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.
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 :’)
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!
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!
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.
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!
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~
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!!!!