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.
In doodling, you might find a medium you like or discover a composition you haven’t thought about. Because there is no mistake in doodling (YES!), you can try all sorts of color combinations and styles, too. I sometimes start doodling and don’t like what I draw. But then I look at it later and re-work it and end up liking the results.
By doodling every day, you exercise your creative muscles every day. You’re building a creative muscle memory of how to get into your relaxed yet focused mode. And that is the optimal state you want to be in to do your best work. It’s kind of like meditation.The more you practice being present, the easier it gets to access that part of you.
Because my doodles often represent what makes my work unique and special, I find inspiration for most of my future work from my doodles.
Here are some of my doodles that turned into actual work/products:
1) Watercolor abstract paintings
When my husband is not traveling for work, we usually watch a couple of shows on Netflix during and after dinner. I usually doodle while we’re watching (or listening, more accurately) something in the evening. I like doodling sort of abstract motifs while watching something because it doesn’t require the precision and care that more representational drawings might require. If it’s wonky, it’s OK.
Anyway, I doodled a series of small watercolor abstract paintings over a course of several days. Just loose, fun, and flowy experiments.
But I really liked how they turned out, so I turned them into postcards! I used Moo Printfinity service so I could print multiple designs without committing to printing a larger number of each. I’m very happy with the quality of their postcards!
I made the postcards for my monthly art subscription customers for September. And I showed it to the manager of my neighborhood art gallery, and now they carry them in their gift shop among other goodies I made. These are also available for purchase here.
I also showed them to the owner of Geraldine’s Counter, one of the best diners in Seattle :), and he’s agreed to show my work there during the month of October.
I managed to finish 8 pieces to show. And here is me and a few of my artwork!
I can also turn these new paintings into postcards, prints, phone cases etc. not to mention selling the originals. Possible multiple income streams from artwork that came out of fun doodle projects!
2) Sumi drawings
I like drawing with sumi ink and brush. Like so many other Japanese kids who grew up in Japan, I took Japanese calligraphy lessons every week. Having a nice handwriting is highly valued over there. We’d sit up straight on a little cushion on the floor and practice writing on a rice paper with a brush dipped in sumi ink.
It’s such a zen experience for a kid! Writing with ink and a brush really forces you to concentrate. And the sumi ink smells really good…
I took an art class a couple of years ago, and in one of the classes, we drew with sumi ink and brush. That was so much fun! I thought sumi ink was for serious writing only. But no, you can also be free and fun.
Anyway, I started incorporating sumi ink in doodles and casual sketches too. I just love how rich the black is. And the smell reminds me of the quietness in calligraphy lessons and my childhood in Japan.
One day I was doodling teacups and teapots in sumi ink. I just like drawing everyday things and wanted to see how they’d look as ink drawings. Well, I loved how they turned out so much that I sent them to the print shop right away!
Some of you know that I participated in the August sketch challenge with Janine Crum #makewithme – I’d receive a prompt for a drawing every morning and would share it with the community. On day 5, I had this brilliant idea of starting a sketch in sumi ink for the rest of August.
As I was looking at my growing sumi drawing collection, I thought, why not turn them into a calendar!? I’ve been wanting to do a calendar for a while, so it was perfect! I’ve created several new drawings to add to it, and my 2016 calendar is available on my Etsy shop!
3) My botanical doodles
Flowers and plants are my most favorite subjects to draw. They’re so perfect and break my heart a little bit. They’re my go-to motifs when I don’t want to think too much about what to doodle.
Here are some of my recent botanical doodles:
They’re so much fun to make, and can’t you just imagine them as fabric or wrapping paper designs? That’s totally on my list to do 🙂
See how creative play time isn’t just for play? When you work as an artist, there is no clear boundary between work and play. When you create art for yourself or just for fun, it’s still helping your art practice and professional growth, too.
I have just a few practical tips on doodling:
1) I use sketchbooks that are good quality but not very expensive.
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!
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.
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 :))
Happy August! As I shared a couple of weeks ago, I quit my regular day job this past Thursday! WOO HOO! I’d worked for the organization for almost 15 years… I know, LONG TIME. It’s one of the biggest life transitions I’ve ever experienced, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I don’t work there any more. I’ll share more about it in my future blog posts!!
OK, so, I have a confession to make. When I set a goal of publishing a new blog post every Sunday, I had also planned on having at least 3 posts in a queue. I wanted to make sure I can consistently post every week. It would have been better to have more in a queue, but 3 was all I could manage before I published my first post. I was consistently writing 1-2 posts per week on my days off from my day job so I could stay ahead.
And then July happened. July was such a whirlwind! I gave my notice at my day job at the end of June. My organization was going through many transitions already, so as their HR Manager, I was already pretty busy. Add my own transition to that mix. It got pretty overwhelming pretty quick.
My mom was also visiting from Japan during that time. Granted she was not staying with us, I spent a good chunk of time with her for two weeks playing tour guide and an interpreter.
Let me just say my mom is a very sweet lady. Since we live so far apart, we don’t get to see each other very often. And though I really appreciate spending time with her, it does get a little tiring to hang out with your parent for an extended time.
Between work craziness and mom’s visit, I was swamped. My stress level got pretty high, and I was feeling drained. I had a custom illustration deadline as well on top of that. And an art show. My plate was pretty full!
When I’m under stress, I revert back to what’s more comfortable and familiar. It takes more energy to stretch and go out of your comfort zone when you’re stressed.
Writing requires more focus and energy from me than, say, drawing. Although I’m getting better at it as I write more regularly, it is a muscle and I need to be intentionally using that muscle to keep getting better.
I got behind on my writing commitment in July. My blog was still being published every Sunday, but I wasn’t adding anything new to the queue. I was dipping into my “savings” if you will. It didn’t feel good, and I was getting anxious. I had a little voice telling me all kinds of “shoulds” – “I know you are tired, but you should stay up and write.” or “you should say no to hanging out with your mom today. You haven’t written any blog posts this week!”
It was a lose-lose situation. Eventually, I was able to see that my priority was to enjoy my time with mom and to be present at my job. After all, I had built up the reserve for situations like this. I made peace with the fact that I wasn’t writing as regularly as I wanted and let it go.
So I’m finishing up this post a day before it’s scheduled to be published. I’m happy it will go out at the regular time. I will be upping my writing goals for a while until I have extra posts in my queue again. A word of advice for anyone wanting to start publishing blogs regularly – have a bunch in a queue before you start publishing 🙂
Thank you for letting me share that – I think it’s important to share the challenges as well as successes. It’s never an easy road all the time. And if it is, you’re probably not growing or learning very much.
Today I want to talk about a common disease called “Comparing Yourself with Strangers on the Internet Syndrome.” Does it sound familiar? Maybe you’ve gotten the diagnosis before. Don’t worry, you’re not weird if you got it. Study shows that majority of people who have access to the internet get it at some point in their lives. (Note: OK, I don’t know about a study, but I’m sure it’s accurate.)
Symptoms include, but not limited to:
Consistently spending more time than you had planned on the internet oogling beautiful images other people put out in the name of “research” or to find an “inspiration.”
Feeling inspired by those beautiful images at first and then start wondering why your work doesn’t look like that.
Feeling small because you don’t have as many followers and cool client list and a book deal.
Feeling depressed and anxious that you’re never gonna make it. Also feeling down because you know you should be making your own things but now wasted hours oogling other people’s stuff online.
Continuing to click to see more stuff because you don’t think it’s gonna make any difference if you stop now.
Hey, I’ve been there, too. It is so easy to do especially if you can’t find a motivation or inspiration to create.
People you admire on the internet seem to have everything together, always putting out awesome work and working with fabulous clients, right? You think, gosh, they’re so talented. They must’ve been discovered by a high-power art director one day, and work keeps coming in just like that. And they have nice hair and work in a beautiful, minimalist art studio filled with plenty of natural light. It seems like just a luck of the draw. What chance do I have?
But is it really just a luck of the draw?
I’ve read, listened to, and talked to many artists who I consider very successful to know that “overnight success” happens to only a few people. Yes natural talent gives advantages to people, but it’s not a guarantee for success in and of itself. Just like any other skills, you need to practice, work hard, and persist to take your creative skills and business to the next level.
For instance, I’ve been admiring and following the works of Sean McCabe and Lisa Congdon for a while now. They’re both prolific with their creation and business and commercially very successful. Neither of them went to an art school or business school to learn what they do. And they didn’t get “discovered” and became famous overnight. They followed their passion and worked very, very, very hard for many years before anyone knew who they were.
I remember in one of her interviews Lisa was talking about how people thought she was this overnight success, but it was just that not many people knew who she was for several years before she had her initial success as an artist in 2008 although he was already putting out her work consistently.
The best work of composers was after their 10th year: 497 of the 500 most popular symphonies were made after the composer’s 10th year of work.
When you’re oogling other people’s work and feeling depressed, you’re likely looking at a body of work of someone who had been putting many hours of practice and reached a level you haven’t reached yet. It doesn’t mean they haven’t been where you are before. It is likely that they weren’t very good when they started out. It means that they didn’t stop creating when nobody noticed their work. Potentially for a very long time.
My 365 Day Happiness Project gave me a structure to create every day for a year. Some days, I struggled to find the inspiration to draw. I’ve been sucked into the unproductive, self-loathing internet hell many times.
But I continued creating because I had to. I did it because I told people I was going to do it and didn’t want to be a flake. Inspiration or not, I needed to put my work out there every day. Every day, I had to make a choice: Do I waste hours not reaching my goal, or do I conjure up the energy to do one thing to help me become a better artist?
Because I had to squeeze in my art time around my day job, I also needed to be practical. I had many days where I stayed up until 11 or 12 to work on my drawing because I spent more time than I should clicking away and looking at other people’s work. I don’t function very well without a good night sleep, so that taught me a lesson to make the right choice.
If you’re struggling with the “Comparing Yourself with Strangers on the Internet Syndrome,” these tips may help:
Try to remember that everyone starts somewhere. While it’s OK to admire the works of the masters, know that they probably started somewhere similar to where you are and got where they are by working hard for a long time without a significant recognition.
Also remind yourself that you don’t know everything other people go through to become successful. Making assumptions or feeling jealous of other people’s situations do not help you reach your goals.
Instead, compare where you are now to where you were a year ago. 3 years ago. Or 5 years ago. How did you improve? How much time and energy have you been spending practicing your skills?
Create a time in your day to focus. A lot of people do 30-minute or even 15-minute drawing a day. Set a timer. Put your cell phone in the airplane mode. Turn off your push notifications and close your internet browser tabs. Arrange with your family so they know this is your alone focused time.
When you notice you’re comparing yourself with others and feeling bad, take a breath. There is nothing wrong with being self-reflective and wanting to improve. But if it’s keeping you from creating your own thing and appreciating it, then it’s not helping you. It may help to jot down positive things you or others have said about your work so you can come back to it whenever you need a little encouragement.
I hope this post was helpful to you. I still struggle with this and think it comes and goes for many people too.
My next blog will be the last of the Happiness Project Reflection series! I want to sum up the benefits and share all the great things that have come out of the project 🙂 Stay tuned!
I will be slowly adjusting to my new life as a full-time artist (!!) in the next few months to come. I want to document my processes as much as I can so I can share with you my challenges and successes. If you’re hoping to quit your day job (or significantly reduce the hours) and pursue your passion full-time some day, follow along 🙂
And don’t forget to sign up for my new e-newsletter here! I have many exciting news to share and would love for you to hear it ❤
I’ve tried my hands in block printing before with linocut because I really like the look of it. But I found it too hard to carve and did not have too much fun. So my linocut supplies sit in a box on a shelf…
Anyway, I’ve been following Jen’s work for a while. Her work is so amazingly beautiful! I especially loved her 52 Weeks of Printmaking on her blog last year. Her designs are so charming, and I also love the colors she uses.
Here is a couple of my favorites of Jen’s:
What an eye candy!!!
Needless to say, I was thrilled when I learned she was offering an e-course, Design, Carve, Print in February and signed up right away!
It was a recorded video course and was super easy to follow and fun. Jen also created a Facebook group for the students, so we were able to ask questions live and got the support as we moved along.
There was plenty of time to design, carve, and print during this interactive two-day course. I was thinking of printing on tea towels, so my inspiration came from something kitchen-y. So I carved a teapot, an espresso maker, and cups in my interpretation of mid century modern/vintage style, which is one of my favorite looks.
I printed on an extra large flour sack tea towels from Beverly’s. They’re really soft and absorbent. They were shipped to my monthly art subscription customers in March. One of my customers described it as her “kitchen security blanket.” 🙂
Jen is a wonderful teacher, and I loved “meeting” other students as well. Our Facebook group is open forever, so we continue to share our work and support each other. So inspiring!
Block printed goods will be part of the future offerings on my Etsy shop for sure!! I will keep you posted as things progress 🙂
Do you want to experience the joy of making your own printed fabric? Good news! Jen is offering another Design, Carve, Print e-course on May 16-17. You could learn at your own pace and don’t need to have any prior experience. She’s offering an early bird registration price ($99) until April 15. Don’t miss your opportunity and sign up here! You will love it!
I hope your 2015 is off to a good start. I had very nice holidays and am feeling energized for another year full of adventures in creativity!
Many of you know that I’m pursuing my dream of making a living doing what I love, i.e. being an illustrator, while working at my non-profit day job. This year, my goal is to “do more.” I tend to be a “planning” person and prefer to know what to expect and the details before I act on something. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can sometimes keep me from “doing” it. Doing nothing may feel “safe,” but it would not help me achieve my goal.
Last spring, I started my 365 day happiness drawing challenge to practice art and putting myself out there every day. I will continue the practice until I hit the 365 day mark! I also wanted to have a new project which will challenge me to grow in different ways.
As I mentioned in my blog post before the New Year, I’m launching a new subscription service this year!! I’m calling it a “Gift of Happiness.” It is available to purchase now on my Etsy store!
Here is FAQ on this new offering!
Q: What is Gift of Happiness subscription?
A: It is a year-long subscription to receive something from me every month from January through December 2015.
Q: What do I get?
A: All kinds of things! It could be my art prints, a pack of greeting cards, a pretty tea towel, a mug, an original drawing, etc. I would also love to send you a personalized postcard or a note when I’m traveling! I don’t have a specific plan yet because it also depends on what I’m inspired to create throughout the year.
↓Sneak peek for January – you will receive an 8×10 print of “Terrarium Dream”
Q: What benefits do I get by subscribing to this service?
A: There are many 🙂 For one, you will have something to look forward to every month – you will receive adorable, unique, and high-quality product you can use or give away as a gift (last minute birthday party invite anyone?). By getting an annual subscription, you’re also getting a discount on individual products – this is my way of saying thank you for supporting an independent artist 🙂
Q: Can I sign up after January?
A: Yes, as long as there is a spot open! If you subscribe later, you will receive past months’ items, or equivalent, grouped with your first month’s shipping.
Q: How many spots are available for 2015?
A: Because of the personalized nature of this service, I’m limiting this service to 20 spots this year.
Q: What if I really like what I get and want to order more?
A: Most of the items will be available to purchase individually on my Etsy shop!
Q: How much is the 12-month subscription?
A: $215 for a 12-month subscription including free US shipping! It is also available to ship overseas with additional shipping fee. You will receive a thank you gift if you purchase by Friday January 9, 2015!
*I’m also offering a limited number of bi-monthly subscription (Jan, Mar, May, Jul, Sept, Nov) for $120. Please see the listing here.
Q. Can I purchase the subscription as a gift?
A: Absolutely! Please add a note when you purchase the subscription and let me know their name and shipping address.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Looking forward to connecting with you more in the coming year!
I’m back! I had a great time visiting family and friends in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, no snow, though… But it was still pretty nice 🙂 Hope everyone’s holiday season is going well.
2014 was a good year. It was the year where I did a lot of thinking about my goals and dreams and finally realized that to prioritize pursuing my dream of becoming a full-time illustrator, I needed to say “no” to some things to make room. Although saying no to things you like and enjoy can be difficult, it gives me more energy and motivation to keep working on my big goal.
I feel energized and excited about the new year and projects I have brewing! Gift of Happiness is one of the new projects I’m excited about, and I can’t wait to share more in the few days! You can also sign up here to hear more about it!
Take care, friends. I will see you at my daily happiness post a little later today!
How’re you doing? By the time this post goes out, I will have eaten lots of Christmas-y meals and cookies and visiting with a bunch of families and friends in snowy (I hope!) Midwest. I won’t be home for a few more days to resume my daily happiness posts but wanted to drop you a line to say hi! Hi 🙂
I also wanted to let you know that I’m launching a new “subscription” service in 2015. It’s kind of like “Yuko Club” where you receive a product from me, like a print of my art, a pack of greeting cards, a household item (e.g. tea towel, mug, coasters etc!), or a postcard from an exotic (or not so exotic) location with a personal message once a month for 12 months! You will receive an artful surprise every month – to give away as a gift or to keep for yourself 🙂 I can’t tell you how excited I am to be creating new art and products for you!!!
I will have this service available on my Etsy shop in early January. Because of the nature of the service, it’s going to be limited to 20 spots for 2015. It will be $215 for a 12-month subscription with free U.S. shipping! (It will be available to friends in overseas with shipping fee.) If you’d like to be notified by email when the listing becomes available, please sign up here!
I am really looking forward to connecting with you in new ways in the new year! Thank you again for your support of my work this year!
See you on January 1 when my daily happiness posts will return 🙂 Have a safe and happy New Year!
When this post goes out, I will be in Wisconsin spending time with my in-laws! I’m not going to be posting my daily “Happiness is” drawings for a week because there is no internet (!) and the cell reception is really bad in the house we’re staying. But I have pre-scheduled a couple of posts to hold you over!
Today I wanted to tell you how grateful I am to all of you who have been following and supporting my work! It is hard to believe it’s been over 8 months since I started my daily drawing project about happiness! Practice of noticing and acknowledging something that makes me happy every day has been really great, not to mention practicing art every day. I also really enjoy hearing from you and knowing that my little happiness drawings are relatable to many of you 🙂
As a small gesture of my gratitude for your support, I’ve created a pretty desktop wallpaper with simple botanical motif! Download my free desktop wallpaper here!
Ok, if you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas to you! I will be eating lots of food and hopefully playing in the snow!!
I will post another vacation post on Sunday 12/28. Take care until then!