Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Watercolors

Hello everyone! Happy New Years, in case I forget, and hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

This year I decided to make some watercolors for presents. It was more fun than I expected. I also printed out family photos and framed them for my mother, and she loved it. Doing this, I learned that making presents feels a heck of a lot more appropriate for Christmas than buying them.

This painting was for Kazu's mom, my mother-in-law (sweetest one out there!), who loves dance:

This one was for my brother, who's the first person to read Rema in its final draft version so far (I'm only up to chapter 10):

For dinner, we went to Tan Cang and had a delicious meal of crab, french style beef cubes, sauteed pea sprouts, and fried tofu. Man, it was so good! If you live in LA be sure to try Tan Cang, and get there early because the wait is pretty long.

After dinner we played Settlers of Catan (Tim won), and Halo (I played Phantom Hourglass on the DS). Things I got for Christmas: a coat, a scarf, some stockings, Final Fantasy 4 on DS, and the Sleeping Beauty dvd. My mom knit my brother and husband a sweater, and it reminded me of Mrs. Weasley giving Ron and Harry her home made sweaters. It was hilarious and wonderful, and they had their own special magic. Kazu and Tim proudly wore them, and will continue to do so.

I think this was my favorite Christmas in a long while, maybe because it felt so great to have a day off, and maybe because I didn't have to worry about my Mom and brother having to fly back to Hawaii a few days later. It was fantastic. :)

I feel refreshed and ready for more work, both on Rema and Amulet. There are two more watercolors, but I can't post them yet because I'm not sure if my friends recieved their packages yet. Once I know they did, I'll post them up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Abandonned illustration

This used to be a scene in chapter 1, but it got cut. I was playing around with the idea of frames, but I think I went overboard with the eels. It was fun to draw, though.

Things are going well here. The next few weeks will be swamped, as we're coming down to the wire on Amulet 2 (not to mention the holi-daze). I've made significant progress on the Rema novel. I won't say too much because I don't want to jinx it... but it's lookin' good and I'm super amped!!

Hope everyone else is doing well too! I'll pop back in later with some scans of my sloppy, sloppy sketches.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back home

It's so good to be home. A lot has happened since Kazu and I left for our trip, most notably we elected a new president. All I'll say is, Thank You.

Italy was wonderful. It's a beautiful place, rich with history. There's so much to see and think about, our biggest mistake was trying to pack too much into the time we were there. We didn't get to see Florence, but it just gives me more reason to want to go back.

We took so many pictures (too many pictures?) that it took me a whole week to post them all up on flickr in between coloring Amulet pages. I finally finished last night, and here's our photostream:

Week One - Milan, Rome, Lucca, Pisa
Week Two - Milan, Lake Como, Cinque Terra, Venice


It was pretty crazy! But worth it. I feel both Kazu and I learned a lot, and we walk away from this trip more excited than ever about what we do.

Thank you to Renoir Comics' Michele Foschini for his tireless guidance throughout the trip, Giovanni and Rosanna Ferrario for their gracious hosting and for inviting us to come along with them to Lucca in the first place, and to our fellow travelling artist Tracy Butler for sharing her creative spirit with us. I hope this won't be the last time we all see each other!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Happy Election and off to Italy

Guess what I did the other day? That's right:

And so should you! Don't forget to research your local candidates and propositions. All it takes is some time and google. It'll probably impact you just as much if not more than your presidential vote, and it will give you a good idea on the importance of your voice in politics. You can do it, I believe in you!

So if you've been reading my blog, you'd know that I'm 1000% for Barack Obama. This election season has been an amazing journey, one that I'll remember for the rest of my life because this is the first candidate that I've found genuinely inspiring. So, to celebrate this, I thought I'd link to some of my favorite Obama videos because they're extremely well done. By the time Kazu and I return from our trip to Italy, the election will all be over. This is my way of getting some closure on what has been a fascinating, entertaining, and all-around dramatic presidential campaign. I chose these four videos, because when I think about why I support Obama, they tend to pop up in my memory:

Guy with purple shirt
Super Tuesday speech
Obama speaks to headquarters after primaries
DNC behind the scenes

What can I say? I'm a fan!

Aside from politics, things have been pretty busy around here. Kazu and I have been painting Amulet pages non-stop with lots of generous help from friends and assistants (see Kazu's blog for updates!). Amulet 2 is turning out to be quite a beast with tons of locations, a broad cast of new and awesome characters (my hands are itching to do some fan art!), and a storyline that spans generations. It is a lot of work! But it's been a pleasure doing it, and it's worth it, even if it means running hours from 1pm - 6am!

With the new skills I learned, I tried painting some stuff from the Reman book, and well... let's just say the doodles made me giggle. Because I'm not so stressed about making things look right anymore, everything's turning out extremely cheesy and lazy-looking, which is probably a bad thing. But I'm more interested in just having fun and enjoying the act of drawing, because that's its primary function now, which is probably a good thing.

But as for writing, oh how I miss it! It's been so hectic here with Amulet, there's barely time to read let alone write, but with its absence there's an increased longing to get back into it and knock the book out of the park. Plus, helping Kazu with his book gives me the perspective I need to approach mine with an objective eye. Having read it again, it's ever more clear what needs to be done to make sure I send out the book I'm happy with. I refuse to settle for anything merely good enough when it comes to this story, I've been obsessed with it for far too long to let that happen! I intend to do a lot of outlining and brainstorming during travels.

Speaking of travels, as some of you may know, Kazu and I leave for Italy on Monday. We've been really looking forward to this trip for so many reasons, and we're so grateful to the kind folks at Renoir for inviting us to attend the Lucca Comics Festival! Our editor, Michele, has told us our itinerary and man... it sounds pretty intense and amazing. I can't wait to meet everyone!

I've been listening to an Italian podcast over at mydailyphrase.com, and it's been incredibly useful. They make podcasts for learning all kinds of languages, and space out the learning to one phrase per day. It's very effective! When we come back, I want to listen to the podcasts for Japanese and French, too.

Well, I have a few more Amulet pages to paint and some packing to do before we hop on that plane. I'll return with photos. Hope you all have a great two weeks, and have fun voting! I shall leave you with the corniest of my digidoodles: a kiss that doesn't happen in the book. ...Or does it?!


Friday, September 19, 2008

working on Amulet book 2

I realized I haven't updated my website in a while. Boy, does this place need a major overhaul...

Well, I've finished another full draft of my book. It's around 400 pages (if each page had 250 words on it), and 30 chapters. Kazu is reading through it right now. My friend Jen (she's open for commission, folks!) has also read through and seemed to like it, but I know there's a lot of edits that need to be made before I feel comfortable handing it off to seek publication. Kazu's been giving me some awesome story notes, but I'm taking some time away from it to work on Amulet, which, by the way, has been a blast. We have a few people helping us, and doing team comics is just... well, it's just a lot of fun. Way more fun than solo comics, in my opinion. :P It's been nice to be a part of a team again after a year and a half swimming around in the not-so-dark recesses of my imagination.

Not much else is going on besides that. We're trying to wrap up as much of the book as we can before heading off to Italy for the Lucca Comics Festival October 27th. We'll be there for two weeks, thanks to the kind folks at Renoir Comics. The first week will be a five city tour to promote the Italian edition of Sorcerers & Secretaries, and the Italian edition of Daisy Kutter, both published by Renoir. You can be sure there'll be a nice flickr report when we get back, like the one we did from Japan.

In the mean time, it's gonna be pretty busy around here. I'm hoping to squeeze in some personal art time between painting pages to keep my visualization skills sharp. That's something else I realized while writing, drawing so much has really helped me visualize landscapes and such in prose. I used to struggle with that when I was writing intensely in high school, but now it comes quite easily. Don't want to lose that.

The above picture was a drawing I've had in my head for a while and had to get down on paper. It's just the beginning of chapter one, Tabby waking up on her last day on Earth.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tabby and the Ghost Woman

I'm writing the last scene in the book, which comprises of five chapters (out of twenty-six). Now that I can see the finish line, I'm more comfortable with the idea of drawing some spot illustrations to head the chapters. After looking through a copy of the Breath of Fire Official Complete Works that I got from Comic Con, I thought it was time to teach myself how to draw nostrils. So, the above drawing was born! I used an oil pencil for the whole thing, foolishly thinking it was a normal pencil. But it turns out, I really prefer the oil pencil because it doesn't smudge quite as much as a regular one, so I was very happy.

I'll try some more illustrations in that style to see if it'll fit with the tone of the book, but I'm liking it so far. I still have to go through the whole thing (roughly 300 pages) one more time for grammar and word usage, so it's not over yet!

Speaking of Comic Con, it was awesome! If you haven't seen yet, my brother Tim has been uploading our home videos of the event on his website. He makes my terrible camera work palpable with his excellent editting! So, if you want to see what it was like behind the Flight booth, give his site a visit.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Coffee Creamer

Today I did the laundry with my Mom. It's very hot in Alhambra these days, but it's always fun to spend time with her. Earlier during lunch, my brother and I were telling Kazu about how we used to eat cereal with water, orange juice, and coffee creamer mixed with water. We thought it was normal because my brother was allergic to milk when he was little (along with eggs and peanuts).

We had a good laugh about that. Then my Mom set down her glass of water with a nostalgic smile.

"Whenever I hear about coffee creamer I always think about when I was little..."

She then told us about the time when American soldiers were handing out 5lb bags of coffee-mate creamer in post-war South Korea (the era she grew up in). As her and her friend walked home with their bag, they would put handfuls in their mouths and poof it out so clouds of it would fall on their faces, making them look like ghosts. Their neighbor, a lady who couldn't speak, would just watch them do this and laugh, laugh, laugh.

Apparently, the locals didn't know what the powdery stuff was used for, especially since they didn't really drink any dairy.

So she told me that her neighbors would mix the creamer with sugar and steam it in a rice cooker, making a hard milky-tasting candy that the neighbors would then distribute to the kids.

She also told us a story about how there used to be two chimneys that heated the floor of her home. Outside, the chimneys rose up the side of the house, and the space between them was very warm and cozy. She used to hide stacks of comics there and read them. One night, she was so engrossed in the comics, she wound up staying there reading far into the night. Her whole family was out looking for her. When her mother finally found her, she was so mad she BURNED all of my Mom's comics! OMG. I'm glad my Mom never burned any of my comics.

I love my Mom's stories. She has soooo many of them! One day I'll write them all down and illustrate them.

As for the current book, I made it past the big road block and it's awesome. I just tried to block everything out in my life and focus on a sort of free-flow feeling, like what did that character really want to say at that moment. I had to remind myself that no one will be seeing this until I want them to, so reminding myself of that helped to loosen my inhibitions, and it turned out great with some pleasant surprises. It's really surprising to me how closely the symbolism ended up reflecting things I went through in childhood via this fantasy story. Can't wait until I'm done. I'm on page 100/300 now.

By the way... Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Still writing, still inspired

These past couple weeks have been very interesting for me in terms of inspirational material.

Firstly, everyone should watch/listen to/read J.K. Rowlings commencement speech at Harvard on "The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination" (link via Laurie Halse Anderson's blog):

J.K.Rowling's commencement speech

"One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing."

It is so true. She will forever be one of my heroes.

Another one of my new heroes is the Wachowski brothers. If anyone has been reading my livejournal or Kazu's blog, you know how inexplicably obsessed Kazu and I are with the new Speed Racer movie. When I think of the film, I think of extremely satisfying movie-going experiences like Forest Gump, Star Wars, Shawshank Redemption, Pride & Prejudice, movies that exist in their own perfect circle which I can watch over and over again without ever losing their impact.

Just when I thought it was impossible to come up with something new, something fresh, and something emotionally honest, the Wachowskis come along and blow my expectations out of the water. This movie has completely schooled me, humbled me, and gave me something to strive for again. There is not one moment in the whole thing that doesn't feel deliberate, they had complete control and it shows. Watching Speed Racer is like being served a masterfully crafted gourmet meal. It may not be to everyone's taste, but man... did they ever make something with all their hearts, whether anyone likes it or not. It is the real deal!

I have seen this movie six times in the theater and counting, I just cannot get enough of it! The storytelling is impeccable, the synergy between visuals, music, and emotion is spot on. If you haven't seen the movie yet, give this gift to yourself and see it while it's on the big screen before it's goes to the small screen.

Watching and studying this movie has helped me immensely in my own storytelling, and for that I'm forever grateful to the people that worked on Speed Racer. I cannot tell you how helpful it's been for me with figuring out the crux of Tabby's story, and keeping it confident and clear. I just hope I have the focus to hold onto it through to the end of the trilogy.

Also, I'm out of my mind ecstatic that Barack Obama is the democratic nominee! The general election is going to be very interesting indeed.

Anyway, these are things that have made my life richer recently, so I thought I'd share it all with you. Writing goes well on Rema now that I got a good wake-up call from Speed Racer. All I need to do is hunker down and do the work, work, work... and that's the fun part, isn't it?

(added later) By the way, I forgot to mention... aside from Speed Racer you should all check out Kung Fu Panda, which opens this weekend. A few friends of mine (also fellow Flight artists) worked on it, including our studio mate, the ever-enigmatic Phil Craven. Kazu and I are probably seeing it tonight, I can't wait! The Art of book is simply beautiful! The Character Design blog has a good video preview of the interior art, mostly sketches by the mind-blowingly talented Nicolas Marlet.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

New York trip and lessons learned

Hello everyone! Long time no blog. Recently, Kazu and I got back from a trip to NYC. It was great to see old friends and say hello to colleagues. I only wish we had more time to stay and see more people!

Check out my flickr stream if you're interested in how it all went down...

I'm still trudging my way through the book, but I'm very excited about it. I lost track of how many drafts I've done, but with each one I get closer to something I can be proud of. That's the thing about writing, there really isn't much to show until the whole thing is done. Aw, heck. Here's a paragraph I just wrote a couple hours ago:

"Tabby faced the quivering blackness in front of her, her heart pounding in her ears. Terrible fear gripped her, and she tried to focus on what lay on the other side. Her home, her friends, her school, her mother. She took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves. She closed her eyes, then extended her fingertips, and reached through the darkness."

Looks kind of silly out of context. Quivering blackness, what? Will it be in the final draft? Probably not. It's funny, because it isn't the craft of writing that's been so hard for me, it's the storytelling. The storytelling is the hard part. Rema has become such a huge world in my imagination with so many parts of it I want to tell, it continually pushes in unexpected directions. It's been difficult choosing one direction to stick to and go all the way to the finish line with.

Well, needless to say, writing has been and still is an adventure. I also recently quit my retail job, and I've learned (or re-learned) several things from it.

1) The value of money. Seriously, I don't know how anyone can get by on minimum wage. I don't want to waste my money on things I won't use.

2) The value of time. Time is precious, more precious than money. It shouldn't be wasted.

3) The value of kindness. If you give people a little love, you can change their day.

4) the value of my own talent. I am so incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do, and to be able to do it well enough to get published. Most people cannot do what I do, and being surrounded by nothing but artists, I completely forgot that. I need to be grateful for my talents, and not let them go to waste. If you're someone out there who is talented, show your gratitude for your ability and make something with it!

5) A reconnection with my love for books. I love books. I love all kinds of books. I love how in the book world, variety is embraced and encouraged. I love how in the book world, there's room for everyone. I love how books make you feel included, encourage opinion no matter how controversial or marginalized, and foster the imagination. I love how anyone who can read is welcome to a good book, that the imagery within the pages is at the whim of the imagination that reads it. I love books.

I learned a lot working at the bookstore, but it's time to wrap up this novel. It's been almost a year now...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fun with watercolors

Did the above watercolor here and there over the past week (click image for full version). It's a character from the book who's new, and not in the webcomic version.

I got a job working retail part time, and having a blast. It really makes me value my time more, plus meeting all the customers and co-workers has been a great exercise in character study. I've also been really obsessed with the democratic nomination race, which has been just fascinating.

My dearest Kazu gave me an awesome 4' tall Orion Skyquest xt8 telescope for my birthday. Boy, does he know me, or what?! I've been looking through it on almost every clear night. It's been a big source of inspiration for me these days. I just love looking at the stars and daydreaming about them! Of the objects I've managed to locate (Saturn, Venus, the Pleiades...) the Orion Nebula is without a doubt my favorite. You can actually make out the features of the nebula, which just takes my breath away. Seeing the rings and moons of Saturn is also pretty inspiring, and a crowd-pleaser (when strangers walk by asking what I'm doing, I like letting them look through and share the wonder!). And of course, seeing the moons craters is always a trip. I can't wait to use the telescope in a really dark sky though, because the skies of Alhambra have a lot of light pollution.

Also, for those interested, I updated my flickr page with some photos of Kazu's Amulet signing at Nucleus, the Warner Bros. Studio tour with my family, and more.

Speaking of Kazu, he just wrapped up the lineup for Flight 5 last night. Man... all I can say is that you're all in for a real treat!

Working on chapter 16 of Rema now, and everything's going well. I love writing, and with each page written, I love it even more. It's really freed my imagination in unexpected ways. Life has been awesome these days. Hope everyone else is doing just as well, if not better!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

First Kiss, Then Tell and a drawing

Just out, this anthology features a number of popular YA authors spilling the beans about their first kiss. It ranges from sweet, to romantic, to downright disgusting (and judging by author Justine Larbalestier's blog, she'd know I'm talking about her story!). It's a fun read to share with friends, a great gift for Valentine's Day, and for a good cause as a portion of the proceeds go to NPR's Youth Radio.

As for my contribution to the book, I made a comic documenting my precarious path to true love. If you ever wondered what went on in my brain when Kazu and I first met/decided to get married, this comic is for you. OR... if you've lost faith in the idea that true love can exist, this comic is for you too. OR... who am I kidding? I made this comic for anyone willing to listen. I hope you like it!

So check it out, First Kiss, Then Tell edited by Cylin Busby. Be prepared for warm fuzzies!

Things on Rema are progressing slowly. I was stuck on chapter 7 for a good two months. That's right. Two months on one chapter. When I save versions of my chapters, I label them version A, version B, etc. The version that worked is chapter 7, version Vb. Don't laugh... I'm just happy to be off that merry-go-round!

Since then, things have been running smoothly (knock knock), and I approach each page with an eager heart. I'm up to chapter 11, and realizing this book is taking me way longer than Kazu or I could've predicted. Remember back when I was hoping to finish by December? Ha ha ~

I think it might be time to go hunting for a part time job. Ironically, the prospect of getting away from the studio and working on set, non-creative tasks sounds like a vacation. Writing sure requires a lot of mental gymnastics...

Speaking of Rema, I drew this picture of Philip last week, and I wasn't going to share it with anyone because I'm so used to keeping my work to myself now that I'm writing. I shared it with the Flight folks, I might as well post it here too. It's so much fun drawing this character now that I've been through so much story with him! Anyway, click if you want to see the bigger version. And I mean big.