe you have a day job or want to align your time off with your kids’ school schedule etc. And that’s totally fine. You just need to find a self-care strategy that works for you and your unique situation.

In the last 6 months, I’ve been developing a few daily habits that help me stay well. The daily small maintenance is helping to repair any wear and tear as it happens so I still have energy to enjoy my sabbaticals when it happens. Just like your house or a car, if you treat them crappy all the time and try to fix them all at once, it’s going to be more work and is gonna cost you more. Maybe some damages will be permanent. It’s same for your self-care. If you do a little bit of maintenance every day, you won’t need to do an overhaul down the road. It’s totally OK to prioritize it 🙂

So, on my mini sabbatical post today, I wanted to share a few daily self-care habits I’ve developed:

1) Get up early and take advantage of the quiet time.

I get up at 5:30am most of the days. On my workout day, I go to the gym first thing in the morning. On my non-workout day, I grab a glass of water and start writing. It’s usually my blog posts, or sometimes it’s my newsletter or some other contents.

You might be wondering, “Well, getting up early in the morning doesn’t sound like a self-care! Isn’t sleeping-in better?” I know. I started it as a way to be more productive. But I also noticed how quiet my mind is when I begin my day early and focus on one thing. I feel more spacious and my brain is less cluttered with noise and to-do lists.

And It feels GREAT to get my writing or workout done before 7am. You have the whole day ahead of you to work on your other tasks! This could be particularly a good habit for those who have kids or live with other people. This is sometimes the only quiet time I have all day because my husband also works from home, and once he (and our noisy parakeets) gets up, our tiny apartment is no longer a quiet oasis 😀 As an introvert, I need my alone, quiet time on a regular basis, and this is a great way to ensure I get it every day.

An important note for getting up early is, I don’t check my email or social media until after breakfast. I want my mind to be free of information clutter as much as possible during my morning quiet time. Delaying your email or social media response for a couple of hours shouldn’t be a huge problem. They can wait.

2) Go to bed early.

In order to get up early to enjoy a quiet start of the day, you need to go to bed early. This is somewhat of a new habit for me. I’ve never been a night owl but used to go to bed around 10:30 or 11, which made it harder for me to get up at 5:30 every morning.

Nowadays I try to go to bed at around 9:30pm. I just feel better having 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. To facilitate a good night sleep, I was trying to have no screen time (i.e. no smartphone, browsing on my laptop, Netflix shows etc.) at least one hour before bed, but this early bedtime is making it a little harder. But I try to end my screen time by 9pm and transition into getting ready for bed then.

3) Don’t eat and work at the same time.

When I worked at my day job, I used to eat my lunch at my desk checking email or browsing the internet because that’s what you do on your breaks, right?

Now that I work for myself at home, I had to make more of an effort to separate work and breaks. So when I eat breakfast or lunch, I physically move away from my desk and don’t look at my email or social media while I eat. It usually takes less than half an hour for me to eat, but having that time away from the information noise and mental clutter and focusing on the food you eat is quite meditative.

That’s it! These are the 3 habits I keep every day to stay energized and well. Building a new habit is not easy. It takes time and repetition even if you don’t feel like doing it. But once it becomes a habit, it gets easier to stick to.

I do this because I need it. I need plenty of rest and nourishment to keep going. It’s not an option: it’s a necessity for my long-term well-being and success. I need alone time, good food, exercise, and sleep to function at the highest level.

Everyone needs different things to stay well. Your self-care starts with learning more about yourself! Make some time to do that this week 🙂

OK guys, I’ll come back next week and share what I’ve done during my sabbatical week!

Be well.

xoxo Yuko

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