Latest Posts

In the 10th Month, I Got Published!

In case you’re not up-to-date, you can catch up with my previous art-related blog posts here:

If you have enjoyed reading my content, it might be more worthwhile to follow me on Instagram as I post more regularly there and share my fair share of thoughts (although on a more micro level).

To begin 2021, I submitted a piece of artwork to a local online magazine answering their brief ‘My People’. Shortly after, I was notified that the submission was accepted! I was so happy. I actually managed to tick the first item off my Art Resolutions list which was to get published. It meant a lot.

I am now proud to announce that it is finally published as of 7th February 2021 and can be viewed here:

You can find my art feature on pages 32-33. Thank you to Nawr for featuring me and my work.

The title of my submission is called,

My people can’t keep the snow white, but they sure can keep the sky bright

The whole process has been challenging but fun. I am now looking at other ventures to apply to as I think it allows me to really think outside the box and create some original work. I should probably add that the above is my first original piece (as in I didn’t copy a full reference).

Writing the artist bio/statement has also been another challenging step. To be honest with you, I haven’t reviewed my art feature in print properly (I cringe at any publications/media features that I am a part of) but maybe when some time has passed I will.

Have a blessed day and thanks for listening!

I am thinking for my next few posts, I can give some tips on creative motivation? I’ll have a think.

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Innate Fears of Being an Artist

My painting titled, ‘(I Was) Once a Crybaby, Now I Just Admire the Rain’

I’ve been painting for about 9 months now since reconnecting with the hobby. The best thing I ever did with it is record my journey and progress throughout which you can see on my Instagram. As the journey continues though, I find myself having this tiny innate fear inside of me. It’s a very tiny one but it’s still there. This is the sentiment I’m sharing today.

When you’re a fresh new face of an artist, you are daring. You want to do everything and try everything. If you’re lucky, you might even score big and become highly acclaimed, win some awards…you get the picture.

But as the journey lengthens and your working portfolio increases, so does your standards (and naturally so). This can be both good and bad. Thoughts like ‘Can this work beat my last work?‘ starts to creep up and before long, the imposter syndrome* is born – a term I’ve only learnt of recently.

*Imposter Syndrome is a psychological term used for thinking patterns of doubting your skills, talents or accomplishments, replacing it with the idea that you are a fraud

I can only speak for myself and without a doubt, my confidence has increased. Having tapped into an artistic thinking and making process for months, I am realising the benefits of making art to maintain positive mental health. But there is also an ugly side that isn’t really talked about although perhaps well-documented. (Think about the amazing artists we have lost due to suicide and a string of other events that are less than pleasant).

A tiny voice inside me wonders if this is a fluke; that in fact, I don’t know how to paint at all. I have even been pondering on the prospects of if we ever go back to some state of normality, will I awake from this bubble? Because eventually, I will have to surely? One day, I won’t have as much time as I do now to make art. But maybe that is also the point. There is no time better than now to do things. Pandemic or no pandemic.

Starting is always the most difficult. Making a mark on a blank page. But the beauty is in the process as you see the development of your work – that is, if you keep working on it and don’t give up. When you’re finally in the zone – when I’m finally in the zone, I loosen up and release the rigid thought that I’m ‘not good enough’ or ‘can’t paint’. I free myself and just paint because that’s all I can do in that moment.

And then, I remember that I can in fact, paint. The motivation is then to do my best and finish the painting.

Are you an artist (of any kind)? Can you relate?

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Finding Inspiration

A group photo of some of my artwork over the course of the pandemic! @hoiyinli on Instagram

Everyone has their own way of finding inspiration. The most natural way is when the ideas just flow and come to you, when you’re not forcing yourself to find the perfect idea. Because the more you force it, the more you end up getting stuck.

There is no right or wrong way to being an artist just as there is no right or wrong way to finding inspiration; however I do think there are positive patterns to follow to reach an enlightening stage. I also think one of the biggest misinterpretations of being an artist (of any kind), is that you must aim to be ‘original’. Originality just doesn’t exist today because our libraries of knowledge have increased so vastly that everything we do and make is an amalgamation of something that we have seen and learnt from someone or something else. Furthermore, we are usually copying from something. (Please do note that this is different to plagiarism). Copying is not bad – it’s how we learn, improve and carve our craft.

I’m currently reading a book by Julia Cameron, titled ‘The Artist’s Way’, which basically talks about how creativity is in all of us and how a spiritual pathway is unlocked if we allow ourselves to unblock certain elements.

This post isn’t so much about that but I thought I’d just mention it since I’ve been thinking since last month how this art journey I’m leading has been a spiritual awakening. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life purpose. My thoughts are lucid. It’s like every time I paint, I untangle my thoughts and then come to understand a concept better. I don’t know if I’ve ever come close to understanding myself like I do right now.

When you’re an artist, finding inspiration usually comes visually. For me, it’s the Pinterest board. Don’t be fooled though – it has to be more than that. Finding inspiration is a whole thought process as much as making the work itself. Even if you are painting* an image and copying its entirety, you are making conscious decisions throughout on why you have painted it the way you have. After all, you have chosen to paint the image for a reason, right?

*Feel free to adapt active word to your own creative craft

For me, a good painting isn’t one that’s been copied and crafted well. Again, it has to be more than that. A good painting (to me) is one that can make you feel something. If it doesn’t make you feel anything then it’s no more than a dead painting and so the artist has failed at their job. But each to their own since art is so open to interpretation anyway. Actually, maybe part of this influence is from the art teachers that I had.

I learnt two important lessons from art class. One, you should always play like you’re a child. Two, you should paint** with emotion.

**Actually the phrasing was you should ‘drape’ with emotion as this was in fashion class. But still, the same can be applied to painting.

Finding inspiration doesn’t have to begin from an image. It can be a word, an object, a concept/idea but most importantly, you have to relate to it. That is perhaps the most original part of being an artist (of any kind). Your thought is the realist. You can’t fake a thought, a point made in recent Netflix film I’m Thinking About Ending Things. Your thought is your point of view and whilst you might be copying an image that’s been copied a thousand times over, no one will harbour the same thought process that you have from start to finish. No one.

Even if your thought is just one part of your ‘self’, it is still authentic.

So what does this conclude to?

Well, the most original part of our work is the making behind it and not necessarily the work itself. In some ways, that may be disconcerting but if our aim is to be original then most likely, it will not work out that way. Why? Because we end up trying too hard which goes against trying to let things ‘flow’.

Flowing is not a bad thing. When I think of flowing, I think of the water current. Energy. This should relate to both motion and emotion. We shouldn’t do things for the sake of doing and this applies to making art, including the process of finding inspiration for it.

Other than a painting making you feel, often I love the storytelling behind it. When I was studying A-level art especially, I loved reading the stories behind iconic paintings – my favourite ones were derived from Greek tales. If anything, reading the inspirations and stories behind the artwork made me love it more because it became full circle. Nowadays I ‘read’ images like I read books – it’s amazing how much information and detail you start picking up if you do this often. And so, the flow begins.

When you start flowing, the ideas start swimming. It’s only when you stay still that you might start to sink. Making work, any work, a masterpiece…starts from an idea that becomes many steps in the process. So next time you find inspiration, make sure it means something to you.

Does it make you feel? Can you tell a story?

Happy Holidays! I hope you’re all enjoying the festive season so far. Things are very different this year but I still hope you managed to indulge in one way or another. With the year it’s been, just think how far you’ve come to reach here – that’s beautiful.

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Learning To Like Your Own Work

A Work in Progress picture for ‘Don’t Disrupt My Peace!’ as part of my 2020 Series

Learning to like your own work doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it can be a very long process of self-loathing before you get to the stage of self-love and not caring whether others like your work or not. And by ‘very long process’, I by no exaggeration mean years.

I’ll mainly be talking from the perspective of being a creative/artist, but feel free to adapt to your own situation. You could be a student, or in a high-stress job or are just a stressful person in general – we’re only human after all.

I’ll start by talking about my own experiences first leading up to my present and then I’ll offer some tips on how to reach your highest self when it comes to personal acceptance that your work is good (enough) and that you are good (enough).

I think I first started feeling the stress shortly after finishing high school and proceeding on to study A-levels (equivalent to senior year in high school for other countries). Whilst my parents were not the strictest, being raised in an Asian family, I felt and was very aware of the pressure that my culture commands – which I later found out, was pressure that I had instilled onto myself unnecessarily. Learnt behaviour perhaps? Getting a grade B for example, is almost automatically seen as not good enough (in Asian cultures) and whilst my parents never said I had to get straight A’s, I was keen to impress and the standards I’d set for myself would be high to the point that I left myself very little room to breathe.

Of course, there is no problem with aiming high. But it does make the fall harder. Your pride also gets bigger in the sense that you cannot allow yourself to fail. This is the part, which I realise now, is the hardest to overcome. You have to get over yourself. That is the first hurdle. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you have to be realistic. Don’t cloud your judgement.

I firmly remember crying over a Grade B. I also remember crying over other silly grades during the first year of university, sobbing to my best friend on the phone or to my mother at a later stage, thinking how I had let her down. It was hard to take that I had tried so hard on something but the results were not rendering. For me, it was grade A or nothing. In retrospect, I know how incredibly stupid that sounds but it was my reality at the time.

At some point, I stopped enjoying myself, limited my social hours and probably became blind to how it was affecting me, my mental health and relationships with other people.

During this time, art was becoming a larger part of my life. In essence, it was the bane of my life whilst also saving me. I would spend a great deal of time in the art room during my A-levels. When it was exam time, my lunch times were spent there, painting away. Actually, it was great to lose myself to painting because I felt like I had found my own language, my own peace but socially, I think this was the beginning of something else.

I had always been a somewhat modest and low-key person. Quiet. But as my standards got higher, my actual enjoyment became less and was purely based on a stupid number, a grade. Now, when you put a number next to something entirely subjective (Art, in this case), it doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand but how else are you going to mark one’s work, right? The problem with subjectivity though, when it comes to any work (student work, professional, casual – doesn’t matter), it can get personal. So when even your own standard is not reached, your ego is damaged from the beginning. Depending on others’ compliments (or lack of) can also result in a further emotional descent. Why? Because when you don’t like your work, when you don’t think your work is good enough, the compliments almost mean nothing and that was what I was feeling. I was finding it hard to acknowledge my own efforts.

I was always that one person who would accept compliments awkwardly. It’s not that I didn’t want to seem grateful or that I was miserable – it really just comes down the lack of self-love for the work because it was produced almost for the sake of producing it. Making work just to seek approval doesn’t quite cut it either. In a way I was lost, and whilst I knew perfection didn’t exist, I think in some ways, I was always looking for it because I didn’t reach a point with my work back then that I felt truly proud of to call my own.

As some of you may know, most recently I got back into making art again during the pandemic (see my instagram here). It’s been a bit of a funny journey but I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason and eventually everything comes full circle. This is that.

I don’t know if the big break in-between those years benefited me or chilled me out, or whether it’s age-related; but as I began making art again, all the good old feelings came rushing back. A bit like an old friend that never left, a conversation that never died. I always wanted to make art again and for the first time in years, I felt like I had time. There is argument that time is a value that’s part of an illusion and therefore what we make of it – and I think that is true. I know now more than ever that we have to make time to do the things we love.

Because eventually it runs out.

Two things are guaranteed in life: birth and death.

But we can decide the main body of it.

Within this (long) journey of learning to like my own work, mindfulness and living in the present became a huge part of it. Once I started practicing it more, I just found myself loving my art because I fell in love with the process of it all. The colours. How the materials feel in my hand. The feeling of being understood. The feeling of making something because no other structure in the world suits you. All this whilst releasing all pressures; past, future, daily, societal worries.

When I was making art, it was just me and my art. No one else. No distractions. It felt great. Then I started sharing my process and outcomes casually on Instagram with no expectations. I shared my art the same way I would if I took a nice photograph from a walk outside. But things change and develop. The kind compliments fuelled me to make more art and here I am, with an Instagram that became an Artgram.

The journey has been hard, long, sometimes frustrating; but it might just be starting to feel sweet now.

Below are just some headline tips that helped me on my journey and can simultaneously help you:

Loving what you do is half the battle

I wouldn’t return to art if I didn’t love it. When you have a passion, you naturally want to learn everything about it and overall, just get better everyday. If you find yourself feeling this way, it’s really a great fuel for motivation. Just remember to take it easy and be kind to yourself on days when you might not be liking your work or rhythm. Cue next point.

Allow yourself to fail. Do it! Then repeat

I used to be so evasive of failure in general! I had to annoyingly give myself the challenge of doing exceptionally well in everything so when I eventually tripped, it was a harder pill to swallow. We’re only human though. After the first fall, you won’t be so scared the next time, and the time after that. Each failure has made me stronger and just preps me to be better for the next time round. Learning is not failing. Remember that.

Stop asking for permission! Trust yourself

Being a creative, you make a lot of decisions along the way. I remember when I used to be so indecisive that I’d ask for a second and maybe even third opinion. Asking for a second opinion is not a problem, but when you know the answer already, don’t ask the question. Learn to trust your intuition and be in tune with your heart. It’s okay to take a risk as long as you’re not hurting anyone.

I came to the realisation some time ago on how sad it was that so many people trusted me and my work yet I didn’t trust myself. I therefore had to change my entire mindset which has helped hugely. Speaking of mindsets, it was also really important to not try and please everyone because that is impossible.

If you take the long route, be prepared to lose yourself before you find yourself

I used to be so fixated on trying to find my own style. I felt like I didn’t have one and at some point, was just trying so hard to find it. One time, I even based a final project on ‘identity’. Chances are, you have to copy a lot or practice a lot of techniques before you arrive at your own – which is completely fine! In the creative world, being ‘original’ is very debatable so don’t aim to be some sort of pioneer. Just enjoy the journey that you’re on and the rest will come naturally!

The thing about being on a journey is you have to embrace every moment, all the bad with all the good. You can’t actually get to the good without experiencing some bad. The more art I made, the more I realised that I just had to stick with it to get better at it. I had to make bad art first before I could make good art!

Please celebrate every milestone, however small

Those of us who are very hard on ourselves almost never celebrate the work that we put out. That’s when you need to ask the question what’s the point? if you don’t celebrate some aspects of your work. It also majorly takes the enjoyment out of what you do. Even if work is ‘work’, you should ought to celebrate each little milestone.

Don’t worry so much about the numbers. Worry about your own targets such as exploring a new subject, a submission a local magazine/gallery or tackling a new technique. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint and each small milestone will help you reach your (ever-changing) destination!

Share your work – even if you think it’s not finished

I never used to share my work openly. In fact, I would hide it because I didn’t reach a stage where I felt comfortable sharing until recently. Admittedly, Instagram and the digital world in general has made it so much easier now to share work more than ever.

I think a lot of artists have this syndrome of not sharing work until it’s ‘fully finished’, ‘perfected’, but if you keep doing that, you’ll never share your work or reach that level of finish – even if you were given a lifetime to do it! By sharing your work, you might just learn a thing or two. Plus it’s a free ticket to gaining some confidence and honest feedback about your work. Once you release that ego of yours, you’ll find a lot more freedom in the things that you can create and do.

A slightly different post today! It’s quite personal so it took a bit longer to write this time round. I hope it’s not too hard-hitting to read? I’m hoping it will enlighten someone out there because I know how hard of a journey it can be. My best advice is to take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

Thanks for reading!

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How To Get Really Creative With Gifting!

Since the Christmas holidays are coming up and I’ve been super creative these past few months, I thought I would share two projects that I worked on and indeed, gifted. This isn’t an ideas post per se although I do hope you get somewhat inspired by it. It’s more about how original you can be with present-giving although yes – you will need a lot of time and effort and some creative skills which might sound really daunting to some but I hope to prove otherwise!

This Christmas will inevitably be very different. There is already a lot of talk about how Christmas will be skimmed back whether it’s buying less from commercial giants and supporting more local businesses; or skimming back on the Christmas food basket overall. Or perhaps not doing Christmas gifting at all except for the children. (I know a friend or two doing this).

If you want to be even more original, the present can be entirely digital (see below) or completely handmade so that the person you’re gifting it to, is the only person in the world to have it (also see below). That’s a really cool thought, isn’t it?

I cannot tell you enough of how much I love gifting and writing cards. I can be quite a detailed person so I like the gift to be almost completely customised for the person involved. How? Read on!

I learned some BSL, filmed it and shared it on Instagram to surprise my best friend

Context: My best friend had just successfully secured a new job where she would be using BSL (British Sign Language). I had asked her how to say a few things in sign such as Congratulations. Prior to that, she had taught me how to say My name is… and Good morning. I spent one week learning some sign before releasing a video to surprise her. It took a lot of takes (see bloopers) but I had so much fun learning! I also developed a huge amount of appreciation for sign language so it was a win-win situation.

This was my gift to my friend!
Making a gift for someone really doesn’t have to be all serious. Remember to have fun – here are some bloopers!

This might be my most innovative gift…because really, who makes a video (as a present)? Presents definitely don’t have to be flashy, splashy or tangible for that matter. Sometimes my favourite part of a present can be a heartfelt card so what better way than to combine your message and present into one? (FYI – I didn’t purchase a Congratulations card, this was that).

Side note: Does anyone remember when e-cards were a thing??

I painted and framed a 6-piece art collection for my brother’s birthday

Context: My brother’s 40th birthday was coming up. Having started my art journey around the initial lockdown period (March/April), he had seen some of my work in the summer and subtly hinted at painting something for his upcoming birthday which was in October. I therefore challenged myself to paint a range of artworks that would eventually be framed. This was a huge challenge that I set myself in order to push my art making skills.

To make memories last longer, I took plenty of photos and filmed a timelapse video to commemorate the challenge! Swipe to also see my brother’s response via WhatsApp

Stroll further to see the details of my art challenge/project. In total, this took just under a week to complete. You will need to consider how much time you will have to dedicate a gift to someone. I went completely ham because I had the time – however if one evening is all you have, that’s already good enough!

The 6-piece art collection I created for my brother’s birthday
A card always comes in handy as a present-topper!
The first piece I completed out of the whole collection, titled ‘2020: I Am Finally Feeling Peaceful’
This was painted the following day, titled, ‘2020: Don’t Dampen My Spirit, I’m Shining and Reflecting’

The larger paintings above are about 8×6″ sizes whereas the smaller paintings are 6×4″. This was a challenge in itself as it was my first time painting that small – at least in oil pastels. I think the results were successful though – what do you think?

Personally for me, giving a present to someone is really about effort and meaning behind the gift rather than the money you spend. I think there comes a point in life where everyone has a lot of material goods which is why gift ideas like the above examples come in handy. If you’re not particularly artsy, you can edit some photos and put them into a scrapbook or photo frame – they can be just as effective! These are the type of gifts you simply cannot buy.

Is there a silly memory or inside joke that you and someone else always laugh at that no one else would understand? Do they have a particular taste that’s hard to actually come by? Do you have a creative talent that you can use and customise for that person? Only you will know these answers but when you do, chances are, you know the person rather well. Have a little think, don’t force it and make sure to have fun!

I don’t think I have ever written a gifting post but that was fun to write! Hopefully it gives you some ideas for how you can make gifting this year special for someone. Of course, you won’t have the time to do this for everyone (I definitely don’t) however the feeling you get once you gift something customised for someone is second to none. So please, try it sometime!

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