Plans for the Rest of the Year

Sorry, but today won’t be an entry about how I’m having reverse culture shock and all of that. I’m sure that entry will be coming soon, but as I am writing this from the past, I have no idea how I will feel in the future. Instead, I’d like to take some time now, before my life becomes topsy-turvy again, and lay out some plans for the rest of the year. Yes, this is for accountability reasons as well, but also because you guys know I’m super open with what I am doing both on the art side and the promotion side.


  1. Set up the art studio
    This seems like a no brainer, and something that will get done quickly, right? I mean, I had one before I left Japan, right? Well, sort of. I had a tiny little corner of a room, where I had to stow supplies, reference, and my desk on top of each other. Now that I will actually have a studio, things will be a bit different. I’m not going to let myself buy too many things (namely because I have no money), but I have to get a new computer desk ASAP. The one I currently have has been falling apart for years, not to mention I’m not entirely sure I can get it into the art studio… anyway, before I can do any moving whatsoever, I have to first clean it out (it was an old storage room in the house, i.e. there’s a bunch of crap in it), paint it, and then set it up. That, hopefully, will be taken care of my first week back—with any luck, as this entry is posted, I will, in fact, be doing just that!
  2. Commissions
    Commissions will be opening super soon. For the time being, I’ll be relying on commissions to pay bills and buy food.
  3.  New paintings!
    Like, a lot. I’ve got thumbnails, I’ll have my paints back, it’s going to be great. I’m going to be trying some new techniques and there will be a lot of experimentation in the next month or so.
  4. The site
    Web maintenance and changing some things with the format are things I’ve been putting off, so I have probably weeks of fixes to look forward to in the future.
  5. YouTube
    I’ve been planning this for a super long time, but I will be going to YouTube! Well, I mean, I’m already there but I will finally start posting things. There will be process videos at first, but I am open to suggestions on what other videos people may want to see. I’m tempted to do a vlog of the days of setting up the studio, but it might be better not to distract myself while putting things together.
  6.  Mailers/New Business Cards/Social media/Self-Promotion
    While some might argue that should be the first step in my journey, and I have been working on it, I just feel I need to turn over some pieces in my portfolio before I can start sending things out. I’ve given myself a small window to produce some new work, and then I must start contacting Art Directors. It’s true that you never will be good enough, and that is partially holding me back—but when I look at my portfolio I see a lot of fanart, and not a lot of focus. I need to zone in on things, prove that I am awesome in them, and that will help me get a job than anything else I can do. So, yes, new work, then going to this step. Don’t put the cart before the horse, Aja.
  7. Convention Schedule for 2015
    I’ll be plotting and planning starting this month. I know I won’t get all the shows I apply to, so I need to have a bigger list then intended. It looks like I’ll be sticking to the East Coast for 2015. Maybe in 2016, California. My big pie in the sky is to go to a workshop for illustration and/or comics, and because of that, I need to save my pennies, and boost my portfolio.
  8. Play
    Play? What? Really? Yes, play. If having my Moleskine has taught me anything, it’s that I stopped playing in art at some point in my life. Was it in college? Was it before? I don’t know, but I need to allow myself to have fun, because in having fun, I start to discover things about my own art I never knew, and am much more open to experimentation.
  9. Comics
    I keep waffing back and forth how I’m going to return to working in the medium of comics. Should I do a one shot that’s got nothing to do with anything? Or a bio-comic about Japan things? Or just jump into the epic? Or do a one shot that is associated with the big epic and then move on to the epic? WHAT? At the moment, I’m still not sure. I’m hoping the 8 things above this will give me some clarity on where I should go first. Chances are, it will be a short first, so I can put that short together quickly and get it on the web, and build from there.

Goodbye Japan!

IMG_1788By the time you read this, I will already be on a 13 hour flight heading straight for the good olde… Canada? Yeah, I have a transfer in Canada first before heading back home to the States. It will be my first time in Canada, and I won’t even get to leave the airport.

Being in Japan has been quite a journey. I came here for a lot of reasons, namely because it’s the ultimate nerd dream, let’s be honest here. But while I have lived in Japan, the country has done more for me internally than anything. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last two years. I am capable of so much if I just would muster up the courage. I want to take this experience, and make great things from it, to show everyone how much it has meant to me.

There’s been drama, soul searching, crying, binge cake eating, binge TV series watching, more crying, and screaming, but in the end, I feel like I have grown up so much… which is unexpected when you are already 29. But I’ve always felt so much younger than I am, and now everything might line up (although mentally I still think I am somewhere around 25… which is better than it was when I got here). I don’t want to wait anymore. I want to start my life. No more idling, no more waiting until the day is right. I’m going to seize my now, and keep an eye on the future.


Traditional Medium Angst Over?

We’re getting closer and closer to the time when it’s time to leave Japan! I do have to apologize for last week. Things got nuts last week with a lot of leaving events and packing, and I just completely ran out of time. I’m amending that now by taking care of as much as I possibly can for the next month of posting so it doesn’t happen again before I go. Most of my things are packed now, but I know my last few weeks here are going to be busy with even more leaving events—I have dinner plans with someone different almost every night between now and August 6th with people who want to see me before I go, it’s kind of crazy!

But even though I’ve been slack on the blog, I have been trying to still do something every day that will help me with illustration work when I get home. I recently discovered Wylie Beckert’s artwork and have completely and utterly fallen in love with her stuff. It speaks to me so much, and has totally vivified me, not only in the creative process, but also using traditional mediums.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been feeling disheartened by traditional mediums, because it seems like everyone is moving to a digital format. I’ve tried working completely digital and I just can’t get the same feel for the art. My best piece that has been completely digital has been this:

The Man Out of Time

But it took me nearly ten times as long to produce it than it would have drawing it by hand. Arguably, I hadn’t yet completely warmed up to the idea of working from scratch digitally at that point, and I have since become better, but I still think something is missing from my work when it doesn’t at least start in a traditional medium. I’ve been penciling or even inking then scanning it and finishing it digitally for years, but Wylie’s illustrations really have woken me up to just how far I can push an illustration in traditional mediums, before bringing it over to digital and making it look even more awesome.

Her more recent paintings, which were oils in an attempt to recreate her digital style, also having me considering taking some oil painting lessons. Oil is the only traditional painting medium I’ve never worked in, because I honestly had no interest. They looked hard, complicated, and I was happy with my watercolors. But her stuff makes me question whether oils would help my style bloom.

Check her stuff out. Seriously. You will thank me later. Wylie’s stuff is breath taking. I hope one day I can meet her and thank her for lighting this fire within me to not let go with my traditional mediums, and maybe even push it further. I can’t wait to experiment more!

A month to go!

What could be harder than picking up your entire life and moving it to a foreign country? Picking up that entire life in the foreign country and moving it back to your home country! (and also learning how to spell foreign already, Aja– it’s been two years since you started being a foreigner, you’d think I could handle the spelling by now)

And while my plan was to have everything sent home by now (HA!), things are in motion to get most of my things packed and sent next week. And soon I will be without internet and my keitai, just a lonely soul, sitting in my apartment, staring at my laptop, willing the internet to work without a connection. Finding a Wi-Fi spot in rural Japan is more difficult than it is in the cities (which is already difficult). Luckily, I’ve had internet borrowing offers from some awesome neighbors, so I can at least communicate with the outside world. Not having my keitai will be devastating, though. And as much as I want to jump right into iPhone ownership when I get back to the States, I know that won’t happen right away, and I’ll be stuck with my old dumb phone from 2009. Yep, my American phone is that old. I’m a believer of the “if it ain’t broke…” philosophy.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to also juggle getting prepped to dive into the freelance world. The site revamp was step 1… ish. But now I need to ask myself some important questions:


  1. Who are my ideal clients?
  2. What makes me ideal to them?


And these are super important questions, as they will help form where I will go next in contacting art directors and the like. Before I came to Japan, I was super watercolor girl, with some marker work on the side, and very occasional computer colors, but it was mostly watercolors. I’ve always dabbled here and there with things, but watercolors has been my constant since high school.

While I’ve been in Japan, the tide seems to have shifted against watercolor work, and more towards computer coloring then ever before. I’ve even had more than one artist friend tell me that traditional mediums are dead. Even while here I made the shift, but more out of a necessity due to not having my tools. But the last illustration I did, where I got the resources to be able to do watercolor again, proved to be my most popular piece in the last two years. I don’t see much watercolor illustrations appear on my feeds, and that makes me sad. But the question is, is that because the market has demanded people make the shift to digital, or it was just a personal choice that looks like a market curve?

I still think my strongest skill to offer are my watercolors, so that then brings me to the answers to those two questions, and that’s where I am a bit stumped. Who wants watercolors now? And why would people want to hire me for my watercolors? These are not easy questions, and they will take a while to find the answers to, unfortunately.

To you illustrators out there, I pose the same two questions. Who are your ideal clients? And what makes you ideal to them? You might surprise yourself what you come up with.

The Art of Housekeeping Art

It’s almost May now. We’ve started the three month countdown to when I will be back in the states, and actively seeking artist work. Because of this, I’m starting the search now, and I’ve run into a few issues when applying for things. Mainly, I have to give them a specific page for my illustration portfolio, instead of just a straight up address, because I want them to see my work, and not my blog first. Which is fine, unless it’s someone who’s looking for both comic and illustration examples, because SURPRISE! it’s two different pages on my site. And that’s not as streamlined as I want it to be. I spent an hour or so yesterday looking at sites of artists that I admire, and while I like the straight to blog idea for sites, I understand the need to get straight to the art as well. I guess I will hook my site back up to Tumblr, and have the blog posts go to there and here, and ulgh! CHOICES!

Not only that, but I haven’t updated my portfolio page since… November? I need to get on this. And not only that, but there’s a consistant problem with my portfiolio– backgrounds, which are things I love to work on, haven’t really been represented in anything new I’ve done. I’ve been background lazy because here in Japan I’m without my usual arsenal of perspective tools. I really should be playing that up in my portolfio, because it’s something that I actually love to do and wouldn’t mind getting work for (note the perspective nerd glasses I had on during the redraw).

I spent my last four day weekend sketching and prepping a new painting to work on this next four day weekend (Sunday’s sketch), but I’m now putting myself to task to get this portfolio and navigation problem solved during this week, and if it spills into the weekend, so be it. This is important stuff that I have to solve, and quickly.

To keep myself accountable, here’s my to-do list. And I’m setting a May 11th deadline on this:

  1. Change front page to my portfolio. Period. Move the blog to a secondary page, and get over it.
  2. Update the portfolio. Get the stuff that is super old OUT. Get the pieces that aren’t strong OUT. Get it down to 10 pieces!
  3. Sketch out a header because omg Aja it’s been like two months since you said you’d put one up omg.
  4. Add contact info to all the pages (this will coincide with the header)
  5. Update About Page
  6. Take down the tutorial page for now, start writing down ideas for tutorials to do when I return back to the states (or sooner!)

I’ve also been contemplating putting my stuff back on DA. I’m still not sure though. I like Tumblr’s format a lot better and there are things about DA that still give me a bad taste in my mouth. But at the moment, I have two Tumblrs, a personal one and an art one. Should I combine them? The idea before in separating them was so that people didn’t have to see my billions of Marvel shipping reblogs, but is that really a problem now? I’m following so many comic pros, and well they post pro and personal (fandom) things. CHOICES! If I do combine them, I’ll have to do a LOT of editing on my main account. SO MUCH DELETING.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Things are going to be shifting quickly. I’m going to have to put my professional hat on and stop spazzing out (as much) online, I guess.

If you didn’t notice, Sunday started the new posting schedule! it will be as follows:

Sketch Sunday
Writing Wednesday
Free Friday?? … Yeah it’s kind of lame, I’m working on it… how about Fascinating Fridays?

So please check out all the new pretty sketches that will be posted on Sundays. Eventually, probably once I’m back in the States, Saturdays and Sundays might be events (like going back to the livestreaming on the weekends like I did two years ago), but my laptop here can’t manage the new livestream format.