I started blogging back in January 2014. I’ve posted pretty regularly ever since – at least weekly (except for sabbatical weeks), but from April 2014 to April 2015 daily for my 365 day happiness is project.
I like sharing my thoughts in writing.
I’m not a super verbal person, and writing allows me to examine and express myself more intentionally.
Writing has become a part of my everyday routine. In fact it’s the first thing I do in the morning after my short meditation practice.
When I don’t do it, I feel a little disoriented 😀
Anyway, I’ve never paid close attention to my blog stats before – but I got curious, so I checked which posts were most popular.
Here are the all time 5 posts that got the most views this year:
I see that you enjoy my tutorials and tool reviews a lot! That makes me happy because I enjoy teaching and sharing what I know 🙂
I used to do a lot of “self reflection-y” posts, too, and I’m glad you found some of those helpful.
I forgot how much work I used to put into my blog posts! There were lots of long-form articles and custom images.
It used to take me hours (like at least 4 hours) to complete a blog post. I’ve since been re-focusing my priorities and goals for my business, so you may have noticed my articles have become more short and sweet in the recent year.
I sometimes wonder if anybody’s reading my blog 😀 so it was nice to see that people in fact read them! He he.
Thanks for following along my journey! I’m always grateful for your support and encouragement.
I love teaching the class and get so inspired by all the beautiful student work!! Here is a fun picture from my last workshop… 🙂
I’ve been thinking about offering a workshop that’s similar but a little more accessible.
Though block printing tools and materials I use for the class are super easy to handle (no linocut or wood block because they’re tough for beginners), I think some students are still intimidated by the idea of carving a block.
First of all, this books is beautiful! Her work is amazing and often very intricate – but she shares step-by-step instructions on how to create your own stamps and blocks in a very user-friendly way.
I became interested in the art foam stamp making because it requires no carving and is great for beginners or those who just want to experiment with block printing.
So as soon as I got my book, I created my own stamps using art foam sheets and documented the process for you!
1. Sketch your design for the stamps.
I wanted to design something pretty to print on an A2 size greeting card (4.25″ x 5.5″), so I drew the frame that’s the size of the card in my sketchbook first. Bold and simple designs work really well for block printing and definitely easier for beginners.
I really liked one of my watercolor painting of camellias, so I sketched the design based on the artwork using a pencil.
2. Trace the design with pencil on a tracing paper.
3. Transfer the image on to the art foam sheet surface.
Put the tracing paper down with pencil side facing the art foam sheet. (I grabbed this art foam at a craft store.) The pack of art foams I got came in variety of colors, and I just used this blue one.
On the hindsight, I probably should’ve used a lighter colored foam sheet because it was hard to see the pencil lines on the blue sheet.
These art foam sheets are handy because it’s got adhesive on the back, and it makes it really easy to mount the pieces on the board later.
To transfer the image, you rub the tracing paper from the back with a spoon or a bone folder. Be careful not to make an indent on the foam sheet because that will show up when you start printing.
4. I MADE A MISTAKE HERE – You’re supposed to do step 5 first before cutting all the pieces out 😀
But I wasn’t following Andrea’s instructions carefully and cut all the pieces apart before adding the lines and details. It’s easier to add lines (essentially drawing on the foam sheet) when everything is on one sheet.
Anyway, do that first, and then you can cut out the pieces with scissors or an exacto knife.
5. Add lines and details to your stamps.
So make sure you do this first before cutting all the pieces out. As you can see, it’s not the end of the world if you reverse the process, but it’s definitely easier if you do the detailing before cutting them apart.
To add indented lines, you go over your drawing on the foam sheet using a tool with a sharp tip – in this project, I used a skewer. You can also use knitting needles, dried-up ball point pen, and other tools for making an indent on a foam surface.
When printing, the indented lines will not get inked and the flat surface will get the ink. Again, be careful not to make a mark with your fingers/nails where not intended. If you do, it will show up in your prints. When accident happens, though, I try to be flexible and incorporate it into my design somehow 🙂
These foam pieces look cool just by themselves, don’t they?
6. Mount your stamp pieces on a piece of plexiglass.
I got a piece of acrylic sheet at an art supply store and cut them down using my exacto trimmer – it sort of worked but totally shattered the edges of the plates and aren’t very pretty!!
You place the plexiglass cut to size (mine is 5.5″ w x 4.25″ h) over your design and peel the backing from the sheet and stick them on to the plate.
By mounting the pieces on to the plexiglass, it makes it easier to print the same design over and over, and you’re able to apply even pressure on to your stamps when printing.
Again, be careful not to make an indent on your foam pieces while sticking them on to the plexiglass.
Since I wanted to print my design in two colors (one color for flowers and another for the leaves), I’m creating a separate plate for just the leaves. I didn’t quite like the layout of my original drawing, so I’m shifting some leaves around here.
7. Two plates with the foam pieces are done!
8. Here is the test print I made using stamp pads.
To ink the plates, I lay the stamps on the table and coat the foam sheet surface evenly using the stamp pads.
Then I pick up the mounted stamps, lay the plate down straight on to the paper and apply pressure using the palm of my hand. I marked the corners of my plate on the paper so it’s easy to match up the two plates.
I used the red ink for the flowers and navy blue for the leaves. Pretty, yes ?
You can wash, pat dry and fine tune any of the details on the foam and print more until you’re happy with the result.
It was a pretty quick project. It probably took me about an hour or an hour and a half from start to finish? And clean-up is pretty easy as there was no paint rollers or plates to clean up!
I want to experiment and create more fun stamps to play with! 🙂 Hope you’ll give it a try!
p.s. I’m offering a foam stamp making workshop on February 4th in Seattle. If you’re curious, head on over to my website and learn more 🙂
I shared my tips on how to blog consistently in my last post. Today I want to show you the app I use to organize my editorial calendar and workflow.
Until recently, I’d never really used a formal organization system for my blog. When I was publishing a weekly blog, I’d just jot down my ideas on a notebook and moved things around on a paper to sort of organize them. It worked out fine, but since I increased it to 3 times a week, it became a little harder to manage, and I needed a better organization system.
So I did a little research and found Trello. Trello is a free project management app (you could also pay for added services) to help organize all types of projects. All the reviews I read said how easy it is to learn and use, and they also showed an example of people using it as their editorial calendar, so I decided to give it a try!
I’ve only been using Trello for about a month, but I really like it! They have tutorials and blog posts on tips and tools, and their product is pretty easy to use. I like the simple user interface and drag/drop function to move my items along the workflow.
I pretty much copied their example for setting up my editorial calendar and created my workflow like this:
Article Ideas –> To Write Next –> Writing –> Editing & Graphics –> Post & Promotion Scheduled –> Published
To come up with blog article ideas, I do a brainstorming occasionally and jot down ideas whenever I think of potential topics. I make a new card (which is like a sticky note you can write things and move around) in Trello under the list “Article Ideas” to keep them in one place.
You can add categories to each card (i.e. your virtual sticky note) if you want to. My general categories include themes like Products & Services, Tools & Product Review, Processes, Lifestyle, DIY, Art & Illustration, and Self-Care. You can see the list of categories (it’s called Labels here.)
I try to mix variety of topics to inspire and encourage people to live a fulfilling creative life.
To Write Next:
When I add potential blog topics to my list, I also assess if any of them are time sensitive or relevant to publish during a certain time period to promote an event or products.
For instance, when I was a guest Instagrammer for Sakura of America last month, I wanted to let my readers know about it right before it started so I wrote a blog post about it and published it the day before it started. Or I try to share behind the scenes look and work-in-progress of my new products and services as well so my audience learn the story behind my creations in a timely manner.
Other topics can be more free floating and flexible. I try to share recent works from my sketchbook regularly and write a review on tools and resources I love.
I try to rotate topic categories regularly so my readers can enjoy learning different types of things from my blog. So I might write an article about my favorite tools one day, and the next one might be about my recent drawings, and the next one can be more focused on self-help for artists.
Once I determined the timeliness of the articles, I move the cards with the most urgent due dates to “To Write Next” tab.
Then I start writing my first draft in WordPress.com. My first draft is very very informal.
I start with some kind of a working title. Sometimes it’s the final title, and often I change it depending on what my final article is like. This is also when I schedule the date and time for my blog to start saving. I just don’t want to publish my draft accidentally.
Anyway, I just start typing whatever comes to mind about a topic in no particular order.
I might just put down some words and phrases and keep going.
This short video where Seanwes shares his writing process was super inspiring and helpful. He says when you’re writing your draft, pretend you don’t have a back button on your keyboard and just keep typing.
I used to get stuck on small details and was trying to edit as I went when I first start writing. And since I switched to this method, I just get more contents down on my page a lot quicker.
Even though I’m not as hard core as he is about not deleting or correcting something as I go (I still fix typos as I see it), it helps to get ideas out of my head and keep going. And as I get my thoughts out of my head on to the page, I think of more things to say and it makes my contents richer.
Some articles that are more contents-focused are naturally longer-form, and others like my sketchbook round-ups are more visual focused and usually short form.
Editing & Graphics:
Once I’m done with my draft, I normally come back to it a day later or so. It helps me to see my writing with fresh eyes and mind and helps with the editing process.
In this phase, I correct mistakes, typos, add or delete things, insert links where necessary, change orders, explain things differently, and try to make it flow better in general.
This is where I usually create or find images to use for the blog as well.
If it’s more content-heavy post, I normally create a new title image. I come up with a concept that represents the message of the article or create a handlettering piece that matches the title. I try to spend no more than 2 hours for creating the title image from start to finish.
If I’m writing a tutorial or tools review, I take screenshots or photos of the tool after writing the draft. Oftentimes, I realize I need more images for the article as I edit, so might do more photoshoots later.
Once I have the images, I edit them on Photoshop and upload them on to the WordPress media library to use in my posts.
And then, I go to the preview mode and read the article on the webpage. I often notice new mistakes when I’m reading it in the Preview mode. So I go back and forth between the preview mode and the draft page to fix mistakes and anything that doesn’t flow very well.
I repeat this process a few times.
I also test all the links in the preview mode to make sure they work. Nothing more frustrating than a broken link!
Post & Promotion Scheduled:
Once everything looks good, I create and schedule a post about the blog article on my social media, namely Facebook and Twitter.
I set the schedule for the blog post on WordPress when I start writing so I don’t accidentally publish it immediately as I write. But if I change my mind about the publishing date and time, I could change it here or later.
I copy the blog shortlink, which WordPress creates for you or you can use services like Bitly to shorten it. Otherwise, the link to your blog article can be super long and cumbersome.
I come up with a little blurb about the blog article to post on each social media platform so my audience has some ideas about what the blog is about. I also use one of the images (usually the title image) from the post and manually upload them on to each social media post. I’d like for my audience to see different images for each post rather than seeing the same old blog banner all the time as it’s kind of boring 😀
I’ve tried to use WordPress’ publicize feature, which automatically shares the post on connected social media accounts, but it was a little glitchy for me, mainly with the images not showing correctly or at all. I got tired of it not working as expected and that’s why I started scheduling the social media post separately manually. It was a long time ago, so maybe now it works fine. I just haven’t tried it for a while.
For my Facebook page (not my personal page), I just use their built-in schedule function.
For Twitter, I use Tweetdeck to schedule my posts. It was recommended by a friend, and I like it. It’s simple and easy to use. My only pet peeves would be that once I schedule a post, I can’t edit it? Maybe I’m missing something here, but only option I see is “delete.” So I end up deleting a post and re-creating another one if I needed to edit it. Which is not super awesome.
For Instagram, since I can’t schedule the actual post beforehand, I save the featured image on to my Photo app on my iPhone so it’s easily accessible when it’s ready to be posted.
And when the time comes, WordPress will publish your post at a scheduled time! Hooray!!
It’s satisfying to move my card to the Published column on my editorial calendar 🙂 I should probably empty them regularly as it’s piling up pretty quickly.
I’m still new at using this tool and having an editorial calendar and am happy to share more as I learn the tool better!