Monster Post of 2018

I am not surprised, but somehow another entire year has gone by, and here I am staring at the lack of blog posts I’ve written since last January. Maybe this will just turn into a yearly tradition of sorts. Anyway, 2018 was a busy year! Luckily I’ve been journaling daily, so armed with my handy Muji planner, here’s a (very very long) rundown of the past year:

JANUARY Made pizza from scratch for the first time! Mom loves it and made it into a regular dinner thing. Watched a lot of Avatar the Last Airbender with family - quite possibly one of the best American TV shows ever made. Spent the first week of the month getting all my things together, working on commissions, and spending as much family time as possible. Moved to Philly to live with Eric! Had a lot of mixed emotions about the move - of course was super excited to spend more time together, but was sad about leaving my family. Also felt insecure and worried about being a burden on Eric and his roommate. The rest of the month was a whirlwind of settling in, exploring the city, working on client and personal art, coming to terms with little to no human interaction during the day (aka I was lonely *__*), starting to go to weekly figure drawing sessions, cooking/working out/watching Brooklyn 99 with Eric, and also dealing with a whole slew of health problems. Had a gum infection that I needed to get minor oral surgery for. Then the antibiotics I took for the recovery period gave me a yeast infection. Then got sick once I recovered from all the infections. WHY.

FEBRUARY I turned 24! Crazy to see what I’d done in my 23rd year. It’s when I first moved back into my parent’s home and decided to start my art journey. Got to visit home! Spent Chinese New Year with fam and folded a million dumplings. Celebrated Kaylin and Mom’s birthdays too! Watched winter Olympics with fam and played a lot of Horizon Zero Dawn with Kaykay and Eric. Continued weekly figure drawing (had fun talking to other artists!), did a lot of cafe sketching, worked on client illustrations and design for a board game, and started taking Wouter Tulp’s Schoolism class for character design! Started watching Shokugeki no Soma with Eric after much recommendation from Thomas. Its freaking weird sometimes (if you’ve seen it you know what i’m talking about), but it also made us get more interested in cooking and we made ramen from scratch! (not the noodles lol) Visited the Philly Museum of Art and also shopped at a Whole Foods for the first time. Both were beautiful.

IMG_7879.png
IMG_7775.png
Our painstakingly made ramen! Toppings are marinated pork belly cooked for a million years, fried chicken skin + oil, ajitama, onions, green onions, and a dash of pepper! Was super delicious but would I do the whole process again? Unclear.

Our painstakingly made ramen! Toppings are marinated pork belly cooked for a million years, fried chicken skin + oil, ajitama, onions, green onions, and a dash of pepper! Was super delicious but would I do the whole process again? Unclear.

MARCH Spent the first half of the month on a pretty regular schedule. Worked on Schoolism and various art things during the day, cooked with Eric and watched Samurai Champloo and Yu Yu Hakusho together in the evenings. Was happy Eric finally watched Yuyu with me - literally my childhood. Second half of the month was crazy busy! Eric’s brother, Bryan came to visit for week! Went on many adventures together - most of them involving food. Sampled three different Philly cheesesteak places, ramen, Korean fried chicken (Bryan’s first time trying!), mala pot, Japanese crepes, and checked out Reading Terminal (a cute indoor marketplace with a billion different cuisines and specialty stores- ex. a store that just sells honey and beeswax etc.) We also played A L O T of card games but I think they stopped having fun because I couldn’t stop winning :D Went to North Carolina for one of Eric’s friend’s wedding! My first wedding! Was kind of awkward at first because I knew no one, but had fun getting to know his high school friends. Also holy moly I cried at the wedding even though I barely knew the groom nor the bride. Feelings are contagious mang. Visited home for a short while and got completely hooked on Everwing (ugh noooo) before heading over to St. Louis to visit Minerva! It had been too long! Got to finally meet her boyfriend, Vincent, who is an amazing cook. Had fun tryna get our old creaky asses to dance another kpop cover - I couldn’t walk the next day LOL. Had my first STL BBQ at Salt and Smoke which was absolutely delicious, saw the arch bc tourism, went thrifting, toured her school/hospital, watched In This Corner of the World which was a beautifully made film (highly recommend!), and had many good talks. I missed her :’)

Beautiful cherry blossoms on WashU’s campus - Us and Minerva’s new succulent friend that she named “Saya”

Beautiful cherry blossoms on WashU’s campus - Us and Minerva’s new succulent friend that she named “Saya”

APRIL Back to a somewhat normal schedule! Working on (aka struggling with) Schoolism, but hey if you aren’t struggling you’re not doing it right (or you’re just really good :’) ). Starting going to short poses figure drawing sessions - I really like them because it forces me to loosen up, also it keeps me on my toes the whole time. Applied to Adobe’s Creative Residency and had an interview! Didn’t get it in the end, but it was a good learning experience, and the woman who interviewed me was kind enough to have a second call with me to give me feedback on what I can improve in the future! She said I need to have more confidence talking about my work. It’s definitely something I struggle with, and I think it’s a shame to not be able to articulate to people what my work means to me even though I have strong feelings about it :\ It’s frustrating! Ate at Gran Caffe L’Aquila, an amazing Italian restaurant. Everything was delicious and on point, especially the pistachio gelato (apparently they won some world gelato competition?) Nolan visit Philly, and we caught up over delicious Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodles. Contemplated how Everwing was ruining my life. Tried taking a Ellen Kim STEEZY class with Eric and got completely wrecked. Eric started playing in an ultimate frisbee league! We made Chinese steamed fish and it didn’t turn out terrible! We also made sukiyaki and it wasn’t yucky (haha get it). Visited home and caught up with some friends in NYC. Cat was visiting from UK! Also spent a day doing touristy things with family (Empire State Building, Times Square etc.) Dad let me cut his hair for the first time, and I lowkey managed to do it except for a weird dent in the front. Sorry dad :( Tried making baozi for the first time following this recipe, and it was a half day long struggle but it turned out delicious! Watched Avengers: Infinity War which was D O P E and it caused Eric and I to go on a Marvel binge of previous movies we hadn’t seen.

MAY Visited NYC friends and got introduced to and hooked on Monopoly Deal. Marathoned the second season of Jessica Jones on Netflix in two days, I am not proud of myself. The weather started getting nicer and Eric and I went to Rittenhouse Square Park a few times after work to read and draw until the sun set. Continued with Schoolism, figure drawing sessions, and cafe/park people sketching! Listened to a lot of talk shows while drawing. Spent a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend at home attending Kaykay’s dance recital, going to dimsum, and making baozi a second time! Was really struck by how GREEN my town was - just a few months of living in a city had made me forget what nature looks like. So sad. Jin, Ko, and Rose came to visit us in Philly and we spent a weekend attending house parties, going to yummy food places, singing karaoke, doing escape the room, and playing a lot of Monopoly Deal lol. Food highlight was going to Vedge, an amazing Vegan restaurant, with Eric to celebrate our 3.5 year anniversary! Their food was complete sorcery. How can stuff be so creamy and rich without milk or butter? HOW. Started doing HIIT workouts from youtube videos - never felt so weak in my life. Family came to visit us in Philly! Spent a wonderful weekend together exploring Longwood Gardens, taking them to Gran Caffe and our other favorite food places, and cooking them a traditional Chinese breakfast. Eric got 7 Wonders Duel, and we spent a lot of time playing! I love played boardgames together with him, but I also wonder if it’s lowkey bad for our relationship because we are both very competitive people. Had a small watercolor piece in a local figure drawing art show!

JUNE Schoolism, cafe sketching, and figure drawing continued. Checked out the Rittenhouse Square Fine Arts show. Purchased matching Birkenstocks with Eric after much contemplation and my feet were so happy I did. Started watching Code Geass which I haven’t seen before and it was amazing! Really thought provoking series. Re-did online portfolio. Made a FB art page! Applied to Pixar for the millionth time what’s new. Tried Indonesian food for the first time at Bali Kitchen - the way they use spices is really interesting! Celebrated Father’s Day at home - tried making omurice for the first time! Came out not bad but not even close to this. Spent a week at home packing for our family trip to China, exercising with mom, cleaning up files on my computer, and scanning 300+ pages of sketches. Thank god I managed to disentangle myself from the clutches of Everwing, but Kaykay convinced me to download Fortnite so I can play with her. Oh dear. Journeyed to Beijing! It was my first time back in 5 years. Had a jam-packed 6 days. Went to the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Winter Palace, Summer Palace, Art Museum, WangFuJing Street, Hou Hai, and MuTianYu (a more hipster portion of the Great Wall with less crazy level of tourists. Took several hours to walk the whole section… thought my legs were going to fall off by the end, but man the sight was gorgeous. After climbing up the last stretch of 485 stairs and gazing out over the mountains I swear I even saw a rainbow). Wow I wish I could write about each day in detail bc there is just SO MUCH TO SAY but I think I would lose the two people who managed to read this far. Tourist spots aside, we went to several huge bookstores, checked out an awesome art supply store (Chinese branded art supplies are so affordable omg), and had an asian photoshoot (the kind where you wear several different costumes, do embarrassing poses, and then receive a photobook at the end embellished with strange phrases in English like “Happy time you are in my heart” or “the meaning of love is I love you”). And of course, we ate SO MUCH GOOD FOOD UMF. This is probably the first time I’m old enough to really start to appreciate the cuisine in China? I eat Chinese food all the time at home and in restaurants, but the Chinese food in China is really something different. They are so creative and pushing the boundaries of what the world thinks Chinese food is (orange chicken I’m looking at you.) Had a delicious meal of Peking Duck at Siji Minfu!

Good ol’ stereotypical tourist picture in front of the Forbidden City

Good ol’ stereotypical tourist picture in front of the Forbidden City

A glimpse of heaven

A glimpse of heaven

Look at how I can smile even after the make up artist told me my eyebrows were ugly

Look at how I can smile even after the make up artist told me my eyebrows were ugly

IMG_0372.png
Pork at Siji Minfu (and the duck in the background)

Pork at Siji Minfu (and the duck in the background)

One of my new loves on this trip - Chinese cauliflower w/ hot peppers, fried pork belly, and  a lot  of garlic

One of my new loves on this trip - Chinese cauliflower w/ hot peppers, fried pork belly, and a lot of garlic

 
This is actually not the Leshan Giant Buddha - that one is as tall as the mountain and impossible to photograph. This one is carved inside the mountain. Loved the size comparison of this one vs. my dad and sister standing at the feet.

This is actually not the Leshan Giant Buddha - that one is as tall as the mountain and impossible to photograph. This one is carved inside the mountain. Loved the size comparison of this one vs. my dad and sister standing at the feet.

 
Woman praying at the foot of the Giant Buddha. The purple and pink colors!

Woman praying at the foot of the Giant Buddha. The purple and pink colors!

JULY Took a bullet train to Chengdu and met up with my Grandpa. The Sichuan food was delicious! Ate at several places that Eric’s dad had recommended us, my favorite being Ma Wang Zi. We went to see the Panda Research Center which was awesome - the pandas are so cute and so… lazy haha. We saw one that was sleeping and pooping at the same time. Did you know that in the past pandas were meat-eaters? Also did you know that when they give birth, the baby panda literally pops out in 2 seconds flat and the mom catches it with one hand??? Why can’t human births be that easy? Went to Wuhou Memorial Temple which was filled with gorgeous bonsai gardens and small lakes. Watched a Sichuan Opera with the iconic bian lian (speed changing faces)! Saw the gigantic Buddha at Leshan and took a day trip to Dujiangyan, an ancient irrigation system, where we walked along the river, over bridges, and hiked in the mountains. The sight was gorgeous - it was raining so the greenery looked extra lush, and the mountains were rising out of thick layers of fog. It was straight out of a Chinese painting! Next we flew to Lijiang old city - a really beautiful preserved old town that’s turned into a huge tourist attraction. Home of one of the Chinese minority groups, the Naxi people. Attended a traditional Naxi concert and dance performance, saw the Blue Moon Valley, and climbed part of Yak Meadow where we could see the glaciers. The altitude was ~3,900 meters above sea level and we actually had to use cans of oxygen :o There were gigantic piles of Yak poop everywhere and herds of cows grazing. Apparently the animals are let out during the day to graze, and when the sun starts to set, they walk back home to the farm they belong to. Since I grew up in the suburbs and then in cities, it was crazy to me to see so many large animals just walking around with us! Went to Dali and spent a day at Er Hai, a lake so big they call it the ocean! Went to Kunming where we went to see the Stone Forest - an area created by the phenomenon Karst. The stone formations and greenery were gorgeous! Saw Dianci Lake and went to the Chinese equivalent of Epcot for all the different Chinese minority groups - Mom volunteered for the group dances on stage omg. Went to Cui Hu a gorgeous area of water lily ponds with fish, ducks, swans, and other gorgeous large birds. I spotted a group of oil painters doing some plein airs and wished I could’ve sat down to paint for a few hours! Next took a train to Guilin for the last couple days of intense tourism. Climbed Elephant Trunk Hill, went to the Dong people’s village, rode bamboo rafts down the Li River, and saw the famous scenery of the Li River (the part that is on the 20 yuan note. Literally everyone had their 20 yuan bills out taking the same photo lol). Went to Diecai Hill, Reed Flute Cave, and the Longtian Rice Terraces! Basically our trip was jam packed with crazy beautiful nature and historic sights. My brain was kind of overloaded @__@ We spent the second half of the month relaxing Yichang, my mom and dad’s hometown. Hung out with relatives, stuffed our faces with delicious home cooked food (my grandpa and aunt are boss chefs), did HIIT exercises all together (even my Grandma joined in!), caught up on journal entries, did some watercolor painting, went to local attractions like the river park, kid’s park, and nightmarkets. Visited Grandpa and Grandma’s grave. Worked on portfolio things. Played a lot of Fortnite with Kaykay. Tried durian for the first time and it stunk up the whole entire apartment x__x Checked out more bookstores and stationery shops! Helped out a bit in the kitchen and tried to learn some cooking secrets. Actually a lot of stuff I do / ingredients I use is pretty similar but somehow it just tastes way better when they do it???? Went across the river to the neighborhood where my mom grew up! It’s scheduled to get demolished so she wanted to see it one last time. She hadn’t been back in a whole 35 years but still remembered her old home and we saw her old elementary school!

Sunny day at Cuihu lake - gorgeous water lily ponds surrounded by bamboo groves - there were water birds walking on top the lilly pads!

Sunny day at Cuihu lake - gorgeous water lily ponds surrounded by bamboo groves - there were water birds walking on top the lilly pads!

My parents on “the Husband and Wife Bridge” at Dujiangyan

My parents on “the Husband and Wife Bridge” at Dujiangyan

Yak at Blue Moon Valley

Yak at Blue Moon Valley

One of the shop owners in Lijiang had a little pet pig - he even drank and ate out of dog-food bowls! Gahhhhhhh @__@

One of the shop owners in Lijiang had a little pet pig - he even drank and ate out of dog-food bowls! Gahhhhhhh @__@

Cattle grazing on Yak Meadow - man these cows have a much better life than the farm cows in America

Cattle grazing on Yak Meadow - man these cows have a much better life than the farm cows in America

I loved this concept - you put all the fruits you want inside a tub and the guy peels and cuts it for you! These were everywhere in Lijiang and Dali

I loved this concept - you put all the fruits you want inside a tub and the guy peels and cuts it for you! These were everywhere in Lijiang and Dali

IMG_0324.png
The gorgeous landscape of Guilin - lakes connected by rivers with Karst limestone hills throughout.

The gorgeous landscape of Guilin - lakes connected by rivers with Karst limestone hills throughout.

These birds have a close relationship with fishermen - They catch fish and put it in the net, and the fisherman keeps them fed and safe

These birds have a close relationship with fishermen - They catch fish and put it in the net, and the fisherman keeps them fed and safe

This battered and fried yuxiang eggplant looked like fried fish and was insanely delicious

This battered and fried yuxiang eggplant looked like fried fish and was insanely delicious

Cute little portions at breakfast buffet

Cute little portions at breakfast buffet

Our wonderful hotel located in the heart of old-town Dali - a gorgeous rustic space filled with plants. Me taking a picture of their two peacock pets - the metal shackles were really depressing. Apparently they used to roam around but one day tried to run away :(

Our wonderful hotel located in the heart of old-town Dali - a gorgeous rustic space filled with plants. Me taking a picture of their two peacock pets - the metal shackles were really depressing. Apparently they used to roam around but one day tried to run away :(

Blanket of fog on the mountain range surrounding Dali

Blanket of fog on the mountain range surrounding Dali

Why do humans like to imprison things for their beauty :(

Why do humans like to imprison things for their beauty :(

Naxi performer mid-hop onto a pony

Naxi performer mid-hop onto a pony

Celebratory jumps

Celebratory jumps

after climbing the mountain

after climbing the mountain

IMG_0417.png
IMG_0130.png
Duck on top of deep-fried rice sprinkled with spices

Duck on top of deep-fried rice sprinkled with spices

A home-style xifan breakfast on a rainy day

A home-style xifan breakfast on a rainy day

THIS WAS YAK MEAT. Yak is a staple meat of high altitude Yunnan province people. Tasted like beef but stronger.

THIS WAS YAK MEAT. Yak is a staple meat of high altitude Yunnan province people. Tasted like beef but stronger.

Food made from  rose petals  are common in Yunnan

Food made from rose petals are common in Yunnan

Rose-filled pastry!

Rose-filled pastry!

Look at these leaves

Look at these leaves

AUGUST Spent first half of the month continuing to chill in Yichang. Managed to get a small amount of work done and sent out a few apps to various studios. Did more watercolor sketching, played a poop ton of Fortnite with Kay, went shopping for gifts to bring home to people, and edited A L O T of photos to give to the relatives! Watched Chinese dramas with family, as well as this amazing food documentary called Taste of China. Each episode focuses on some sort of food, and they show how that food is made across the country, and the different communities and ways of life of the people who make it. Went on more local outings like a Yichang urban planning museum and more parks. Everyday was over 100 degrees, and I kept getting bitten by mosquitos, so it was quite painful to go out, but when we woke up early enough we’d go to walk at the River park. In the morning it is filled with old people working out, dancing, practicing music, or just chilling. One thing I love about China is that in the mornings and evenings, you can always see groups of people dancing! Soon it was time to go :( We had accumulated way too much stuff so I spent hours trying to optimize each suitcase. But success!! Got settled in back home, went on a few jogs around the neighborhood with dad, made carbonara from scratch (!!!) , and opened up our compost bin that’s been sitting since the winter. It was a glorious success - smelled like rich earth and even had some cute green plants growing out of it! Life is beautiful. Read the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and went to see the film! Didn’t expect to feel the emotions I did during the film - always thought people were exaggerating a bit about how powerful representation feels like... but it totally hit me while I was sitting in the theater balling my eyes out. Moved back in with Eric at his new apartment which I instantly loved. His old apartment was really dark and dusty due to construction outside, but the new one had plenty of light. Met up with several friends who were visiting the east coast - Sarah from highschool, Khanh, Sophia and Ktian! Got back into figure drawing - so rusty omg. Played a lot of Carcassonne and Overcooked with Eric and Samadwara (roommate!) Finished putting together application materials and started hardcore job hunting at the end of the month.

My Eryi (aunt) working hard in the kitchen

My Eryi (aunt) working hard in the kitchen

Eryi’s cooking is delicious! Simple, healthy, and amazingly flavorful. I could eat her food forever.

Eryi’s cooking is delicious! Simple, healthy, and amazingly flavorful. I could eat her food forever.

Mom’s side of the family

Mom’s side of the family

Grandpa’s cooking is crazy delicious - Watched him cook to try and learn his secrets…. found out he uses a ton of oil + MSG-esque things

Grandpa’s cooking is crazy delicious - Watched him cook to try and learn his secrets…. found out he uses a ton of oil + MSG-esque things

Dad’s side of the family

Dad’s side of the family

Local mountain park - running up the stairs in 110 degree weather why

Local mountain park - running up the stairs in 110 degree weather why

Sorry for gross bloody photo, but can we just appreciate how this eel man has eel hair?

Sorry for gross bloody photo, but can we just appreciate how this eel man has eel hair?

The crazy amount of things we brought back from our trip! Many are gifts for other people, but many are not….

The crazy amount of things we brought back from our trip! Many are gifts for other people, but many are not….

SEPTEMBER Day trip to NYC - hung out with Mok, Sarah, and Spencer - played Codenames in Bryant Park while slurping on boba. Had a delicious dinner at Katsuhama! Asbury Park with family and Eric! Tried an acai (ah-sigh-ee is apparently how you pronounce it!) bowl for the first time, relaxed on the beach, got beaten up by the ocean, and walked the boardwalk while looking at fun stores. Went to Suxing House in Philly - a vegetarian Chinese restaurant! Got really into Webtoons - read My Giant Nerd Boyfriend, I Love Yoo, Super Secret, Girls of the Wilds, and Ghost Teller. Decided to make a web comic to enter this contest - completely missed the deadline but was really happy I managed to finish one chapter. Named it “Do Crabs Think Fish Can Fly?” based on a dumb joke Eric loves to make. The response I got was overwhelming @__@ So many people reached out to me telling me that the comic really resonated with them and their struggles. I cried many happy tears. Continued the job hunt and managed to land an animation internship with Dress Code in NYC! Tried an Isreali hummus place called Dizengoff and it was the best damn hummus I have had in my entire life. Worked on character portfolio things + some commissions. Watched all of Ozarks season 1 and 2 with Eric and Samadwara. It was intense. I was on edge for weeks while we were in the process of watching @__@ Went to South Philly Barbacoa after Samadwara saw it on Chef’s Table, and it was so tender and delicious!

OCTOBER Tried to do Inktober (you draw an ink drawing everyday for the month of October) and only got 5 drawings in lol. Emma came over for dinner and we made tofu Thai curry! Attended a housewarming in NYC for Ko and Brian’s new roommate - had dinner with Eric and Spencer at my new favorite tsukemen place in the city called Shinshi - tried yummy fried oysters for the first time there too! Moved back home (why am I always moving) and started my internship. Killer commute (3 hours there and back) but how can I complain when my dad has done it for 20+ years??? Atleast we could commute together! Job was pretty cool - first time I’m getting paid to just sit there and draw the whole entire day @__@ Plus I got to use a cintiq-like tablet (XP-Pen!) and it was awesome. The office was gorgeous - open floor plan, high ceilings, lots of light, nicely decorated with art and many plants~ Was kind of bummed about the lack of social interaction though - but it was partially my own fault because I’m quiet around new people and used to being on my own. Great thing about NYC though is that I could meet friends during my lunch breaks! My workplace is essentially in Chinatown, so the lunch options are cheap, delicious, and many! Played a lot of Fortnite with Kay, Matt, and Thomas. Got myself and Eric hooked on Business Fish Run (why do mobile games ruin my life). Went on weekend morning runs with Dad. Went apple picking with the fam + Eric. Stepped up portfolio prep with CTNx around the corner!

Lunch w/ friends at  Simple ! My favorite poke spot in NYC

Lunch w/ friends at Simple! My favorite poke spot in NYC

NOVEMBER Kept working! Started developing pains in my hand and wrist which was kind of bad. Tried to be more vigilant about hand stretches and sitting position etc. Started talking to more people at the studio during lunch - it was really fun! Listened to the Handmaid’s Tale audiobook while I drew, and it left me feeling haunted. Celebrated Dad’s birthday! Started watching Terrace House with Eric during visits and had many long discussions about it. I think it’s cool because it not only is interesting to see how people’s minds work, but it also makes me more self aware. Voted in the midterm election! Took a dance workshop with Sarah and Eric after eating spicy Chinese food and had a terrible time lol. Had delicious curry at Goemon - their spoons are little shovels! :o Celebrated my 4 year anniversary with Eric in the city - crazy. Looking forward to many more ♥ Flew to LA for CTNx. Was a crazy mess of nerves going in, but once I met up with AJ from last year and met Cata and Ty (instagram friends IRL!), I calmed down and actually had a blast talking with so many different artists. Met this one guy who came here from Beijing after being an art teacher there for 10 years in order to go back to school. He and his wife are raising their baby, and he showed us the daily sketchbook/diary he fills up with drawings of his family and detailed accounts of what they did together that day. He plans to give it to his son when he is older! I was so touched that I had to go to the side of the room and wait for my tears to go away before continuing. His art had such honest feelings in each page - that’s something I want to strive for. Had an amazing talk with Bobby Pontillas - he was so kind and patient the whole time and didn’t try to rush the conversation at all @__@ I was definitely disillusioned by some aspects of CTNx and some of my interactions, but I can’t let those things shake me up. Big thanks for AJ for accompanying me and giving me courage during the trip! Also thank you to Mok for spending the whole second day with me - had a blast catching up and hunting for free stickers lol. Flew back to east coast with a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts about my direction for the future. Thanksgiving happened! Attended a delicious potluck, had yummy Thai food with Thomas and Ariel, watched Lord of the Rings for the first time (yes I know I’m almost 20 years behind thanks), got some exciting purchases during Black Friday (Chelsea boots!), cut my hair the shortest it’s ever been (except for when I was an infant), spent a day in the city with Sarah (tried Bolivian food! Sarah drank two bobas in one sitting!) and set up the Christmas tree with fam~

My mom has a row of orchid plants next to our kitchen window that I love to stare at. I really like the shape and color of orchid leaves, especially when light shines through them. And they are so strong!

My mom has a row of orchid plants next to our kitchen window that I love to stare at. I really like the shape and color of orchid leaves, especially when light shines through them. And they are so strong!

DECEMBER A hectic month! Met more people at work, planned and celebrated Eric’s birthday with his friends, watched Kay’s studio’s production of the Nutcracker (omg Kaylin looked so good!!), and ran (literally ran) around the city trying to figure out Christmas gifts for everyone on my list! Discovered I don’t love rice pudding as much as I thought I did. Met up with a butt ton of people for lunches and dinners bc the end of my time in the city was drawing near! Was great catching up with some of them, especially since I hadn’t seen Chan or Ed since who knows when. Highlight food-wise was Hao Noodle - kind of like elevated Chinese food? Went to the Dress Code holiday dinner at Egg Shop (which was delicious), and was kind of cool to be in an environment where I could chill and get to know my coworkers better. Got an offer to extend my internship! So I’ll be around in the New Year too :) Overall it was a cool experience getting to see the day-to-day of an animation studio, meeting other creatives, and getting to draw so much! Plus it was amazing that they trusted me to take ownership of the short film and really gave me space to experiment. Negatives were not getting the mentorship I thought I would get (I googled everything) and feeling isolated (working alone not on a team). At the end of the period I did have to think about whether it was really helping me get to where I want to go, and maybe it wasn’t necessarily? Going into 2019 I’ll be working only 3 days a week and spend the other 2 focussing on learning and building portfolio. Excited to see the film to completion and also excited to learn and work on my own things! Anyway back to December things. Read all of God of Highschool (the art and action is insane!) Flew to North Carolina to spend Christmas with Eric and his family! Was actually a pretty packed schedule - met his old neighbors at a holiday party, folded dumplings, went to Cirque du Noel (literally there is a full sized orchestra and circus acts happening on the same stage), toured Duke Gardens, saw downtown Durham, went shopping, exchanged gifts, had so many delicious meals (hotpot yesssssss), played a lot of ping pong (Eric’s whole family is really intense and good!), and also played a lot of Smash Bros and Overcooked. Had a great time and felt like I got to know Eric’s fam better :) Came home! Went to see Mok, Weiwei, and (hs) Sarah - chilled in the FB office where they have a game room full of video games and a pool table. Spent an evening with Matt, Gabe, Nolan, and Brian playing Super Smash Bros. Grabbed coffee with Brian and Courtney. Went to the NYC Lantern Festival. Family hosted a New Years Eve party (first time hosting a large party in 6 years?) which was a hectic undertaking but a success! Mom spearheaded the charge, cooking so many delicious dishes, but the rest of us tried to pitch in however we could. Kaylin is so helpful and mature! And that’s how we ended 2018 with a bang :)

Haha wow that was long - if you’ve made it all the way to here, thank you - that’s insane! To be completely honest, I had at least 80 more photos I wanted to include (after whittling it down from the almost 10,000 I took this year), but alas no one has time for that. Tried to include ones that I thought were interesting - hopefully you found them interesting too.

Looking back on 2018, it was a big year for me. It’s my second year of finally taking art seriously, and thanks to that I grew considerably. I will admit, I lost some of the fervor I had in 2017 - anxiously fixating on issues like money and finding a job, which led me to lose my way a bit. I also suffered a lot from guilty feelings whenever I was doing anything fun or relaxing (spending time with friends, going on vacation with family etc.) which really prevented me from enjoying the moments fully. In 2019 I hope to keep my focus on art, but also focus on living life (and I want to be able to do one pull-up by the end of the year, is that too much to ask of myself.) Filled with new-year-optimism - let’s do this!!!!








Back to Blog

After over seven years of posting on sonyalei.blogspot.com, I've finally made the decision to switch my blog over to my own domain! Thank you Blogger, you have been good to me and will always have a special place in my heart, but helllllo no more shitty image compression and complicated work-arounds :)

It's already been eight months since my last post in May of 2017 and a lot has happened! I know I promised myself to try to blog at least once a month, but clearly that did not happen - mainly because I've been journaling daily in my muji planner which has sort of taken the place of my blog :\ But in a way, that's actually pretty good! Now when I blog (and I will. 2018 new year new me amirite?), I can more easily narrow down how much content I write. Flipping through my journal (and honestly having a hard time deciphering my tiny handwriting) for a rundown of all that's happened in these past eight months!

My muji journal that I've been using this year + a tomo latte from  Coffee Tomo  in Sawtelle LA - I've really developed a taste for espresso drinks this year @__@ 

My muji journal that I've been using this year + a tomo latte from Coffee Tomo in Sawtelle LA - I've really developed a taste for espresso drinks this year @__@ 

MAY Visited Boston - played alot of video games with ZBT bros, attended two figure drawing sessions w/ Ariana, caught up with various friends over many brunches, went to senior ball with Eric, and tried a delicious fusion tapas place in Central Square, Little Donkey. Completed Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi's Schoolism painting class on Color and Light which was an amazingly challenging/frustrating/rewarding experience and started Alex Woo's Gesture Drawing class. Started weekly Japanese conversation practice skypes with Yuta which are really fun but so frustrating since I have the speaking ability of a toddler. Went to city to do free portraits for people in Central Park with Ko and tried an amazing gelato place called Grom.  Family things - went to Kaylin's school for her school's art show, watched her dance recital, made katsudon and fresh lemonade for the first time, watched a lot of Harry Potter together, had a run in with crazy spicy thai food that put mom and I in a lot of pain, and parents celebrated 29th anniversary holy moly :o

From Little Donkey - Razor clam ceviche

From Little Donkey - Razor clam ceviche

Black pepper popovers w/ wagyu steak tartare

Black pepper popovers w/ wagyu steak tartare

Manti - Istanbul meal ravioli 

Manti - Istanbul meal ravioli 

JUNE Went to Portland, ME with Eric and ate at so many delicious places - the most notable being Fore Street, a farm-to-table restaurant (we tasted possibly the most delicious mushroom that ever existed), and Vena's Fizz House, a craft cocktail bar. We also spent a fun afternoon zooming around on Peak's Island in a little golf cart taking in the beautiful scenery and pretending to be troops dispatching from moving vehicles lol. Discovered that I loved heist films when we watched Ocean's 11, 12, and 13. Attended more figure drawing sessions with Ariana and met Jessie in person for the first time. Watched Eric officially become an MIT graduate! Started going to Starbucks to do work with Emma who is also going to be home for the next while, was really great to catch up with her! Went on a day trip with fam to NYC and a long weekend trip to DC to see memorials, museums, tour the national mint and government buildings, eat delicious food, and see the zoo (which might've been my favorite part even though I'm morally against zoos and avoid them when I can :/)  Set up a compost bin with mom to try and be more green! Started learning how to paint with watercolors to try and apply to Studio Ghibli who announced that they were recruiting for Miyazaki's final film - so crazy!

IMG_4937.jpg
IMG_5220.jpg
IMG_5202.jpg
IMG_5432.JPG
IMG_5612.jpg
Delicious breakfast options and nice ambience at A Baked Joint in D.C

Delicious breakfast options and nice ambience at A Baked Joint in D.C

Yogurt topped with fresh fruit, honey, and granola

Yogurt topped with fresh fruit, honey, and granola

One of the most beautiful places we visited - the Library of Congress!

One of the most beautiful places we visited - the Library of Congress!

IMG_5987.jpg
IMG_6277.jpg

JULY Took two day trips with fam to NYC to visit the Met and the Museum of Natural History - managed to convince my parents to try their first kbbq at Jongro in Ktown and they loved it! Also did some more portraits in Central Park, but attempted with watercolor this time. Helped Eric move into Philly which involved a Uhaul adventure in which we lowkey dented the top of the vehicle from trying to go into a parking garage with clearance that was too low LOL. Also went on many Ikea adventures which was really fun! Officially completed and sent out my Ghibli app which included two large original paintings and a form filled out in Japanese (what a struggle oh man.) Went to my first OB/GYN appointment which was weird and even weirder when my OB, a 60-70 year old small indian man, gave me unexpected life advice when I was leaving - "Always listen to yourself!" Spent a wonderful week with family at Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod spent doing ALOT of walking, visiting many lighthouses (my mom insisted we see all of them..), and relaxing on the beach. My favorite part was probably walking in the ocean during lowtide in the morning - the shallow water stretched on forever over the flat sand - it was absolutely gorgeous.

IMG_6406.jpg
IMG_6430.jpg
Kaykayjump.png
IMG_1374.jpg

AUGUST Spent the month dog-sitting Buzz, a family friend's very energetic puppy which was a lot more work than I expected haha, and even though I lost a flipflop to Buzz's chewing and spent too much time trying to wrestle non-food items from his mouth (hello broken glass on sidewalks), I enjoyed morning runs, tummy rubs, and doing work while he slept on my feet hehe so cute ~ Finally started Wouter Tulp's Character Design Schoolism course and began compiling refs, fleshing out story ideas, and sketching characters to build a portfolio! Visited Eric in Philly and checked out Reading Terminal which was very charming! Watched a really dope short, Pear Cider and Cigarettes by Robert Valley, which gave me hope that animation can be so much more than children's entertainment. Also started some freelance vis dev and illustration work this month for a board game. 

SEPTEMBER Went on a fun day trip with fam to Asbury Park Beach on Labor Day - the weather was perfect for lounging, bobbing around in the waves, and walking around on the boardwalk eating junk food :D Kaykay went back to school as a 4th grader! They grow up so fast :') Went on many 7:30am weekend runs with Dad which I really enjoyed. Khanh came to visit for a week since she was interviewing in the area and we danced together a bit (man it made me miss dance so much @__@), did work, and caught up! She also tried to explain to me all of Game of Thrones which sounds like a very complicated and violent show haha. Started work on story paintings for my portfolio and made the difficult decision to do the whole thing in watercolor which I was scared would be very risky given how digital is the norm in the industry. Went to a fun housewarming in the city. Started a crazy workout plan with Emma that rendered me immobile on the second morning when I woke up.

IMG_1391.JPG
Matching on the first day of school! So embarrassing lol

Matching on the first day of school! So embarrassing lol

OCTOBER Went apple picking with fam and Eric! Seeing Kaykay open up and goof around with Eric is really nice :) Found out that I can actually kind of juggle. Continued the crazy workout regimen with Emma and actually saw some changes in my body strength! Mostly spent the month just grinding out my portfolio which was really stressful and exciting to see it all slowly come together. At one point I hadn't gone outside in a long time and was shocked by the fact that all the leaves had turned color and took a bunch of pictures lol. Read Real, an amazing manga by Inuoe Takehiko. He is incredibly skilled at portraying such nuanced human emotions - I was really moved by his work T__T Went to a Titmouse industry party invited by my talented instagram friend, Yudi. It was really cool to talk to people who work in the industry for the first time! Spent some time with NYC friends, and ran into a lot of old familiar faces at the Starbucks in town. Got a custom domain name and set up my online portfolio! Designed and ordered business cards! Trick-or-treated for the first time in a very long time with Kaykay!

IMG_1417.JPG
IMG_1744.JPG
IMG_1741.JPG

NOVEMBER This was a crazy month! Finished up my CTNx portfolio and spent most of the first week doing preparation for the convention. Received my MOO printed business cards and was soso excited. Visited Eric in Philly and got my first bubble tea in over four months (I had banned myself from drinking it until I finished my portfolio) but surprisingly it wasn't the delicious victory I expected but just tasted sickeningly sweet. Went to Rich Chigga concert which was laughably short (I think he rapped for a total of 25 minutes?) but cool to see the top of his hair over the sea of tall people in front of us. Started watching Avatar the Last Airbender with the fam everyday after dinner. It was such a special show to me when I was younger and it's so exciting to see my whole family enjoying it together. Took a trip to San Francisco with Eric to celebrate our three year anniversary!! Had a lot of fun exploring SF for the first time - I found the colorful architecture really charming, the hispanic food absolutely delicious, the ramen and tsukemen to die for, Boba Guys very overhyped, and the hills very unwalkable lol. We had a wonderful anniversary dinner at Mourad, a modern Moroccan restaurant, and also my first Michelin-star restaurant. It was such a new experience - the food was inventive and honestly didn't look like food - but it was so delicious, and there were even servers who walked around to thoroughly explain exactly what flavors you were experiencing and why. Mind blown. Also spent time catching up with friends I haven't seen in a long time - went to a Korean spa with PJ and Kristin and got my body demolished in my first professional message. Visited the Airbnb office (it was gorgeous) and ate with Gabe, Matt, and Nolan. Went out to karaoke with Eric Sarah, Ktian, Weiwei, and Izzo (got my first hangover the next day :o) Got the grand tour of Facebook headquarters from Weiwei which resembled Disneyland's Mainstreet America haha. Flew down to sunny Los Angeles and walked along the beach with Eunice and Michael while eating ice cream... IN NOVEMBER. How is that fair? Attended CTNx in Burbank with Jessie (honestly wouldn't have accomplished half of the things I did during the trip if it wasn't for her pushing me and cheering me on)! Was a really humbling and inspiring weekend surrounded by such talented individuals, sat in on some really amazing talks/panels, got my portfolio reviewed by several studios, but more importantly, left with the sense that I can do this! I don't know if it will be in a year or two or more, but I know that I will get there if I keep working on it. And what's more, there's so many different ways to get there. Spent the rest of November following up with people post-CTNx, documenting all the things I'd learned, and relaxing with the fam. We had a delicious hotpot Thanksgiving, watched Coco which was gorgeously made, and set up the Christmas tree! 

Kanpachi - watermelon, padron pepper, avocado, serpent cucumber (the little mini watermelons!) It doesn't even look like food, but tasted incredible. Iphone camera doesn't do it justice :(

Kanpachi - watermelon, padron pepper, avocado, serpent cucumber (the little mini watermelons!) It doesn't even look like food, but tasted incredible. Iphone camera doesn't do it justice :(

Honey & Almond - orange blossom,   beeswax  , and icy granita - my favorite of the night! It was like ice cream but so light and fluffy I could eat it forever *__*

Honey & Almond - orange blossom, beeswax, and icy granita - my favorite of the night! It was like ice cream but so light and fluffy I could eat it forever *__*

Jessie and I at CTNx! Stole this one from her  blog  :P  

Jessie and I at CTNx! Stole this one from her blog :P 

DECEMBER Did some commissions this month to try and slightly offset all the money I spent on my CTNx trip! Opened up commissions on Facebook and was really touched by how much support I received T__T Also started working with gouache, which is basically an opaque watercolor and really fun to work with! One of my favorite artists who works in gouache is Peter Chan, his still lifes are so beautiful, realistic and abstract at the same time *__* Celebrated Eric's birthday and explored NYC together - I love the city during the holiday season, it's so lively and festive! We grabbed lunch at Cafe China, a Michelin-star Chinese place in Midtown which was very authentic & a e s t h e t i c. Went last minute Christmas shopping with Mok and Weiwei on the 24th :o Watched my sister perform the Nutcracker! Had a wonderful week with the family during Christmas break - watched a lot of Avatar, played Horizon: Zero Dawn all together, made pizza from scratch, folded a billion dumplings, went bowling, went ice skating, watched the Greatest Showman, and did some shopping. Also caught up with Nicole and Narindra who were in town! Chopped off all my hair that I'd been growing out for the past year and a half. Watched Victor and Dan perform at an open mic night and caught up with them too! Grudgingly played board games with Nolan, Brian, and Matt, but ended up really getting into the game haha. Met up with Khanh and Sarah in the city for delicious coffee and treats at Grace Street Cafe. Rang in the New Year at an Asian party with my family, playing many many hours of Zhao Pengyou. 

IMG_7542.jpg

Reflecting back on 2017, it was a wonderful, but challenging, year and also a very necessary step I needed to take for myself. I finally worked towards something I believed in, and took the time to connect with my family and friends who I've fallen out of touch with during college. I was truly touched by all the support I received from family and friends (and even strangers!) this year, and although most of you will probably never read this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the encouragement and perseverance you gave me. I will keep fighting the good fight in 2018!!!