Friday, January 19, 2018

Bye Bye Blog, Hello Journal :)

Hey guys! Late last year I finally got my own domain for my portfolio and recently decided to move my blog over to that as well. So if you'd like to continue following my sporadic life posts, check out my new page over at:

Thanks for sticking around for part of my journey on here! This blog is so full of (angsty teenage) history and will always have a place in my heart :) 

Bye bye blog ♥ On to the next journey(al) !!! The bad jokes will not end.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Good to be Back

Somehow another year has ended, a new one has begun, and a lot of things have changed. I started and quit my first job in Boston, lived in a fraternity house for three months, created my first short animation (commissioned by MIT's 2.009), attended figure drawing sessions for the first time, took a three week trip to Japan/Korea with Eric, moved back home to spend time with my family and think about my plans moving forward, worked up the courage to draw portraits for strangers in Central Park, and started and finished my first online art class. Along the way, I've wrestled a lot with myself and spent a little too much time worrying about what I should be doing vs. what I want to do (practicality and stability vs. gamble and uncertainty). I can't say I have the answers, but I'm happy with what I've currently decided on, and I feel inspired everyday to press on, thanks to the wonderful support from my friends and family. I am really too lucky *____*

Why haven't you been blogging for eight months Sonya? For a variety of reasons - both intentional and non-intentional. Back near the end of August I was overwhelmed by job search, but then once I found a job, things got quite busy trying to organize everything for the move and looking for housing. Since my job was an apprenticeship with chance of employment at the end, the initial pay was quite low, and I couldn't really afford many of the places in Boston. Luckily, I was allowed housing at Eric's fraternity. Then between work, dance practice/responsibilities (re-joined Unofficial Project for a semester and choreographed for the set), and house chores, I was quite burned out and didn't do much else - especially near the end of the semester when I was lucky enough to land an animation freelance gig (thank you friends for referring *__*), everyday was super busy. When I returned home for Christmas break, I was tired but felt accomplished. However, I realized that my sense of accomplishment came almost sorely from the animation I produced, the little illustration work I made at my job, and the fact that I had been able to somewhat regularly sketch in my sketchbook. I had learned a lot at work, and had really started to warm up to my co-workers, but the fact was that I felt little satisfaction or fulfillment doing commercial design work for clients. I wanted to create work that could stand for its own purpose, not for the purpose of clients. Around the time I was thinking hard about this, I left on a wonderful trip with Eric to Korea and Japan for three whole weeks. We had managed to find stupidly affordable plane tickets, I had enough money from doing freelance to treat myself a bit, and I wanted to get away for while. During this, I thought to myself it would be the absolute perfect opportunity to revive my blog! However after spending the past four months immersing myself in the design world, I felt that my blog was way too unprofessional and casual compared to all of the beautifully crafted and eloquently written blogs of working professionals. I was embarrassed of how frank and unfiltered my blog could be at times, and worried that future employers might stumble across it and see me as childish. So again, I put off blogging, telling myself I would make a shiny new blog soon, maybe using a platform like Squarespace or Medium - a place where I would produce well formatted and thoughtful content that other creatives would find insightful. And so I put off blogging for a while more. Around this time I also decided to take the leap and turn down the job offer from my company. I'm only 23, but for some reason I feel like I'm running out of time. It was really scary to say no to a stable income, in order to chase a dream that wasn't even clear to me. The first month, February, was hard. It was spent finding resources, reading blogs and interviews, doing all the research about the animation industry that I honestly should've done in my junior year of high school. I took self-taught free figure drawing classes online by Proko, and saw pretty immediate improvement. I knew that in order to improve my skills, I couldn't just dick around by myself doing trial and error. I had heard of Schoolism a while ago and had longed to take Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo's course on painting. For some reason (maybe fear of failure?), I had put it off for a long time. But at the start of March I realized that there was literally no reason for not giving it a go. I enrolled in their self-taught course and was blown away by the logical way they approached seeing. By taking their course, not only did I learn painting techniques, but I feel like I have learned how to see. It was such an a-ha experience, something I haven't felt in a very, very long time. It's a little sad, but I paid infinitely more attention to this course than I have in the vast majority of classes I took in college and high school. I've always had an appreciation for the beauty of the world around me, and in photography and video classes, I had learned to frame it and capture it on film. But now I've learned to start asking why something is and how we are seeing the things we see. Instead of purely marveling at how beautiful something is, I find myself often stopping to consider how the light is behaving. Both my artistic side and my analytic/logical side (hello tech school) really benefitted from this class, and I was simultaneously happy and sad to have completed the course yesterday. Soon thereafter, I somehow found my mind wandering back to this blog. I've been keeping a written journal since January to document my day-to-day, but I miss writing these long-ass, stream-of-conscious blog posts. Maybe in the future, I really will start a more public-facing blog, but for now this blog is more than enough for me to write about this exciting journey I am on! In the coming weeks, I will likely give the blog a slight make-over, and I hope to realistically blog atleast once a month. Feels good to be back :)

And of course, a blog post wouldn't be complete without ending on some intense photo-spam. Here are some highlights from the past 8 months (click to enlarge)!

View from my spot at work in East Boston. Too beautiful to concentrate on work haha
Did an AOA cover with Minerva, Khanh, VJ, and Jessica when Minerva came to visit in the fall - this is us trying to look cute but feeling completely wiped out after learning and filming the whole thing in one night
Did a cover of Boom Boom by Seventeen with Weilian, Jessica, Shruthi, and Eric for a contest. We look so posed, but this was actually real-candid! :o Shoutout to Sarah for helping us film + take pictures
Unofficial Project fall photoshoot! Going to miss dancing with everyone *__* Photo by QLH Photography
Christmas 2016 with the fam! I love how cozy it is at home during the holidays <3
Visited Eric's family in North Carolina! They were really nice and took us to all sorts of places like my first real basketball game and hiking/fishing. Southern comfort food is absolutely delicious *___* 
The first in a long series of Korea + Japan photos. This is a neighborhood in Hapjeong near where we stayed! 
Inside Gyeongbokgung Palace - it was really interesting how similar to Chinese architecture their palaces are - also in the palace museum all the scrolls were written in Chinese characters.  Apparently Korean characters didn't come to be until the 15th century!
Waiting for grilled chicken skewkers in Hongdae! That's our wait marker haha
At The Wal'z & Joypia, an adorable puppy cafe in Gangnam! First time going to a puppy cafe and it was such a wonderful experience *__* the place was filled with pet owners relaxing and adorable dogs running around. This one little guy (we named him Polypark after his striped sweater) climbed up on me and slept on my lap for over half an hour. Eventually we had to go so I lowered him down....and he immediately fell in love with another human. It's okay, I'm not bitter.
Seoul also has...raccoon cafes! Eric and I were pretty excited to go, but once we were inside, it was actually kind of.. depressing? All the raccoons were trying to sleep or run away from humans, but everyone just kept prodding them and pulling their limbs. We were standing in line, but left because it was too sad. The raccoons themselves were adorable though :3 
Saw this dude wadding through the super crowded streets of Hongdae on a really sunny day and was compelled to snap a photo.
Painstakingly selected only nine food photos from Korea to include. Everything was so delicious *__* we had many meals of fried chicken, and the kbbq was amazing (and significantly more affordable than in America) Mik even took us to this one place that was all you can eat for $8 per person. Criminal. We also had a lot of fun walking through the streets of Myeongdong trying all the different types of street food. There was chicken and rice cake in a cup, egg bread (pictured), deep fried potato tornados (imagine a giant spiral of thinly sliced potato on a stick), and so much more. While we were living in Sinchon, we (I?) fell in love with this cute 24 hour cafe called A Twosome Place that had delicious cakes. Speaking of 24 hour, Seoul sleeps freaking late and wakes up really late as well. We saw some malls that were open UNTIL 5 AM consumer culture *___*.
Arrival in Japan! The first airbnb we stayed at had that hipster aesthetic. Craft beer bottles with dried flowers. Interesting bronze objects and plants. Incense in the bathroom. Here's actually a picture of the bathroom! There are notes from past airbnb travelers lining the walls.
Met my friend Uno-san for a delicious breakfast + fun drawing session at the wonderful Kayaba Coffee. I absolutely love this place.  It's a coffee place, but the food is delicious - the eggs were so soft and perfectly seasoned *___* and the dessert that came after was beautiful and delicious. We had a table on the second floor, which resembled a cozy living room. There were students studying and the natural light was perfect for drawing. Did I mention how much I love this place? 
Eric and I woke up at freaking 2am for the famous Tsukiji Tuna Auction. They only let about 60 people in every morning, and apparently in the summer months, it'll fill up before 4. Luckily we managed to get a spot, and sat on the ground in the waiting room for a couple of hours until it was time to enter around 5:30am. We were ushered into a large warehouse with giant tuna lining the ground.  Turns out that the experienced fishermen can tell how good the fish it by looking at the color, and can tell the fat content by crushing a tiny piece in their hands. Crazy huh? Even more impressive is the actual auction itself. The auctioneer energetically waves his arms frantically while announcing each fish, and the bidders bid on the fish using quick silent hand gestures. Each fish's fate is determined in a matter of a couple of seconds.
An area to purify yourself before entering Meiji Jingu in Harajuku. I found this really beautiful in the late afternoon sun.
Japan has some really gorgeously designed little boutiques. We spent an evening walking around the Shibuya -> Omotesando area to just marvel at how thoughtfully put together the shops were. Super minimalist, clean and simple, and owned by some really sharp looking people! Also come on, this place is literally named Graphpaper. Besides for the pants in the center of the room, everything else is housed in nondescript pull-out large, wooden panels on the walls. 
After breakfast with Uno-san, he took us to go see the graduate sculpture exhibit at a nearby art university. This was a cool installation in a dark room where you can go inside and fight your way across to the other side. 
Sleepy early morning shot of our window ledge in Nagano.
In the snow covered forest of Jigokudani (translates to Hell Valley) on our way to go see the monkeys! This forest was gorgeous with the light streaming in and illuminating the extremely straight and endlessly tall trees. To be honest, this photo doesn't do this place justice at all :\ Since it was so icy, Eric and I kept slipping every step. He fell once, and I completely wiped out twice.
A close up shot of one of the beautiful snow monkeys. They were so cute! Bathing in the onsens together, cuddling, and jumping over each other. Also baby monkeys curl up and cling onto their mother's back like a furry little ball. *____* cuteness overload.
After seeing the monkeys we journey over to Takaragawa Onsen in Gunma Prefecture. There was a slight debacle where we ran out of money and couldn't pay for the final leg of the journey up the mountain in a bus. I'll save y'all the long story, but thanks to the kindness of the people at the ryokan, we eventually made it there. From the first moment we stepped into the bath all of the anxiety and stress disappeared. Dinner was also delicious. I absolutely love meals at ryokans - so many different little dishes and courses. We even had BEAR SOUP. To be frank, the bear tasted kind of strange, but it was still really exciting. Afterwards we took another longer bath in the open-air bath. The feeling of sitting in wonderful warm water while surrounded by snow (plus it was snowing on our heads!) was amazing *____* Ryokans are something I would recommend anyone taking a trip in Japan. 
Us in our comfy yukatas! 
Back in Tokyo at Memory Lane aka "Piss Alley." It's an adorable alleyway in Shinjuku near the station, and it's lined with tiny bars and yakitori places. At night, it's very lively - filled with tourists and locals alike.
Again, it was so hard to choose only 9 food photos from Japan but I somehow forced myself to do it. Karaage in Akihabara, to-die-for spicy yuzu (citrus!) tsukemen from Afuri in Ebisu (one of my favorite places that my ex-co-worker introduced me to!), tonkatsu in Nagao, all-you-can-eat shabushabu in Shinjuku, beautiful dessert from Kayaba Coffee, grand fatty tuna from Tsukiji (!!!), Ichiran ramen (you sit in little one person stalls and focus on your ramen haha), yummy yakitori from Memory Lane, and fried squid at a cute little izakaya in Nagano. I'm drooling onto my keyboard as I type *__* 
Soon after we returned from Asia, I turned 23! Spent it at home eating my favorite fruit tart with my family <3 I'm looking forward to what this year brings!
In the past couple of months, I've visited Boston several times. During one trip, I managed to take a workshop held by Just Jerk, an amazing group that flew over from Korea to perform at Elements + teach afterwards. The show was mind-numbingly good, and the workshop was nothing short of enlightening. I hadn't danced in several months, and attending the show and workshop re-ignited my crazy hunger for dance again *___* 
Recently my mother has been into the idea of taking multiple fun, short trips instead of one long vacation. Here's from a weekend we spent in Newport, RI. It was a super popular location for extremely wealthy families to have vacation houses back in the day, so we spent a good amount of time touring the old mansions which had been preserved. The houses were fascinating, but after taking 7 tours... they became less so. Nevertheless the town was charming, and there was a cliffwalk path that let you stroll alongside the rocky shoreline. Plus there were yellow tulips everywhere! I can see why it was such a popular vacation spot. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dogs Eat Dogs

Relaxing weekends are wonderfully well, relaxing, but also a little stagnant. Let me give you an example. This morning I woke up, around 9, 10, 11, and 11:30, finally managing to drag my body out of bed at around noon. After showering, eating a delicious lunch with the fam, and playing approximately 5 minutes of video games with Kaylin, I took a long, leisurely nap from 1-4 on the couch. For about 2 weeks now, I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping at night and my sleep schedule has been all over the place. Summer does amazingly terrible things to my self-control, and my guilty conscious is as powerful as ever. Fortunately, my 1-to-4 mini-sleep was filled with wonderful dreams of me being productive. I kid you not. I literally dreamed of myself doing laundry, cleaning, and sending important emails. If you think about it, it's kind of pathetic.

Anyway, these past few weeks have actually been pretty exciting/fun. I've been catching up with a lot of friends I haven't spoken to in a long time, and it's really been filling me with a lot of nostalgia. It might feel bad that I'm not in some a new foreign place with a wonderful new job and beautiful apartment, but I'm actually quite thankful that I've had the opportunity to reconnect with a lot of people and spend time with the fam. It makes me sad that I've fallen out of touch with so many people (both high school, and college) and I'm definitely going to make an effort to reach out more!

The job hunt is definitely going a lot better too. I've been tackling it in a more positive way, and getting many more responses and scheduling more interviews. I've even been getting better at interviews :') I'm a little scared to get attached to companies after interviewing, incase it doesn't go well, but I can't help it... it's so easy to daydream away *__*

A couple weeks ago I had a couple of disappointing let-downs. The first was a pretty successful interview which ended with "I think you're great and would love to bring you into the studio! We'll get in touch to schedule it." and was followed by a month of silence in which I followed up by email once and even called. In the end I received an email (a week after my call which was met with a "she'll call you back right away") saying that they are sorry but decided to pursue another candidate, encouraging me to apply for other positions with their company in the future. Companies really need to get their shit together. I understand that the hiring process might be a long and complicated one, and that they must be keeping track of a lot of applicants while simultaneously doing their daily work, but please have the decency to at least communicate with me. Similarly, I was doing some freelance work for my former boss's friend, and after putting in a good 30-40 hours on their project (which I was starting to get invested in) I found out that they were not intending to compensate me for my work. My boss said that was ridiculous and assured me that his friend was a very decent fellow and had actually insisted that they pay me...but a 1-on-1 phone call with his friend alluded to the fact that he was "under the pretense that I was doing it as a favor." Hilarious. People do not create a whole brand identity and design packaging for your product as a "favor." They do not waste their time on long winding phone conferences or on designing a hundred different logo iterations as a goddamn "favor." I'm not a money-hungry person, don't get me wrong. But designers getting undervalued for their work is far too common in the field. Design is a skill. It is a professional field. You don't go to a restaurant and demand food for free, nor do you ask an accountant to do your taxes for free. Why should design, illustration, or any of the creative arts be any different? Well anyway, before I get too riled up (yes that topic really gets me going sometimes), the point is I was angry, but we worked through our misunderstanding. After all, I had already invested quite a bit of time in it, and a lot of general thought (literally thinking about packaging layouts while trying to sleep at night) into the project, and was genuinely excited for what it could become. But a few days later, (after waiting 2-3 days for the guy to review my logo proposals), I was essentially let go, being told that I am inexperienced and that he didn't want to ruin my relationship with my old boss. He even said he had already contacted another friend of a friend who agreed to work on the project, and was disappointed in my deliverables that I turned in at the last meeting. At first I was furious for a variety of reasons. Obviously for the time and effort I had already put into the project, but more so at the ridiculous lack of communication I had received from these two. Even though I was excited about the end product, the process of working with them had been nothing short of frustrating. The lack of real feedback and information I received at all times (no real opinions or comments on any damn design I gave them, not giving me details on literally anything unless I asked for it. Bag manufacturer, deadlines, you name it.), the number of times they changed the goddamn name of the product (yes I researched and designed logos for three different names), and just the general disorganized manner of the whole thing. It even took him about 40 minutes to tell me that I was being replaced! During which, I bluntly cut in several times to try and get him to get to the point. My voice was a little wobbly (which was so embarrassing), but I managed to tell him straightforwardly that I respect his decision and did not want the pity money that he was proposing to give me. (100 dollars for 35 hours of work. Do the math. And no, I didn't actually call it pity money to his face) Yes it would've been very easy to accept his money, but my pride is ridiculously large and got in the way of me and several new art books *__* Anyway, I told him evenly that he should take that money and instead use it to properly compensate his new designer. After wishing him well, we finally hung up the goddamn phone. Overall, I felt shitty at being taken advantage of, and about the time I could have spent applying to jobs, but in the end, I had my pride intact and felt that I had done the right thing. Sometimes I'm a little too naive, and a little too trusting - but the past few months have taught me that as my friend put it "it's a dog eat dog world, Sonya" and that to survive, some people may not always do the most moral thing. I'm a little disheartened and disillusioned, but I guess I'm also a little wiser, and a little more weary.

Haha oh man this blog post is turning out to be quite the rant. Am I back in high school again? Anyway, this past week has been pretty exciting! The 2016 Summer Olympics have been going on! Team USA killing it in gymnastics and swimming, and China's synchronized diving literally creating control-c-control-v copies IRL. It's really inspiring and moving to watch these super-humans competing at such a high level (I may or may not shed a tear or two whenever the athlete on screen cries), and it's also pretty fun to sit around the TV with my family (or in my mom's case, excitedly jumping up and down) and shout at the screen. And on that note, I am finally going to stop writing before I think about something else to go off about, and caption the pictures. Waking up at 7am tomorrow gg (in 4.5 hours).

My cute meal at Panera. They started using new porcelain trays so naturally I had to take a picture.
I recently had to make a portfolio of food photography, so here are a few random ones from the album! This one is actually from a visit to China about 3.5 years ago haha but it's still one of my favorites. Probably because I am biased towards eggplant.
Yummy chocolate peanut butter crepe from Max Brenner's during restaurant week earlier this year! Beautiful and delicious... but very hard to eat the whole thing. Too much chocolate *__*
A smoothie I made last week! Look at me being all fancy with those strawberries >:D
Working on mini legos with my sister! My sister built a bad ass temple and I made this adorable little koala that Eric picked up for me from Australia last summer
Sitting in Central Park with Nolan and learning a new card game while waiting for Brian get his phone fixed. Caught a crap-ton of pinsars in the park lol.
TOTTO RAMEN. UGH I think it's their rayu (spicy sesame oil) that really takes it up a tier to GOD LEVEL. I can't explain it, but it just adds this smokey undertone that makes the whole thing really come together. Or maybe it's because I'm really hungry right now. On the left is us in Bryant Park playing the card game I learned earlier that day in Central Park! In this park, I caught many clefairies. lol #pokemongo5ever
Spent a weekend down in Philly! Went to this amazing brunch place and order a fucking gigantic pile of red velvet pancakes. To be completely honest, they were like. okay. But Eric and I had a good laugh trying to eat all of it. Since it was too hot outside, we took refuge in a cute hipster coffee shop and drank pretty (but tasteless) tea while playing cards :) Needless to say, I think I roasted him with this hand.
After spending a fun afternoon kicking Eric's ass at video games at Dave and Buster's (okay I lost several times at stuff too), we walked over to Penn's Landing! Lots of... water pokemon. LOL. Also I'm wearing these giant square earrings I impulsively bought on a brief shopping trip with Ed, and Eric is wearing a cute Jean-Michel Basquiat t-shirt from Uniqlo that didn't come in my size. u__u
At Spruce Street Harbor Park! Basically a really festive stretch of the river lined with pop up restaurants, lights, and a beer garden. Colorful LEDs and delicious food are the perfect combination. (not to mention several pokestops with lures and an abundance of magikarps. omg no I'm not obsessed I promise.)
Another photo of the park! This place is more inland and filled with colorful lounge chairs with lights hanging down from the branches. The photo doesn't really do the whole set up justice :(
A photographer setting up for a photo of a gorgeous cloudscape and my mom and sister marveling at the size of the bear I got from Eric (he won that thing from Dave and Buster's on an intern trip with his company....literally how does one do that) He's super soft and I named him Brown Bear. B-bear for short.
Some excerpts from my sketchbook! Left is 3 min sketches and right is a couple of head-shots of the amazing characters from a drama I'm watching called Doctors. The girl in the bottom corner is a bad ass fighter who becomes a neurosurgeon. *__* #goals.
My most recent illustration! I think I actually see some progress in the way of my digital painting which is super exciting. I've been watching a lot of youtube tutorials and videos by some amazing artists which has been really helpful in addition to being downright enjoyable to watch. My current favorite is Ross Tran! Watched literally all of his videos in a few sittings lol. He's hilarious and also such an inspiration *__*
Eric stopped by for a visit last weekend before heading off to Japan! And he brought me more wonderful gifts - a set of beautiful Pixar postcards. I love Pixar. and I love postcards. I actually recall myself eyeing them a while back at a pixar store and forcefully tearing my gaze away, so this was such an exciting surprise!