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! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

How Do We Live

I want to preface this post by saying that it's late and I'm pretty emotional right now, so I'm unsure of whether I should be blogging, but I have a lot of thoughts and need to release them or sort them or whatever this is. A lot has happened over the course of this summer, and a lot in just this one week. The pulse shooting, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile's murders, the attack on Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest, the suicide bombers in Istanbul's Airport, the attack in Nice, the bombings in Iraq, in Syria, and so many more. There is so much pain in this "modern" world that we live in, and it feels like there is more and more everyday. Seeing all this pain, all this hate, scares me. Scares me because I feel hopeless and helpless, watching these things happen, over and over, while the world mourns endlessly. Scares me to imagine how a human can do these things to other human beings. Scares me to try to comprehend the pure amount of life that has been lost. And I don't mean life as a numeric value, but life as in the rich and complex collection of stories, memories, experiences, personality, family, and thoughts that make up one single person. Most of us have unfortunately been touched by death. Losing one family member, one neighbor, one teacher, or one friend is already incomprehensible as it is. All of the life that existed within them, stopped. Now trying to imagine that pain multiplied thousands and thousands of times for millions of people around the world. How can anyone sleep at night, eat their meals, and go on living after causing that kind of pain?

When Matt Damon spoke at our graduation, he left us with the words "turn towards the problems you see." And naturally he means to face the problems head on, to try and make a difference in this world. But all I can do right now is to turn towards the problems and stare at them in absolute paralyzing fear. When I heard these words at graduation, tears welled up in my eyes, not because I was fired up and ready to take on the world, but because I was afraid of the world and I was convinced that I could not possibly make a difference. There is a lot of beauty around us. There is love, and compassion, and wonderful people making differences in other's lives, even in the smallest ways. And multiplied by hundreds of millions, one could say that there is much more "good" than "bad". But somehow violence has a way of obscuring your vision and drawing your complete attention to one ugly mark on a much larger and much more complex surface. I'm scared, but I want to help expand that surface and add my own small marks. Maybe only a handful of people will notice those marks, will be affected by my attempts, but being able to make a difference in a handful of lives might be something worth living for.

I want to end this post by sending my condolences to the family and loved ones of the MIT student who was hit and killed earlier today by an off-duty cop who was drunk driving. I'm stunned and heartbroken to hear this news about a recent graduate who had his whole life in front of him.

Human lives are so fragile. How do we live so that when we die, we can die without regret?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sun Shower

Currently sitting downstairs sipping downing cups of lemonade while trying to blog, but in reality just reading viral articles and watching cooking videos on Facebook. Not much to ramble about this time (my mind is fixating on dumb things like Pokemon GO right now) so I'm just gonna do pictures and captions!

Open grilled cheese and a strawberry + blueberry smoothie for lunch! Yes I used the DSLR to take this one lol.
Mom bought panko crumbs so I made chicken katsu curry :3 Pro-tip: Crumbs are so much more satisfying than just using corn starch
Interestingly presented unagi-don on lunch date with mom - Little Lamb Mongolian Hotpot at home! all the deliciousness at a small fraction of the price - made red bean mochi with kaylin! She had so much fun folding them, it was so cute *___* - and spare ribs in dry wok at my mom's favorite Sichuan restaurant
Gorgeous sunset in town center while waiting for the fireworks to start 
My town's Fourth of July fireworks! My favorites are the giant gold rain and the red ones that zip around in a bunch of directions haha - my absolute least favorites are the super loud and bright ones that temporarily blind and deafen you *__* literally flash bombs.
Spent the 4th in NYC with mom and kaykay! My mom took us to watch the Summer Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall! I didn't really have any expectations going in since I had no idea what type of show it was supposed to be, but HOLY LORD it was amazing!! (or one can say, spectacular huhu) The show was choreographer by Mia Michaels who did an absolutely beautiful job with the choreo, staging, and overall effect - at one point I was so overwhlemed by the powerful dancing, live orchestra, and lighting/effects that I almost cried LOL. 
We grabbed an early dinner at Ippudo Ramen which surprisingly had ZERO WAIT. Oh my god it must've been our lucky day (one time I went and the wait was three hours....) Anyway, we had their beer battered karaage to start and I got the spicy tonkotsu ramen - slightly regretted the tonkotsu tbh (miso 5ever) but it was still delicious :3 Also their chopstick stands rock. Yes that was a pun.
Some sketches from these past two weeks! Spending more time on figure studies
More sketches! Humans of New York has some great photos to reference
So I posted this picture last time (left) but I made some changes to it (right). Cleaned up some of the lines, added some objects to the background, and applied a blur to achieve some foreground-background distinction. I think it makes the girl pop a little more :D
Hehe did some food-themed illustrations! First one is for my Ramen love and second is for my Yushiang Eggplant love <3 Starting to get more comfortable with digital painting, but at the same time getting more and more frustrated (does that even make sense?) It's really easy for me to get caught up in the details and over-render the image / lose sight of the image as a whole. Atleast now that I am aware of it I can look out for it!
Beautiful sun shower the other day as I was sketching in the kitchen
Eric came to visit this weekend (!!!!!) so we went to the city on Saturday! In the morning we went to go check out the gallery at the Society of Illustrators. They had a pretty cool exhibit celebrating women artists in fantasy and science fiction and one on comic and cartoon art. It was super exciting to see the work of some artists that I really admire in person, and I also learned of so many more that I have since stalked on Instagram >:D Museums are great, but it's also such a nice feeling to see a concentrated body of work that feels more relatable and personally evocative. Not sure if that last sentence made sense, but basically I was very very happy to have made this trip to the gallery. Maybe one day in the far future my work will also make it onto those walls! *___* In the meantime, enjoy some low quality photographs of my favorites from the exhibit. These photos don't do the work justice at all T__T
After the gallery, we hurried back to Times Square while stuffing our face with food-truck food to watch.... THE LION KING. It was amazing!!  The costumes were beautiful and so intricate - the dancing, singing, and orchestra were great - and the acting was really well done (everyone except for Simba portrayed their characters so well *__* lol sorry Simba) I also experienced a lot of feels because 1. Childhood and 2. Minerva and I choreographed a lion king set in DT last year! It's amazing how many different dimensions a single story can be portrayed as. I was in awe of how beautifully they did their interpretation, and at several points I got so sucked in I forgot that I was sitting in a theater watching a performance. Wwwwaaaaaaaaaaa *___*
After the show I was in a super good mood~ We spent the rest of the time shopping in Soho and Eric got to go to some of his streetwear brands that he borderline idolizes :P But I went from amusement to agreement once I stepped foot into some of the stores lol. It's amazing that streetwear is sort of an... art form of sorts? It's like really well executed, not just the clothing design, but the store's interior design too. Kith was super cool - loved their feel for minimalism but also for attention to detail. Took some pictures of their sneaker ceiling and pencil wall! #tourist
On Sunday we had dim sum brunch and then went to the mall for a littttttle more shopping. I (finally) bought these cute Nike Freeruns that I've been low-key eyeing for a long time. Then we picked up kaykay and went to go watch the Secret Life of Pets! I'm really amazed at how far 3D animation has come the past 10 years - the number of studios putting out beautiful feature films is increasing, as is the number of indie animators (there are so many independent shorts online!) The pic of the right is some stuff by a really cool artist we passed in Soho. He does 3D wire sculptures of people that look like realistic shadow people!
I am amazed and appalled at myself for how long it took me to collage and blog this time... I think I need to post a lot more regularly or else I get bogged down with too many pictures to keep track of. Anyway, some other exciting developments in my life include having a phone interview last friday and getting asked to come visit the studio! They're being a bit slow in scheduling a time for that, but I am soso excited. They do a lot of cool art-meets-technology-multi-disciplinary work *__* fingers crossed!

Anyway, time for bed! Gotta wake up early to send Kaykay to dance camp (she is SO CUTE with her bun and leotard :'D ) Hopefully tomorrow will be more productive than today (I did virtually nothing T__T). Slowly but surely I will blog more often!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tumbling Tumbling

It's now been officially three weeks and a half since I've come home to New Jersey, but to be honest it feels like much longer, even though each individual day seems to pass super quickly. I've settled into a routine at home (after rolling around and doing nothing the first week.) In the mornings I crawl out of bed at exactly 8:10, slap on some clothes, and am out the door by 8:15 (sometimes 8:14!!) to walk with my mom and sister to the local elementary school. Seeing all the little kids with their oversized backpacks is so cute. Essentially a bunch of backpacks with little legs running around haha. To my surprise, my mom is quite socially outgoing now, enthusiastically greeting everyone we see and making small talk with the neighbors. It's kind of inspiring for awkward, anti-social Sonya (I even made some small talk :o). Anyway, during the day I usually do some job hunting, sketching, and have been doing quite a bit of cooking! It's exciting to be back in the kitchen at home where everything is so clean and beautiful, but I actually miss my shitty apartment kitchen at the same time (crazy I know) but college life seems so long ago somehow. Unfortunately I injured my hip somehow about a month or so ago, so I've been extremely inactive besides for taking walks. I can literally feel the little muscle I do have wasting away and being replaced by something much squishier. I really hope my hip hurries up and heals because I want to dance again *__* I keep telling myself I'll go to the doctor's... but it's slowly getting better so I also keep telling myself to wait it out. Oh well, we shall see. 

After the first week or so, I was really discouraged and sort of let myself dig myself into a hole. It's easy to feel insecure or talentless when everyone around you has their immediate future planned out, but idk I've always been a bit different and last minute, so I've decided to stop beating myself up and take my time simultaneously applying to places and building my portfolio. Funnily enough, because of that, my productivity has actually increased dramatically... I guess I'm doing things alright then :) I'm still nervous that I haven't found anything yet, but some places have started taking interest in my work and asking me questions, so that's always a good sign! 

Some of my cooking adventures: Fried shrimp with broccoli, Father's Day breakfast, Spicy grilled eggplant, and chicken katsu curry! 
I went to visit Eric in Philly for a weekend! We spent the first night walking around and bumped into this cool plane installation - it's an actual war plane that's been turned into a green house of sorts (the inside is filled with cool shelving and potted plants!) On Saturday we went to the historic district and browsed all the cool old shops that were filled with centuries-old art and literature. We also went to a really delicious ice cream parlor called the Franklin Fountain - the ice cream was great and they give you a pretty generous serving inside of a Chinese takeout box... fusion I guess. 
So on Saturday, I saw a flier in a shop window advertising the Science Behind Pixar exhibit at the Franklin Institute... YES OH MY GOD. I immediately decided that was what we had to do on Sunday. Originally this exhibit had been at the Museum of Science back up in Boston, but for some terribly odd reason, I never got the chance to go (aka lazy) and it packed up and moved. I was devastated. BUT NO LONGER. What a find *__*
We spent Sunday afternoon happily browsing through the exhibit :) Nothing was crazy or groundbreaking (it was designed for children I think...) but I had a lot of fun with all the interactive stations and listening to the different video interviews, and I think Eric learned a bunch of stuff! 
TERAKAWA. We ate there on the first night and it was so good that we made the trek to Chinatown on the third night for my last dinner in Philly! The ramen was delicious, but my favorite was actually the karaage curry and the pork cheek bao with the fried dough. *___* Good lord. The best part is that although it's super packed, the wait wasn't too bad!
So the next weekend, Eric came to New York to hang with some friends, so I joined them during the day on Saturday! We went to the MoMA so here is a nice transition collage of a cool 50's rock poster wall at the MoMa and a Monster's Inc. wall that was part of the Pixar exhibit. 
Some cool Japanese architecture models, a 3D painted surface that I really liked when I visited the MoMa 3 years ago and I found again, and literally a can of shit. #art 
Here's some of the more exciting food I ate so far: I finally tried a sushi burrito! Took a train to Philly with Courtney that weekend (she had errands to run) so we got to catch up! The catching up was great, the sushi burrito was pretty good but not amazing because it was stuffed with a bunch of dry tasting vegetables. Next was some delicious tsukemen I got at Toto Ramen the day I went to NYC. To be honest I'm not a huge fan of toto so I wasn't expecting much BUT GOD DAMN it was actually really good! It had sort of a rich smokey undertone and the noodles were perfect *__* next up is a panini I got at a random cafe near a place my mom dragged me to go shopping - the chicken was a bit dry, but not bad. Lastly is a beautiful platter of raw vegetables and beautiful rib eye - the delicious lunch special at the Little Lamb Mongolian Hotpot! 
Weee family time :) I got my dad cool clip on lenses for his iphone, so here's us testing out the wide lens at Father's Day Five Guys lunch lol. After that, we went to go see Finding Dory which was absolutely stunning. How does Pixar keep on getting better? I'll find out one day when I work for them >:D Anyway, there's my dad posing with a cardboard cutout of the Big Friendly Giant at the movie theater lol. My mom wanted to get my aunt some stuff so she dragged me out to this luxury outlet outdoor mall thing.... It literally looked like a farm of some sort, but instead of horses and hay, it had Coach and J Crew lmao. And finally my sister and I on her last day of school! Hehe so nostalgic going to my old elementary school everyday~ Even though I'm kind of bummed about the job search, I'm really glad I'm getting to spend a lot of time with my family! Once I get a job, who knows when I'll be able to do this again? :\
Originally, I was actually going to write a couple huge paragraphs about my art-related thoughts, but I think I'll save myself the typing for now. I'm sure it will come up more in-depth in future posts! But the short story is that I've been thinking a lot about questions relating to style, originality, time, and technique. For a while I've noticed that I don't really have a very distinctive style. Or rather, I tend to draw differently depending on the medium (traditional or digital? Brush pen or ball point pen?) and depending on the subject matter (drawing from life vs. drawing from imagination). I think it's only natural when a person drawings sporadically - and therefore style doesn't have the time or repetition to develop? Then there is the question of what it means to have a style. Is it preferable? It seems that most successful artists have a pretty particular style that they've settled into. I wonder if it will happen to me as well, and how much of it will be natural and how much of it will be forced. Interesting things to think about! I'll touch on the other things (and more!) as I think about them, but be prepared to hear a lot of art-related thoughts in the coming posts haha (feel free to skip over these paragraphs if they bore you LOL. Anyway, I've been drawing a lot recently to try and catch up to my "one page a day" thing (only done 61/179 so far...) so here are some of the pages!
Went to Kaylin's tumbling class and tried to do quick gesture drawings. IT WAS SO HARD - the little kids were bouncing and flipping and running all over the place, but it was pretty fun and kind of mentally demanding. I'll probably try it a lot more from now on! On the right is a fountain at UPenn I drew while waiting for Eric. The place was filled with birds and squirrels and I felt like I was literally Snow White or something. 
Experimenting with quick brush pen portraits and different colors on the left, and using lines more sparingly and trying out floral elements on the right.
Two sketches of my father! Left is done in ballpoint pen at a restaurant on Father's Day, and the right is done with brush pen and marker right before we took him to the airport (30 year college reunion in China! :o) I actually really love using brush pen these days because it is so damn fast and I am pretty impatient sometimes D:
Kaylin looking a little older (whoops) while reading a book on the couch. Digitally painted this one - tried to use thicker line art and experimented a bit with adding textures!
This one was actually done back in May but I wanted to post it just because of how much freaking time I spent on it. It was my first large digital painting so I was super slow, getting worked up over minuscule details that were too small to be seen anyway and not focusing enough on the composition as a whole. It came out a little flat, but I'm pretty happy with it overall! I recommend clicking on this one to enlarge it since the original is quite large and alot of the details are lost in this smaller version. It's referenced off of our apartment feat. me eating some ramen and reading an art book. Sigh that's the life *__*