Category Archives: Illustration

Happy Friday + Randomness

birdsandbees

Happy Friday! “Mama?” K asked the other day, “How is it that I have both your DNA and Daddy’s DNA? I don’t get it.” I gulped. At her eight-year wellness check during the summer, our pediatrician warned me that the questions will start. Not MY little girl, I thought smugly, I still have all the time in the world. But here we are, just two months after the warning, and K has been peppering me with some variation of this question almost every day.

So I ordered a book recommended by the pediatrician. Because let’s face it, I know myself and I will end up using weird, untechnical cute-sounding terminology (e.g. “weenis”) and completely botch up the explanation. I am utterly unprepared and unqualified for sex education for kids. My parents never even tried to broach the topic with me. I remember when I was about 11 and had some vague notion of reproduction, I genuinely wondered whether people took off their underwear. A German friend tells me that it’s such a non-issue in her native country, kids know all about the birds and the bees practically from birth. Ditto with a Dutch friend. It makes me want to move to Europe to soak in that blase attitude toward a subject that causes me to squirm when discussed publicly (being of Asian-descent raised by immigrant parents in the US exacerbates this, I think — I have never seen my parents hug, much less kiss. In their homeland, people bow to each other and celibacy is a hip and happening trend, for crying out loud).

The book arrived yesterday so I’m working up the courage to go through it with K this weekend. So awkward. Then again, if you think I’m bad, you should see M. He won’t touch the topic with a 1000-foot pole and has insisted I would be better at enlightening K. He’s got German roots so I don’t know what his excuse is.

Anyway. I’m subsisting on cough drops to avoid the usual bronchial infection I tend to get with every cold and I’m going to go binge-watch Game of Thrones season 3 (thanks for reminding me of the show, Greta!) as I build up my nerve to dive into the it’s-not-the-stork story with K.

Oh, the winner of the giveaway is Lacey, who studied linguistics. Congrats! I absolutely loved reading everyone’s favorite classes, areas of study, etc. So fun!

**************************

Have an un-awkward, relaxing weekend, all!

No Monday Outfit
We’re switching thing up next week
Stay tuned for Friday*

*I’m featuring a cool indie pattern on Friday – I think you’ll like it!

 

2014 Fall Sewing Plans

2014-fall-sewing-plans

It’s like clockwork. The frenetic start of the school year eases into a predictable routine, the air tingles with promises of cozy sweater weather, and then, M or K comes home with a cold and BAM, I’m laid flat on my back, sniffling and coughing up a lung. Due to my wimpy immune system, even the mildest cold tends to hit me hard.

I’m determined to not get sucked into the illness vortex this time (last year I was fighting one ailment after another from November to February), so I’ve been slowing things down dramatically. Yesterday, I did nothing. Okay, I dragged myself to Trader Joe’s and ran a couple of errands as I always do on Tuesdays, but otherwise, zilch. And yes, I drew that illustration, but that took less time than you would imagine. Alright, alright, I may have cut out a pattern that I thought I might be able to sew up for today, but I stopped myself from proceeding beyond tracing out the pieces when the world started spinning.

My mom told me during her last visit in August that when I was a baby, I would work so hard on everything that she used to worry that I had some kind of compulsive disorder. Take walking, for example. At 9 months, I was so intent on walking, I would go at it full force, fall flat on my face, turn a lurid and frightening shade of crimson, get up with renewed vigor and do it over. Sometimes I would fall backwards and hit my head and knock myself out. And yet, I would continue relentlessly and without breaks. It seems to explain a lot about my current spotty brain functionality. It also makes me wonder why my mom didn’t babyproof a little better if I was concussing myself on a regular basis.

You’d think that I would have mastered walking quicker than most due to my persistence, but my mom said she couldn’t believe how long it took me to get the hang of it (months). When my younger brother came along and casually sauntered a few days after his ninth month without much of a stumble, my fanatical determination seemed doubly worrisome to my mom. The funny thing is, my brother and I have approached everything in much the same way our whole lives — effortlessly for him, unglamorously full of prolonged effort for me.

I’m not sure what made me think of that; wandering thoughts may be a symptom of this head cold. Anyway, I did have enough energy to start planning my fall sewing in a more structured way. Unlike last year’s out-of-control plan that I didn’t even come close to executing, this year, I have only three sewing projects and one super easy knitting venture on the docket: A wool zip-up vest, a plaid shirt (a must for Fall, no?), a pair of skinny jeans and a (gasp) cashmere knitted scarf. I’m going for quality vs. quantity, folks. I know I poo-poo’d knitting before, but I think I can manage a big rectangle…at least I hope I can. I’ll be using this book for the vest, but I’m researching patterns for the others. I’ve gotten some good skinny jeans recs from the Monday post, and I’m digging deeper. I’ll update this post with pattern candidates later!

For now, I’m off to brew up some Indian spice herbal tea with a touch of manuka honey and almond milk and will call it a day.

Third Grade!

2014-firstdayofschool1

Today is the day. “I’m so nervous and excited, Mommy,” K has been telling me every few hours for the last week. Third grade! Somehow, this seems major in a way even kindergarten wasn’t. Time is stampeding away, and I am helpless and doddering in its wake. But the start of school brings with it the sensation of a fresh sojourn, renewed energy and extra time. I for one, could use all three.

2014-firstdayofschool2

I made a dress. And last night I furiously worked on a cardigan she requested, because the weather’s been capricious lately. She’s equipped with a backpack from the GAP, a bento-style lunch box, aqua sneakers. We have a tradition to measure her height on the first day of school, and I can’t wait to see how much she’s grown.

I get so emotional on the first day of school…maybe even more than K.

P.S. I’ll show you the dress next week! K picked out the fabric and everything.

Happy Friday + Randomness

kaizen1

Happy Friday! Lately, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make sure I do all of the things that I know put me in a good mood. Aimless painting is one of those things. I grab a piece of paper, and just paint whatever I see or am thinking about.

kaizen3I appear to think about clothes a lot. And flowers.

I have to confess that I’m not loving the Mon-Wed-Fri blog schedule. It’s throwing me off and I don’t know why. I used to get a tingly, energized feeling every day as I pondered, “what will I write/draw/sew/photograph for tomorrow?” The daily schedule (with a little breathing room on the weekends) kept me on my toes, forcing me to think of variety. I thought that by reducing the days, I would focus on quality versus quantity and free up much needed time, but I feel like I’m becoming too predictable and rote. I’m having difficulty describing it — I love routine, and clearly don’t mind doing the same thing over and over, but I don’t like things to feel stale and stuck. Sometimes when I’m writing my posts, I pause and wonder, “Wait, have I written this before?” Is this what a rut is?

kaizen2

Recently I found out about this Japanese word, kaizen. I must have been listening to a podcast, or maybe I read an article online. It translates to “good change” but is more about incremental improvements. Baby steps. Slow and steady progress. It’s a bit like beginner’s mind but with a sense of purpose to continually improve. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the word, and realized that I’ve been standing still mentally — worse, I’ve been a hamster running on an ever-dizzying circular treadmill, going nowhere. Not that it should always be about striving and goal-setting and achievements, but what I thrive on is learning new skills, being okay with mistakes and just plodding along reveling in the process, chortling to myself at my ridiculousness the whole time.

This second book I’m working on is hard for me. Not in the way it’s hard to go to yoga or eat a salad instead of pizza — something you know that if you do it, you’ll be better off. Hard in a Oh-God-I’m-totally-sucking-at-this-and-feel-like-I’m-rehashing-blog-content-and-they’re-going-to-ask-for-my-advance-back-except-I’ve-already-spent-it-on-my-supplies-and-summer-camps-and-maybe-I-should-use-a-pseudonym sort of way. Every time I hint that this whole book business isn’t all kumbaya, I feel horrible and that I ought to be extolling how lucky I am and how great it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a dream actualized, but I’ve done and am doing a few things I don’t recommend for anyone else.

For one, I agreed to produce something in a timeframe that I knew was super tight, ignoring that I’m not twenty anymore when I could churn out 50-page papers without sleeping for days. Starting in the summer was also a terrible move – camps aren’t cheap. Then my perfectionist self started to weasel itself into everything I did, and the joy of creating steadily leaked out, leaving an engulfing sense of ennui. I began comparing myself to everyone who’s ever written a book, and let me tell you, that’s a buzz kill in every way. I was riddled with this need to prove myself and then my brain would shut down from feeling inadequate. Basically, I’m taking myself way too seriously. And that’s never a good idea.

Luckily, my editor seems to have telepathic powers and offered me an extension on my first major deadline and a little extra time in general. I was so grateful as I was panicking that I was going to turn in something I wasn’t at all proud of, and that would have sent me over the edge. I glommed onto this gift of time and decided I needed a major shift. I had to get back into my kaizen mode again, which is what made blogging and sewing and everything else so fun and gratifying. The thing is, when I’m disgruntled while making something, I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be fit for no one.

kaizen4

So I’ve been enjoying the last days of summer with my family and friends, hanging out in coffee shops writing, painting/drawing, reading, exercising, sewing and organizing. This little reference sheet is something I’ve been yearning to do for months. I cut out the little labels that the watercolor pans come wrapped in, stuck them on cold press paper and added little painted splotches so I can match up the colors with their names. It pleases me that it’s a little wonky and uneven, but it’s functional and (I think) beautiful. The set itself is gorgeous. The watercolor half pans come in a wooden case with a ceramic mixing dish. I feel extra fancy when painting with this set filled with a whopping 70 colors.

kaizen5

After neglecting my tolerations list for several months, I finally tackled quite a few items this week: fully rearranged and streamlined the master bedroom closet; K and I finished painting the living room trim that I left half-undone 12 months (!!) ago. Ticking these items off of my list makes me breathe easier, inches life forward in small measured improvements.

I’m working on the book too, and not just cavorting in the sunlight or busying myself with freewheeling and unessential projects, but I can tell that pairing the book-making with tried-n-true activities that add a dose of kaizen is helping me slowly but surely regain the enthusiasm that was waning. I heard this quote by Brené  Brown the other day: “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just be yourself”. It’s her mantra, and I just might have to steal it. I was trying to puff up in trying to act as though I know what I’m doing with this behemoth book project (or at least it feels that way to me), then I shrunk into a puddle of excessive self-doubt, but all I can do is be myself and hold onto what I know to be worthwhile.

Why is that so hard to remember?

In lieu of a haiku, here’s a poem K wrote for me this week. It just about sums everything up:

kaizen6

Our minds are as wide as the universe

Our thoughts will come and go. The sun may rise
The wind may whisper but love is deeper than the ocean below.
The song of heaven the angels sing.  good Things
The future will bring. I feel Love. My heart is touched
I have a person Loved.*

*I took the liberty of editing it just a touch.

P.S. I’ll continue with the M-W-F schedule just a little longer, but you just might see me back here daily again soon…

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

summerswiftlypassed

Happy Friday! It can’t possibly less than two weeks until school starts for K. I have no recollection of the last month, and more to the point, I don’t know if I can sew up a new backpack/school bag for K for third grade in the remaining time. When I sat her down and told her that we might have to go BUY one, she was crushed. “But what about last year’s??” she asked. Apparently, the Oliver + S messenger bag I made last year was a huge hit amongst her classmates, and she loved telling everyone that it was handmade. It got pretty beat up and the shape didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped. And really, that bag was a serious commitment, and I’m not sure I have it in me to make it again.

But never say never, perhaps I’ll surprise myself.

*****************************************************

K on profanity:

“Mama, I love saying the word ‘fox’. It sounds like a bad word, but it’s perfectly okay to say it.”*

*I recently discovered that she knows way more curse words than I thought. Then again, she thinks “darn” is a horrifyingly taboo word, so it’s very endearing.

*****************************************************

Have a lovely, lovely weekend, friends! My haiku is embedded in the illustration above, so instead here’s an illustration of autumnal fruits [shaking my head that summer vacation's practically over].

apple-pear1

 

 

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

lk-reject-cover

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!

Hooray!

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!

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

blue-heron

Happy Friday! First, thank you so much for all the kind comments last week, I’ve read them all multiple times!! I was delighted by how many people liked things as they are, and I also appreciated the suggestions. I will work hard on incorporating them! The four randomly chosen Drygoods gift certificate winners are: Dottie, Jing, Beccy and Grace. Congrats!!!

Second, the photoshoot was a blast! Keli generously allowed us to use her Drygoods Design studio (did you hear that they’re moving to a new gorgeous space?), and we were productive and tried a variety of ideas and time just flew — like that random bird illustration I have up there. Can you tell that I’m scrounging to come up with a relevant reason for that image? I just liked it.

Michelle (the photog) and Tristan (the stylist) deserve accolades of the highest order. In fact, they’re both exceptional at both photography and styling and organizing, and I found myself taking a lot of mental notes to improve my own skills. I really really love working with them. It made the photoshoot feel even more legit and lively having the editor and art director and an intern there as well. I learned so much. Tristan did a fun post on part of the cover shoot prep process and you can get some sneak peeks, though we’re all very careful about not revealing what the cover will look like. Day two at the light and airy Studio 207 today!

****************************************

K: Mama, when can I get my own ipad?

Me: When we think you’re ready, sweetie.

K: Aw man, that means, “never, and don’t even think about it”*…

She’s awfully bright, our little one.

****************************************

Happy, happy weekend! I have something a bit unscheduled for you on Monday and will push out the usual K outfit to Wednesday, when K turns – holy cow – eight!!!!!

We’re taking the train
Portland, we’re headed your way
Fun plans in the works!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

happy-friday

As you’re reading this, we are most likely flying over several US states and rapidly approaching home. Family vacations can sometimes yield stories that become eyebrow-raising legends passed from one generation to the next, but aside from a couple of mosquito bites, ours was entirely painless. Not boring or forgettable, no, but solidly good. You know that feeling of slipping into a comfortable bed with freshly laundered linens and settling down with an engrossing book? Our holiday in the Midwest felt like that. M’s family spoiled us rotten.

browncountylake1browncountylake2

Towards the end of the week, we spent a couple of days at M’s family cabin in the southern part of Indiana, where we had no internet access. It was at once refreshing and unsettling because we’re such online junkies. They have a pretty lake on their expansive, woods-filled property and M and the kids had uproarious fun together in the water while my sister-in-law and I snapped photos (can you see M’s tiny head bobbing in the distance? Isn’t it oddly red?). We had a picnic by the lake; hot dogs were roasted, s’mores assembled.

browncountylake3 browncountylake4 browncountylake5 browncountylake6

My father-in-law and I caught a blue gill fish using milk jugs instead of fishing poles, and the kids terrorized the frogs and crawdads (and making me squirm). My 11-year-old niece loved driving the all-terrain vehicle they’ve dubbed “The Gator”, and K pretended to drive it too.

browncountylake7

As far as vacations go, it was pretty perfect.

Usually I would have a quote or conversational exchange to include here, but I barely saw K for the whole week, busy as she was playing with her cousins and getting attention from her grandparents.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a solidly good time too. I might be a big jet-lagged, but I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Back to Seattle
Vacations go fast
Now it’s Ba-chan time….

correspondances estivales

lathelize-postcard-project2

Some months ago, Isabelle of Lathelize invited me to be part of an utterly charming annual project of hers. She calls it “correspondances estivales”, which Google Translate mangled into “summer match”. Basically, it’s a handmade postcard exchange. Over an eight week period starting in early July, we are each assigned a different person for whom we create and mail out a postcard. The one you see above  I received from lovely Isabelle (a different Isabelle from the organizer, I’ve been informed, but no less lovely). Délicieux, no?

I don’t know about you, but I lament the decline of handwritten missives. I recently found a box of saved letters from my youth and was instantly transported to the past, emotions running high. One particular card from a dear, dear friend — the card was a Valentine’s Day one with a primitive illustration of two stick figure friends talking — lurched me into a state of unstoppable tears. She sent me the card while I was living in Japan, teaching English to high school students. She and I were roommates just before I left for my teaching position; we were actually roommates for almost six years. We’d met our Freshman year in the college dorms and immediately knew we were kindred spirits. People talk about chemistry in romantic situations all the time, but friendships have definitive chemistry too. We became good friends with two other girls and for the next three years the four of us lived together in various apartments. After graduation, she and I continued to live together in Los Angeles when the other girls moved on to other parts of the country. Our last shared apartment was ramshackle and disturbingly close to a strip club, but it was all we could afford at the time and oh, the adventures we had!

The card was filled with her signature hilarious escapades, but the words were tinged with sadness. I remembered how I sat in my little Japanese living quarters in the middle of a rice field reading her card from L.A., how viscerally I missed her and that rare kind of friendship in which you know you can be completely and unabashedly open with each other. As I get older, I find that it’s harder to find and keep those friendships, caught up as we are with marriage or raising kids or work or all of the above.

lathelize-postcard-project1

All this to say, I’m so glad Isabelle is hosting this wonderful exchange of old timey communication. I sent a quick watercolor postcard to France (above), and I’m preparing to send my next one out:

lathelize-postcard-project3

Thank you for including me, Isabelle! I think it would be fantastic if everyone spent a few minutes sending out a handwritten note to someone, anyone every once in a while. I love to see how people shape their letters, the quirks of their penmanship, the crossed out words. It connects us in a deeper way than any text or email or facebook comment, I believe. And connection…well, nothing quite measures up to authentic connection.

 

 

Travel Essentials

travel-essentials

I’m an overpacker. Always have been. When we went yurt camping last year, M derided me for insisting on bringing a rice cooker, but we totally used it, and I won’t apologize for my over-preparedness. Of course, I managed to not pack blankets or pillows, but only because the yurt website said that bedding was included (they were not. We had to make a jaunt to Walmart in the middle of our yurt trip so we wouldn’t freeze our buns off – glamping was never less glamorous).

We’re heading out to the Midwest this Saturday, so I’m starting to gather the necessities, and the urge to stuff our suitcases beyond capacity is niggling at me. As costs of air travel rise and amenities lessen, though, I’ve been reevaluating the way I pack. Normally, I would include several extra outfits, just in case. I’ve been known to haul seven pairs of shoes for a week-long vacay. Ditto for K. M tends to manage with very little.

I’m trying something new this time and paring down to the bare bones essentials. We’ll have access to a washing machine and dryer and in a pinch, strip malls and Target are only a stone’s throw away. As long as I have my extra eyewear, enough underwear, my non-negotiable gadgets (ipad, laptop, camera), a few key pieces of clothing and comfy shoes, I’m good to go. Oh, and a good book is critical.

What about you? Are you an expert packer? Any good tips on traveling light would be much appreciated!

Post Navigation