How time flies!

I know, I haven’t been blogging for a while.

However, behind the scenes, there has been a lot going on since I last wrote. Let me sum things up a bit:

Writing a children’s book

Since last September, I’ve been working on a children’s book titled:

‘Miah & the Moon’

The story is about an intergalactic moon hopper named Miah. Her main purpose of existence is to keep all the moons in the Milky Way galaxy happy. All is well, until one day Earth’s Moon turns terribly unhappy.

I conceived this story while brooding over what to draw for Inktober 2016. In 2014 and 2015, I participated with rather random inkings. Last year, I wanted my inkings to follow a storyline.

A day after the full moon eclipse (I believe it was September 1?) a back spasm* hit me unexpectedly and I was forced away from my ongoing canvas work and into bed. Sitting, standing and walking for more than ten minutes in a row was pure torture for about two to three weeks. It was so frustrating having to interrupt painting on my Paradigm Shift series. Up to then, I had been advancing so well.

Then again, taking a different perspective, it was also a blessing in disguise. I had more than enough time to plot my story for Inktober 2016! Laying in bed on my back like a turned over turtle with only pencil and paper, I roughly plotted ‘Miah and the Moon’. I also worked on rough sketches of Miah’s character.

By the time it was October, my back was feeling better and I was able to sit long enough at a table to create my inked illustrations for Inktober following the rough plot of Miah and the Moon.

Now, good eight months later and after a lot of editing, having the story edited, getting feedback on it, reading it out loud to a varied audience and having it read out loud by others to me, I feel almost ready to consider sending ‘Miah and the Moon’ out to publishers.

I find this step scary. So scary, that I am procrastinating it away. But, I am hoping that the MATS Bootcamp (next paragraph) will help me boost confidence to prepare myself well enough to take me to that next big step.

Advice on best practice on how to get a children’s book as author/illustrator newbie published is very much welcomed and appreciated.

* In case you were wondering: I fully recovered from the back spasm. Actually, it was also a blessing in disguise as I became accustomed to jogging again. Yoga, jogging and enough back rest, too, did the trick. Now I am stronger and fitter than before the spasm. All is well that ends well. 🙂

MATS Bootcamp

Past March, I registered for ‘MATS Bootcamp’; an online course. This course runs for five months. Each month, we are given a creative assignment. Apart from me looking for an opportunity to build confidence regarding the design of a mock up for ‘Miah and the Moon’, for some time, I’ve been also browsing the internet for a while in search of a simple online course that could help me work on style development, consistency of style, discovery of new fields like surface pattern design, experiment with new techniques and mediums, etc.

Initial pattern design & colour palette

Although, MATS offers an ‘Illustrating Children’s Books’ online course it is the bigger financial investment compared to MATS Bootcamp. Not certain how well the courses of MATS will suit me, I thought it’s better to start with MATS Bootcamp and see how I like the process, structure, content and classroom. Then, I can estimate how comfy I’d feel with the ‘Illustrating Children’s Books’ online course.

So far, I am happy with MATS Bootcamp. It began in March. Creating a surface pattern design for a backpack was our first assignment.

This was a first at surface pattern design and mock-up creation for me. Despite initial challenges, I completed the assignment in time to upload it to the online gallery. I was quite happy with the result. But not just with the result being a backpack mockup with my surface pattern design on it, but also happy with how much I’ve learned, was able to experiment, and practice in the process. It was really fun.

 

Colour-adjusted pattern design and backpack mockup. I submitted this to the MATS online gallery.

This April, we need to create a mind map for the editorial (magazine) market. I am also fond of this assignment. Not that it will be any lesser challenging. April is a busy month for me though, so I hope I will be able to bring the assignment to completion. Mid April now, it doesn’t look good. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in some night shifts. If you’re interested, you can read more about MATS here.

My ‘500 Words a Day’ for 30 days challenge (Feb/March)

In short: it did not last 30 days.
But true is, although I did not write 500 words a day for thirty days, I was immersed in tweaking ‘Miah and the Moon’s’ word count as close to 500 as possible. Not easy at all! But, I am now at 750 from 900+ and feel I can let the word count tweaking rest for the moment.

As for now, I’ll be more occupied with the illustrations, the mockup of the picture book, being on the lookout for potential agents, publishers, etc.. Basically doing all kinds of research and familiarising myself with the current children’s book marketplace for author/illustrator submission process.

My personal sketchbook challenge

The 60 pages are not full yet. But I am up to 45 pages (I usually stop a sketchbook at about one-third of its capacity). So in 2017, I’ve broke a personal record and got further than I expected to with this sketchbook.

The thing is, I have the habit of drawing on scraps of paper. Of course, this is a rather messy approach of mine and my sketches end up scattered all over the

place.

You might be familiar with the scrap paper habit: I am terrified of wasting a sketchbook with ‘shitty’ drawings, sketches, inkings or paintings. Especially, when I see all the fancy sketchbooks on Pinterest or Youtube!

One

I’ve always got some at hand ready to grab when ideas race through my mind. Also, I feel freer on random paper. Just one shitty sketch can spoil my wanting to continue using the same sketchbook altogether. Even with just turning the page and heading to the next one, I know there is a page I don’t like in the sketchbook and I am irritated. Sounds stupid, I totally agree.

True, I could tear the (in my opinion) ruined page out, but I am not comfortable with this approach either. I could stick another blank page over the ruined one, but I never came around to doing this. To me, it is time-consuming to repair what has gone wrong compared to just starting new altogether.

It’s easier to just grab yet another loose piece of paper to sketch an idea before the creative moment is lost. Using scrap paper just seems more efficient than trying to fix a sketchbook. I don’t know how it is with you, but things I’ve made in the past that I detest, I just want to rid myself of it as quickly as possible.

Comforting the Inner Child

This time, however, things were kind of different. I really wanted a space to keep my creative experiments together before I approached the canvas (to me ‘ruining’ a canvas is worse than ‘ruining’ a sketchbook). And it worked really well for me! This method (change of thinking?) supported me with my ‘Paradigm Shift’ art series advancement and allowed for creative experimentations outside my comfort zone.

I do not like every page in the current sketchbook. But I am not bothered by the ones I don’t like so much. Some of the sketches (the ones I deemed as passable), I’ve posted on my Insta feed and on Facebook.

Luckily enough, some of the creative experiments inspired two more painting series. One being: ‘Spirit Animals’ with a limited colour palette (main colours: Gold/Pearl/White/Black) and the other being: ‘Micro Cosmos’, ‘One’, ‘Comforting the Inner Child’, ‘While You Slept with Eyes Open, I travelled with Eyes Closed’, ‘Peacock Dance’. For the latter, I am also envisioning a limited colour palette, but this idea has not fully ripened.

Selfie at my desk

But before beginning with any new painting series, I wish to finish the ‘Paradigm Shift’ series. Three down, two to go. I am so relieved because at one point I had the feeling I’ll never see the completion of the ‘Paradigm Shift’ series.

Although, having said that, ‘Paradigm Shift’ is last on my list of things to do, as I am giving ‘Miah and the Moon’ and MATS Bootcamp priority.

It is in times like this I would love to have clones of myself. Or maybe just a five pairs of arms would suffice too, so I could do it all at once. so Just being ‘humble’. 😉

Hope you are all doing well and wishing you a great second half of April!

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Home Spa

Sketch (7/60)

Last night, I did as I said I would and took my Epsom salt bath that made me sleep like a grizzly.

Bath Time: pigment liner, gouache, gold ink
Bath Time: pigment liner, gouache, gold ink

 


Home Spa (31-day writing challenge 6/31) (1112/500)

I truly love taking baths. And I’ve experimented with all sorts of baths. From bubble baths to milk baths to sodium bicarbonate baths to oil ‘baths’ to my all-time favourite bath: the Epsom salt bath.

So, let me share my bath evolution with you:

The bubble bath: not really sure how effective or healthy bubble baths are. But, they were always fun to get in and they filled the bathroom with a loving aroma.

I do not take bubble baths anymore because I had become suspicious of the chemical contents inside the bottles. I wondered whether a bubble bath was indeed a good thing for my body as well as how environmental friendly it was.

However, I did not give the bubble bath completely up until I discovered the milk bath. Since my first milk bath experience, I left the bubble bath once and for all behind me.

The milk bath: No woman lesser than Cleopatra herself, the queen of ancient Egypt, inspired my milk bath phase. After reading that she used to bathe in milk wanted me to get to the bottom of it.

My first milk bath got me hooked, as it was indeed quite special. Not only did my skin smell as sweet as a baby for hours after the bath but during the bath, I felt as if I was staying in a 5-star hotel presidential suite. For a good hour, I felt like a queen myself. It was a taste of paradise.

Surrounded by candles and burning incense, I would shut out the world and dive into bathing bliss. But after a while, it did not feel quite right to use milk in my bath for ethical reasons and I stopped after I discovered the Sodium Bicarbonate bath that had the ability to restore the acidic/alkaline balance of the body.

The Sodium Bicarbonate (SB) bath: this bath is really great if you have skin irritations, pimples or are suffering from acne. It is also beneficial to take these baths if you have a high ‘pitta’ dosha (‘fire’ constitution – Ayurveda) as it cools the body down.

I’ve never tried this but – thinking about it now – it may also be helpful to bring a fever down.

A ‘thing’ of mine with the SB baths: I loved to lay flat on the bottom of the tub and open my eyes and listen to the sound waves that were carried through the water. Quite the underwater world experience and it had a cooling effect on my eyes after hours spent in front of the computer.

Having said that, I would not necessarily recommend SB baths on a regular basis if you have a high ‘vata’ dosha (‘air’ constitution – Ayurveda) as it might cool you down and dry you up too much as it did with me. When I noticed that the Sodium Bicarbonate bath was not the best for my constitution on a regular basis, I discovered the Epsom salt bath!

The Epsom salt bath: these baths are heaven! Seriously, I love taking Epson salt baths. For a starter, because Epsom salts warm the body as they permeate the skin, even though the water is cooling down the body is heating up! What an awesome effect!

I also came once across a research paper that stated that giving the body magnesium through the skin was remarkably more effective than taking magnesium tablets orally. So while relaxing in the bath, I am giving my body the magnesium it needs! It also makes my skin as soft as silk.

And, Epsom baths are the antidote to insomnia. I am wondering why doctors prescribe sleeping pills when the most effective sedative is an Epsom salt bath?! Because of its sedative quality, I need to make sure I schedule the Epsom salt bath wisely or else I may not be able to get up in time the next morning. Bathing in Epsom salt makes me so tired that I fall into a such a deep sleep that lasts an hour or two longer than usual.

Last but not least on my bathing rituals list is the oil bath: Well, it is not so much a bath as it is an oil massage followed by a hot shower or bath. There are many articles online about treating yourself to Abhyanga (Ayurveda self-massage) at home and its benefits.

So let me just share my personal Abhyanga experience with you:

I mainly use coconut oil (as suggested by my Ayurveda doctor) that I warm up in a bain-marie. To create a relaxing atmosphere in the bathroom, I put instrumental background music, light candles and burn some incense. Then, I focus on my breath (abdominal breathing) and massage the oil deep into my skin from head to toe. Once I am done, I take a hot shower. I only use very little Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap to wash the excess oil off. After Abhyanga, I feel light, refreshed, and energised.

Even after showering, there is always a pleasant, thin layer of oil left on my skin to prevent it from drying out. But, especially in winter, I will add an extra layer of an aloe-vera-gel-coconut-oil mix after bathing. This way, all year round my skin stays firm, well moisturised and elastic with a healthy glow.

Another good thing about coconut oil is: it does not stain clothes!

 

For all those who have noticed that the illustration is fashioning a facial mask: indeed, I’ve also had my fair share of experimentations with facial masks leaving me with two favourites. But, I’ll share this in another post with you.


Do you have any bathing rituals or home spa you’d like to share and can recommend?