11 September 2020


Mika's Notes: The Autumn Sunset

This is the first post in a vein I've long thought about entering, but until now I never felt like it could fit into my main blog. Many of you already know, but in addition to writing and illustration, my passion lies in learning the Japanese language and everything else about Japan. Today, these three passions came together as I completed a part of my current Drawing II assignment.

I created a matte medium transfer print using a magazine image and a piece of sample Yupo paper. Looking at the list of prompts I was given (we have to use one per drawing in this assignment) I chose "text & image" and then looked up a Japanese haiku in a little book I love called Classic Haiku: A Master's Selection. The poem had an English translation, but, as an upper-intermediate student of the language, I wanted a more literal equivalent and, as an artist, I wanted one that still fit the original 5-7-5 syllable pattern. I wanted to write the original plus my own translation on my print, so my drawing homework turned into a Japanese lesson!

Of course, I am no expert and still have a long way to go in my understanding of the Japanese language and the history and culture of haiku, but I did my best based on my current knowledge and I will now share with you what I learned and the decisions I made as I penned my final translation of this poem.


The above is the original Japanese as written in my source book. Breaking it down, here are what all the words mean in English:

かぎり limit, [archaic] death

有「ある」 to exist (inanimate things)

命「いのち」 life

の (possession indicator)

ひま free time, leisure time

や and

秋「あき」 autumn

くれ sunset, end

Now, there are many more meanings to these words, but using the English translation in my source book as a guide, these seem to be the poet's intended meanings. So the most extreme literal translation of this haiku might be something like this:

there is a limit
to life's leisure and
the autumn sunset

The way I translated it for my assignment is this:

there is a limit
the leisure time of life and
an autumn sunset

But after I finished the little sketch (one of 55 I have to complete for the assignment!) I showed it to my Japanese tutor who reacted in a surprising way. She said the original poem is really dark, like someone writing about dying. She studied haiku in school, growing up in Japan, so I took her words to heart and began musing about a better way to achieve my translation goals while still invoking the true mood of the original Japanese. This is where I ended up:

there is a limit
to life's little leisure and
the autumn sunset

My source book used the phrase "fleeting life" to get the point across, but "fleeting" is only an implication in the original, rather than a word literally used in the Japanese version. Inspired by that choice, I decided to add one word in my translation which isn't in the original: little. Its addition not only helps meet the seven-syllable requirement of that line, it makes it smoother ("life's little leisure" just rolls off the tongue!), and gives a stronger suggestion of death, by pointing out that life is short, and leisure time even shorter.


I may have mistakes or misinterpretations in my translations, but based on my current knowledge, I'm very happy with my first attempt at translating a classic Japanese haiku! I hope you found my notes interesting, if not informative, and I hope you'll look forward to more Mika's Notes entries here on the Studio Mikarts blog!

23 July 2020

Pets Out of Context - Part 2

My project for this month is coming along, although I'm struggling a little to balance it with my school responsibilities. Summer classes are hard! Figuring out how to cope with multiple responsibilities is never bad practice, though. Not to mention having something creative to do outside of school is refreshing (I'm taking art history and Japanese culture classes, so not much art creation going on right now). Here are the drawings I completed since my last update!

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

In case you missed my last post, what I'm doing here is going through my pet photos, choosing ones that seem like my pets will look interesting or funny without the support of their context (i.e. their environment), and then drawing just my pet and seeing how it ends up looking! So, with the drawing above, removing Kenshi's context made him look like a round head with a couple of paws underneath 😆 Kenshi was my dog all the way from high school until just a few years ago, when he passed away. This sweet-faced pose reminds me of all the good times I had with him 🧡

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

My next drawing features my handsome prince, Bear, who recently passed 🤍 This is one of the most successful pieces from this experiment, because it ended up looking like he's breathing fire! I decided at the beginning to make the photos a Patreon-exclusive reveal, as a digital reward for Studio Mikarts members, so if you would like to see the secret behind this or any of the other images, just click through one of the links below the drawings, and you'll be able to sign up!

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

Next is another drawing of Sun! This one didn't turn out as engaging as I expected, even though something very specific and cute is happening in the original photo! The thing I'm learning the most while doing these drawings is that I'm not really able to predict, just from viewing the photo, how successful the final drawing will be. Maybe I'll get better by the time I finish all eighteen drawings for this month 🤔

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

The tenth drawing in this series features Kiki, our only female cat, who is very spunky. But this drawing doesn't show that side of her! With this one, I was hoping to capitalize on the perspective to get an interesting result, but in the end, what I found most compelling about it was the way her fur pattern came out. I must admit, I'm pretty proud of being able to capture it using nothing but black lines on a white background!

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

Here is the third appearance of our recently-departed prince, Bear. The photo behind this drawing was taken when he was in his prime, the pinnacle of big and fluffy! It's been so long that I completely forgot that he used to look like this 😮 So far, folks have had some guesses as to what's got Bear in this position, but no one's gotten it right, hee hee...

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

The final drawing in this post was completed just yesterday. It's Kiba, the black Manx's second appearance! This is based on another older photo but Kiba's looks haven't changed as drastically as Bear's did. He's a naturally small, short-haired cat, so the changes he's undergone as he's aged aren't as obvious 😅 I love how the final drawing makes his body look smaller than his head! Or maybe like he has the body of a perching bird XD


I realized I'll have the perfect number of drawings at the end of this project to spread them out evenly across three blog posts, so that means there's just one more Pets Out of Context post on the horizon. I'll be moving onto another project next month, but there's always the possibility of more drawings in this style later on. Please look forward to the final six drawings in a couple weeks!

10 July 2020

Pets Out of Context - Part 1

I thought up a new project! You see, we have a Google Nest Hub in our kitchen that displays randomly selected photos we've taken, and one day a couple weeks ago, it showed a very silly looking photo of our dog, Sun. In the photo, he was sleeping on the couch with his snout tucked into the arm cushion. The result was a very odd position that almost looked painful or physically impossible, but which must have been comfy since he was sleeping like a log 😆 As we were walking Sun a while later, it came to me that it could be fun and amusing to draw Sun as he appears in the photo, without drawing anything else, so that the oddness of his position could be fully appreciated. I realized this could be quickly done, which meant I could do it without compromising schoolwork, and finally decided to make it my visual art project for July!

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

For my first entry into this series of drawings, I decided to choose a photo of Sun, our Shiba Inu. He was the one who inspired me in the first place, after all! I didn't use the photo that originally inspired me, though. I didn't take that particular photo myself, so it was faster and easier to look through my own library.

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

The next pet I chose to draw was our Ragdoll/Norwegian Forest Cat, Bear. He was the oldest of all our pets, and very sadly, passed away only days after I drew him. It was a long time coming, so it wasn't exactly unexpected, but I was still happy to have drawn one more picture of him while he was still with us 🤍

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

The next pet I drew was our Manx, Kiba! He's a funny kitty who has undergone an extreme personality change over the past few years, all for the better. We rescued him as a stray (he had been living under our house for about a year ever since the neighbors moved away and abandoned him; we finally took him in when we noticed he had lost a worrisome amount of weight) so he was understandably skittish when he first joined us. These days though, he is more silly than scared, so we have a lot of good photos to use for this project!

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

After drawing three of our pets, I couldn't not finish off my first four drawings with our last pet, Kiki! She's an American Shorthair (or thereabouts), and a super playful, mischievous, athletic girl. She's the only fellow girl I have here at home and I like to think we have a lot in common 😊

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

For my fifth drawing, I came back around to Sun again. This was the piece where I had to make some decisions about things like collars. If the pet was actually wearing it, should I draw it? In the end, I naturally ended up not drawing them. I think it makes the final image even more interesting 😁

Click here to visit the Patreon-exclusive post revealing the photo behind this drawing.

The last drawing I'm including in this post was finished just yesterday. For this one, I reached way back into the past and chose a photo of our family cat, Gaki, who has long since passed on 🤍 Kiki has been reminding me of Gaki a lot recently, so I think that combined with the inherent qualities of the photo itself is what lead me to choose the photo reference for this drawing.


That's all for this post! I intend to keep drawing these throughout the month, so be on the lookout for future digest posts like this one! Stay safe and healthy everyone ❤

15 May 2020

Tips from Creative Pros - Part 1

This spring semester, I took an awesome class at Boise State University called Preparing for Creative Careers. Each week, we had the opportunity to speak with a local creative professional about how they built their career. In completing the final assignment, I realized that even though each guest speaker was very different (we had street artists, writers, puppeteers, sculptors, and more) there were many common themes spanning their experiences. In this blog series, I'm going to share with you the themes I found most useful. If you're an aspiring creative professional, I invite you to consider how you can apply these tips to your own career, as I believe they have the potential to be universally helpful!

Part 1: Say Yes to New Opportunities

Today’s tip started with our first guests of the semester, a street artist duo who embodied the existing image of edgy professional artists who operate on the fringe (at one point in their careers, they had been in trouble with the law for illegal tagging at the same time they were receiving a public mural commission from the city). They explained that accepting clients’ proposals led to work they never would have done otherwise—such as photorealistic portraiture in spray paint, now a hallmark of their work—giving them new, marketable artistic skills and sparking interest in unexpected genres and techniques.
The published novelist and screenwriter we spoke to had something similar to say when she joined us the very next week, “Say yes to everything because you don’t know what it’ll turn into.” She started her career with screenwriting and, after so many failed attempts at selling a certain screenplay, a publisher finally picked it up, but rewritten as a novel. Not only that, her book deal was for two novels, so now she's in the middle of writing the next one. Writing a novel from scratch, rather than adapting it from a screenplay, is a totally different experience, she told us, betraying both excitement and a sense of panic. Her deadline, months away, seemed to be closing in by the minute in her mind. A problem, as an aspiring novelist myself, I wouldn’t mind having!
Saying yes and accepting new opportunities is how the filmographer we talked to made his entire career. He's not only worked locally, creating some of the best films I've seen from and about my hometown, but has even gone abroad, filming volcanoes with scientists in Chile, and documenting an amazing falconry event in Mongolia. Ironically, the months of editing that were required once he got home overshadowed the thrill of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but, he explained, even that was a positive, as it helped him understand better the kind of work he wants to focus on in his career.


The lesson here is to not decline opportunities just because they don’t fit into the container you’ve set up for yourself. So long as there isn’t some entity trying to take advantage of you (exposure don’t pay the bills, folks!) there’s no reason not to take your career down a different path for a while and see where it leads. I actually have a very specific idea about what I want my creative career to focus on—writing and illustrating books—so this advice, and the anecdotal experiences that illustrated it, was valuable to me. It's important to have a goal to keep you focused and moving forward, but you should always keep your options open. Your career, and your life, may very well end up far more fulfilling and rewarding that way!