Category Archives: Digital

Happy Friday + Randomness


It’s been quiet around here, which means things are bustling in the background. I have much to share, but one of the highlights of last week was a Little Kunoichi event. It was my last scheduled event and was held at a beautiful Japanese gift shop/gallery called KOBO. There may be some more events in the future, but that particular book reading capped what I considered the launch season. My book has been out for almost five months, can you believe it? I just found out that someone’s seen it in Madagascar!!! What??

At any rate, I’ve learned some notable tidbits from doing these events:

1. I am the worst promoter ever – I actually ran into some friends right before the event and didn’t even invite them because I was so timid about it. I’ve been tsk-tsking myself for days.

2. And when you don’t promote your own events, not many people show up (average number of attendees: 5, not including my own family members). Cozy and intimate events, these are. I was all gung ho and invited everyone and their distant second cousins to the launch party back in May, and about 100 people showed up for that event — just goes to show you that I can do it if I set my mind to it.

3. And when not many people show up, you don’t sell very many books.

I’m going to have to work on this. I’m much more comfortable in front of people now, which has been a lovely side bonus from the series of book readings I’ve done, and I’ve really beefed up my illustrating-on-the-fly skills (I offered custom illos for some of the events). I can whip up a watercolor dolphin in five minutes flat. I really love creating little paintings, especially for kids.

I’ve also been including a fun presentation about how the book came to fruition, and the part that seems to make people perk up is the cover options we went through. I’ve collaged together the versions that I presented up there, and the one of the lower left corner was the winner, but with a caveat: the colors needed to be brighter. The background and ninja uniform then went through various hue iterations, and it was fascinating to see the business side of developing a cover. It is, despite the general pleas to never judge a book by its cover, the most important element. Everyone took it very seriously. Which is pretty funny when talking about ninja girls and pet bunnies.

Alright, must go focus on the elusive sorcery that is book-making. Will be back some time next week!!

How do these weeks zoom?
Could’ve sworn it was Monday
but no, weekend time…

Happy Friday, and happy weekend to all!


Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! A truly random bit of info: almost every Sunday, M has what we call “DDT” or Daddy Daughter Time. He started this tradition when K was about a year old, and takes her out on a date each week. Their time together ranges in activity: bike riding or a scoop of ice cream or just lounging around. It’s a win-win all around because while they bond, I get to sneak in some extra work (or fun) time. And almost every Sunday, I go to the same coffee shop and every once in a while, there is a little girl enjoying her own DDT. She’s about three-years-old with big sparkly eyes and a little bob, and she goes around handing out stickers to all the cafe patrons. I’ve gotten about six stickers to date and I stick them in my journal. So charming.


K is super into making jokes and we thought this was a keeper:

Q: Why are singers always in charge of fights?

A: Because they have the opera hand.


Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

There’s no school next week
Thanksgiving is upon us
We might eat Chinese*

*A few years ago, we went to a Chinese restaurant for turkey day because I didn’t have any time to cook anything (and we have no family in Seattle), and it turned out to be surprisingly festive and fun. We just may have a repeat performance since I’m in deadline mode…



Children’s Book Process (My Version) + Time Off


This is a portion of one of the cover options for my children’s book that’s coming out next April. Things are still getting tweaked and finalized so I’ll wait a while to reveal more of the actual book — it’s funny, it takes such a long time for a book to get published, many of the aspects start to get hazy for me. The final cover ended up looking very different from what you see above, but this was my favorite concept I presented. Although I was gung ho about this design, I do love how the final version turned out.

At this point, I’ve submitted pretty much all of my illustrations and today, I thought I would share the process I went through from the beginning to now. Mostly it’s because I’m already forgetting details (I had to refer back to a lot of documents and correspondences for this post) and it would be a helpful reference for me. I should point out that my experience may not be typical; I don’t have an agent and I worked on both the story and illustrations, something that is not de rigueur in the children’s book publishing world from what I understand. I assume the structure and sequence of events are a little different with every book, and the one I’m working on now is proving to be a completely different process.

The progression from a seedling idea to completed manuscript/art was incredibly enjoyable throughout. My editor is so sweet, and I particularly appreciated that she sent me a little care package filled with teas and chocolates for extra fortification during one of the deadline periods. I love small gestures of considerateness like that.

It’s rather text heavy today – I tried to create illustrations on the train back to Seattle, but the swaying resulted in motion sickness so I had to stop. So here’s how it’s been shaking out for me, for the children’s book:

Step 1: August + September 2013 // Brainstorm of ideas

I mentioned my serendipitous encounter with my editor before, and after a brief initial meeting with her, I took some time and came up with about fifteen book concepts with a short description for each idea. It turned out that my top choice was also her top choice, so that part was easy.

Step 2: October + November 2013 // The Storyboard + Proposal

Since this would be my first book, my editor encouraged me to create a storyboard to give the publisher a better sense of the storyline/flow of images. I was provided the layout and number of pages for the storyboard, so it was essentially drawing and writing out the entire book in miniature form. Once I completed the storyboard along with color illustration examples, my editor took it to her team to pitch the book.

Step 3: December 2013 // The Book Deal

Fortuitously, the book proposal was quickly accepted and I then negotiated terms, which included the advance payment amount, royalty percentages, the deadlines (how long it would take me to complete the book and milestone dates), and design elements such as size of book, whether I wanted a dust jacket, type of paper, etc. I agreed to complete the book in six months and it was just the right amount of time. This is the part that an agent would usually handle.

The contract was drafted and sent to me. Once a contract is signed though, it takes a while for the check to be issued. It was about a month after signing the contract that I received the first half of the advance. The second half is issued upon completion of the book.

Step 4: February + March 2014 // Cover Art Sketches + Detailed Sketches + Manuscript

I designed six different cover options for review. These went through a round of revisions, and I believe I ended up creating about 10 cover versions total. Since the cover gets included in catalogs for book buyers, it needs to be dealt with upfront. It isn’t set in stone at this stage, and ultimately we changed the cover a lot.

I also needed to provide detailed sketches of the rest of the book in full size for approval. The first couple of months are usually spent on developing the storyboard and the detailed sketches, but since I’d already done the storyboard — which was approved with little changes — this step was pretty effortless. I leisurely worked on the sketches over a two-week period. I also finalized the text with my editor, though we continued to fiddle with it for months.

Step 5: May + June 2014 // Final Art

Based on the detailed sketches that were approved, it was now time for me to work on the final art. I had created all my sketches digitally, but I hand-painted the final illustrations. I LOVED this part. It was so gratifying to watch the images come to life from the greyscale sketches. This portion took me about three weeks. Because my book is quite small, the illustration phase was pretty quick. Had the book been larger in dimension, I would have needed to spend more time on the art.

Step 6: July + August 2014 // Revisions/Updates/Miscellaneous illustrations

This is the phase I’m currently in. Everything has been submitted except for the back cover art, but I’m waiting on specifications for that. I’ve received the final cover mock-up from the design department (with my name in the lower right corner!! So exciting!) and am waiting for the rest of the book with text formatted from the design department so I can go over it with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also painted illustrations for endpapers (the section that is glued to the inner part of the cover), title page, and dedication segment.

Step 7: September 2014 // Book Goes to Print!


Step 8: April 2015 // Available for Sale

I’m a little fuzzy on what happens between printing the book and making it available for sale, but these are the dates in the calendar for now.

Wow. 19 months from idea to public release. For someone used to hitting a button for instant publishing, it sounds inconceivably long. But almost there!! Sort of. Thrilling nonetheless.


I’m in the throes of book #2, and although I’ve done my level best to keep up with everything going on and sort of managing, I’ve had to sit myself down and (yet again) give myself a stern talking to about my tendency to go overboard. Did you know that I was trying to launch an etsy shop too? I thought it would be cute to open it on K’s birthday, July 30th. Yep, that’s tomorrow. Let’s all laugh together about that one. I’m starting to feel familiar symptoms of my illness again, and it’s entirely my fault. In order to remain on schedule for the book and to keep excessive stress at bay, I’m so bummed but I’m going to have to take some time off from this here blog that I love to work on so much. My attention feels too divided and I need all the focus I can get…I’m letting go of a lot of stuff. For example, we’ll be celebrating K’s 8th birthday tomorrow but there may be no Macgyver dress (super sad face here) and the cupcakes will be store-bought (secretly happy face here since my handmade cupcakes aren’t always winners). I hope to be back Monday, August 11th with a fun post — maybe, just maybe, if I make some serious headway this week, I’ll be back next Monday. Either way, I’ll miss you!



Me-Made-May 2014


I started sewing clothes for myself on a fairly regular basis last May. It’s been almost a full year, and I’ve made loads of clothes. Back then, I held a secret aspiration to participate in Me-Made-May in a year’s time, and now that event is starting tomorrow! I think I’m ready, and I just signed up. So excited. I’ve been wanting to participate for years.

I’ve noticed that on many sewing blogs, folks often talk about how they constantly make these beautiful clothes that just never get worn because they’re just not everyday appropriate or don’t actually mesh with their style or they don’t work with other items in the closet. When I first dabbled in stitching my own clothes back in 2008 or so, I found myself making fancy dress after fancy dress even though I hated wearing dresses (I now love them, but you know what I mean). I stopped sewing for myself when I went back to work shortly before 2009 and didn’t pick it up again until last year. This time around, I was determined to sew practical clothes. Funnily enough, even though I think I’ve been pretty good about staying true to my own personal style and focusing on “wearable” items, I still bypass a vast majority of the clothes that I make when morning rolls around. It’s perplexing.

When I posted the jacket that I adore so much earlier this week, I realized that I don’t feel that deep love for too many of the clothes I make. And because I can just power up my sewing machine and make something shiny and new and crow about the skills I’ve developed or the stash-busing I’m accomplishing, I haven’t been really thinking too deeply about how best to build a collection of clothing that truly works for my body, my lifestyle, and my aesthetics. Addressing these types of issues that often crop up with creating your own clothes, the always instructional and insightful Coletterie put forth the Wardrobe Architect series.

I have a feeling that the Wardrobe Architect brilliance combined with the practice of wearing my handmade clothes daily through Me-Made-May will help me focus and allow me to better navigate the still foggy terrain of creating a wardrobe that I love.  To get a better sense of all the clothes I’ve slaved over in the last year, I painted each item, and whoa, I made 46 in total (not counting the infinity scarf). I obviously can’t seem to stay away from the colors blue and grey, which isn’t really a problem for me, but seeing them all together like this makes me want to explore a broader range of colors…

I have more thoughts on this as I’ve been mulling over this for a while, but for now I promise not to bombard you with photos of myself in my handmade wardrobe day in and day out this upcoming month.

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Last week, I found a note K had written, crumpled and forgotten in a corner. I love it to pieces and its sweetness bowls me over. It inspired me to digitally paint a bluejay, but I think her rendition is about a jillion times better:


*That last line is “I can hear my neighbor playing music” – gah, it kills me.


Have a spectacular weekend, friends! Yesterday was the first day of spring. Can you believe it?

O cherry blossoms
flittering amid the winds
a carpet of pink

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! More digital painting fun: I got this visual dictionary of plants from the library and have been admiring the shapes of leaves. So many variations exist, and I love examining the details.


On the way to piano lessons yesterday:

Mama! I absolutely want to be a singer when I grow up no matter how much stage fright I get. I love it! Listen to this song I made up:

“We want to be wild and freeeeeee // Please don’t bother meeeeeee….”*

*one of the first songs that K composed which we think would be a runaway hit went something like this: “go away, go away, never, ever, come back…”. Judging from the lyrics, I wonder if she’s feeling oppressed?


Just a very short note today to wish you the loveliest weekend. Cheers!

Deadlines! Deadlines! Ack.
Why am I painting plant leaves?
Must get back to work


Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! With daylight savings beginning this weekend, it feels like summer will be rapidly approaching and this, of course, turns my thoughts to vacation planning. We don’t actually take very many vacations. Mostly it’s because M’s work schedule is unpredictable and this makes it tricky to plan trips. One of loveliest family vacations we took was to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island with M’s parents a few years ago. We rented a cottage that K called the “trip house”, and the atmosphere as a whole was a lot more upscale than we’re comfortable with — it sort of felt like the Pacific Northwest version of the Hamptons. Despite the nagging sense that I wasn’t clad in appropriate designer brands, it was wonderful to spend time truly relaxing with loved ones. During one of our treks, we explored a nearby beach and encountered a small red fox. It was a scrawny thing, wild and famished. I found it beautiful: the shaggy auburn fur against the grey backdrop of the San Juan straits. K wanted to pet it, but we feared rabies and held her hand down. The fox gazed at us for a few moments, and disappointed that food scraps weren’t forthcoming, it turned and loped away, its tail held high with dignity. I thought of that fox while drawing the one above.

The trip house looked a little like this, but I think it was yellow. Mmmmm….vacation….



M and K continue to come up with weird nicknames for each other:

K: I love you, Buffalo Burger.

M: I love you too, Buffalo Chips.


Have a fantastic weekend, friends! Here in Seattle, cherry blossoms are blooming.

We’ll lose an hour
This means longer days to come
So so excited


Alternative Exercise


I’ve been slowly incorporating yoga into my exercise routine. I can’t say that I’m a complete convert yet and K likes to mock me while I attempt the different poses (“You’re doing it wrong, Mommy!” screams my yoga coach from the sidelines. It does dampen the serenity a bit), but I’m definitely warming up to the whole concept. When I made my 2014 list of non-resolutions, my aim was to do yoga at least once a week. Surprisingly, except for one week, I’ve kept it up. Some lovely readers recommended various apps and dvds, so I’ve been trying different ones out. I’ve been rotating this app, and this one, and this series on dvds. So far, I’m liking the flexibility of the Yoga Studio app the best (some are as short as 15 minutes), but all of them have many merits. Trudie Styler‘s methods are supposed to promote weight loss, which would be a nice side benefit, but I can’t vouch for whether it’s working since my main goals are to increase flexibility and bring in some calmness into my crazy schedule with yoga. Barbara Benagh’s series is set on a beautiful beach, and there’s a lot of blanket folding involved. The sequence of poses meant for addressing insomnia actually put me to sleep! I’m thoroughly enjoying that I can just roll out my mat in the comfort of my own home, and that I can stop whenever I want to. No pressure! No fear of people judging my bare feet! It’s wonderful. Thank you for the recommendations, Xenia, Marit and June!


After I dropped off K at school yesterday, I saw a woman running while juggling. Juggling! In the rain, no less. I loved it. I wouldn’t have the coordination to manage such complex maneuvers, but the woman’s innovative spirit was a highlight in my day.


And this reminded me that I finally made juggling balls for K. After much beseeching on K’s part, I pulled out some pleather from my stash and made some metallic ones for Valentine’s Day. I made five, but when I went in search for them to take photos, I could only find two. They’ve been in heavy use since I made them, though again, not much juggling seems to happen. They’ve been tossed around in some makeshift game K came up with her friends involving plastic golf clubs. But here are the two, and I wish I could find the silver ones that I sewed up perfectly. I don’t say this lightly friends, since I’ve found these juggling balls challenging to get just right. No fault of the impeccable Oliver + S instructions, but completely due to my usual slapdash approach to sewing.

The pleather is super thin and from here. I can’t find it on their site, but I have the copper, nickel and silver colorways. It also came in a silvery blue, which I should have snagged. Soft as butter and effortless to sew, this is synthetic magic. I want to make more things with this great fake leather.

Are you a yoga enthusiast? I’m always open to more suggestions! And would you consider juggling while jogging?

And Then There Was Love

constellation-loveIt’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and I have love on the mind. Let me start by saying that I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t have my first kiss or boyfriend until I was seventeen (I somehow managed to miss out on the requisite pre-adolescent spin-the-bottle games). The other stuff came much, much, much later.

I was angst-y in my twenties, and I’m certain that I emitted a “stay away from me” vibe for most of that decade. It was terribly confusing to me that I sailed through my prime dating years without anything resembling a real boyfriend. My friends were befuddled as well and tried to set me up with their male buddies. I adamantly refused, citing extreme pickiness. Of course, I had a short-term relationship or two, but they were of the forced variety and I found true amor elusive.


Then one day, as my twenties were coming to a close, I had a revelation. I discovered that I had this soundtrack in my mind that kept repeating, “no one is ever going to love me.” It was so ingrained, I hadn’t noticed it nor had I realized how I was making it come true. I don’t know how it started, but it was there all right. How uncomfortable to see self-fulfilling prophecies in action. How sad. So I did something that was radical for me: I decided to throw away my impossible criteria for a mate, and just be open. If someone was foolish enough to ask me out with all my baggage and crazy self-talks, I would go out with him, dammit. I figured that at the very least, I’ll have a good yarn to spin.

And you know what? It was nuts. I clearly had a neon, blinking sign announcing “available” on my forehead, and guys started to ask me out on dates non-stop. One man actually ran after me in the streets of San Francisco, panting out a request for a get together. I said yes. And I finally agreed to be set up by those well-meaning friends (disaster, disaster-er, and disaster-est). I even took the plunge and initiated the asking on a few occasions. There was the investment banker, the lawyer, the writer, the sous chef (a fabulous tale I’ll have to share some time). The New Yorker illustrator, several businessmen, the co-worker, the academic, the buddhist who decided he was gay after dating me — my resolve faltered a bit after that one. There was a particularly sweet, much younger engineer who was so romantic and effusive in his sentiments for me. I thought he might be the ONE. Even a woman invited me out to a non-platonic rendezvous, and I considered it, but I decided that would be misleading since I’m decidedly heterosexual.

It’s a phase I think of as my “Rom Com period gone wrong”. The comedy of errors kept my friends in stitches during the recaps. I spent one date riding the bus aimlessly with an artist even angst-ier than I was. Think Before Sunrise with less attractive people and really boring, totally unphilosophical conversations. Another man kept telling me I had beautiful ankles.


These men were far more than their job titles, of course, but it was the way I thought of them. In most cases, I went out on only one date with each man. Chemistry is a pretty obvious thing, and not a lot of sparks happened. Over a period of about one year, I sampled amazing food at various restaurants and went to more bars and movies than I had in all the prior years combined, and though these dates were often uncomfortable, they were also undoubtedly fun. I suppose I should have been more cautious — given my uninhibited free-wheeling policy, one or more of them could have turned out to be a murderer. That would not have been fun.

In the midst of my harem-building, I met M. It’s one of my favorite stories. I was at my regular coffee shop haunt in San Francisco, writing in my journal as usual. It was a bustling and busy Sunday at the cafe, and I sat cozily next to a young-ish couple. After about an hour so, the woman asked if I would be around for awhile. “This guy,” she said, “he asked us to watch his laptop while he made some phone calls, but he’s been gone forever. Would you mind watching it?” I agreed, and they left. The laptop sat unattended for several minutes longer, and then the guy came back. He slid into the seat next to me looking annoyed that the couple was gone. Clad in a bright red floral hawaiian shirt over a yellow Che Guevera t-shirt, he was a muscular, good-looking man. Ken doll on steroids. I immediately dismissed him as batting for the other team; besides, I favored skinny, awkward, Jewish men in general, so I went back to my journal after informing him that I had been guarding his laptop. My suspicions were confirmed when one of the baristas, a friend of mine who happened to also be gay, solicitously started to wipe Hawaiian Shirt’s table, hitting on him in an oh-so-obvious way.


As it goes in coffee shops, Hawaiian Shirt and I began to talk, and I found out that he was an art major turned graphic designer turned start-up business owner opening up a new office in S.F., expanding his Seattle-based operations. This was during the dot-com era and everyone was opening offices everywhere. He was funny, but in a sarcastic way I wasn’t accustomed to. He talked ceaselessly of his business partner, who I assumed to be his boyfriend. So when he asked me for my phone number, my first thought was, “oh hooray, we’ll go shopping together.” I shopped a lot with my gay BFFs, and this being San Francisco, I had many. Imagine my surprise when we had our coffee date a week later. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is — in a rather convoluted way — a love letter to my husband. Who knows if our encounter was destiny or some star-crossed affair? Most likely not. All I know is that if I hadn’t decided to recklessly accept all incoming invitations at that very specific time in my life, I wouldn’t have learned what it feels like to unconditionally love and be loved. To see beyond the assumptions, to leap! Because that’s the life we’ve created together: one based on jumping into the unknown and trusting that we’ll turn out all right.

I hope you, too, have someone like that. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, but it could be a friend, a child (whether biological or adopted), a mentor. It doesn’t even have to be one person. I’m lucky to have several unbelievably kind people in my day-to-day that fill me up with goodness. Because love comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it?

P.S. I’m liking my quick and dirty illustrations of constellations (practicing away at my digital painting!). Obviously, the love one is made up…

P.P.S Sewing is slow-going these days. I hope to have fun projects to share next week!

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! This week I’ve been diving in full force and working on my book, and I’ve just made a happy discovery. I love painting with gouache, but with the kinds of illustrations I want to create I need a lot of control and the flexibility to change things on the fly. The beauty of traditional painting is the lovely unintentional effects that can happen. The not so beautiful part is the permanence of a painted line when mistakes are made — no undo button! Enter digital watercolor painting. Can you tell which one was done digitally above? Okay, you can probably tell (it’s the one on the right), but pretty darn close, no? It’s my first attempt at digital watercolor painting, so things can only improve going forward.

As I was sketching, I realized that watercolor brushes are available in Photoshop and after watching hours and hours of youtube videos (what did we do before youtube?), I’m starting to get the hang of it. It’s so much fun!!! And the best part: no mess, no accidental water spillage, no washing of brushes, and — this one happens way too often — no dipping brushes in my tea. Definitely my kind of painting. There are tons of free brushes available for download, and I’ll try to assemble a list of brushes and tutorials after I’ve tried several out, more as a reference for myself.


How about this one? Can you tell which one is digital? I’ll let you guess…


Secret Valentine Exchangers! Gifts should be shipped by today, if at all possible. I’m getting so excited to see all the teaser photos in the Flickr Pool. The always astute (and hilarious) Lightning McStitch requested a list of all participants, and I’m working on it. Not everyone has a blog, but I hope all participants will be able to post photos of received gifts on Valentine’s Day and I will feature the photos here on the blog (for some international shipping, the gifts may a take a bit longer to arrive). Fun!


K on my cooking:

Mama, I love everything you cook! Except for this thing today. Blegh. What IS it*??

* It was a miso-ginger noodle soup I made up. And that first sentence is a lie — she dislikes almost everything I cook unless it involves copious amounts of cheese!



Have a relaxing weekend, all! I’m off to make myself a piping hot cup of tea and practice more digital painting…

Brrrr….such arctic temps
Seattle is not immune
to polar vortex

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