My new art collection, Eat a Rainbow, will launch exactly two weeks from today on Sunday May 1!
Woo hoo! I’m very excited 🙂
By the way, if you’ve missed the previous behind the scenes sneak previews, you can check them out here and here.
Today, I want to introduce you to my new notecards!
Just like my new art prints, the notecards come in 4 new designs: Eat a Rainbow, Pepper, Tomato, and Summer Berry.
These are going to be available as single card or as a set. I mean how could you choose, right?
I love pretty notecards. Whenever I’m at a craft show or visiting a cute gift shop on vacation, I pick up a few. They’re like a tiny gift of art that is also practical.
But I also admit that I have piles of pretty notecards I have accumulated over the years.
If you’re thinking – what do I do with more notecards? Fear not.
I’ve compiled 6 creative ways you can use these watercolor art notecards this summer!
1. Start a new tradition and send your handwritten season’s greetings to your friends and family during the summer.
Do you send your family and friends greeting cards during the winter holidays? Well, it’s been almost 6 months, isn’t it?
How would they feel if they received an unexpected season’s greetings from you this summer?
I would think happy, delighted, and loved.
In Japan there is a custom to send a letter or a greeting card to friends and family during the summer months to wish them well – or more like “I hope you’re surviving the super hot and humid summer season OK.” If you ever lived or visited there in summer, you know how miserable it gets… 😀
I love traditions like that where it’s not related to any particular holidays. You simply reach out and say “I hope your summer is going well!”
Help them cool down with these refreshing watercolor art notecards!
2. It’s a perfect summer birthday card.
Each of the notecards feature my colorful and refreshing drawings of summer’s bounty and makes a perfect summer birthday card!
These cards are printed on a cotton savoy card stock and feel very soft and luxurious. It can totally be enjoyed as a framed mini-art after they read your thoughtful birthday message 🙂
Bonus if your birthday people are also into gardening, farmers’ markets, cooking, and, of course, eating good food ❤
3. Write a thank you note to your neighbor who brings you her homemade blueberry jam every summer.
Are you one of the lucky people who have that special neighbor who loves to make jam with fresh, seasonal berries AND share them with you?? Homemade blueberry jam is my favorite, by the way!
Write a thank you note in my Summer Berry notecard and tell her how much you appreciate the delicious gift!
(Hint: she’ll probably bring you more goodies if you do :))
4. Your tomatoes are doing a little too well and you don’t know what to do with all of your bounty?? Invite your friends over for a tomato canning party!
I have a friend who plants lots and lots (I mean LOTS) of tomato plants every year, and she turns them into delicious tomato sauce and cans them.
If you’re a canner, you know it is a “process.” You need to clean, peel, chop, measure, season, and cook your veggies or fruits. You prepare your jars and lids and can them in boiling water in a hot kitchen.
I love canning but it can be quite time consuming and labor intensive.
It’d be a lot more fun if you have your friends over and enjoy the process while catching up on your summer happenings.
Make it a special event by sending them my Tomato notecard as a handwritten invitation!
5. Send your family an illustrated report of what’s growing in your garden.
If you live in a similar climate to Seattle and have a vegetable garden, you’re probably growing many things (if not all!) that are illustrated on my Eat a Rainbow notecard.
Perhaps your parents are retired in Hawaii, or your brother lives in New Zealand. These everyday veggies we take for granted may be quite interesting to those who are not familiar.
Show and tell what you’re growing in your garden this summer with your loved ones living far away.
6. Invite your friends to a garden potluck party!
Are you planning an outdoor potluck, wedding, birthday, anniversary, or retirement party this summer? Get your guests excited about the fun you’re about to have by sending an invite with these notecards!
The colorful and fresh vegetables and berries on these notecards scream garden party.
Send your invitations early before everyone’s calendar starts filling up this summer 🙂
Invitations have already gone out? (You, organized you!) You can send your guests these notecards as a thank you card later for making your party special.
However you decide to use these notecards, you’re sure gonna make them (and you!) smile 🙂
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 :))
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:
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 🙂
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
As someone who thrive in structure and organization, I set two goals for my retreat.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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 ❤
So how can you be “yourself” on social media and other platforms when you feel insecure? What’s so special about me?
My life is pretty uneventful. I have a day job at a non-profit organization. I do art when I’m not at my day job. I live with my nerdy husband, one cat, and two budgie parakeets. I’m an introvert and a home body. I love good sci-fi shows on Netflix. I crochet. I don’t drink or go dancing. I drive a 2000 Honda Civic. Quality alone time is pure gold. My life does not exactly scream glamour.
I’m also a practical person. Naturally, I see flaws and tend to be critical. It sometimes gets in a way of me being a kind/compassionate/thoughtful person I’d like to be. Shall I say I tend to be “glass-half-empty” kind of a person? It is more so when I’m feeling stressed.
As for my art, I like to make simple, child-like drawings. I didn’t go to art school. I feel insecure about it when I see other people’s works that are more dignified or meticulous.
If you ask me what I think of myself on a really bad day, my answer would be something like this: My life is boring. I’m a boring person. I’m anti-social and critical. And I draw like a kid, so I’m not a real artist.
Imagine if I had a 365 Day Unhappiness Project and drew about things that sucked every day for 365 days. What would that look like? I would probably find an audience for it, but what impact would it have on me or people who followed my work? Not a very happy one I imagine.
Aren’t you glad I chose happiness instead?
Working on the 365 Day Happiness Project was a good mental training. To find my material, I was scanning for things that made me happy no matter how small it was. Yes I still complained and whined about things that didn’t go well, but I had to acknowledge that at least one thing made me happy every day and project it onto the world. My glass was a little fuller.
Because I wasn’t winning a lottery or saving puppies from wild fire every day (or ever), I drew about small happiness for 365 days.
When I think about the heroes I follow, they all have something in common. They work hard to produce very high quality work and also admit having flaws and struggles. And they work through their struggles and share their growth process with others. Their courage and willingness to be vulnerable inspire me to no end.
I connect with their work because I feel connected to who they are. Although my art career is nowhere near theirs, I can relate to their struggles. To me, they are real people just like you and me. I want people to feel like they have the connection to real me, too.
So how do you project your authentic self to the world in a way that’s inspiring to others?
First, you want to stop the tape that plays negative messages in your head. I’m not talking about the constructive criticisms you receive from people you trust because it’s important to listen to them (especially if the same theme comes up repeatedly) and improve upon them. I’m talking about the negative things you tell yourself that are only true in your head.
And try to find ways to re-frame it in a more compassionate way. For example, I could change my unhelpful internal messages to more positive ones:
My life is boring. –> My life is stable and peaceful. I work hard to maintain the stability and take calculated risks. I’m surrounded by caring and responsible people.
I’m anti-social. –> I love being an introvert. I love people and seek deep connection and engagement. I’m creative and imaginative. I’m emotionally independent.
I’m critical. –> I pay attention to details. I’m analytical and notice ways to improve things.
My drawings look like kids’ art. –> Kids are the most creative people on earth. I’m glad I haven’t lost touch with the innate creativity and sense of wonder.
I’m not a real artist. –> I express myself through drawings and paintings. That makes me an artist. People appreciate what I create and pay me to create art that is uniquely me. I’m providing value through my art. I love being an artist!
Isn’t it a lot nicer?
There is absolutely no benefits to being mean to yourself. Who you are and who you want to be are usually not that far apart. They might just be wearing a different outfit, or your lenses may be a bit out of focus.
To be able to show up as yourself and inspire others, you first need to be OK with who you are. Push the pause button when you catch yourself putting yourself down. Replace those unhelpful messages with something more loving. It’s a skill, and you will get better at it as you practice. Fake it till you believe it. Go at your own pace.
I know this is going to be a life-long work for me. Be vulnerable. Be real. Be graceful with my flaws.
Thank you for reading! Have a good week, friends 🙂
I hope you had a lovely week. Welcome to my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post No. 2!
Have you ever felt like your creative juice had stopped flowing and don’t know if or when it’s coming back? Felt like you aren’t a “real” artist because you aren’t inspired to draw, paint, write, cook, or make something all the time? Do you think all the successful creative people wake up every morning full of inspiration and motivation to create?
I used to believe it too. But you know what? That is not how it actually works.
No matter how passionate you are, the inspiration and motivation to create don’t always come naturally or freely. Creation takes work. It’s about having your own unique voice and experiences and using your skills to turn them into something others can see, touch, taste, hear, smell, feel, and appreciate.
The creative process can be painful at times: you may feel frustration, self-doubt, or disappointment. You have a vision but what you create doesn’t quite cut it. You feel even less inspired because what you’ve just created is far from inspiring.
You may have seen/heard this quote from Ira Glass before. Every time I look at it, I feel humble and reassured. Everyone feels this way, and it is totally OK.
If you love making things just for fun, it is totally cool to wait until the inspiration hits you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I know many talented artists who choose not to pursue a career as an artist and are completely happy making art for fun.
But If you really want to turn your passion into a thriving career, then you need to create even when you’re not inspired.
When I made a public commitment to start my 365 day Happiness is project, I knew it was the kick in the pants I needed to keep a daily creative practice going. On some nights, after I came home exhausted from my day job, I would eat dinner, do the dishes, and sit down at my desk staring at the blank page in my sketchbook without an inspiration. I would browse the internet hoping an inspiration would hit and end up wasting over an hour reading my friends’ updates on facebook. On other days, I would have a vision but couldn’t execute it right. I would draw, and it would look like crap. I would whine and moan and feel like a fraud drawing about happiness. Sometimes I felt like I was squeezing a lemon that had been squeezed 100 times to get just one more drop.
At the end of each day, I still managed to find something to feel happy about and made and shared a drawing every day for 365 days. And that was so rewarding and worth all the pain and lost sleep!
Are you struggling to create every day? Do you need a little push to get you going? Here are some suggestions!
Make your commitment public. Tell your friends and family. Announce it to your followers on social media. This has been the most effective method for me so far.
Take advantage of the “free” time you already have. Doodle something while waiting for your drink at a coffee shop. Create your post-it art collection while listening to a webinar. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. You just want the creative activity to be part of your everyday life.
Make your goal realistic. Maybe making an elaborate painting every day isn’t feasible but doing a 15 minute doodle is. Consistency is more important than having a fancy goal you’re going to quit after 3 days.
Set perimeters and limits for your creative project. When you have total freedom, you may feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. Give yourself perimeters like “only draw with black ink” or “draw a cat wearing a suit in 30 different ways”. After all, creativity is most required when you’re put in a box! Ask someone to give you a prompt if that’s helpful. My non-artistic husband is full of interesting prompts when I need them.
Participate in creative challenges ! – there are many challenges out there – I found this article about Instagram Challenges, and Spoonflower has a weekly design contest. Speaking of which, I’m currently participating in a 30 Day Sketch Challenge on Instagram (#MakeWithMe with @janinecrum) It’s nice to have a group of folks who are working on the same goal, and it’s always inspiring to see different styles of art people create!
Clarify the connection between your daily practice and your long term goal. I’m realizing this more and more. When you know how your daily practice (e.g. daily happiness doodle) is helping you achieve your big goal (e.g. be a full-time working artist), it becomes more meaningful and engaging for you.
Remember, your goal should be about creating something on a regular basis, if not daily, even if it doesn’t look perfect or nobody “likes” it. When you make a bunch of work, chances are, you will find more inspirations from your own work. It could be the 10th drawing of an apple that turns out just right that makes you want to create a series of drawings of tree fruits. Or it could be that someone telling you your daily sketch challenge inspired them to do the same. You just never know until you do it!
Tell me what helps you create when you’re not in a mood. We all have those days.
I look forward to continuing with my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post next Sunday!