Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sometimes during the summer, the cool breeze come up from the river and carry their voices into my room cutting through the thickness of the heat. I can hear the creaking of the wooden rocking chairs on the porch; them, kissing their teeth, cracked lips curling and twisting, cleft tongues tricking every last drop of water over and into their mouths. Their feet tap the floorboards, going on like they're talking in code, but not so much talk today. I stop breathing for a moment and strain to lift my head to try to hear their voices. It's the only connection that I have with the outside now. Their stories lift me out of this room, out of this darkness. I close my eyes and listen hoping to hear one sentence, even a word that will break my mind to think of something else. I feel the roughness of the curtain as it brushes against my cheek. It carries with it a smoky sourness that rushes into my nostrils and stabs at my brain. That curtain was so pretty, so bright... so light. Whenever the summer breeze come into my room it would dance past these curtains and carry the scent of Jessamine with it. On some afternoons if I finished up early, I would take the long way home from the field, not too far from the willow that I seen since I was a little girl, to gather some more Jessanime to make my room smell pretty. Sometimes, I put a handful of them in a jar that was only for them, but if I collected a lot that day, I would take some down to the river with the curtains and rub some of it into the cloth . But it's been a long time since these curtains lit up the room. It's been months since I smelt the scent of that sweet Jessamine. I turn away and breathe into my pillow. The odor of my skin on the bed sheet that I lay on is one of the few things in this room that are familiar to me anymore. My body once stiff becomes tempered. It comforts me because it helps me remember us. I can smell his love. I feel the softness of his touch through his callused hands blackened by work, his skin hardened by the sun and soothed by my touch. My bones ache, my muscles are weak. My head falls back down to the pillow. One of the chairs on the porch scrapes against the wooden floor, and then I hear a shuffling of feet for a few steps.
Say something.
I open my eyes hoping that I will see his face again.
It's dark all the time now.

Above was my most recent homework assignment for my Fiction class. We had to create a written pastiche mimicking the voice of William Faulkner from his book, "As I Lay Dying." It was super challenging to say the least, but I enjoyed every bit of it. It's strange, but I'm beginning to apply my process of working on my drawings, and my illustrations towards my process of writing. And as I move forward, I believe the opposite will occur in which my writing and the stories and theories that I learn will influence my (visual) art and illustration. My instructor read a passage from Annie Dillard's, "The Writing Life," suggesting that,
"when you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a wood-carver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You weild it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year."1
What powerful words.
How awesome that this can be applied to other disciplines such as illustration and picture making. It's true, sometimes during my process of working it's important to truly let go and allow the act of drawing, the act of painting, the act of picture making to take over. It sounds very abstract, but it's possible. Consequently by doing this, I allow the piece to come to life, and I'm made aware of the kind of marks that I make, the colours that I use, the motifs that I design which are inherent to me, and to my work. This is one of the most important things that an illustrator can do which is to influence the way in which others see his/her work, by creating a oeuvre that stands apart from his or her peers; which when viewers look at it, they understand especially who created it, and how and why it is different from others in the same industry. The difficult thing is being patient and tenacious enough to make this happen.

1 Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life. Harper Perennial, 1989.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Here are the recent designs that I've completed for Pro Keds Royal Hi White Canvas Sneakers. They were done through Artsprojekt, which is an offshoot of Zazzle. This has been a mini dream of mine to work on a design for Pro-Keds specifically (I know that this might come off as an endorsement, but it's not meant to). The first time that I visited New York which was roughly about 10 years ago, I bought my first pair of Keds from a shop in Soho?... was it Soho?.. I can't remember, but I do recall that it was a pair of Pro-Keds (which I still have to this day and refuse to throw out), a white pair, hi-tops with some sort of custom designed motif on it that looked like the head of Marge Simpson repeated many times over.
'twas cool.
During that time I don't even think that I was even working steadily as a freelance illustrator, but just graduated from art college. I do remember thinking though, of how dope of an experience it would be to do something similar. Funny how 10 years literally flashed by - sheesh...
It's a bit of a challenge for me drawing images on sneakers primarily because I'm extremely picky about what I choose to wear. Sometimes I feel as though illustrations don't necessarily translate well onto T shirts.. and I feel that it's even more difficult to apply them onto footwear, which is why designing these sneakers were a challenge because I wanted to appease the illustrator part of me while still appealing to me as a consumer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The weather's ugly today, so I thought it would be fun to post this and inspire a different kind of attitude within myself and whoever reads this, before I begin my day.
Forecast: 35 degrees farenheit, or 2 degrees celsius, freezing rain.
said with sarcasm
I do a regular column for GQ Germany; this is the latest one called "Italo Style"... I sure wouldn't mind being in Italy right now. That said, strangely enough, the last time I went which was just over 2 years ago, the weather was much the same. We were in Rocchetta and drove in from Nice, France. We ate some pizza, pasta and wine, and then drove further into town to walk around (in the cold and rain). No pool, no sun, no bikinis or speedos, but it was gorgeous and romantically mediaeval.
Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This is an appendix to the post that I wrote about 4 hours ago when the video beneath this paragraph was viewable from my studio. But now that I'm home, it's not playing. I don't get it, it's barely even 3 megs. The only thing that I can gather is that my connection speed is not so great. This is still new to me, working with video, but I'm having a slammin' time learning. Anyway, here's collage of some screen captures; it doesn't have the same impact, but hopefully it goes well with the post.

Here's a video that I took this morning on the way to my studio. It's a walk that I do quite frequently but oftentimes, I don't pay very much attention to what's around me.
It's interesting how newness can wane so quickly.
Nate Williams' lecture was last night at "The Society of Illustrators." It was a full house, standing room only, but worth the trek to the Upper East Side. He talked about his work, transitioning from an art director, in interactive design, to becoming a freelance illustrator, and his move from the west coast of the United States to Costa Rica and eventually settling in Argentina. One particular part of his talk that stayed with me (aside from the importance of integrating an RSS feed into one's website, and the spanish word cochina) was discovering newness within the mundane.
I'm the kind of person who doesn't necessarily attend lectures to gain cool tricks on how to improve upon my dexterity, or techniques with whatever artistic media. I feel like I can do that simply by researching it on my own, or enrolling in a workshop or class to teach me those skills. What I hope to gain instead is inspiration.
I'm not sure why, but I've always been the type of person who is encouraged and uplifted by others, particularly those of the underdog. Maybe it's because I come from a very modest upbringing, where my family never once lived beyond our means; my parents had to essentially compromise their own lives for the sake my brother, sister and mine (read Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, her fiction is based on real experiences, I'm sure...)
Although Nate included a lists of things to help us understand in a linear fashion, how he went about processing ideas for commissioned projects, I was more interested in those moments of when he spoke about the reasons which precipitated his move from the United States (to Argentina); those moments in between work, that he uses to apprise his artistic practice.
The sacred in the mundane.
The broken signs in my neigbourhood, the steam rising from the sidewalk grates, the dirty white teddy bear laying face down in the snow. Nate's right, if I just slow down a bit and open my eyes, I will see an entirely new world in front of me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last night I took my first continuing education class in Fiction Writing 1. It was a pretty daunting experience, not because I was surrounded by a classroom of writers, but rather that I was trying something entirely different from what I have been used to. It's important for me as an illustrator, artist, and educator to continue to place myself in environments where I feel challenged (oftentimes it's very uncomfortable) both physically and mentally, because I believe that overall, these experiences will inform my visual work in various ways.
Having gone to art college and learned the vocabulary and some history assigned to a visual arts and design discipline, it's become almost second nature to me to be able to articulate my opinions about a certain drawing, painting, sculpture, video, or installation. But when it comes to creative writing, workshopping a piece, critiquing it feels very different.
I felt like I was on a game show with contestants who all understood the rules besides me.
The feeling was not so far off from performance anxiety.
Although I have not done much creative writing since I was 13 years old, it seems like a very different way of expressing myself. With visual art, I think the message can oftentimes be more convoluted, in that the images become symbols to which we as viewers must venture to recognize, or assign significance. The objects, colours, and/or the arrangement of both helps us to understand the message that is being communicated, whether linear, or experiential.
My main insecurity when it comes to sharing myself in the form of written or oral story (telling) spawns from the notion that more of myself will be revealed immediately because I am using a mode of expression which many of us use in our daily lives... words.
(which is contradictory since that's what I'm doing now... ala blogging... go figure...)
I'm sure that this is not necessarily the case, and that my perspective will certainly change along the way - I mean, it's only my first day of class, and so there's still a lot of learning to do.
Below is my first homework assignment. I chose to use the first two sentences from Amanda Davis' story "Fat Ladies Floated in the Sky Like Balloons" as a spring board for a free writing assignment.

Fat ladies floated in the sky like balloons.
That was the year we forgot our dreams and work, bewildered, muttering. (1) It had been years since either or them had gone back to the pond. Too much time had passed without having exchanged even a word, or a text, an email, or a phone call that it had become too awkward to be the first one to reach out through this silence. What could be said? They were kids back then; kids talk about stupid things... kids do stupid things... kids hope for stupid things.

The days at the pond were always magical. They would search for tadpoles, bare-footed, along the pond's edge; the large ones with malformed and bulbous heads where you could barely make out a face, not the tiny black ones that looked like dirty shadows in the water. The mud that squished out between their toes felt cool and gritty underneath the hot sun. They searched for twigs and branches to usher some of these tadpoles closer to them. It was fascinating to think that these creatures would transform into something completely different in just a matter of days.

Cam picked up the empty glass jar that they brought with them, filled it with some of the pond water, rocks, and mud and handed it over to Glen.
"Is this enough? They still need to swim around. How many can we put in there?" Cam asked.
"This stick's not working. They just keep on swimming away."
Glen grabbed the jar and poured out its contents and plunged it quickly beneath the surface of the pond. The tadpoles near his feet scattered, all except for one, which swam directly into the jar.
"Here, put some of this inside of it. We have to make it think that it's still in the pond, or else it's going to die." Cam scooped up some mud, rocks, and water and dumped it into the jar.
They both looked at the tadpole moving lazily in the water; back and forth and around as though it had always know this space
"Can I keep it tonight?" Glen asked. "Then maybe I can give it to you tomorrow. We should find stuff for it to eat... what do tadpoles eat?"
A few water striders glided along the surface of the water. Cam nodded and point to them. The boys entered further into the pond, Glen cupping one hand and skimming it along the surface.

* The above illustration is not pertinent to this entry - I just felt like posting it. It's a piece about autism that I did for MIT's Technology Review. Initially, I wanted the woods that the boy was facing towards to be dense and blurry, but then during the process of working on the final, that part of the image began to appear too heavy. Consequently, I decided to separate the trees and arrange them such that they still suggested a dense environment. The image following that rough sketch shows how the figure was rendered. I partially rendered him digitally and then added some shadow and pattern with watercolour and gouache. My attempt was to combine a graphic quality with an organic one. Finally, I scanned that the figure in and placed it onto the picture as a separate layer.

1 Davis, Amanda. "Fat Ladies Floated in the Sky Like Balloons." Circling The Drain. Harper Collins, 2009.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

As of yesterday, is up and running. It's an website where individuals from anywhere (in the world!) can log on and enroll in a course taught by various illustrators, such as Yuko Shimizu, Nathan Fox, Thomas Fuchs, Gary Taxali, and myself to name only a few. It's super cool because you can have access to illustrators who do not teach in whatever city you're living in. Check out. Props to these brain children Taxali, Fuchs, and Zimm.

Friday, February 12, 2010

11:23pm and this was my last scan which was layered onto an illustration that I finished for GQ Germany. I can't share it until it's published, but I definitely will later, either here or on my website.
Most likely the latter.

It was a funny piece.
Anyway, I'm signing off; fully exhausted. Although I did take a gym and dinner break today, I ploughed through most of the day and night.
If it was summertime I would probably step out and get a night cap. But with all the snow and more work lined up for tomorrow (a Monday deadline with sketch revisions and some finals due) it would be best that I stay in.
Enjoy your weekend... happy valentine's day... president's day... and lunar new year!

It's 8:43am, but really, i've been up for about 3 hours already.
I should have taken a photo of the
coffee stains around my eyes (thank you sarah harmer for that one.)
I've been thinking a lot about the possibility of heading in a new direction with my work (I know that I sound as though I'm beating down that dead horse) but it's something that has been lingering inside of me for a long time now.
Don't assume that my need for change means that I will terminate everything else that defined who I was; who I am. It just means that I'm seeking out new possibilities.
Metaphorically doodling?
Do illustrators doodle anymore? Or have I been blinkered into such a narrow way of thinking that I believe that the only way to go about illustration-making is by letting my ideas and concept advise my hands.
I mean isn't that the way that it works?
We read a story, we're given a strategy, and then we move forward coming up with a visual to try to adhere to the parameters of the assignment?
But do we have to approach our image-making this way all of the time?
I read a quote by Marshall Arisman in his book, "Inside the Business of Illustration," co-authored by Steven Heller, where he mentions that "before we can tell someone else's story (as illustrators) we have to be able to tell our own," (not verbatim).
I love that line; I love that way of thinking, but how to do you get to that point?
How to you begin to tell your story when you're not even sure what it is that you want to say, or how you want to say it?
And how do you do it especially when you've been taught to create in such a straightforward manner; having a picture be informed by an article, or story for example?
I don't think there is necessarily a militant answer.
One thing that I've been embracing is a kind of free associative process in my personal drawings, moreso near the beginning of my process when I'm blurry in my thoughts of what to create. I'm aware that I want to draw something, but I'm not sure what it is, and so I begin to doodle, in essence. I begin to ask myself questions, such as "what do I like?...who am I?...what do I hate?...what did I used to like?...why?...what are the qualities and characteristics of my work?..."
It's not so linear but it's at least one starting point for me.
And quite honestly it might not even amount to much in terms of a drawing, but it raises me to a space where I am oftentimes surprised at the outcome.
The drawing at the top of this piece was really just a free assignment that I did on my own, with no art direction, no story, no concept - it's truly a glorified doodle. It began as that, as shapes drawn lightly in yellow ochre watercolour paint, and as I moved the brush around on the surface of the paper, a repetition of objects began to take shape some of which began to resolve itself as recognizable figures. I did this drawing about 2 years ago, and the process was so enriching.
Looking back, I realized that by challenging the way in which I worked, I became introduced to a new way of practicing my art and illustration.
No, I didn't psychologically throw out anything,
but readdressed and reevaluated the process of my creative work. Instead of conceiving of a concept, a thesis, a statement and then finally creating a drawing from that original source, I decided not to; I placed that method of working onto the sidelines for another day.
The other day came when I was hired by Maxalot to create a custom design wallpaper for his Exposif Collection. I had free reign, and the aforementioned image that I had done of the homoerotic Bellmer-esque sausage eaters, were fresh in my head. Somehow through this, I managed to reinvestigate the drawing and
represent it in a form that I believe was more commercial.

When I was younger, and shifting through styles, not only in terms of art and illustration, but also in terms of styles of dress, the styles that define a clique of friends, the styles that come with living one's life; I felt in order to style a new life, I would have to give up my old one. I understand that this happens to many people, it happens as we get older; we grow into our new selves, we learn new things through our formal education, through our neighbourhoods, our friends, the media, and slowly, we begin to develop a new way of seeing, thinking and behaving. For me, it was very difficult to reconcile the thoughts of the new person that I had become, versus the one who I used to be - a kid from Scarborough, Ontario. But overtime I realized that it's not about letting go of my previous self, but creating a dialogue between the past and the present.

*I'm all about giving props to people, the title came from Leslie Feist's lyrics from her song, "Past in Present." She's totally bad-ass!
Fiest, Leslie. "Past in Present." The Reminder. Interscope, May 2007.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Play. Play. Play.
Whenever I have the time, I like to play.
I took one of my illustrations and tried to turn it into a stamp via my Print Goco machine.
Strange, but it looked a bit like an image done by Tadanori Yokoo.
When enlarged, however, the image is composed of text, which really helps to inform the concept; it reads "Love Me Or Love Me Not," but shrunken down and repeated over many times looks like Yokoo's work, although mine is far worse by a long shot.
This is not false humility, by the way.
I worship this artist.
Huge fan.
Anyway, this shirt won't ever be for sale - it's just something I did on a whim while trying to explore new media, and new applications for my work.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I met up with a friend of mine from Toronto last night, we both went to school together; she studied Graphic Design, while I pursued Illustration. It was great to see her; it's always great to reconnect with friends in your life who you've known for years, but seldom get to see for one reason or another. Part of my enthusiasm was that seeing her reminded me of art college and brought back to life in some ways, those experiences of when I was in my twenties, trying to figure out just how I was going to quit my semi-full time job in retail, and truly realize my goals of becoming a professional Illustrator.
It was a strange time back then because I remember having this feeling that I would never be able to sustain myself - to live my life wholly from my craft, from my art, from my illustration. When I entered art college all I knew was that I wanted to draw for a living. After having completed one year of University in Fine Arts when I was 19, I decided that it was not-for-me; my intention was to be taught formally "how to draw and paint;" Fine Art during that time was less about figuration in painting -- actually, it was less about painting in general. It was extremely experimental, it was performance, and it was so conceptual that I could not follow what was going on, nor did it satisfy my desire to become a better "drawer." At one point I was ripping up newspaper and trying to travel across the room without stepping on the carpet because it was lava. That was way too cerebral for me at 19, and still is, although I appreciate the reasons why the instructor had us do this; to break our concrete ways of thinking, to introduce to us a new way of seeing.... "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."
Nowadays, I feel differently about Fine Art, it's something that I have become more interested in for many reasons -- people change -- but I'm digressing.
While I as in art college, I remember thinking that I mistakenly chose to study a dying profession. I would say this to my friends who were in other programs; I envied them because they were on their paths to becoming high paid art directors in ad agencies, designs firms (many of whom have currently lived up to those roles, which they had hoped they would be while they were in school). But for myself, it was a very confusing time because a handful of professional illustrators, some of whom were my own teachers, spoke about how brilliant the 70s were for illustration; they spoke about those Golden Years; they spoke about money and how much of it they made from one single job; they reminded me of celebrated war heroes displaying their battle scars. Unfortunately their stories did not inspire me, but plummeted me deeper into a chasm of confusion about this career that I was about to enter in less than a year.
Fortunately, my prediction of painfully trying to find work within a barren industry were not realized. I was able to freelance steadily; I quit my job in retail and moved out of my parents' place to live on my own.
However, nowadays the industry is changing, the economy sucks ass, and these questions about how I'm going to make it through tough times are beginning to (re)surface. But, talking to Steph last night made me realize that becoming one of those wounded illustrators who reminisced over how great the industry used to be was - is - a waste of time.
I've been doing a lot of thinking and remembering and studying, trying to figure out new ways of approaching my craft, my art, my illustration, my business.
Yes, my business.
I am still working steadily and I am extremely grateful for that, but the landscape of our industry is changing - no, I don't think print is dying - it might just have caught the flu - but it'll be around, it's just that I believe when it revives itself from this ill slumber, it will reappear in a different form.
I've been challenging my old of way of working, I've been asking questions to myself about my work, and I've been wondering which direction to go in next. Those beliefs that I used to have about how to approach promoting my work to an industry, to a client who is changing, is changing.
At the moment, I'm at my experimental phase, it feels strangely familiar though, these first-time feelings of standing on an uneasy surface mimic that plane that I stood on over 10 years ago while I was school wondering "what-the-eff!" I was going to do next, and how the heck I was going to build a career with longevity when there were no books to teach me how to do so.
Steph and I talked a bit about this, about metaphorically going back to school; doing self-initiated research projects about those individuals whose careers I champion; deconstructing them to explore some of how they arrived to whatever position they are in.
So vague, I know, but it's because I don't know. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I'll know once I find it. How cliché, but this entry is full of them. Gawd, isn't that a U2 song? Extra gawd...
I guess that's also part of the reason why I applied to grad school for Fine Arts; it was in hopes of being placed in that position where I would have to find a way to get to the other side of the classroom without touching the floor, using only one piece of newspaper. I needed my beliefs challenged in order to evolve my work and my business.
The business of illustration... yes, it does take the romance out of it. I admit that I didn't study art and design to end up learning about how to become a better businessman, but I knew fully well that upon entering this field, that if I wanted to achieve longevity within my career, and to allow the returns from my work to entirely support my life, then my pieces could not be solely derived from artistic inspiration.
Illustration is the art of business and the business of art (... yes, I'm quoting you Charles...)

* the illustrations above are from a book called Around The World With Dot and Jack. I thought the illustrations were beautiful and wanted to share.
Davies, Mary C., & Suska. Around The World With Dot and Jack. Bavaria. 1928.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cast Your Vote on another Tshirt Submission

Above is my second submission for's Design Challenge. The theme again is "Create The New Trend," and so, using this sentence as inspiration, I came up with this piece, which was inspired by my first submission of "Follow Me." If this illustration gets chosen to become translated into a Tshirt, then the entire image with be belt printed so that the image can extend from the front onto the back.
The idea came to me while sketching in the car on the way to Montauk. The drawings below don't necessarily couple with the image in this post, but it does show one my preliminary thought process for the "Follow Me" illustration.

So again, if you have any time or interest, please click on this thumbnail image below and it'll bring you to the website where you can cast your vote. Thanks so much!
Follow Me Series: Footsteps - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More