Be the Captain of Your Happiness, (Cause Why Wouldn't You?)

 

Let's dive right into some content I'd like to share with you. And that's this book right here.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

It's exactly what the title says and if any of these sound relatable to you

  1. Finding rejections and failures difficult to accept
  2. Overthinking situations/ interactions
  3. Getting mad over minute negative encounters during certain events or with people
  4. Prioritising external validation over internal belief,

I'd say definitely give this book a good read. It doesn't exactly provide structured learning content but the examples Mark provides and its accompanying insights will definitely help you shed light on how to improve your mental health and well-being.

I'd include some of my favourite takeaways to get you started. 

  1. The act of not caring doesn't imply being indifferent (that ignorance is plain rude btw), but the importance lies in being completely comfortable about being different.
  2. Yearning for more positive experiences, is in itself, a negative experience. Accepting negative experiences, (ironically) is in itself, a positive experience.
  3. We're not entitled to be happy all the time. It doesn't come on a silver platter! Happiness is a form of action; be the captain and stay responsible for steering your experiences from distasteful to delightful. 

Highly recommend this book - hope you enjoy this read! 

Much Love,
Leah

 

Everyone's a Creative

 
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Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Today, I'd love to share one book in particular with you.

I absolutely love this book. For all the creatives out there, this book is a must read - whether you're a designer, baker, ceramic artist or architect, I highly recommend this read. In fact, it's for anyone, really - I believe everyone's a creative at heart.

In primary school, I remember that my teacher wanted to prove a point: that everyone's different. I can't recall his name but he made each of us draw an umbrella on a piece of A4 paper. We aren't allowed to look at what others drew except work on our own umbrella drawing. As expected, everyone drew different things. For me however, the big revelation isn't that everyone's different - it is: everyone's creative. We all drew an umbrella as told without hesitation, we didn't say "But I can't draw", "I don't want to, cause it'll turn out bad" or "I'm not creative enough to do anything wildly remote to that". Thing is, that's what we say all the time when we get older.

What I'm trying to say is - We all have it in us; being confident in our abilities to execute creative thinking, it just so happens that perhaps "what we think are expected of us" or "what we expect ourselves to be" changed as we grew up. We become more aware of what others think and perhaps, fearful of being inadequate or not being "creative enough", which to be honest is an inevitable thought, no doubt. I mean, we are after all, human.

This is also why, I believe in the act of playing. It is paramount or as I would like to argue, an essential pre-requesite, to creative work. It engages in the power of the subconscious mind, which draws deeper than any conscious thought would. But before I ramble on with my other 101 branching thoughts, I guess I'll just leave you with a quote from the author. 

You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don't understand the outcome. 

- Elizabeth Gilbert

Again, highly recommend you check this book out if you haven't already. You'll gain tons of insights and be reaffirmed that sometimes not okay is perfectly okay.

Much love,
Leah

 

What are you searching for?

 
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"I don't know what I'm searching for, I should know by now" - Whispers by Passenger.

I chanced upon this track and it spoke to me somehow; and I believe it resonates with many others as well. It talks about having a big heart, ready to do something with meaning for the world. You think you know what you're set out for. Maybe. But maybe you don't - you don't know what you're searching for. There are unanswered questions along the way and everyone's filling you up with nothing but noise. You're full, yet empty. They are shouting answers, but these answers.. they are not your own. So you beg for an answer inside of you. You don't need much, really. All you need is a whisper.

This is such a painstakingly beautiful song. And that's what I got out of it (at least that's what I think it is). Definitely gonna be on replay for a while.

 

There is no such thing as original art

 

Now before you come after me after making that bold title statement, I'll explain why. As much as us artists would like to think otherwise, there is no such thing as original art. It's not new but simply just an improvisation upon an existing idea, style or form and/or a juxtaposition of several of them in one.

The best argument I could possibly think of to invalidate this statement of debate would probably be say, historical origins - for example, the first ever independently developed written language to make the history of writing even heard of today (even historians debate on which script was the first and whether others were independently developed too or a further development based on the first yada yada.)

Moving on, here's why there is no such thing as original art. 

Let's talk about music. Remember the time Justin Bieber released his "Purpose: The Movement" album in 2016 and his top hits like "Love Yourself" got covered all over the world? Oh and how about every other top hit like Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" right now? Whatever cover artists produce are remixed versions of the original track, where they may have incorporated their own riffs, improvised on the musical instrumentation, maybe use a different key and say mashed it up with another track. And typically, complications arise whether or not usage is personal or commercial. If a cover artist decides to sell his or her cover of an original song, he or she has gotta pay royalties to distribute it.

Well, even the "original" artist of a song gets criticised for copying someone else's song. Justin Bieber and Skrillex got sued for not obtaining a license from Indie musician White Hinterland for her vocal riffs and similar melodic progressions. Even Taylor Swift was not spared from litigation for her track "Shake It Off". For dance moves too, Michael Jackson was influenced by his predecessors James Brown and Fred Astaire. Well then, how about paintings? It is not uncommon for instructors to encourage his or her students to use reference images for those. That's right, photography is also another art form! It is definitely beautiful to see how two art forms come together at an interaction point in this manner. But again, is anything really original?

Photo Credits:   Alice Achterhof

Photo Credits: Alice Achterhof

If you're curious, my personal influences come from artists like Seblester and David Milan - these two are always reinventing themselves, yet having ownership of their own distinctive styles. Another source of inspiration for me that heavily influences the way I understand lettering and typography are the things around me. I recall my travels last year where I visited 26 cities across 5 months or so, the amount of typography around (especially USA, particularly San Francisco and Los Angeles) was absolutely insane! If you're like me, remember to snap pictures to keep a mood board of sorts as your go-to inspiration. Definitely go see the world; if not, there are Instagram accounts that do post on murals/ signs out there such as Type of London, New York Said, New York Numbers etc.

After blabbering so much on this, you might ask, ok what's the call for action here? It's simple - Go create something today! Originality doesn't exist, but authenticity and genuineness do. Two people can have the exact same idea and further develop it as their own in their own unique way possible and the end results might not even be the exact replica as the inspiration source. The work was inspired and as Austin Kleon puts it, that's how you steal like an artist. (But damn, you gotta credit your inspiration tho - for example, I've seen countless watercolour artists replicating Yao Cheng's work, style and even palette colours without letting her know that she had inspired them, it's kinda saddening.) 

Again, as much as us artists would like to think otherwise, there is no such thing as original art. So go do a remix of your inspirational sources today. Reimagine the possibilities from whatever that is existing today and it'll challenge you to purposeful observation and creative thinking for even better creations. The more you do it, the more you can distinguish yourself from others. It might be something that is known to you but always remember to have humility that you are shaped based on your influences and inspirations. Even Steve Jobs' creation of the iPhone was inspired from Calligraphy. 

So go create. Who knows one day, you'll inspire someone down the road just like how you were inspired by someone else? 

Much love,
Leah

 

Of the highly applaudable first post & the 2 hardest questions in art

 

Hello nice, friendly people of the Internet! 

I've always wanted to give this "blog" thing a shot. There's something pretty charming about writing - the well-thought out words and intricately formulated sentence structures or lack thereof, getting inside someone's head, understanding their thoughts and seeing the world through their eyes for that brief moment in time, really, somewhat appeals to me. It isn't quite my forte, but hopefully I can get better at writing. Maybe look back and reflect on my naivety, *oh god how stupid was I back then* moments in time to come.

Plus, parts of me tend to have a chatty side; I can have loads of thoughts in my head but it could be nice to "talk" to someone through here and never know who is listening (yes, uncertainty can be sexy). Huge chunks of words for Instagram captions are fairly inappropriate for that choice of medium anyway (I mean, do you even read long Instagram captions? I am guilty to admit to my crime of just liking and scrolling past lengthy captions sometimes. Sorry friends, I still care, just manifested in different ways.)

Anyhow, so I've been thinking of what I could do with this space of mine. I'd love to do tutorial posts, how-tos where I share my techniques and knowledge on lettering/design or what not. But I figured you'll never get to know me, me, that way, which is why I hope to write thought posts like these. You may get some insights from it, reflect and see if it applies to your own life too, maybe? You don't even have to agree. It's just me being stripped down and letting you into my space. Okay, shut up Leah, let's get on to what's up right now before this post goes on and on like how J.K. Rowling does her books. 

So yesterday, I attended a private talk organised by Leach (aka my twice-my-age-sister-from-another-mother friend who in all seriousness, does watercolour like a magician), and hosted by Wheeteck and Yipeng from Arters. If you don't know about Arters, they run an e-commerce business selling really cool art supplies from scented inks to atas brushes - god knows what else but I wish I can buy everything they have. They have tons of fine quality supplies! Arters is a family-run business, and they are the sole distributor of Daniel Smith watercolours in Singapore. First of all, I am terrible at watercolours. I haven't tried many brands on this medium as much as I had for calligraphy and lettering (story for another time, promise), but when WT explained the beauty of Daniel Smith's, I was sold. 

Photo Credits:  Arters

Photo Credits: Arters

You know how some paints look all gross and mouldy as though they had a hangover and gone homeless for days? Daniel Smith's, however, remains fine and classy no matter how long you abandoned them for. As WT explained, all Daniel Smith's paints are infused with a binder/ gum arabic, down to the tiny particles. Unlike other student grade watercolours which contain fillers, the makers ensure that every single molecule of Daniel Smith's watercolours is well-coated with that layer of gum arabic so that it helps to prevent clumping of paint after being thrown aside and let dry for weeks.  

- cue digression -

By the way, fun fact, do you know how gum arabic looks like? No, I'm not talking about the highly processed and manufactured end product. I'm talking about the origin. Me neither, so I googled and threw it in for you. 

Behold, the Acacia Nilotica tree (or rather, part of). 

This reminded me of the hong kong snack 雞蛋仔/ egg waffle. Anyway, this picture above is the fruit of the tree but really where the gum is from is actually from the bark. Holes are made and the hardened sap is collected. Also, the reason why gum arabic is named the way it is, is because its a gum and it originated from Arabia. How highly creative! I know... just like my Instagram handle @leahdesign. 

By the way, did you know that gum arabic can be used for calligraphy too? If you happen to have inks that are too thin so much so that it bleeds into the paper, try adding some gum arabic next time round. It'll help the ink to increase its viscosity and you'll achieve clean lines thereafter. If that doesn't happen, it's probably cause the paper you've used isn't ideal. I have never tried this before but I believe the recommended ratio is 1 part gum arabic to 4 parts of ink. Then again, this highly depends on the individual ink itself and how thin it already is. 

- end digression -

During the session, we also got to try out Daniel Smith's watercolours. Being lazy, I ended up walking around and talking to people instead of trying the paints out like everyone did. But to the main point - when WT did a live demonstration, I realise that his style of painting is much akin to performance arts, to which he agreed. Unlike many watercolour artists I see on my noisy Instagram feed, WT's style is manifested in exaggerated arm movements, brush strokes and water splatters. It felt "unplanned", as though he was playing more than painting, as though he just went with it and just be. (Maybe a good analogy would be learning the dance moves and executing them as they are VS learning the dance moves and letting go). 

I asked him, "How do you know when to stop?". 

"The two hardest questions in art is to know how to start, and how to stop", he said. How disturbingly deep that is! It made me ponder quite a bit. To me, yes, starting is difficult. Whenever it comes to the activity section of my lettering classes, I always have to tell my students to not be intimidated by the big white spaces of the paper itself. Starting on something new is always seemingly daunting. There's many directions you can go with art and just like your life choices, one step leads to another and there's infinite permutations of where you could possibly end up at. If only you knew the "perfect" path, right? How bloody annoying. But hey, you can always take another piece of paper *ha!

Unlike "The Game of Life", I don't think there's a winner or a loser to a piece of work, just like how grades shouldn't be assigned to art (which calls for another post altogether on whether a piece can be graded an F by teachers). Sure, there's always room for improvement especially technique wise, which could be an area of critique but style wise, I beg to differ at times. It's something you've created, uniquely you and even if it isn't my cup of tea, I'd respect that. If you see something that inspired you, pen it down, draw it out or translate that inspiration to your own art form, be it music, dance or whatever that is that excites you. Starting doesn't have to be that difficult. Just start.

So now that we've semi-established that, how do you know when to stop? Which is harder, starting or stopping? Honestly, I've no idea. But I do know that it is easy to leave a work halfway. Maybe you're burnt out creatively, or perhaps, physically exhausted from the hours and hours of work you've put into that piece. 

On the other side of the spectrum, some artists "overwork" a piece. Wait, you can actually do that? Well, yes, I do believe that there's a notion of perfection that one may yearn to achieve or maybe he/she/preferred pronoun has a set of expectations to live up to and it is in that state of perfection chasing, where one may lose track and not know when to stop. A good way to "know" that point of overworking is to sleep on it and come back to the piece with a fresh pair of eyes. Sometimes, it may not be good to do a piece all in one sitting. Or if you're already having thoughts like "Is this too much?", then yes, given that you had that inkling, it's highly likely the case.

Anyhow, my take on it, is that you're you. You're the artist. You're the creator. The piece is done when you decide it's done. Ain't no Tom, Dick, or Harry to tell you when and how to stop. You decide!

WT didn't give me an answer but I guess here's my thoughts on it. I apologise if I sound like I'm blabbering cause I probably am. I may even have contradicted myself, damn. But yes, here's the inner workings of my mind.

Just to close this already lengthy post, we each receive this sample too: 

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Thank you to Arters for their generosity! Can't wait to try these out. And of course Leach, who helped to organise this. 

If you have any thoughts on my thoughts, write to me. I'm curious to hear what you think too. For now, I shall maintain that the "two hardest questions in art" is still a life mystery and shall revisit this in future.

Much love,
Leah