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🦊 The Rains Have Ceased
#100 — Launching a drawing course, illustrating my book of fables, and my continued obsession with Hayao Miyazaki
It feels good to write to you again after a much needed break. Every now and then, it’s good to stop doing a thing for a while so you can see whether you still want to do it. I’ve missed writing these letters to you. The break served as a great reminder that I want to keep doing it.
This letter is the 100th edition of Quick Brown Fox! I couldn’t have made it to a hundred editions without you. I’m grateful to all of you for reading, writing back, and special thanks to the paid patrons of this newsletter for giving me the support and signal to keep going. I’m thankful for this little fox’s den. It has been and continues to be the foundation of all my creativity.
Since I sent the last edition in December, it’s been raining non-stop in California. I don’t particularly mind the rain, except that it takes away time I usually spend sitting by the trees, reading books, listening to birds.
Thankfully, the rains have finally ceased. The weather people say that, as of tonight, this endless storm is finally over. I hope they’re right.
I’m hopeful that the storm of workload I’ve been in will ease in the coming months, too. I spent most of this wet winter in a highly productive streak, and hit a lot of my creative goals. But it also put some heavy strain on my health. I’ve felt more fatigued than usual coming out of that period, despite a weeklong vacation over the holidays.
Recovery will take time. I’m doing my best to listen to my body’s signals and respond to them with more healthy habits. My most important habit is taking daily walks. I try to go every single day, and have continued to go even with all this rain. Sometimes, the rain starts while I’m still out on my walk, and I get drenched. It’s still worth it.
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” —Søren Kierkegaard
Silence lets the mind wander to the places you didn’t know it needed to go.
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In case you missed the past few editions, I shared my best essays from 2022, an essay Bumps Are the Road about shifting one’s perspective on the turbulence of life, and my favorite books I read in 2022.
Drawing with Procreate (for Writers)
My friendand I spent six months building a drawing course targeted to writers. Just before the holiday break, we launched it! Drawing with Procreate for Writers is now live.
Shortly after launch, we started seeing some great feedback roll in: Haider Al-Mosawi shared his first illustration drawn with the help of the course. Monica Lim shared a throwback sketch of a cassette tape, and noted that the compact course was just what she needed:
Since launching, more than 50 students have signed up and started their drawing journey. I was delighted to see that the course was not just informative, but motivated folks to take action and get into drawing.
This course is actually the first ‘independent product’ I’ve built and sold online (or in this case, co-independently.) It was really cool to put something out there and find that people really did value it and appreciate it. Selling is a muscle, and I’m slowly starting to build it.
If you’re a writer who wants to kick off 2023 by learning some Procreate drawing skills, here’s a Quick Brown Fox exclusive 25% discount link for the course (limited to 10 people.)
Wandering Spirits: Modern Fables
A big update on my upcoming book of fables: In December, I sprinted to finish the final hurdles of editing. Aside from proofreading, I’m officially done with editing!
Next up is finishing all the illustrations.
Luckily, I’ve drafted most of them, so I need to go back and do line-work and polish for those. There are some illustrations I have to draw from scratch, including one of the Big Dog character in one of the fables, Wolf’s Way.
For this illustration I looked at a bunch of reference photos of dogs until I found one that fit this character, then did a rough pencil sketch of the dog’s pose:
I took a photo of this sketch and imported into Procreate on my iPad to continue working on it.
You might be wondering: Why do a pencil sketch on paper, if I’m going to draw it on iPad later?
Sometimes the pressure of drawing from scratch on iPad can build up and get intimidating. I’ve done some really detailed illustrations on my iPad over the years, and so my inner critic gets to thinking that it needs to look polished like that right away. This doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, I’ll go and sketch with pencil first with the expectation that it’s just a rough pass. Then I’ll take a photo of that and outline it in Procreate. It gives me a reference to use that is much simpler to start with.
Here’s the result after importing, doing a bit of tracing and tweaking with my favorite digital brush pen. I also added some rough shadows.
Finally, I painted some color using digital watercolor brushes:
A little more polish and cleanup is needed, but this one’s pretty much ready to go.
Alongside the illustrations, I’ve started to plan out the book’s release—scheduling out the launch, which editions I want to offer, and so on. I have lots to share on this in a future post. Stay tuned!
Hayao Miyazaki: Starting Point
I’ve been reading Starting Point by Hayao Miyazaki for the past few weeks. I’m obsessed.
If I were to summarize what attracts me most about Miyazaki’s mindset: I love that he is honest about the pain and struggle of creating something that truly moves people.
It’s not easy to do great work. There are no tricks, no shortcuts. There are many days where you are exhausted, deflated from pushing yourself so hard. But for those of us that are driven in this way, those that want to make something that evokes, moves, and touches people, it’s not really a choice. I relate with and deeply appreciate the wisdom he shares in how he makes his films.
If you’re not familiar with Miyazaki, he is a cofounder of Studio Ghibli, and the visionary and director of a slew of animated classics including Nausicaa, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro.
Last year, I had to chance to attend a series of writing workshops focused on Miyazaki. We would watch one of his films, discuss it, and then do some story writing. The workshops triggered a renewed curiosity about Miyazaki in me. I always loved Miyazaki’s movies, but suddenly I became fascinated by the man behind them. His mindset, mantra and approach to work have become a major inspiration for me.
I watched the documentary Never-Ending Man on HBO. Then, I had the chance to see the Miyazaki exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures during a trip to Los Angeles. I was blown away.
On my way out, I grabbed a lovely little Totoro plushie (which you now see in the background of all my videos), as well as a phenomenal book on Miyazaki published by the Academy Museum. I’ve been slowly reading it and enjoying, in particular, the inclusion of sketches (not just final work), which I always find to be the most inspiring material.
Starting Point is the first of two books which share his talks from many decades of his career. If you are interested in creativity, there is a lot there, but note that a lot of it focuses on the world of animation. This book covers 1979-1996, and its sequel, Turning Point, covers 1997-2008. I’m excited to get into the second one soon.
A third book is hinted at being published, supposedly once he has “finished” his career. Thankfully, that day has not yet come. The man has retired and un-retired a couple of times, and for years now he’s been working on his latest film. Studio Ghibli just announced its title: How Do You Live will (hopefully) release in theaters in Japan in July. I can’t wait to see it.