Finding Clarity in Collage (+ free kit download)

If there’s one thing that I’m deeply finding interest in this quarantine (TBH from where I am I think this will last more than three months from now, so), it’s making collages. I first stumbled upon collage kits from Practical Magic’s tarot deck, which were made out of Rookie’s collage kits. I downloaded them one by one and filled my Dropbox with all sorts of images that inspired my creativity to flourish in ways I don’t think it would been able to if I stuck with lettering or journaling.

Frankly, collage reminds me so much of grade school, when our teachers would ask us to bring old newspapers and magazines to school for craft projects. I was one of the kids with the not so attractive magazines. Growing up, I’ve also always felt like I wasn’t “creative” enough—but again, that self-deprecation thing is for another story I’m never going to talk about.

Anyway, the whole point is, I’ve found a new and refreshing avenue for creative expression. And it’s something I deeply love and want to explore more of. Here are some I made over the course of this quarantine.

One of the early ones I made, this is a little dissection into my adjustment into lockdown—painting my nails to feel sane, reading tarot cards, working on multiple projects and feeling a sense of “productivity” just to get by.

A collage dedicated to Earth Day. Like the true earth sign that I am, I picked out elements that reminded me of the vast landscapes we have in this place we call home. Also was inspired by my trip to the wild in South Africa last summer.

A contemplative collage, thinking about suffering indoors but also the perceived suffering of art being part of my work when it used to just be for fun and without pressure. I really just miss the outdoors and even if the heat means suffering under the sun, well at least I get some Vitamin D amirite? (I also miss the beach and I hate swimming.)

An homage to Berlin last summer. I used a lot of my personal ephemera for this—featuring a photo of Eberwalder Strasse (my usual commute route) and my monthly ticket for tram, U-bahn and S-bahn commute. Summer was different last year. It was freeing.

I had applied for a visa abroad earlier this summer, so the concept of home always haunted me. Does it mean comfort? Or does it just mean having a roof above your head? In the greater scheme of things, when you travel constantly to find yourself, does the concept of home even matter? These are questions I would often ask myself. Also made a process video of this (you can watch it below).

Today was very off for me—actually, most days are when I’m not swamped with work. Usually I’d whip out my Dropbox folder of collages and play around with Photoshop. But today was different, because I dug up some old photos and graphics from my past projects to come up with these collage kits.

This is a collage kit from my Japan trips—random film photos, trips to the museum, a snap of Shimokitazawa (fave neighborhood), and basically missing my artventures abroad. (Side note: my Tokyo, Documented zine is now available here!)

An homage to summer somewhere in time. Photos from my La Union self-care trip three summers ago, plus some extra graphics from my books and artworks.

Download the high resolution files here. Don’t forget to tag me @abbeysy when you share your creations on Instagram!

I’m still thinking if I can sell these as printed collage stickers or make it available as a digital download instead. Either way, this is the start of something new and I’m excited to share more in the future.

Always Be Creating,

Abbey

Easy Art Projects To Do At Home

Hello! It’s been awhile—almost a month here already since the quarantine started and while I’ve been busy with work, I’ve also been busy experimenting and using my art materials here at home. I mean, it’s a no brainer as I’ve been constantly rearranging things and finding ways to be more creative and work on things for myself. Today, I’m sharing some easy projects you can do at home to stay creative during this time. [Watch the YouTube video here!]

Practice Brush Lettering

Nothing like brushing up on your skills, amirite? Take this time to practice brush lettering. It’s often overlooked how mastering your strokes is not something you can do overnight. As you work on your drills, you’ll also be able to find different techniques and ways that you can play up on your brush lettering further (there’s not just one style—there are many!) and use it to enhance your skills.

Looking for worksheets to practice with? I have them available at my digital shop—click here to purchase.

Decorate your notebook cover

Jazz up a blank notebook cover with stickers, stationery, and lettering. Simple, easy, and very DIY-friendly. You will need a blank notebook, stuff from your journaling stash, scissors, tape and glue to combine everything together.

Create a collage on your journal

Got nothing to do with old magazines, newspaper, booklets and scrap paper? Use everything up and create collages on your journal. Lately I’ve been diving into collage—it’s such an interesting way to decorate your journal pages and uses a lot of “editing”, by picking out elements from already existing material and making it your own. Looking for more collage kits? Check out Rookie’s archives (for printing). It’s a gold mine!

Paint your own postcard

Keep it simple with a postcard! Use your postcard-sized watercolor paper or excess stash (aka the ones you cut up from extra pieces from your last painting sesh) to paint works of art. May it be inspiring, uplifting, or simply a form of self-expression. The possibilities are endless. You can use watercolor, gouache, or mixed media. Collage, too! Because why not?

Making your own bookmarks

Cut up your watercolor paper into bookmark sizes (or cut up the postcard sized one in half) and whip up these easy bookmarks aka the perfect partner to your dog-eared books (guilty!). Since watercolor paper is around 300gsm, it works well as a bookmark. Play it up with patterns, lettering, or doodles and you’re good to go.

What creative topics are you keeping busy with this month? Take care and stay safe!

Free Classes, Downloadables & Events You Can Sign Up For While Staying Home

Hey!

I’ve been seeing a lot of different online content which I want to share with you guys. As a fellow creative, I wanted to round up some of the free things you can do while staying at home. Enjoy this list, and if you find more, please don’t hesitate to let me know so I can add it to this directory.

Please take note some of them are expiring / not long-term, so make sure to snag them while you can!

Reach 2020 Summit by Teachable

If you’re a content creator, freelancer or tutor, sign up for this free online summit to gain more knowledge and how to make the most out of your job. Register at bit.ly/teachff20

Brit+Co Online Classes

Whether you want to brush up on your creative skills, dive into a new hobby, or simply want to add a little artistic touch to your daily life, Brit+Co is offering classes for FREE until March 31.  Go to brit.co/learn and use the code SELFCARE at checkout.

Girlboss Rally 2020

I’ve attended Girlboss Rally in 2018, and have learned so much about growing a community, empowering my inner #girlboss, and connecting with others. Now, you get to do it on the comfort of your own home—FOR FREE! Sign up here to RSVP: https://www.girlbossrally.com/rsvp

ABC Toolkit

Shameless plug, but the ABC Toolkit is now available for FREE DOWNLOAD until March 31st. Access it at the digital shop: http://abbeysydigital.store

The Serious Review: Issue 1

The Serious Studio recently launched The Serious Review, and it’s available for FREE DOWNLOAD at https://theseriousreview.com/. Snag a print copy as well if you’re keen—guaranteed 10/10 design and content from one of my personal favorite branding studios.

Darling Magazine Digital Issues

I’ve always loved reading Darling’s articles online, and this quarantine period they’re offering some of their digital issues for free. This week, it’s Issue 4. Last week I got Issue 1. Check out their shop here:  https://shop.darlingmagazine.org/collections/digital

Kuya Robert’s Live Drawing Class

Want to get into daily drawing? Illustrator Robert Alejandro is having daily live drawing sessions every morning (PH time) on his Facebook page. Perfect for kids and adults alike. Join the session by going to Robert’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kuya.robert.

Stationery Shopping in Malaysia

While the main reason for my visit to Malaysia last September was to teach workshops, I decided to visit a few stationery shops and check out the extensive lineup of stationery Malaysia has to offer.

And what I realized was—if your budget does not permit for a trip to Japan, then Malaysia is definitely your best option. The prices aren’t too marked up (it’s actually similar to the Japan prices), the variety of Japanese brands they carry are A LOT (you name it, they have it), and the materials are not only for journaling, but also for painting, collage work, decoupage, etc.

Cziplee

Location: Bangsar

For me, entering Cziplee felt like entering Blick and Michael’s when I was living in New York—from scrapbooking, stamping, painting (they carry a lot of brands!), children’s books, journaling, to lettering (and more), this is the ideal store you should visit. They have three floors—first floor for pens (LOTS of them) and stationery (notebooks, stickers, postcards, pencil cases, etc), second floor for art materials (paint, paper, and all art-related materials), and third floor for children’s books. Sophie and I spent two hours here, lol. That explains it. 

Also: if you are looking for Jibun Techo planners, they carry it here! 

Follow them on Instagram.

Loka Made

Location: Central Market, Kuala Lumpur

Loka Made was a new discovery—I’ve been seeing the same designs on most bookstores (explains why all the postcards I sent were designed by Loka Made) but I was happy to stumble upon their store located in Central Market. I love how Malay culture is illustrated and designed. I’m very picky with country-themed paper products and they definitely nailed it.

Apart from getting the postcards, I couldn’t help it—I also got sticker flakes and an A5 clear folder. I can’t wait to start journaling with these local goodies!

Follow them on Instagram.

Kinokuniya

Location: Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

Being the Japan fan that I am, of course we had to check out Kinokuniya if they had new titles out (not all books that I like end up being sold in Manila). I got a new book—Daily Rituals of Women, a follow up to Daily Rituals (which I own). I also got a set of Art Genius playing cards and a few stickers from Mossery.

And of course, their Art & Graphic Design section is quite extensive. Always so happy to see my books, too! Here I am happily holding them up. 

Follow them on Instagram.

Stickerrific

Location: Jaya One, Petaling Jaya

When I first found out about Stickerrific a few years ago, I told myself I definitely NEED to visit here someday. Well, that time finally happened, folks—and the best excuse as well is because I am teaching. The worst part? Two days being here meant non-stop wandering around the store to look for new stationery items to take home.

Szetoo (owner of Stickerrific) is quite the girlboss—she tells me they are only 3 full-time employees of the store, and their selection of stationery is my favorite. It’s curated properly, and there’s something for everyone. What I love most as well is that the staff helps you pick out what you need based on your level (beginner, advanced, etc) and preferences. Best customer service!

Plus points for Luke, Leia and Chewie—their “entertainment team”, as Szetoo calls it. You’ll find these “Stickerrific cats” making their way around each part of the store.

Follow them on Instagram.

Want to see more of these stationery stores? Check out my video below featuring my haul!

How to get to these places:

We used Grab because these places are far from each other. KL has trains but Bangsar and Petaling Jaya are only for taxis and local transport.

Take note:

All establishments accept credit card except for Loka Made.

Have you been to Malaysia before? Let me know what stationery stores I should still check out on my next visit!

Visiting the Caran d’Ache Factory in Geneva, Switzerland

Let me start off by saying this trip was the most spontaneous one I’ve had in a while.

After several back and forth attempts to renew my Schengen visa (I thought I had maxed out my 90 days from Berlin—or so I thought) and my anxiety in getting regular phone calls from the Swiss embassy (I really *hate* answering phone calls!), I finally confirmed my trip to Switzerland albeit a week before my flight.

By the time I was packing on Monday morning, it obviously hadn’t dawned on me that I was flying halfway across the world and back to Europe. *Oh well* as per usual, I watched two films in-flight (The Hows of Us and To Love Some Buddy, both Pinoy films; both heart-breaking lol), spent a good four hours of ideation and brainstorming during my layover in Doha, and finally arrived in Geneva.

My vague memory of Switzerland was in Lucerne, and I wasn’t *feeling* it. I love traveling during the warmer season, so it was nice to walk around the area I stayed in (near the Old Town) before settling in.

Long walks in a city always makes it more real. Does that make sense? I’m not the type who favors exploring a city fast—I like taking my time to see all the little streets, the architecture, the vibe.

After downing 3 cups of coffee in total before arriving, I was well-adjusted. LOL.

The next day we headed to the Caran d’Ache factory which was around half an hour from the city center. One step inside the office and you’ll immediately be drawn to the pencils display and the vintage posters (of course!).

Fun fact: Caran d’Ache was founded in 1915, and means “pencil” in Russian. It was also the “artist name” of the famous French caricaturist / cartoonist Emmanuel Poiré, whose signature was also the initial logo of the brand.

The factory was built in 1974, and so far has produced 400 different colors using 100 pigments.

We were instructed to wear these shoes to enter the factory. They’re quite comfy and on brand—red and black!

Annelies and I geeking over *all the things*. I actually follow Annalies on Instagram for a while now and when I found out she was part of this trip, I fangirled!

Inside the factory, we were shown the process of how Caran d’Ache makes pencils—from choosing the right type of wood, picking out the right colors (imagine how many combinations they make, considering they have over 400 colors?!), testing each material’s durability, up to packing each and every product in its box, ready to ship out.

Caran d’Ache is quite a premium brand, but it comes with the quality that is definitely worth its price tag. Each set of Luminance colored pencils are packed by hand by their personnel. I also loved that they hire disabled people to help them with work, as it also helps enrich their livelihood and keep them productive. 🙂

As an artist, my favorite part is the process, of course—especially from start to finish. Above are some Neocolor II wax pastels and Pablo colored pencils being left to dry before they are packaged and shipped out to stores worldwide.

Prior to this trip, I have only been knowledgeable about Caran d’Ache’s Studio Gouache—which has been my go-to set of paints for my watercolor lettering work. I’ve only ever dabbled in watercolor pencils for my illustrations, which is why it was great that Pete instructed us in the afternoon on how to use Caran d’Ache’s different materials. My personal favorite? The Pablo pencils, which is named after Pablo Picasso (he used Caran d’Ache!).

My favorite technique was mixing permanent colored pencils and water soluble pencils to create this mask effect I did on the “make things” quote.

Here I am with Catherine (from Caran d’Ache), Annelies from Korea / Netherland, Crystal and Ray from Taiwan, and Steven from Hong Kong. Thank you, Art Bar Philippines and Caran d’Ache for choosing me to represent the Philippines!

If it isn’t any obvious, I’m actually wearning a terno top from Anthill Fabric. I wanted to wear something a bit Filipino and since I went to Artefino the week before, I got myself this top. It’s a Yakan weave and I love it so much!

On our last day, we took a tour around the city—had chocolate fondue, walked around the Old Town, and got to know more about the city. Thanks Juliane of Local Flavours Tours for taking us around.

You can check out more about my trip on my vlog below:

Selected photos by Igor Laski for Caran d’Ache

Your New Creative Toolkit is HERE

YOU GUYS. I’m so excited to finally share about The ABC Toolkit.

[EDIT] Access it here!

This felt like such a long time coming—because I’ve always been working on so many other things that the one thing I have right in front of me is you guys. And you all deserve the best, of course!

As someone who’s been super inclined to sharing my process, talking about things that interest me (particularly letters, journals, and traveling), and basically giving you guys a gist into my creative life and work, it was high time this toolkit was to be released. Now, before you go, “Oh, this is another ~newsletter~, whatever, I’m out”–let me share what you’ll get when you subscribe to my newsletter.

FREEBIES!

Once you sign up via http://abctoolkit.com and type in your e-mail, and subsequently confirm your subscription and make sure you’re 100 human (this is crucial, lol), you get a welcome e-mail with a private link to access 6 resources from my toolkit: lettering worksheets, journaling prompts, a free font (!), mobile wallpapers, a photo editing cheat sheet, and a travel zine that I’ve been working on for aaaages. But that’s not all—this ABC Toolkit expands every month. Think of it as unlimited resources that you get to access for FREE. Sound good? But there’s more.

WEEKLY ADVICE + RECOMMENDATIONS

Every week, my name appears in your inbox. Think of it as a slight nudge into tapping in your creative juices to make things, or get inspired. I share what I’m up to, some thoughts, recommendations, and most of all, advice YOU need as a creative in order to keep going.

A fair warning though: I write a lot, and I love sneaking in some Taylor Swift or astrology references. Lol.

EXCLUSIVE Q&As

As I expand my newsletter in the next few months (I’m just on my first week!) I will be opening Q&A sessions and invite YOU to take part by sending questions, inquiries, and topics we can discuss. This is a community, and I am not your leader–I’m more of that big sister or naggy friend you’re accountable for in terms of creative work. I’m not one to be pushy, so embrace your pace and just follow along to get yourself into the ~mood~.

I’m so excited for you to be part of this community. Sign up for the ABC Toolkit NOW and always be creating!

My Faber-Castell Experience

Last October, I was sent to Nuremberg, Germany to visit the Faber-Castell headquarters. Initially I had wanted to just see the castle and maybe take a tour—that was what I had planned on doing—but I extended my stay and managed to make the most out of this quaint city. It’s been a few weeks since I took a detour to Germany, and it’s only now that I’ve gotten the time and energy to sit and write about this once in a lifetime experience.

A little backstory: so, early this year while I was planning my schooling schedule and fixing my trip to New York, I had an event for Faber-Castell in Manila. And then a wild idea came through: what if I visit the headquarters in Germany? I did hear there was a castle and looked up their website for possible tours of the factory, museum and castle. I could document it and show it to you, my readers. That was a long shot, I told myself. Tricie and I pitched the idea and I kept my fingers crossed for months, up until I had received a call (I remember this was March and I was out of Manila) saying it was approved. I was going to Germany! OMG. It took me awhile to say that out loud. I couldn’t sleep for weeks!

This was also my first time flying alone to Europe (and taking the train), so I was kind of nervous. What would Germany be like? I have briefly visited Heidelberg a few years back and I had no memory of this country. I can’t speak German, and I look 100% Asian. I was scared but also so excited. Surprisingly things went well and I managed to arrive in Nuremberg at sunset, just in time to catch the last few moments of daylight as I walked to my hostel in Nuremberg. I realized I forgot my universal adaptor (yay, me) so I rushed to get one after checking in. Then, I was greeted with a nice dinner from Sandra and Kirsten from Faber-Castell (sushi, no less!).

Can you tell how amused I am? Wes Anderson approved train machine (and branding, tbh).

The next day, I took the underground train and bus to Schloss Faber-Castell in Stein—and was in awe as I stepped out of the bus and made my way inside the complex.

But since I’m such a good navigator, I got lost (lol). The front part of the complex was under renovation, so I had to pass through the back entrance and luckily found my way inside. First, Emelia (my tour guide) took me to the pencil factory where Faber-Castell’s world famous pencils are produced every day.

I have long been a fan of Faber-Castell—I remember saving up my allowance to get a set of Classic Color Pencils in fifth grade. So imagine how overjoyed I was to be able to work with them now that I’m an artist?

The factory windows are painted in primary colors (quite apt, if you ask me), and each floor is dedicated to each department for production. I got to know more about how a pencil is made—from sourcing the right type of wood (the wood used for the pencils are from the forests they manage in several parts of the world—particularly in Brazil, because Germany is generally cold), cutting out the wood chunks into pencils (did you know that Faber-Castell is famous for its tri-grip pencil shape?), to coating each pencil with the right amount of paint (exactly six color coats, and two clear coats), to seeing it foil stamped at the pencil printing department, up until it is time to dry each batch and pack for distribution out in the market.

It’s quite amazing to see all this happening all in a day’s work in several rooms here at the factory—and I’m always amazed at how things work from start to finish.

Before they are left to dry, the pencils are sent to the printing department where each pencil is foil stamped according to its type (colored pencil, pencil, etc).

The pencils take around a full day to dry. They are kept in a fixed temperature to make sure each pencil batch dries at the same time.

It’s so satisfying to be able to see these pencils in the drying room all sorted out by pencil type and color. (I may be geeking out too much, but come on, I love pencils!)

After drying, they are packed in boxes for distribution out in the market.

That’s my giddy “I can’t believe I’m in a factory” face right there ^

After lunch, Emelia took me inside the Faber-Castell Castle, where Count Alexander and Countess Ottilie and their family used to live. Emelia told me all about the family history and how the oldest pencil was created. I also found out Vincent Van Gogh used Faber-Castell pencils, because I’m a true VVG fan (lol). The castle is huge—especially the bathrooms (wow). There was also a clinic and home school inside to make sure all their children lived in comfort. Imagine living in luxury and having a house in the form of a castle?

Loved the light coming in at this area of the castle, where the history of Faber-Castell was explained through photos, ephemera, and…vintage packaging! *heart eyes*

I particularly loved this Polychromos packaging they used from way back. Can you believe most of the packaging in the old days were hand-drawn? I love it.

Mirror selfie at Countess Ottilie’s waiting room. This was where she’d ask visitors to stay in before meeting with them (reminds me of Versailles in France!).

Fanciest staircase ever. Did you know people book this castle for weddings, too? I actually saw a newlywed couple taking photos as I made my way out this castle, lol.

In historical facts, the castle was also used during the Nuremberg Trials as a place for refuge for artists and writers. They would organize parties and events inside the castle to keep them busy and entertained.

The next day was spent at the Faber-Castell Academy, just a few blocks away from the Faber-Castell complex. I was assigned to a printmaking class with Clemens Lang, who has been doing printmaking since the 80s and has been teaching at the academy for quite some time.

Inside the printmaking studio. That’s a monotype printing machine on the right.

I honestly had no idea what printmaking was, so when I was tasked to experiment on different materials, I was terrified. As someone who’s always been very concise about her process, the spontaneity of printmaking was so eye-opening. I loved it!

By lunchtime I was glued to my work area and was working on bigger and bigger canvases, until Clemens eventually told me to work on my final piece (which I managed to take home). I love how printmaking made me rethink making art—and that while planning is also important, it’s also good to just keep experimenting and seeing how things go.

After the printmaking class, Kirsten took me out to see Nuremberg’s Old Town.

We went to Albrecht Durer’s house (fun fact: Faber-Castell watercolor pencils are aptly named “Albrecht Durer” to pay homage to the same artist!) and got to know more about his work.

There was also a castle and we crossed one of the oldest chain bridges in the world. Nuremberg feels very medieval compared to other European cities, and that’s what sets it apart so much. I had some beer and schnitzel for dinner like a true German (it was good!).

My last day at the Faber-Castell HQ was spent teaching a hand lettering workshop to fellow artists.

Never did I imagine getting to teach in Germany! That was such a nice way to end my stay in Stein.

Apart from getting to see this side of the world, I loved meeting new people and exploring an unfamiliar city that I unexpectedly loved. Nuremberg is low key but also quite hip, and the food is so good (I spent all my dinners tasting all the good food in Nuremberg—drinks included). Most of all, this experience is something I’ll never forget. Sometimes I still pinch myself to see if this all really happened. 

Kirsten took care of everything during my visit to Faber-Castell. Thank you, Kirsten!

Thank you so much to Faber-Castell Philippines, and to Faber-Castell Global (especially to Kirsten, Sandra, Annika, Joel, and everyone I met from the Faber-Castell team) for this amazing opportunity!

Inside Art Bar

As someone who’s been making art as a living for around three years now, it’s been relatively hard to source art materials for my projects here in Manila. I always go abroad to get my art fix: usually in Singapore or Japan, because I have specific brands that I use for my work that I can’t find here in the Philippines.

Which is why I was soooo happy that National Bookstore came up with Art Bar, one of their concept stores specifically carrying a wide range of art materials suitable for every artist. From paints to brushes to all sorts of tools needed (didn’t know what a catalyst was until I saw it on their store!), as well as art-centric book titles and pads of all kinds, count on Art Bar to fill you in on what you need to let your imagination run wild and create.

More photos below:

I did a quick tour inside the Quezon Avenue branch, which, by default, is my favorite—because it’s nearer from where I live and the branch is bigger. It’s located beside National Bookstore’s flagship store in Scout Borromeo. Here’s a little peek inside:

What I love most about Art Bar is not having to go far to stock up on art tools. I also discovered a hidden gem of a book about perspectives—something I’ve been trying to learn. Can’t wait to go back to do more art shopping. But first, gotta use up what I have. 😛

Art Bar branches:

Art Bar – Quezon Avenue

Ground floor, Art Bar Quezon Avenue, corner Scout Borromeo St. Brgy South Triangle, Quezon City

Art Bar – Serendra

G/F, Serendra Piazza, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Follow Art Bar on social media:

New HQ

Just a quick hello to say that we’ve moved!

After almost two years of planning and construction (I’d like to think it’s my mom’s personal project), I’m so happy we finally got to pack our bags and move into this new house. I have no experience and prior knowledge about moving so this was entirely new to me (also, the fact that I found out a few days before moving that we’re never sleeping at the old house…left me shooketh). What’s more, because of this move, I’ve been learning to destash and get rid of more things (any Marie Kondo fans here? I’m currently reading her book). How ironic is it that I have a lot of storage areas here but I have lesser things already, lol. Oh well. Some things just have to go.

Here’s a photo of me in my very messy space. I know, you’ll probably say it’s not messy. But it actually is! I haven’t sorted out which goes where. I just neatly placed my computer, a few books and my pens in one side while trying to figure out the best layout for my workflow. It’s been more than two weeks that I’ve been staying here, and I’ve cleared out most of the things from my old HQ (which I know we all miss). I’ve yet to sort out my art files and closet at this point.

For some reason, I’ve been enjoying my time here in the new HQ a lot. It’s bright, spacious, and clean. Although it’s not homey yet, I’m still getting to that part. I’m just glad my books have an actual shelf, and I can put up lots of post-its and reminders on my wall (lol priorities). Actually, I haven’t figured out what to do with this space yet since I only have three months before school…and I have plans of living abroad next year. I don’t know. It’s still a work in progress. But most of my life is, anyway, so might as well. 😛

I’ll put up an HQ tour soon, I just need a few more weeks to settle in. Here’s to change—the good kind. 😃

50% of 2018: Recap + Roundup + Realizations

I’m lying in bed on a Sunday night, feeling sick (or I actually am), still on vacation mode (forced; because I’ve been feeling under the weather since last week), just finished watching two films, and realizing I miss writing daily things so much. I stopped keeping a daily journal and only write when I feel like life is not cooperating, because sometimes, my feelings meter just goes beyond me (sometimes I blame being an INFJ for this).

To be honest, I’m becoming less open about sharing bits of my life now that I’m older. It’s so typical to want to blame the age thing, really (I started blogging at 15? I’m now 25)—but I feel that I now prefer to keep most of my personal thoughts private because I want to keep making art and sharing things about art, not exactly things about my life. Maybe I’ll get to weave it in, maybe not. We’ll see. I’m still working on it.

However, my boundaries have always been a blur because I do hand lettering and journaling—two art forms that sort of have a way to subtly share about things that are in relation to my life. I letter quotes that make me feel things; I am particularly drawn to words that inspire me and push me at certain points in my own creative journey. I document mostly about my life, my travels, my experiences—none of those are unreal. I also write, and my most vulnerable self is captured in words, sentences, paragraphs, blog posts, articles. And that’s also why it’s relatively not easy for me to just whip out a bunch of stuff if it doesn’t personally mean anything to me. As much as half my job is sharing my work to the world, I want to be able to understand that I share it because I love what I made first and foremost, and hope that somewhere out there, you will love it as well.

Recently I’ve been drafting a lot of blog posts about my quarter life crisis. I’ve deleted them all; they all made no sense. I’ve been so fixated on how crazy and chaotic the past few months have been that I almost forgot I actually enjoyed them. I’m writing this post as a little ode to my past self, how she’s been able to hold up, and how things are going to be different from here on out.

Here’s a little recap on how my 2018’s been. And some learnings. And some notes. And a roundup of things I’ve consumed for the first half of the year.

Turned Twenty Five

Nothing like the start of the year to turn a year older—it’s always been a way for me to manage my own expectations of the coming year. We had a little party (which I enjoyed DIY-ing!) to celebrate quarter life, and overall, I really enjoyed my birthday. But, well, that was just the beginning.

Halfway in being twenty five has made me realize that I think way too much beyond my years. I’m not interested with keeping things around that no longer serve me—people, things, experiences. How jumping from my naive (and marupok) 24 year old self to this strong and independent adult is quite a leap.

Spoke at Graphika Manila + Taught Classes

For someone who told herself in her college years (upon seeing Jessica Hische on stage at GM 2012) that one day, she will be on the same stage giving a talk for Graphika Manila, she surprisingly fulfilled that dream six years later—all in good timing. I’m so grateful to have spoken in GM this year not because I ticked something off my life bucket list, but because it felt rewarding to be able to share my story to a new generation of artists and designers. Plus points was getting to meet a roster of amazing speakers (hello, I fangirled over bonding with Adam over the GM weekend!) and spending two days celebrating nothing but creativity and design.

I also have been putting off teaching for a few months now because I haven’t really given it that much attention (but also because I’ve been really busy). Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to collaborate with L’Occitane for a travel journaling workshop, go to Baguio to teach lettering, partner with Kaila for a journaling x brush lettering workshop in Japan (!!!), organised a meet-up / session with readers at Common Folk, participated in Design Week Philippines, and put up a few classes with Art Bar over the summer. It’s been great; I always say teaching is something I love doing because I get to talk to my students personally and find a way to help them hone their own skills. Thank you so much to everyone who attended / enrolled / took part; I’m on hiatus until next year for the time being (in the Philippines)—but who knows, maybe I’ll have a few more events before I leave in a few months. 🙂

Read more books + started on my fifth book

Partly why I love my friends (and the Internet) is I get to borrow books or get recommendations on titles I might have otherwise not considered to read. This year I’ve been trying my best to get back to reading—and I think it’s quite timely that I’m working on a book. I get a lot of reading done during book writing period, for some odd reason.

A list of favourites from this year (so far):

The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider

Probably the most accurate set of comics I have read as it talks about, well, the shape of ideas. I love the interpretations and visuals!

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

I was 100% convinced I am on the right path in my career / life after reading this book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The kind of tough love I needed when I told myself I couldn’t do the things I am doing now.

On Writing by Stephen King

Wise words and sound advice from one of the greatest writers of our time.

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

A repository of procedures and steps to get you from idea to execution; breaks the concept that creatives should not be organized people (they have to be! I attest to that).

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Since we’re on the topic of books, I’ve been working on my fifth book for quite a while now. It’s not as easy as I expected; and honestly, the energy being drawn out of me to produce this book is beyond what I imagined. I think this is how most writers feel when they work on biographical stuff with a side of nonfiction and a pinch of instructional tips here and there. Needless to say, we’re halfway through it and I’m hoping to get all the nitty gritty details together. It comes out in August; I’ll share more about it soon!

Traveled purely for leisure + Saved up (yay!)

Not to a lot of places—I’m saving that for September. I’ve managed to keep track of my travels recently because of course, I need to save up for school. Haven’t figured out the budgeting and all yet, but I’m quite positive everything is within budget for now (if you must know, I am a stingy person when it comes to money and spending, lol). In adult accomplishments, I was so happy to have converted part of my Singapore workshop earnings to pocket money for school. HUHU. It feels like things are coming full circle from here on out.

In the past months, I went to Singapore twice (mostly to visit my friends and see an exhibit!), La Union twice (lol), Baguio, Tokyo and Osaka. You can read up on my Tokyo roundup here and, well, my Osaka one is still a work in progress. But it’s definitely coming out in a few weeks’ time! It was nice to not have to worry about work so much. I think I took a lot of work trips last year and it was just overwhelming. You never really get to do fun things except eat and sleep apart from the work shifts (in my case, workshops). When I travel, I always hate being rushed and not having time to appreciate what’s around me; so traveling just for the sake of exploring is really important to me. I’m glad I managed to do that more this time.

Enrolled myself in a yoga studio + Started meditation

Might have mentioned it somewhere but my mental health is not really in 100% good condition, and meditation (so far) has helped me immensely—so I took another step and enrolled myself to yoga. It’s been doing me good; I’d like to think. I’m the least flexible person out there but I enjoy every class because I have this tendency of forgetting to breathe and stay present, and that’s exactly what yoga requires.

I’ve been having a recurring habit (or preference) of going to class at 2PM on a work-from-home day. No idea why but my brain sort of attributes it as a break from the hectic workday, which should be okay. I’m nowhere near becoming a flexible person but I’m trying. I’m tryingggg. Growing up, I was the chubby girl to the point that our dance teacher ousted me out of the group because 1) I was fat and 2) I couldn’t do the gymnast poses she required. Of course, I’m quite pleased I didn’t end up becoming a dancer (but mind you, I love to sing and dance…alone in my room LOL). Anyway, I hope I get to do a full wheel soon.

Realized I needed a break + Took responsibility for my health

Break in the form of Netflix and endless movie marathons on weekends. LOL, kidding. But really, though, I’ve been watching a few films every so often (always in genres that I favour the most). Here’s a few of my favourites:

Love, Simon (a new film! I loved it!)

Wonder (plus points for Passion Pit’s Moth’s Wings playing in this film)

Lady Bird (Christine reminds me of…me lol)

Call Me By Your Name (Sufjan Stevens and that heart-wrenching final scene. And Timothee Chalamet!)

The Shape of Water (this was eerie but I actually liked it)

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There have been lots of things I had to pay attention to recently because I’ve always been focused on the end goal. Which is weird, because it got me thinking, “What the hell is my end goal, anyway?”. I keep forgetting to live life day by day and always wanting to look for what’s on the other side. Little did I know that my health has been catching up on me—let’s just say being a girl is quite hard. Hahaha. I’ve started taking meds and my daily dose of nausea and migraine is definitely not bearable. So here I am *trying* to just trust that I’ll get to recover soon.

 

In other news, I’m sure you’ve heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I am in deep damage upon hearing this news; because these are people who have reached some sort of “pinnacle” of success by doing what they love, sharing it to the world, and then it dawned on me that what else did they ever want? It pains me to know they have battled with their demons, but their demons have won. It breaks my heart taking in the fact that while they embodied qualities of who we wanted to become (well, I know I am one of them), it wasn’t enough to save their lives. Truth be told, mental health has been an invisible sickness most people don’t acknowledge. I hope this helps us realise how important it is to be kind, talk to people, and to address issues that you know you can’t deal with yourself.

Planned my upcoming NYC trip + Pitched New Ideas

OK, booking the tickets wasn’t so bad (lol, I did it a week after my birthday, hello? I’m an impulsive traveler)—I’m still waiting for enrolment, actually. But while that was ongoing, I came up with the craziest idea—well, it wasn’t impossible, now that I think about it (until now I’m so shook but it got approved! AHHH!)—that will take me to places I never imagined I’ll actually get to visit for work. I’m going to Europe (alone!) and it’s been something I’ve been looking forward to since I’m visiting a dream city (!!!!!!!!!!!!!! legit dream because I have finally found a reason to go…not just for work). Also, collaborating with a few folks and traveling across the US (and down south) to visit some relatives and teach…and watch Taylor Swift live. That is all. My sixteen year old self will thank me for this (I’m referring to the TSwift part for context).

I still surprise myself sometimes. Suddenly, I’ve found this immense courage to just go after what I want by finding ways to get there, and plotting out the possibilities. I leave some of it to luck and good timing (more on the timing part actually). It doesn’t hurt to try…I kept asking myself “what if I did this? what if I did that?” but my life right now has been all fingers crossed to the nth power and all, “whatever I’m going to do it anyway and let’s cross the bridge when we get there”. The spontaneity keeps me going. And it keeps me inspired to constantly go after bigger dreams and bigger goals (that don’t have to be just in one place). It’s a wonderful feeling. 🙂

Finally made personal decisions I won’t regret (I hope)

As someone who’s always on social media 24/7, I’ve gotten what, tons of messages from readers saying, “Why are you leaving us? Why are you going on hiatus?” as if I have to keep myself accountable for actually doing this and wanting to impact other people BY leaving.

Ok, first of all—I am going back by end of the year. Whether or not I’ll decide to move to another country next year, that’s for me to figure out soon.

At a very young age, I have always envisioned an alter ego of myself—one who went to art school, became an artist, and pushed the boundaries of what she thought were limitations. Guess what: I became an artist, I pushed the boundaries. But I never went to art school. I’m going back to school to make an impossible dream come to life. It has nothing to do with wanting to prove anyone wrong. I just want to give my past self a bit of justice and it is not, by any means, anything I should feel guilty about.

Being a full-time artist is a hard path to take on, career-wise. I wish I could sugarcoat it for you, but my life is just as disorganised as everyone. I struggle with constant self-doubt and live with uncertainty every day of my life. My goals are ever-changing, because not only do I think about what art I should make, but what I want others to get from it. I know most artists create for themselves, and I’m fine with that. But that’s just not me. I feel that as someone who holds a responsibility to somehow influence a set of people, I want to be able to share what I can in the best way. You can call it paying it forward, but for me it’s just been hardwired into my mission as an artist and author.

There comes a point when you feel like you’ve just given yourself too much already, that you’re finding a way to replenish yourself without feeling toxic about it. Naturally, I’m a curious person—I question things every single time. My interests for other non-art things has always given me a reason to keep exploring, keep wondering, and to keep learning. I don’t want to always be in a state where I have to put out art “for the sake of Instagram”, be constantly online “for the sake of being there”.

So yeah, that’s one personal decision I don’t regret on making. I have a few more lined up…but I digress. It’s too early to tell whether it’ll work out. Decision-making has been such a daunting task for me, mostly because I trust on my instincts 100% of the time and am kinda scared that it might not work out.

I listened to this podcast episode featuring Scott Belsky and he was talking about how making decisions is just half the battle…the rest is for you to take action. It doesn’t matter if you make the “right” decision at this point, but know that you have to be accountable for it in the long run. Whether what you decide on works or not, it all boils down to how you take it from there. And it’s such a comforting thought, you know? You can always make decisions that feel right for you. If it works out according to plan, great! If it doesn’t, then you have the capability to make it better—for your own sake.

I’m not sure how to end this post. But I did mention I’m relatively bad with ending things, right? So I’m just going to cut it right here.

Hope your 2018 has been all sorts of interesting and amazing. And crazy. And memorable, maybe?

Always be creating,

Abbey