Digital drawing: Step by Step

I spent my whole weekend working on another drawing, only this time I was smart enough to record the process step by step - in a rather desperate attempt to prove that I never use Photoshop or any other softwares to cheat ;).

The WHO: Park Yoo-chun of JYJ
The WHY: For this campaign
The HOW: 
 I first use a big-sized brush and 4-5 shades of grey to sketch the main facial proportions and features. Don't worry much about the details, the most important thing is to get the proportions right. Hence I often spend most of my drawing time struggling with this step. 

 Then a medium brush to shade the forehead, hair, around the eyes, and the rest of the face. Try to get a 3-dimensional feel to your work. Test background colours against the tone of the skin.

♥ Finally 1-5pixels brush to detail the eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc., hair, and around the lips. 

♥ Fill in the background, sign and stamp! DONE! Easy yes? ;) 

Give it a go, you'll like it - digital drawing/sketching is my way to de-stress and get away from it all. And it's not as hard as it looks. Fun fun fun!!! 

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Food post #4 (with Recipe for a quick Kedgeree)

Quick Kedgeree with Poached Eggs

rice: cooked
fresh/smoked haddock/cod fillets 
a knob of butter
1/2 onion or 1 shallot
1 tsp curry paste/powder
1/2-1 red chilli: finely chopped
small handful of parsley/coriander: chopped
1/2 lemon: juiced
2-4 eggs

+ Put the fish fillets in a large frying pan with just enough water to cover. Bring to simmering point, then simmer until tender. Or microwave for 2-3mins. Drain, skin, flake and discard any bones.
+ Melt the butter in a saucepan. Fry onion/shallot, add curry paste/powder and chilli, cook for 1-2mins.
+ Add the cooked rice and fish. Season well and stir for 5mins. Add lemon juice and chopped parsley/coriander. 
+ Poach eggs, half or quarter, and arrange on top of the kedgeree to serve. Voilà!!!
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Spread the Sound of JYJ Project

I'm, or rather my work is, on today. They've been campaigning to support JYJ (a brilliant Korean trio) and spread their music around the world. The plan is for everyone to donate, SYCTeam will then use the money to buy albums and distribute them to media (online websites, radios, magazines, etc.). 

Read more about this campaign here

I decided that I would have to contribute to this worthy cause, no matter how skint I was! ;) Hence, this! I promised them I would make a JYJ graphic for every round they accomplished as a reward to all who participated. In less than a week they've already got half way through Round 2. At this rate I'll have to produce one drawing every day!!! God knows what I've got myself into, but honestly, JYJ is worth all the time and hassles :)

So if you know anyone working at a radio station, for a magazine, as a DJ, etc., please let me know and I'll forward the information to SYCTeam, or get in touch with them directly - they are the nicest team ever! As they mentioned, 'media from any countries will do', but they'll target the US and Europe markets first :)

For SYC readers who are kind enough to click on the link and visit our blog, here are all the posts that are JYJ-or-DBSK-related we've got so far:
A Visit from JYJ
Last Piece of the Puzzle

Enjoy, good luck to SYCTeam and thank you all for being awesome! 


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More illustrations

Anyone wants to resume our little tales? - last one was The Boy and the Flying Penguin. Here are the illustrations to help you along ;) Have a great weekend!


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Golden sky

The post title says it all :) 
This picture was taken on a glorious afternoon not so long ago. Now it's all frost and snow and freezing cold in the UK.. I wish I could hibernate and when I open my eyes it'll be summer again!!! 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Originally a Fall Harvest feast, Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays in the United States. Right at this moment, my little sister and my parents in law are driving down to New York city to celebrate with us. Around 2 PM today, N. and I will gather around the table with our family to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal. While I await their arrival, allow me to share with you my first Thanksgiving memory.

In 2002, I had just arrived in the US. Those of you who knew me back then would remember that I had a pretty bumpy start in America. I had moved in with a host family whom I couldn't stay with for long (another story for another time). In October 2002, I was a 17-year-old girl in a brand new country with nowhere to live. I remember going to my Chemistry teacher in high school and expressed that I couldn't take the quiz that day because I was quite literally homeless. Just when it seemed everything in my life was falling apart, I met N. and his family. Skipping a great deal of details :-), I spent my first Thanksgiving with them. I remember N.'s father getting up very early that morning, scrubbing a giant turkey that weighed at least 20 pounds. He put the entire bird on the grill and fussed over it for hours. Occasionally, he would let me check and paste the bird, as he meticulously explained the details of the gravy recipe that had stayed in his family forever. I remember N.'s grandmother in the kitchen baking the most delicious pecan pie in the world, while sharing stories from N.'s childhood. I remember N.'s mom making a long list of Thanksgiving side dishes - there literally were so many items in the traditional meal that we would never remember them all without a list. I remember N. setting up extra tables for all the food. I remember N.'s sister coming home, bringing with her a giant load of laundry and amazing stories of the college experience. I remember us all gathering around the Thanksgiving table, eating and talking until we almost bursted - either from the food or from the easy laughter in the room.

And I remember feeling very thankful. I was thankful that I had found a place to live, got an A on the afore-mentioned Chemistry quiz, and settled into my new life. I was even more thankful that in a world filled with bumpy starts, one could still travel half way around the world and find a universal joy in the love of a family.

I have loved Thanksgiving ever since. The rest of the year may come with obstacles and roadblocks - but in my personal experience, life would often have straightened out by the time Thanksgiving comes along. Or at least, we would have found a way to make sense of it all and move forward. Because as we gather around the Thanksgiving table amidst our family's conversations and laughters, regardless of the circumstances, we would always feel immensely grateful to each other.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! And a big thank you to you all for reading our blog :-).

A. W. 
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The Bridges of Madison County

Last night I picked up this book for my bed-time reading, and didn’t put it down until 2 hours later when I had finished. Towards the last 50 or so pages quiet tears streamed down my face. Not the openly sobs and the teary mess of Krauss’s The History of Love and Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, nor the agony and heartbreak and pain I had for months after Murakami’s South of the Border, but the really quiet tears I wasn’t even myself aware of.

The story was simple. The language was simple. Yet it was magic, and music, and beauty, and songs that make you feel like, ‘in the indifferent spaces of your heart, you may even find room to dance again’.

Lifted directly from the back cover of the book, this will give you glimpses of why readers all over the world have been so moved by a small, unknown first novel that they made it a publishing phenomenon:

The story of Robert Kincaid, a photographer searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, a farm wife waiting for the fulfilment of a girlhood dream, shows us what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again. 

As I lay awake, I thought of the four days Robert and Francesca had, and the twenty-two years it took until they finally, in a way, found each other. I didn’t, and still don’t, feel sorry for them. True as Robert wrote to Francesca: ‘Instead I am grateful for having at least found you. We could have flashed by one another like two pieces of cosmic dust’.

‘God or the universe or whatever one chooses to label the great systems of balance and order does not recognise Earth-time. To the universe, four days is no different than four billion light years. I try to keep that in mind.

But, I am, after all, a man. And all the philosophic rationalisations I can conjure up do not keep me from wanting you, every day, every moment, the merciless wail of time, of time I can never spend with you, deep within my head.’ 

I’ll leave you at that. I’m just glad I picked it up. 

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Autumn in New York

My apologies for the long absence. I have been working a lot of hours. I have been out of town on the weekends - I will tell you all about that soon. And I have been ill. It started with a viral sinus infection, extending to a secondary bacterial infection, and now it seems I have got bronchitis as well. I am still running a fever on and off, so if I say something really crazy, please know that it's not me. My husband has called my recent illness "forced relaxation." After all, I didn't come into work for an entire day on Saturday, and only for a little bit on Sunday. That's definitely a divergence from my regular schedule. Today, even my boss attempted to send me home to sleep. (I do have the best boss ever, as in EVER). In truth, I do love my work. Without boring you to death, I will just say that I use very cool imaging modalities to document and calculate the physical dynamics of single HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) virion release. And despite the day-to-day frustration, it's just about the most awesome thing in the whole wide world.

So how are you invisi-peeps? If you are out there reading, take pity on me and my fever and leave a comment to let me know how you are doing! I am definitely not above using my sickness for your attention :-) - but I do miss you all.

In any case, back in this post, Hien asked me about Autumn in New York. Before I go on with my fever-talk, I will leave you with a few images I just took from Central Park. (Yes, the leaves are NOW turning colors). These are completely untouched - I haven't learned the Photoshop Elements software I just downloaded yet - maybe one of you could teach me that :-). I am new to this whole photography thing.

Autumn in New York comes with the most beautiful colors.

From the largest trees that proudly display the golden hue of Fall,

to the smallest branches that are desperately holding on to the youthful green of Summer.

Here and there, you can even spot red and blue,

but the fountain retains a silver shade of forever amidst seasonal changes.

All that beauty of nature is nestled in a city where sky scrapers are a part of our landscape,

where couples walk through Central Park hands in hands,

and where we sing songs about Autumn in New York.

A. W.
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Last Piece of the Puzzle

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A Visit from JYJ

JYJ introduces themselves

then sit on my chair and play around with my laptop

but they get bored really soon and decide to go and look out of the window

it's dark and depressing outside, what else to do? watch The Mentalist on TV? 

nah, Jaejoong would rather work out ;)

Junsu is so good at English he'll have a look at my books

and Yoochun is sitting on a tree

let's take a final snapshot with friends and fans from around the globe!!! 

aren't they the cutest things ;) ?

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Food post #4 (with Recipes for Risotto and Pad Thai)

Food! Glorious food!!! 
butternut squash risotto with porcini, wild mushrooms and sage

1xbutternut squash
150g unsalted butter
1xshallot (diced)
250g risotto rice
veggie stock (~500ml)
150g mixed wild mushrooms (+porcini)
5-10xsage leaves
grated parmesan (season to taste)

+ Chop, sweat the squash in butter til soft then add around 250ml stock and cook til all the liquid has gone. Blend or smash with a spoon, season with salt to taste.
+ Sweat the shallot til tender, add risotto rice and sweat for a further minute or two. Slowly add the stock (around 100ml at a time) and stir til all stock is gone (approx. 20mins). The rice should be cooked with a bit of bite (al dente). Reduce heat and stir in the puree. Add parmesan to taste.
+ Saute the mushrooms for about 2mins til cooked, add sage leaves and season.

pad thai tofu

plain tofu
egg noodles or flat rice noodles
2xeggs, lightly beaten
2xred chillies, deseeded and chopped
6xspring onions, sliced
1xgarlic clove, peeled and crushed
50g bean sprouts
30ml smooth peanut butter
30ml dark soy sauce
30ml lime juice
15ml sugar
some chopped coriander and chopped fresh mint

+ Cut tofu into cubes, deep fry, and drain well.
+ Cook the noodles and scramble the eggs (or cook into an omellette and then cut into thin strips - but I'm often too lazy for this).
+ Stir fry garlic, chillies, spring onions, and bean sprouts for about 1 min.
+ Heat the peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar and 4xtbsp water, stir til smooth.
+ Add the noodle to the wok with tofu and sauce. Toss over heat til noodles are well-coated with the sauce. Add the egg strips and herbs, and serve. 


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*the state or attitude of being a fan 

Right, a little bit of background information first – I started being a fangirl when I was about 13,14 years old, my obsession at the time was Take That (OMG! I know!). Then similarly to other teenage girls around the world, I went through my phases: Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Iron Maiden (!?!???! although it didn’t last very long), and recently Mew, Muse, Springsteen, etc. you name it. (I even go as far as the Far East for my eye candies, let me introduce you to DBSK – google them if you haven’t heard of them before.) Ask my best friend from secondary school and she’ll fondly tell you all the memories we had together fangirling. We had a notebook with stickers, photos, lyrics and our very own thoughts written about our so-called ‘idols’ and we wrote and wrote and wrote and each got to keep that little thing for a couple of days like a treasure. We often sat imagining what we would have done if we had been their girlfriends/sisters/friends (well, girlfriends mostly to be honest). You may think it’s a bit creepy, however personally I feel nothing but deeply touched by those memories. It’s normal. It’s what makes fangirling well, fangirling, unless one gets too delusional and brings fangirling to a whole new level of public humility :) Manic fangirls who goes jumpy and screams their lungs out? Hello? (The exception is when one gets to see Mew IN PERSON! ;))

So that’s the first good thing being a fangirl – you bond with people. Not only people who are already your best friends, but also people you have never met! True stories: I am now friend with a lovely Taiwanese girl and a gorgeous Italian girl whom I met at two different Mew’s gigs (hi Vivian! and hi Sabina!), I am now like a sister to a American girl who lives all the way across the pond in Texas (hi Jett!) and a girl from Philippines (hi Ketch!) just because we happened to be in the same fan group, and there are many many more of you out there with whom I swap pictures, MVs, songs, stories, ups and downs every day. Thank you for being such an important part of my life :)

Secondly, being a fangirl means you are never out of things/topics to talk about! Seriously, when dinner conversations bore you to death, try talking about some random dudes you fancy who you have never even met but whose birthdays, favourite colours, pet names, ____, ____, and ____ [please insert creepy stalker-style facts] you already know by heart. It’s such good fun seeing their reactions: either they would enthusiastically join you, which is great (hurray another fan for the club!!!); or your high-pitched voice and pink-flushed cheeks would freak them out – meaning the end to boring conversations (hurray all the same!!!).

Thirdly, having someone to look up to brightens up your life significantly. It’s like meditation. You have to clean the house? Great, put up some of your favourite music and mundane daily chores immediately turn into something magical, maybe try imagining that you’re on stage performing with the band too? Singing along at the top of your lungs doesn’t hurt either. And when you face depressions and dark times? Watch this:

Now what was that you were upset about? :)

And it’s not so embarrassing now to admit that you’re a fangirl/fanboy huh?

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Amusements #5: A Matter of Taste

Would you like a fruit bag? A LITERAL fruit bag? I know I would - both fashionable and edible, what not to like?

And some stunning pieces of fashion(?) photography, the sheer contrasts of the models, their movements and the surroundings are brilliant!

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The Boy and the Flying Penguin

The ball has disappeared into the magical life buoy! The magical life buoy that belongs to the boy with the magical life buoy, that connects to the cheese tunnel dug out by the mouse who has the castle, who in turn lives in the house that belonged to the girl in the wind. Phew, I almost lost my breath after saying this – it’s getting harder and harder to keep track who where what. Anyway the boy was playing on the beach and accidentally threw the ball towards the life buoy, which behaved as badly as a black hole and sucked the ball right in while the boy was looking helplessly. Boom! Ah there, it bounces off someone’s hat at the other end! Let me introduce to you the boy and the flying penguin, who is only slightly weirder than other weird penguins because he flies and others don’t, and he wears orange boots and others don’t, and he laughs and others don’t, and when he laughs the laughs turn into pink bubbles and bursts after a couple of seconds, and he thinks the boy looks really funny with his big red hat, which is why he keeps following the boy and laughs pink bubbles.

Back to the story, the ball bounces off the boy’s hat and he pokes it with a stick and it bursts and he puts a light bulb inside it and hangs it on his hat so now he doesn’t have to carry a torch with him anymore because it’s bright and nice wherever he goes and he is rather pleased with his invention. The penguin finds it hilarious but what does he know, he’s a weird flying penguin whose laughs turn into pink bubbles. And the boy keeps walking with not only a penguin following him, but also a tiny bit of darkness – they tend to get attracted to the light. With any luck the boy will bump into the girl in the wind and maybe he will be able to make her laugh too, she always look so sad that girl...

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Amusements #4


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The Boy with the Magical Life Buoy

Do you remember the mouse that has a castle that used to live in the wall of the house that had belonged to the girl in the wind? Well you must do because I have just told you the story yesterday, which actually has been not a day but it equals to nineteen and a half mouse years. In that amount of time the mouse already ate most of his castle and all I managed was to have some meals and read two stories in a book and draw three sketches and sleep, which I think is not fair because I wasn’t as efficient. Anyway the mouse ate through and through his castle and made a cheese tunnel and he was extremely excited about the unknowns at the other end. By a mere chance, the other end of the tunnel was an inflatable life buoy that belongs to a kid, who is the boy with the magical life buoy. It is magical because when you put it down on the sand, it deforms time and space of the universe and makes something similar to a black hole that allows you to go to another space at another time simply by jumping in it. You could go back to the year of 1997, or visit Einstein and kiss him on the cheek, or dance at Woodstock 1969 which was a music festival, or go forward and see if they would ever invent a time machine except that you’ve already got one and you really should not tell them that you’ve got one because it would upset them a lot I imagine, or go to your favourite people’s houses and watch as they write/compose/create the most amazing things in the world, or visit my mum (hi mum!) because you would like her a lot, everybody likes my mum it’s a fact.

But unfortunately the boy can’t do anything of that. Performing similarly to a black hole, he’d never know where and when he might end up if he jumped into the hoop, so he stays where he is - he likes the sea. And we don’t know yet whether the pink mouse would go all the way through the tunnel – he may stay there to wait for the girl in the wind who he believes one day would eventually come back to find him. For now, the boy is playing ball on the beach, the inflatable life buoy is on the sand, and there is a sand castle too which the boy built. Hey, they both build castles; maybe they can build one together!

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The Mouse who has a Castle

At the house where the little girl in the wind used to live there’s a mouse living all alone in his cave, which is not really a cave because it’s inside the brick wall, but nevertheless he calls it so. He is more special than other mice for being bright pink while others are of a dirty grey colour, that makes him stand out among them, and they are jealous, and they don’t want to talk to him, which unfortunately upsets the pink mouse a lot – he is one of those easy-going, friendly, talkative mice. He wants to meet his friends and talk about things he likes, like morning dew and orange sunsets and tea stains and boxes neatly stacked on each other and sitting on two chairs and books on the floor and cheese and cheese and more cheese and endless supply of cheese and knocking on hollow walls and music from afar and mild headaches and throat closing up and being emotional and things in tubes and flashing lights; and things he dislikes, like neon colours and muffled sounds and people saying goodbye and headaches and people saying sorry and clothes hidden in wardrobes and magazines and how people always draw speech bubbles and how they can’t erase the speech bubbles to take back what they said and unhurt others

The little girl often felt sorry for him and gave him a lot of cheese, A LOT more than he could eat. Obviously she can’t give him cheese now because she doesn’t live there anymore, and that also saddens him. One day he found himself being chased away by other mice, and he thought, ‘OK, I’m not going to want to hang out with them anymore, I’ll just go home and eat all the cheese by myself’, which was impossible – the girl gave him A LOT of cheese, he decided not to eat them but to use them as bricks to build a cheese castle instead, one with forts and moats and lots and lots of windows. And from then on he lives happily ever after in his cheese castle. Maybe one day he’ll eat his way out and you’ll be able to see him. Just remember he’s bright pink, so you’ll know straightaway if he’s the right mouse.

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Amusements #3

Jigsaw cookies 

Hello Kitty trainers 

Run Flash run! 

Mario cupcakes anyone?

A-Z shelves

and cut-out vinyl wall-clocks


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