Category Archives: Pen & Ink

Say No

say-no_lores

Hello!

Lately I’ve noticed saying no to potential opportunities more or be a lot more thoughtful about saying yes. I’d been trying to say no to time wasters all along, but this is money-making opportunities I’m talking about here. It’s not like I’m making a lot of money from my art yet. How can I afford to say no, then?

You’ve probably heard the advice “take any jobs you can get” especially when you’re starting out. I’ve always felt a little funny about this notion that when you’re a new at something, you should be grateful and say yes to anything no matter what. Say yes to projects or clients you don’t feel good about. Because, how else are you going to pay your bills, right?

When you compromise your values or processes to pay your bills especially if the job is closely related to your passion, it’s bound to make you feel resentful and burn out.

If you feel like you can’t afford to be choosey with the project you take on, it probably means that you need to have other ways of bringing in an income. You could do the Overlap Technique Seanwes talks about and keep a day job, or work on building up your savings so you could quit cold-turkey and don’t have to worry about  paying your bills while you pursue your passion.

OK, so let’s assume your bills are taken care of for the purpose of this conversation. If the money is the number one reason why you can’t say no, then you need to figure that out first even if that means you can’t pursue your passion fully or at all until your bills are taken care of. I know it sucks, but seriously, mixing your passion and money is a tricky business.

If you’re dreaming about making a living doing what you love, do whatever it takes to avoid burn-out! It’s the best thing you can do!

Let’s talk about how you know when to say no. I ask these questions to help me decide if the opportunity is right for me.

1)  Do you have time to do it?

I’m getting better at this but used to underestimate how long anything took from start to finish. I would get frustrated because I said yes to things thinking it’d only take so long to finish but in reality it took waaaaaay too long.

For instance, I just recently said no to an art show. It’ll be showing some of the pieces I already have. And I almost said yes because I know the organizer and like her personally, and it’s not like I needed to create a whole new artwork for it. But it was coinciding with a couple of big holiday craft shows I’m doing. Since I’ve done a few art shows now, I know putting together a show, even if you’re not making new art, can be a lot of work!

I’m having an art show right now at a nearby cafe, so my husband suggested I just take them down and hang the same art work at the new place when the show is over (the new place is only a few blocks away). But I don’t want to show the same pieces again because it’s boring.

If I don’t follow my husband’s reasonable advice, I’d need to take them down from the current venue, bring them home, choose different pieces to show, make sure I have a scan of all the original works (and if not, scan, edit, and upload them), trim them, mat them, and frame them (go get frames if I don’t have them). I’m gonna need display signs, coordinate uninstall/install with the people of each venue, drive, park, etc. Uninstalling the pieces doesn’t take very much time, but it’s still work. Installation usually takes longer when I’m doing a good ol’ nail on the wall method. You have to measure, level, and hang your pieces carefully. When I’m hanging about 12-ish pieces, it usually takes anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours. Now that’s a chunk of time! And that doesn’t even include all the prep time, which could take 2-6 hours.

If it wasn’t the holiday crazy time, I would’ve said yes. Like I said, I almost said yes to this. And I’m sure I would’ve managed it somehow had I said yes. But it’s been a little bit of a pattern lately, and I always get so overwhelmed and resentful and swear I’d never do that to myself again. So I said no and felt GOOD.

In order for me to know exactly how long my tasks take, I log my hours on Google calendar. I like having a documentation because I can’t hold that information in my head! It’s also helpful to track your progress over time, too. When I was working on a series of watercolor abstract paintings, I got quicker as I worked on more pieces e.g. 8 hours per piece to about 6.5-7 hours. So in the future, if I do a similar project, I can make a pretty accurate estimation of how long it will take to complete it.

With that said, though, 99% of the time, things take longer than I think. I need to remember that when I’m scheduling things. I try not to schedule things back to back and also schedule some extra buffer time just in case. And don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to clean up your art equipment, packaging and shipping your stuff, taking and editing photos, backing up your files etc. that’s related to our project! They add up.

2) How is your work going to be valued?

I was recently talking to a potter friend of mine about commission works. We both had a similar reaction about people coming to us with very specific request about what the piece should look like. It feels like they’re coming to you for the technical skills but not for your unique voice or the artistic expression. I’m tempted to charge more for these types of projects where clients have a lot of subjective or arbitrary art directions and want you to follow them exactly. The best kind of clients are ones that love anything and everything you do and pay you to create your best work for the project.

this.
this.

When I work with a client for a commission work, after getting all the initial information back, I talk to them about my creative process and how I use the One Concept Approach. 

With this particular process, you get all the relevant information and project goals at the beginning, then you go away and do your work and come back with one final piece for the client. No arbitrary revisions or input. This way, the client can focus on what they’re best at, which is knowing about their goals, and you can focus on what you’re best at, resulting in you providing your client with your best work.

When I heard this concept on Seanwes podcast, it blew my mind. Really?? This is OK? I mean I loved it. It totally shifted my belief about power and value I had as a creative professional. It’s not mean or stubborn. It’s saying: Hey, you came to me because I can create what you want. Let’s be on the same page about how that can happen most effectively for both of us.

Anyway, I do use this approach when I work with clients, and most of them have been totally OK with it. In one situation where we had a problem, it was because we had a miscommunication, and not because this particular approach was bad.

I’m a shameless idealist, so I would choose to turn down a job if the job/client requires me to compromise my values or process. Even if that means I need to get a day job again to pay my bills. And maybe you’re not as sensitive as I am to that aspect – and that’s OK as long as you have strategies to combat burn-out!

3) Ask your gut.

Above all else, your gut is the most effective tool to gauge whether you should say yes or no. Money or no money. Time or no time. You want to pay attention to that gut feeling. We all have it.

Unfortunately, many of us have trained ourselves not to listen to it or talk ourselves out of it because it’s not logical or you’re afraid of the consequences of saying no to something or someone.

Like you, I’ve said yes to many things I shouldn’t have. You know the moment you say yes, you regret it and feel the tight knots in your stomach. You put off working on the project as long as you can. You dread the whole process. You’ll get the project done because you have to, but you’re drained and resentful. Not very nice.

It can be scary to go with your gut especially when your head and heart are saying something else. But once you do, you’ll know that your gut is always right. When I decided to quit my day job cold-turkey, I was scared (= my heart’s voice). I didn’t think I was ready (= my head speaking). But my gut was telling me I needed to do it. So I did and haven’t regretted it once.

I do a gut check by imagining saying no to a project. If I feel light and relieved for not having that thing on my plate, then it’s probably not right for me. Maybe it’s not right because I don’t have the time. Maybe it’s not the kind of project I want to take on even if I had time for whatever reasons. You could also imagine saying yes to something and see how you feel. Focus on how you feel in your stomach, not in your head (=logical, rational voice) or heart (= emotions, fear, shame etc.). Your head and heart might try to sway you in a different direction by asking you, “But what about the money?” or “Oh but don’t you wanna have a good relationship with this person? Are you sure you want to say no? They might never ask you to do this again.”

But what’s your gut telling you?? Listen to it and see what happens!

And the thing is, even if you say yes to a wrong thing, it’s not going to be the end of the world. You wouldn’t be excited about it. You may have to pull long days and late nights and not have a day-off for several weeks. You may feel small because your client is micromanaging your creative process.

But you’ll learn from it. No experience is wasted no matter how sucky it is! That’s how I’d like to see life anyway.

I remember several years ago I was in a workshop about self-care, and the facilitator said to us that saying no to something else is saying yes to yourself.  A light bulb went on at that moment!

YES.

I want to say yes to myself more. Because if you don’t, nobody else is going to do that for you!

Take care and talk soon!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m so excited to let you know that I’m guest teaching in the Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals e-course hosted by Kiala Givehand in 2016! Give yourself a gift of art and creativity and learn with me this coming year ❤ Find out more and enroll here 🙂

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Can I coach you? (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week I shared here that I’ve been coaching other artists and helping them stay on track to achieve their big goals. My Creative Coaching service is still in a pilot stage, but I’m really loving it and am looking forward to taking on more clients in February 2016!

Today, I wanted to share some of my current clients’ experiences and give you a peek at what it’s like to work with me as a Creative Coach.  First of all, I want to thank my clients, Michelle and Sarah, for being so open and letting me share their experiences with you all!

So, a few months back when I was thinking about starting a Creative Coaching practice, I reached out to a couple of people whom I thought would be a good match. First person I reached out to was Michelle Greco (www.michellegreco.com). I reached out to Michelle because she’s been following my work on multiple platforms and had been really engaging and encouraging. She’s a poet, writer, and a photographer, and has been pursuing painting/drawing lately. I had a feeling she’d meet my “ideal client” profile and emailed her to see if she would want to work with me.

I got a very enthusiastic “YES” from her, and we’ve been having bi-weekly sessions on Skype since September.

hi Michelle!
hi Michelle!

Michelle, like many of us, has multiple passions and talents. She also has a demanding day job as a writing instructor and was having a challenge making time to dedicate to a meaningful daily creative practice.

In our first session, we narrowed down her goals to something reasonable yet challenging enough. Since she was struggling with keeping a consistent art practice at that time, we spent time problem-solving around that particular challenge. One of the roadblocks for Michelle was that she’d come home exhausted after work, and setting up her drawing/painting materials was just too much work.

So when she found the Paper app, she found a way to draw on her mobile devices without the hassle of setting up. She could spend as little as 2 minutes to create a quick doodle and post it on her Instagram. I could tell that was a big game-changer for her! Michelle also uses this productivity app to keep her motivated to accomplish different tasks daily and weekly. It has a note feature she uses to write down one or two things she’s grateful for each day as part of her “Practice Gratitude” habit. What a wonderful way to stay positive every day! 🙂

So I asked Michelle how our Creative Coaching work has been helping her achieve her goals, and here is what she had to say:

Yuko’s coaching has been helpful in several ways. The first is accountability. Up to this point, I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping a daily artful practice. Since September, though, I’ve only missed a handful of days, and even then, I catch up. I think this is largely in part because I know Yuko is looking out. Her likes and, especially, her comments have kept me motivated to keep creating because, if anything, I know at least one person will take notice if I don’t post. Her comments also help me gauge what catches the eyes of my followers and what styles really capture who I am as an artist.

Another very useful aspect of coaching has been reasonable and adaptive goal setting. At the end of our sessions, Yuko and I set goals for me to accomplish. They keep me focused while also being flexible enough so that if an original goal isn’t working, there is space in the plan for fine tuning. Yuko helps keep me in check too. For example, when I mentioned starting a podcast, her first question was a firm but open, “I want to ask are you sure you want to start a podcast when you already have quite a bit on your plate?” That’s something I normally wouldn’t ask myself, and it forced me to reevaluate why this particular project was important to me and how I could make it a sustainable practice.

Lastly, Yuko’s coaching has helped me see the fruits of keeping a steady creative practice. Over the past three or so months that she’s been guiding me in my creativity, I’ve started an e-mail prompt challenge (#MuseMoments), which has grown my newsletter list, been asked to present a lecture on the intersection of poetry and art, and had two pieces I created during my daily art practice accepted to a local gallery exhibit. I’m supercharged by these opportunities!

More importantly, however, I’m proud of myself and so grateful to Yuko because I now see that I can keep a daily practice and achieve a personal goal.

It’s been amazing to witness Michelle’s journey – with the right tool and additional accountability and support, her art practice has been very consistent, and I can tell she’s become more comfortable exploring art in her own way, too. She’s also started a podcast recently and has been creating new episode every week. I’m very happy she’s found multiple ways to express her creative talents so successfully! You can hear her talk about what her daily art practice has been like on this episode and her steps on accepting her art for what it is here. I really admire Michelle’s courage and generosity for sharing herself so openly with her listeners!

OK, so let me now introduce you to another person I’ve been working with! Sarah Golden from Maker Maker (http://www.sarahgolden.org) and I met in an online block printing class called Design, Carve, Print in January 2015. (By the way, I highly recommend this class if you’re interested in learning how to block print on fabric!!! Jen is an amazing artist and a great teacher.)

Sarah profile
here is Sarah!

Sarah and I have been internet friends since then, and I’ve been really inspired by her beautiful work and just how consistent she shows up for her creative practice. She prints her simple and beautiful motifs on fabric and turn it into accessories/eye candies you will fall in love with. She’s also a mom to adorable 2-year old twin girls, and I still don’t know fully how she manages all of that…!

© Sarah Golden, Maker Maker
© Sarah Golden, Maker Maker

I reached out to Sarah wondering if my Creative Coaching service could be helpful to push her creative business forward. By the way, I just wanna say that I wasn’t reaching out to people whom I thought were “less successful” or somehow struggling – I hand picked people who were already working hard for their goals and seemed open to learning and growth. That’s absolutely the number 1 prerequisite to success!

Anyway, I was delighted to get Sarah on board! When we met for the first time, we went over her goals and challenges. Sarah is a very talented artist and designer – and she’s also a strategic-thinker, who keeps her eyes and minds on her long-term business success. It’s an ideal balance for someone who runs a creative business. Her challenge was all of her short-term tasks and ideas were getting in a way of her focusing on her long-term projects. She had an overwhelming list of things to do, especially leading up to the holiday season, and didn’t have an effective way to prioritize her tasks.

We discussed urgency vs. importance of the tasks at hand, and I introduced her to the decision matrix I’ve used in the past.

olivergearing.com
olivergearing.com

You may have seen this tool before. If not, I totally recommend you incorporate it into your priority-setting activity! This article and this one give you more details on how to use the tool if you’re interested!

Sarah reported back to me later that this tool was extremely helpful in organizing her thoughts. Although she doesn’t pull this out every time she makes a decision, it gives her mind a little more space to sort things out so she doesn’t get overwhelmed.

For Sarah, what’s most helpful about working with me as her Creative Coach is to have a consistent person to talk things out with and to ask her questions. She’s been accessing other support and resources to grow her business both online and in a group setting. And when we meet, our time is intentionally focused on her and her business. I ask her questions because I’m truly curious to know more about what she’s been working on and how things are going. And by having her explain to me and digging even deeper, it gives her the clarity she’s been looking for. Sarah is always full of wonderful ideas, and after each session she feels lighter and is ready to move forward with more clarity.

Sarah’s been offered some pretty amazing opportunities lately as well, which I’m not able to share yet, and I’m so honored to be part of her creative journey! Be sure to follow her on social media and be inspired 🙂

Can I just say – I’m so lucky to get to work with these amazingly talented, smart, and hard-working people?? I said this in part 1 of this blog post last week, but I’m so privileged to be able to pursue my passions so wholeheartedly. Making art and helping people feed my soul like nothing else can. And doing more of what I love actually help other artists be inspired to achieve their dream goals? I can’t even handle it!!

I’m so looking forward to opening up my Creative Coaching service officially to new clients on February 1, 2016!! If you want a consistent one-one-one support that’s going to help you push your creative practice (whether professionally or as a personal goal) to the next level, be sure to sign up to receive updates!

On that note, I’m off to my mini-sabbatical this week! Woo hoo!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week! I’ll post a shorter sabbatical blog post next Sunday 🙂

Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko

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

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Hi!

I hope you enjoyed my interview with my friend and my accountability partner, Whitney Thoren, last week! It was nice for me to hear from her what her experience has been, and it also validated my reasons for having accountability meetings.

So, today you’re going to hear from my other (and original) accountability partner, Stefanie Robbins. Stef and I go way back. We were also co-workers at our old day job doing direct service for survivors/victims of domestic violence. We remained friends after she moved on to different things several years ago.  By the way, many people have told me I keep in touch with my old co-workers/friends very well. And it’s true 🙂 As adult, I don’t meet new people or make new friends very often, so ones I like I want to keep forever!

 

Earlier this year, I was itching to get an accountability partner. I’d been an avid listener of Seanwes podcast, and they talked a lot about accountability meetings. (Note: this episode focuses on why, how, and what of accountability partners if you want to learn more!)

I started thinking of who would be a good match for me. It needed to be someone I like and trust, someone who is working on creative goals, and our personalities have to work well together, too. And ideally, someone who lives nearby (I hate driving.)

And guess what? Stef met all of my accountability partner wish list!

So I began writing her an email asking if she’d be interested in being my accountability partner and meet regularly to check in on our goals. I was SO excited to reach out to her because I just knew our meetings were going to be awesome.

She responded to me with an interest, and we had our first meeting in March of this year. We’ve been meeting monthly since then. We typically meet at a coffee shop in our neighborhood and check in about how things are going and how we did with our goals. We support each other and help set goals for our next meeting.

I really appreciate her warm and friendly personality. She’s honest and kind. I also feel honored to be part of her support system because her music is so amazing and powerful! Every one should receive the gift of her music 🙂

I’m friends with both of my accountability partners, so we do talk about personal stuff, too. I feel I can support a person better if I have a bigger picture of what they’re going through outside of their career/creative goals. However, that’s more my personal preference, and it just works better that way with friends, so if you want to keep your accountability meetings more business, I think that works just fine, too.

OK, enough introduction from me!  Here is Stefanie!

Stef photo

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

Hi All! I am a mama, a musician, a therapist and each of these identities are front and center in my life right now. I have two children ages 5 & 9 and, as a family, we stay very engaged in our school community, Jewish community and neighborhood. I work half-time at a community mental health agency providing counseling to young people ages 5-22 and their families.

Since I was a child I was singing and making up songs. I started voice lessons at a young age, participated in choirs and musicals, attended a specialized performing arts high school and began University as a Music Theater Major. As I was “launching” into young adulthood I had a crisis of confidence (maybe it was pragmatism?) and stopped most avenues for performing that were familiar and had a structure I understood.

For a while, I dabbled in a bands, songwriting with friends, and “a Capella” over the next few years but nothing really stuck and filled the music (on a soul level) and I was aimless. Other parts of my life were blossoming at their own pace and, over all, going well – personal identity, career, a wonderful partner and marriage, house, kids – but something was deeply missing and it was music.

Something shifted in me after having my second child and I knew I needed to pursue my music goals and reach my own potential. The universe aligned and many of my fears and questions got the attention and answers needed to press on. I continue to do daily work on resistance and pushing through my doubts (some days are easier than others) and struggles and have found mountains of support from friends, family and a community of artists/musicians.

I completed my first EP “In the Sun” and am currently working on my first full-length album with the goal of recording in January 2016.

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

Yuko initiated the conversation about being creative accountability partners and a few things helped me reach the decision to say yes. First, being asked! That is a huge piece of the puzzle! I was inspired by Yuko’s courage to be an artist and because I know Yuko to be reliable and kind, so I felt it was safe yet there was still a little jump to trying something unfamiliar.

I was familiar with the idea of mentorship and have enlisted support of many more experienced musicians for guidance and advice. What was different about Yuko’s ideas is that it is a partnership. My expectations were that we could support one another in our individual goals and that when we listen and teach each other, we learn and apply it to our own stories as well.

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

Having accountability and specific, concrete steps toward meeting lofty goals has been incredibly helpful. I have set goals in the past but often left too much time in between the goal and the deadline. With this model, we meet monthly and set baby-steps toward an overall bigger goal. One example of a change I made because of this partnership is when I was approached to do a performance for a non-profit that would also help me raise money for my album production and I was afraid to say no and lose the opportunity EVEN THOUGH my schedule was packed with other shows that were taking a lot of time and energy that I needed.

Through the accountability partnership I learned to shift my ideas around timing – not doing everything NOW is ok – but looking at the ways I can move things to fit what I am capable of doing. I reached out to the person who asked me to perform and suggested we revisit the idea in the fall and that is what we did. It worked out and we are in conversations now about how we can work together.

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

The infusion of energy and intention around my music and goals is incredible. I may come in to a meeting thinking I have not done enough that month or that I am off track but the point of meeting is to explore what I HAVE done (and to celebrate that) and what barriers were in the way (mental, financial, health, etc.) for what I haven’t yet done.

I find it very pragmatic and goal-oriented but also validating and supportive of where I am now.

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

I believe the things to look for are a person who be consistent (monthly works for me, about 60-90 minutes), a person with non-judgmental approach, and an active listener, practical and lofty (able to hold both), some ability to be vulnerable and share their own stories and struggles, someone who is invested in their own goals and can relate to what the other may be experiencing.

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

Find someone who inspires you and approach them with the concept. You may be really surprised but many people are willing to be part of your support network if you ask.

And where can people find you?

Oooh! Self-promotion, yay! Uncomfortable! Necessary!

I have a website or I can connect with you on Facebook

Wonderful!! Thank you for taking the time to share with us! 

Do you have someone to check in about your goals? Find someone if you don’t! It’ll totally boost your motivation, and you can do the same for them too.

FYI – If you just can’t find someone in your community, I’m working on launching exciting new services to help provide on-going support and accountability to people pursuing their creative goals early 2016, so stay tuned!

Have a wonderful day!  See you next week.

xoxo Yuko

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

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Hey friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

150723_Whitney_Thoren_019
Hi Whitney! ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado, meet Whitney.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 And where can people find you?

You can find me at:

whitnums.com
@whitnums
linkedin.com/in/whitneythoren

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

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

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

Have a wonderful week, my friend ❤

xo Yuko

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

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Hello guys!

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

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

1) I created a new drawing tutorial.

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

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

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2) I cooked more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3)  I made art for fun.

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

Here are some of the drawings I made!

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

4) More friend/family hang out time

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

5) Veg out!

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

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

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

Have a wonderful week!

xoxo Yuko

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Gather your inspiration and references!

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

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A quick google images search for “fall leaves” returns lots and lots of pretty images.
And I found these pretties on a quick walk around my neighborhood.
And I found these pretties on a quick walk around my neighborhood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Experiment with layering different colors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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After two background layers.

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

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

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

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

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

Voilà!! And you’re done!!

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

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

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Or add interesting patterns to the leaves like this one:

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And this one is created entirely with markers:

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Possibilities are endless!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo Yuko

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Work Hard and Play Often

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Hello friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Watercolor abstract paintings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Sumi drawings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3) My botanical doodles  

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

Here are some of my recent botanical doodles:

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

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

I have just a few practical tips on doodling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Doodle every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you guys next week!

xoxo Yuko

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

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Hi guys!

I hope you had a nice week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And most importantly, I learned a lot about myself.

I leaned that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo Yuko

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

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Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my process:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sticky notes are great because you can move them around.

Subcategories and action items go under each category.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pile-o-post-its!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-care is so important guys!!

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

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

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

xoxo Yuko

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

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

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Hi guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

whidbey house
The view from the studio.

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

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

Here is an overview of my Retreat Day 1:

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

2:00pm – late lunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More sticky notes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a manifesto?  Your guiding principles?

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

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

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

Talk to you soon,

xoxo Yuko

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