The sum of parenthood in concept:

Parenthood is like that Super Mario Brothers video game. Where there’s a big boss that you have to face at the end of every level, and the challenge gets more complex as you go. You get the idea: defeat a big boss, go up another level. And so on.

Then at some point, you begin to ask yourself “Wait, HOW MANY LEVELS does this thing even have?!?”

-The musings of a newborn parent at 4 AM in the morning

Life has definitely become a little more interesting since the last time I wrote a blog post! I’m a new mom to a sweet little girl and she is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I have been away from my canvas and paint materials for the past year, and chose to focus all my efforts on creating this little masterpiece. I spent the majority of my pregnancy working through the feelings of transition and change, realizing that I will no longer merely exist solely for myself, but that I am “housing” another human. And this human will always be connected to me in all my life, and I will protect and love her for the rest of my days. I’ve had months to reckon with this notion that I will always be someone’s mother moving forward. And it scared and overwhelmed me with love.

The postpartum journey has been rough on my little family. It’s hard to maneuver around the early days of parenthood, especially after a major surgery. I’ve come to appreciate the family and friends that have offered their support, both emotional and physical. The most challenging step for me at this time is navigating the path towards recalibrating my career and journey as a new mom with two small businesses under my wing. I don’t know how, but I think all new moms somehow discover their own way back to work-life balance. It’s never going to be perfect, but it will be enough.

In the meantime, I’ve had so many new creative ideas for artwork, new products, and more just spinning around and around in my mind with nowhere to go in the past few months. Each time I’ve taken walks with my little one, I enjoy looking at the world with her perspective in mind–the beginner’s mind. And it truly helps in reshaping what I think I already know, and seeing it from a new light. I admire her looking and discovering how to engage with her toys, her environment, and it gives me such a sense of humility to realize that we all started out this way, too. It must be clear at this point that she is my new inspiration.

I debated how and when to come back to my art, and I think the time is now. I feel ready to revisit my sturdy painting easel and reconnect. I look forward to designing new things in my art room while my husband and I take turns caring for our baby. And I feel rejuvenated and even more determined to get my art business going to show my girl what a creative mind, grit & dedication can do.

Chabudai Challenge

Hi all, Andy here stopping by to share a behind-the-scenes blog post on a fun art project I just completed for DANESSA Art!

Our latest commission was to build a Chabudai – a Japanese style table.  These tables are similar in height to a coffee table, where you can eat while seated on a tatami mat on ground level.  This ended up being one of my most challenging projects to date. 

Jointing slabs together

Although it sounds trivial, glueing slabs of wood together is not as easy as it would seem.  It involves being able to cut the slabs to be perfectly straight, then glueing them together.  To my surprise, many woodworkers don’t use anything besides glue to join slabs of wood together – the reason being, that wood glue is actually stronger than the wood itself!  It is possible to use dowels, biscuits, or dominoes to reinforce the joints, but it is mostly not necessary in most cases.  Biscuits, in general, don’t add much strength to the slab at all, and are mostly used to keep the slabs aligned when jointing.  

To simplify the process, I decided to just use wood glue for jointing for simplicity.  After some trial and error, I was able to cut the slabs to be sufficiently straight, then apply glue, and clamp them together.  The challenge for me, was that I don’t have a jointer, so I had to make a straight edge cut with a circular saw for one of my slabs that was slightly warped. I used some cauls on the top and bottom to keep the slabs aligned with each other.  In retrospect, it would have helped to use some dowels or dominoes in the center, because I found it difficult to straighten the slabs near the center of the table.  That made my life harder in the end, as I had to sand more than I wanted to.

Some other learnings from this process – it’s important to keep constant pressure of the wood against the fence to make sure the cut is straight.  Placing your guiding hand on the table and pushing towards the fence constantly helped with this.  I also realized that I probably need a few more large clamps to make this process a bit easier.  

Flattening the slab

First, I filled some gaps and holes using epoxy, and wood hole filler.  The slab was already somewhat flat, since the wood game planed on both sides.  However, my jointing caused there to be some unevenness.  I decided to just use a combo of a hand planer and my orbital sander to flatten this out.  I spent a lot of time feeling and looking for dips and mountains to flatten the slab as much as I could.  

Making table legs

I bought some large slabs of Cherry (about 3 inch by 6 inch in cross-section). I was able to cut these down into 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch legs.  This process was pretty straightforward, as the legs didn’t need to be perfectly straight.  I decided to use mortise and tenon joinery to attach these to the slab.  I cut the tenons using the table saw, but cutting thin, shallow cuts. 

Attaching the legs to the slab

Next, it was time to cut the mortises in the slab.  I used a combination of a router, and chisel.  First, I marked the exact location of where the mortises should go using a mechanical pencil(for precision).

Next, I used a router to cut out most of the mortise.  Finally, I used a chisel to cut out the remaining portions of the mortise.  I used a scrap piece of wood clamped to the wood to keep the chisel straight.  This was not foolproof, as the scrap tended to move a bit, and the clamp got in the way sometimes.  It’s probably easier to start the chisel cut before cutting out most of the mortise, to prevent slippage.  

I used high strength epoxy to then attach the legs to the slab.  I wanted the table to be absolutely solid, so decided to use epoxy, due to its hole-filling abilities.  This way, the mortises and tenons don’t need to be perfect for the table to be stable and solid.  

Finally, I sanded off the excess epoxy and sanded some wood off to make sure that the legs were absolutely flush with the slab.  Finally, the table was mechanically finished! (Minus final sanding)

Aging the Cherry

Our client requested a dark finish for the cherry table.  The problem with dark stains on cherry is that it is very prone to blotching.  After much research, I decided to age the cherry artificially instead, using a solution of baking soda and water.  Cherry naturally darkens with age, especially if left out in the sun.  I didn’t want to put the table out in the sun for too long, in fear that it may warp.  So I decided to use baking soda.  

This took a bit of experimentation.  The problem with using a water solution is that the end grain is going to absorb much more solution, than everywhere else.  I feared that this would cause the ends to look much darker.  After some experimentation, I decided to use a less concentrated solution on the ends, and a more concentrated solution everywhere else.  Also, by soaking the ends first, this prevented the more concentrated solution from seeping into the ends.  I had to be careful not to get water solution in parts I didn’t want it, so used some painter’s tape to help here. 

This ended up being a success! I also sanded the table to 400 grit, and purposefully did not use tack cloth on the result, to prevent blotching.  

Staining & Top-coating

Staining was one of the most straightforward parts of this project.  I used my go-to Danish oil finish, that gives nice depth to the wood, while also protecting it very well.  The only downside is the long cure time, and the fact that you need to be very careful not to bunch of your rags, or you could easily start a fire!

After a few coats, I realized that the stain wasn’t quite as dark as I wanted.  So, I decided to leave the table out in the sun for about an hour or so.  The California sun helped add a shade to the finish, and helped even out the shades a bit too.

Last but not least was top-coating.  I had done my research and decided to go with pre-cat lacquer.  This was a brand new process to me, so I was a bit nervous going in.  But this finish turned out to be brilliant! I used spray cans, and had to put on at least about 4 coats to get a nice and even finish.  Before the last coat, I sanded the entire table top with 600 grit sandpaper, and made sure NOT to use tack cloth. The reason being, lacquer melds in chemically with the existing finish – so using the sanded off residue actually helped fill in remaining grain, and helped even out the finish even more.

The final product was an extremely smooth finish that I’ve been trying to achieve for awhile now.  To top of off, I buffed with some denim to make it super smooth. 

I love that lacquer dries extremely quickly, so it’s fast and also gives you a smooth, durable finish.  The only downside is that it stinks! So make sure to use a p100 ventilator and also eye protection if you choose to go this route!

And that’s all folks! All that hard work paid off in the end!  Looking forward to making more custom tables for y’all in the future!

Peace out.


Making Time For Each Other

Hi all! What a year it’s been. The art store has transformed in so many ways since a year ago, and I could not be happier for these changes. The biggest one? We’re doing more home goods, self-help accessories, and…custom furniture! What?! Yes! The DANESSA art store is now a busy art studio and wood shop. I’m so excited to have my husband Andy be part of this and he’s been instrumental in my ability to discover possibilities on how to continue to share my artworks with others.

So far, 2021 has given me the chance to spend more time with loved ones and focus on different creative projects. And I’ve embraced every single one of them because it has given me new ways to approach art-making. One that definitely comes to mind is a recent art project I worked on for a friend. She tasked me with the idea of creating a portrait of her partner’s pet dog Forrest and making a puzzle! Our Glowforge Basic 3D laser printer and cutter was the secret sauce for making this all come to life. It took some getting used to and learning the best ways to print, mount, protect, and cut the puzzle.

The first part was the most straightforward part (at least for me!) since it involved creating the artwork. I chose to make a digital illustration of Forrest since it was going to be colorful, playful, and contemporary. Found a cute photo of him and boom! I let the pencil lead the way. 😊 Props to Adobe and Adobe Fresco for creating such a powerful tool and platform for artists!

Here’s a time-lapse of the whole illustration process.

After I completed this step, I asked my husband Andy for help with using and setting up the Glowforge for laser printing. Now, I’ve been hesitant to laser print on my own because, well, I don’t want to accidentally burn the house down. Lol. But we did our due diligence and read up on the proper care and settings for the type of materials we were using and necessary steps to take. We owe a ton of thanks to the Glowforge community for making this process painless! Ahh, but we still had more to do. Printing, mounting, and finishing the illustration print took longer than I expected. We wanted to make sure that the piece was completely dry prior to laser cutting to reduce any risks of fire. After one full day of drying, we were off to the races!

It took us two tries to get it done, but it was well worth it! Our first run was mounting the illustration print onto a chipboard. It worked out ok, but when we had to peel the painter’s tape we added on the back for protection, it began peeling more of the chipboard than we liked. So we opted for mounting them later onto a clear acrylic board, which worked out pretty well! We also learned some important things like, oh yeah, how many puzzle pieces were TOO MANY TO COUNT?! Haha! 😂 In hindsight, the laser cutting was easy. The tough work was now…counting up the pieces and peeling off the protective vinyl on the back of each itty bitty piece. LOL! Lessons, oh yes, they were definitely learned. 🙃

Here’s some photos of us working hard on peeling the protective sheet on the puzzle.

After this, we also had to figure out a nice way of packaging it all up. Our 4″x4″ cube boxes were perfect for the job, and we made sure to put the puzzle pieces in a resealable bag. We also had to make sure to include a small photo reference of the puzzle. I can’t imagine solving this puzzle without it!

Overall, we were quite happy with how it turned out. And no, I didn’t burn the house or garage down. 😊 Our Glowforge was actually pretty easy to use. With the help of the Glowforge community and forum, we were able to find support and answers to our many questions.

I highly recommend that any beginners looking to get into the world of 3D laser printing/cutting/creating consider the Glowforge. And the Glowforge templates are a neat way to get started! If you are seriously considering one, be sure to use my Glowforge referral code to snag $250-500 off yours!

Best of all, we are very grateful and thrilled to hear that my friend and her partner loved it! It’s creative artworks like these that definitely bring me joy because I know that my art and skills brought more happiness and love into this world. I firmly believe that the best gift you can give someone else is your time and full attention. And I’m always ready and willing to help others realize that happiness never decreases by being shared. I hope this thoughtful gift affords them more quality time together. ❤

Got a cool new art project in mind? We’re always looking for a new collab! You know where to find us. 🙂


The Protea Project: Decolonizing Fine Art

I started writing a post a few weeks back regarding the recent events surrounding the pandemic and police brutality, but never hit the “Publish” button. Even though it was so detailed and lengthy, I didn’t feel like it said enough about what was in my heart. I kept editing and re-editing, and then in the end, I scrapped it and started over. Basically, this post is here to tell you straight up–BLACK LIVES MATTER. And as a woman, a person of color, an artist, and a mental health clinician, I want to take a stand and be clear about what my values are and what I am willing to fight for. Injustice continues in our communities and I would be remiss to ignore what has been a blight in our society, especially when human lives are at stake.

With the BLM-led protests and calls for social justice raised other questions about how the current world operates unfairly against minority groups. Decolonization has been on my mind. These past few weeks have been heavy, and I felt it weigh me down. But I wanted to do something constructive with my tempestuous feelings of anger, frustration, and despair. Art has always been a refuge for me during my darkest times. I spent a lot of time being quiet, listening, learning. Art and design are not separate from any of the recent conversations about race, politics, and injustice. It’s been widely known that there is a “preferred” or a set standard even when it comes to what we consider “professional” or “fine art.” All the prominent museums and art galleries will show you matter-of-factly that the supreme fine artists that are celebrated are old, white, and male. And it’s been like that for ages. To this day, I struggle to name more than a handful of BIPOC painters that have “made it” in the art world–and I’m super ashamed of that. Because there is so much to be discussed within this topic, I encourage you to learn more on this separately (start here: What Does it Mean to Decolonize Design?; Decolonizing Art History; Art & Morality with Michelle Hartney & Decolonize This Place). How do we shift the power and recalibrate to better represent artists from all backgrounds?

In my search and exploration of what decolonizing and redefining what fine art and design means to me, I examined the types of art I’ve been making more recently. I’ve been busy painting tropical abstracts for some time now in the past year, and I remember being previously insecure about the ideological shift my art was taking. And I now realize that, heck, I’m just here doing my thing. Painting what I want to paint and creating what sincerely resonates with me. I’m done feeling sorry for myself and questioning my art journey. I’m painting my reality. I’m creating a representation of my life experiences and what matters to me–be it my Filipino-American background, my international upbringing, or my particular interest in mental and emotional health represented in my work.

Fully embracing the journey towards decolonizing what fine art is led me to dive deeper into the beauty of tropical nature. I felt so liberated. Such freedom to explore led me towards a particularly intriguing flower known as King Protea. I knew I had found my next muse.

King Protea is a big, spiky, and full-blooming showstopper that grows in the most difficult conditions. Interestingly, Proteas have evolved to withstand wildfires, now a way to promote their seed germination and propagation. There are more than hundreds of types of Proteas, and they grow abundantly in tropical climates all over the world, including South Africa. Somehow, this idea about decolonization of fine art and tropical nature captured my attention. I went to work.

Is it possible to apply this same openness and acknowledgement of beauty from a minority lens and decolonize what fine art means? Can I create a window through which individuals can respectfully learn about my Filipino culture without classifying it as other? Can I really help break the learned association between the images of tropical nature as decorative versus fine art? Is it possible to use art as a vehicle for inspiring others to rethink their old notions about the world?

So far, the Protea Project has shown me that representation is important. When we see more people that look like us, talk about the things we like, grew up experiencing, and the communities we belong to, we feel seen. Minority groups and interests are not less than. Beauty, talent, and meaning is not for one group of people to lay claim to. My goal with the Protea Project is to slowly unravel those previously impenetrable perspectives and encourage people to recognize beauty outside of their own bubble.

See these images for what they are–beautiful and true. Fine art.

With the hope of less vitriol, oppression, and division in our current world, I stay focused with the possibility of reaching more brave, vulnerable hearts with a sincere willingness to listen and move forward together.

Let’s keep going.


Art and Design In the Service of Others

I started this journey into art and painting from a place of needing healing and comfort. As we go through so much uncertainty and mixed emotions these days due to COVID-19, I am reminded that I am fortunate to be in a place to help out however I can.

Maybe you’ve asked, “What can artists do to help right now?” 
And to that, I say, PLENTY!

The 2 Million Essential Ears Ear Saver

This is a great time to showcase how creativity, innovation, and design can help others. Artists are needed now more than ever. Because we know how to make do with what little we have and turn it into something amazing.

This month, I’ve taken up Glowforge‘s call to help make Ear Savers for the community! I am donating my time and resources to support our essential workers in the Northern California Bay area and (if needed) beyond.

Check out the first batch we made! It’s a new and different experience for us, but it’s also fun to learn and make new things that can help our frontline workers continue to be safe and healthy.

So if you are an individual working in the front lines of COVID-19, send us a message and we’ll be glad to send you some FREE Ear Savers for you and your team.

Take care,


The Artist and the Healer

COVID-19 has been such an unusual time for all of us. It’s been upending a lot of people’s lives and upcoming plans, but it really is a time to be serious about what matters most, and that is the health and safety of all. While we are all hunkered down in our homes, many of us have kept busy with work. Me? I found this to be a good time to evaluate how I want to focus on my self-development and growth. As an artist and a healer.

There’s always been two sides of me—the logical and the emotional side. On one hand, I’ve always valued art and recognized my innate talents for visual art-making. On the other, I often find myself being drawn to the elements of structure, logic, and science. I enjoy being a clinical psychologist because I get to help others work through their emotional and mental health challenges. But art has never been simply something I could keep on the back burner for too long; it gets restless and antsy, and always wants to chime in and contribute to whatever I’m doing.

And so I’ve decided to explore the possibility of having both my artist and healer sides come together to collaborate on something new and exciting. More and more, I’ve become open to the idea that they can coexist on the same plane of existence, and that I can be recognized for both of my skills in unison. My DANESSA art paintings and accessories are a product of such an experiment. It’s not always been comfortable for me to tout both of my areas of knowledge, and I sometimes wonder whether it was because of fear. Fear that I will be judged, mocked, discounted by others who see me as some failed “true artist.” Or one that couldn’t quite make it in the big leagues and pursue an actual art degree.

On some days, it is easy to dispel such “myths” of the mind. Some days, not so much. I believe it and I hide. It sucks because it stops me from creating. It makes me doubt myself, and in turn, I become consumed by the negative energy. And some days, it feels good to push back. And lay out all the heap of junk in the middle of the floor, and begin to sort out each negative, unhelpful thought.

That, actually, yes. I could have pursued art school. But that wasn’t something I wanted, when I went down that path. I immersed myself in the art community, took many art classes, and even got a Studio Art minor. But I didn’t feel like that was fulfilling enough. I was bored and wanted something else. That in fact, I found myself wanting something that made the art more deep and meaningful. To be able to explore what it meant when someone made a painting, a sculpture, or a political art piece. To learn more about the artist behind the artwork. To see how their life story led them to become the artist they were. Art is interesting, but the people behind them are even more captivating.

And so that is why I make art. I am an artist, and I am a healer. I am one. My goal for my artworks is to create mindful art that heals, connects others, and and share it with the world. You will find my latest creations under the PsychBlab section of my art store. This is a set of resources and worksheets for psychology and self-development. Check it out and see for yourself! I’ll be adding more in there as I churn more ideas in the near future.

Thanks for following me on this journey,

Kobe: The Legend, The Icon, The Man

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8/24. #kobebryant

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It’s taken me a few weeks to get my thoughts in order about one of my recent paintings. I was shocked beyond belief, on the day I heard from the news that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven of their friends and team members died in a helicopter crash in the San Fernando valley. This news hit me hard in many different ways. I am an Angeleno, and I take such great pride in that fact that it is my home. My heart will always belong to LA. The crash occurred a few short miles from my family’s home in the valley, and that by itself was a scary notion on how close it all happened to people I love very much. I also grew up with Kobe Bryant gracing every LA Lakers game night when I lived at home with my mother, father, and brother. Basketball was my dad’s favorite sport, and he shared that love for the game with us. He was an avid Michael Jordan fan when we were younger and still lived in Asia (Philippines, Singapore). I remember him playing intramural basketball in Singapore, and then later becoming one of the coaches for the teams of Filipino engineers and architects that played in the league.

The Kobe era coincidentally occurred at the same time when we emigrated to California, USA. And so, Kobe represented so much more to me and my family than just the basketball player that we have all seen and heard on tv. Til his life’s end, my dad was a hard core Kobe Bryant and Lakers fan. A part of me found the recent news even more heartbreaking, because I felt like a very important thread connecting me to my dad has been severed. It hurt like hell. Like I was lost and couldn’t find my way home. And so I know what I needed to do.

I needed to paint.

Grieving. I couldn’t do anything else today, so I decided to make something and process the past few days. I don’t know what will come out of this but I will let my heart lead the way. It never fails me. 💜💛 #kobebryant

Seeing the Kobe and Gigi memorial on tv today has been healing. Seeing so many other people feel connected to this one man made me feel not so alone. And it helped acknowledge and validate my grief. That it was understandable that I felt so torn. That a man I never met once in my life meant so much. A whole city came together to celebrate him and time stopped for a brief moment to pay their respect.

So today, as we commemorate the legend, the athlete, the man, I am wrapped with warmth from the memories of my family that he has been a part of. Thank you, Kobe. Your memory lives on in our hearts, thoughts, and shared stories with loved ones.

Mamba forever. 💜💛

Blue Ballerina

Hi there! It’s been a while since I made an art blog entry, so I feel a bit rusty. I have had quite a year of life transitions and wonderful new changes, so I am glad to be working on some creative projects more freely again now that I have some free time to myself. It’s become more important to me to spend time with myself to maintain a good balance of my work-art life, as I attempt to cultivate my own rituals and practices for self-care. 

That includes taking on tasks, new creative opportunities, etc. I have been practicing better boundaries with others on energy management, not just time. And so, I think with every step, the universe does listen. What once was a scary thought that I would be letting go of cool opportunities in front of me because I didn’t have enough time for it resulted in me making way for better opportunities when I had my priorities straight. Tsk. Had I known this sooner…

Anyway, I digress. I’m really here to give a glimpse into my latest art commission from a lovely friend of mine. She had the vision of recreating a reference painting of a ballerina in blue but making subtle changes to the image. I was very excited for the undertaking, especially since we were going BIG at 38″x52″! Canvas stretching is always a pain, but I’m lucky to have an amazing helper 🙂 

The mood/feel of this painting is light, airy, and graceful. Per request, the subject matter was also made to look Asian. I was suddenly diving into what I didn’t know was a rabbit hole, when I began searching for asian ballerinas on the web. There weren’t many prominent ones identified, and I was stumped. I eventually landed on Stella Abrera, a world-renowned Filipino-American ballerina.

Watching some of her performances on video evoked feelings of cultural pride and joy. I was reminded that gracefulness doesn’t necessarily mean frailty. That it could embody strength, dedication, and rigor. Her devotion to ballet and reaching for her goals is impressive, and going against a cultural norm of expectations from her family background reminds me of the trailblazers that walk amongst us who are always creating new paths where it was previously deemed impossible. And how fitting, that it was recently Filipino American History Month in October, and lots of stories about the Fil-Am diaspora have been in the media. I also recently attended a life-changing event called Entrepinays Summit in San Francisco, California. I cannot completely put into words how the experience made me feel, but I linger upon the word “seen.” I felt home. I felt regarded and in the support of other Pinays just like me who are making their own career moves and forging new paths in the entrepreneurial field. I never realized that there were so many women just like me, had big dreams like me, and had strength that reminded me of women who raised me.

I slowly realized that this painting was quite an important and special one, and I took to task and got started. The immediate feeling of layering the first color of blue was such a calming effect. I felt engulfed and hugged by the colorful waves. It felt good. I began thinking about how to create a close anatomical representation of the ballerina, and it got me a bit frustrated at first. I became a little stuck with the idea of perfection, making it just right and as close to the reference as I could. But this got me nowhere and annoyed. I had to take some time away and pull back from the work, re-examine my motivations. After some time of thinking, I came to realize that it wasn’t my goal to create a “perfect” ballerina painting, I wanted to create a painting of a ballerina that embodied those same things I said earlier–gracefulness and strength.This was such a freeing moment, I learned. I began to paint more loosely and with ease. I was enjoying painting again. 

I’m putting the finishing touches to this piece as we speak. Overall, I’m quite happy with the work and learned a little bit more about my process. What works for me, and what are some things to check in with whenever I feel stuck during my painting process. Art has been such a journey for me. I look back at some of my previous works in the past two, three, four years, and I can definitely say that I’ve grown into my own style.

I can only hope to continue evolving. 


On Trust

This week’s painting practice got me working on my ability to trust. To trust myself and have faith. To maintain my level of hope that I will be able to find my own way through.

I recently began my prep for a new art commission–and a super fun one to boot! I’m gearing myself up to begin painting a massive art piece that’s gonna take some time to complete. I want to be able to organize myself, plan for the upcoming challenges, and get ready to tackle it with brazen focus and determination.

Starting something new

It’s always daunting to start. So I’ve been painting samples here and there to warm up, and these exercise have unknowingly made me come face-to-face with something that I think plagues most (if not all) artists and/or creatives. The idea that things have to be perfect on the first go, that there’s a “right” way to do things, and that nagging self-doubt that decides it can stop by any time and doesn’t need any invites.

I must say, this has never gone away for me. I’ve been able to challenge it with helpful affirmations and cognitive reframes. Sometimes it wins. But sometimes, I yell back. I don’t think it will ever go away for someone like me. I know the double-edged sword that a good, insightful perspective can bring, but I also fear the other end. What’s changed the game for me is the awareness about what the heck is happening in my mind. That it’s normal, and it’s just one of the 60,000 different thoughts that come in and out of our mind each day. No big. As quickly as it entered my awareness, I have the ability to let it float on by. Guess it’s up to me to always rein in the horses when they get too wild.

DUMBO! Jk it ain’t 🙂

Or in this case, elephants?


Stay tuned for updates on this art piece! 😀 And if you are interested in your very own art commissions, let’s talk.

❤ Danessa

2019: A Mindful Refresh


My goodness. I’ve been away from writing for so long! I kinda miss the days when I carved out special time for self-reflection. Just to recap, for those of you who haven’t been following along on my art journey in other social media sites (FB/IG), the rest of 2018 from April to December was focused on my goal of stability, entrepreneurship, and serendipity. I think that as the months rolled by, it got easier to navigate the waters of self-sufficiency. I chose to prioritize setting up my private practice and placed my art business on the side, but still steadily holding the course.

This new year, I intend to shift my focus into the organization and foundation setup of my two small businesses. This busy bee keeps on buzzin’!

So I guess that leads me to begin with my art store and products.

I’ve slowly been freshening up the website with lots of new items, sprucing up the logo, and the visuals that initially greet my wonderful art lovers. I am hopeful that you are all able to come along with me on this continued journey towards self-development, learning, and change.

After some soul-searching, and inspiration drawn from my recent travel to Waco, Texas to stop by Chip & Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia market, I have decided to follow the path of serendipity to where my art was naturally moving towards. At first, I found myself highly resistant to the notion that my paintings could be transformed or adapted into other goods, such as home and work accessories. In all honesty, it initially pained me at times to think of my work as something that could be seen elsewhere aside from its original medium. It felt…like I was moving away from my goals of being a “real” artist. Whatever that means. And I hated the feeling. I began thinking that to expand my work into other products would begin to cheapen its value. And gosh, I hated admitting that to myself. I felt bad. I felt like I wasn’t a “good enough” artist that I had to get my work out there in different formats because it just didn’t reach the caliber of fame that I wanted it to. Man. That’s hard to write out.

But slowly, I let the idea simmer in my mind. And the best thing I could have ever done was to be open and share my worries with others around me. Fellow artists and business owners gave me new perspective that this new switchback down the road was not a bad thing. In fact, this was the beginnings of my business evolving into the next level. For my creative work to continue to grow, it has to change. For me to continue to sustain and engage current and new art lovers around the world, I have to look forward and innovate. I have to embrace change and what it means for my work. I have to continue to be comfortable with moving towards the unknown.

I thought at this age and time in my life, I wouldn’t have any more growing to do. But I guess we never cease to have the capacity to learn new things. And I think I’m okay with that. 🙂

Here are some of my latest additions to my new Mindful Desk collection:

What do you think? I’m happy with the new line of goods so far. These days, I am practicing more mindful art-making and production. I am also making it a point to more thoughtfully identify ways that I can help solve everyday problems or challenges that people have by creating more functional art. And that’s where I first came up with the idea of helping others tackle the challenges of being more organized! I know I definitely benefit from these products myself (notepads, sticky notes, pencils, calendars, etc.), and I use them at my office and home, too! I guess that’s a good sign, since I can personally attest to how my products provide functional value in my own life. 😀

I hope you check out my new art store and see for yourself! Let me know what other goodies you would like to see me add into my new Mindful Desk collection! Til the next art update! 🙂

❤ Danessa

The Road to Self-Compassion

What a winding, unpredictable road it is.

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I’m still basking in the glorious energy of the Self-love, Compassion, and Care art&psychology workshop event from the end of May in Sacramento.  And it got me wondering…

How radical is it to practice self-compassion? 

Talking to all these courageous and open-minded women during the event made me have a greater appreciation for how much of a mind-shift we are creating in our current world. Drawing from my day job of psychotherapy, I cannot help but take notice of how difficult it is for people to just willingly give themselves such self-compassion and love. Like we have to prove that we are worthy of such attention, praise, care, and concern. As if there was more work to do to make us feel okay to give our selves even half of what we so readily give to others.

We hesitate.

We create conditional statements.

We deny ourselves the love and unconditional regard that we so freely give to the significant people in our lives.


Honestly, I don’t know.

I’ve got lots of ideas why and how each of us gets there at some point, but it is all a big question mark.

To shed some light on such a penumbra, I went at it the only way I knew how.

With a brush and canvas, of course. 😛

I decided to re-work an old painting of mine that I felt was wholly incomplete. It was a painting about a light, airy, and carefree feeling. But it was also titled Pyro because it was about a strong feeling of intuition, desire, and fiery love. It used to be about a more romantic type of love, but now I think this transformation has shifted it to be about self-love. I also didn’t think the final image completely depicted all that I wanted it to, so I revisited this piece and decided to kick it up a notch.

And so this is what happened. Check out those colors and wild movement!

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Like all my other paintings, I created this with intentionality. I made it for me–to be enjoyed by and appreciated by me. I gotta say, most of my paintings are about me gifting myself something I’ve always wanted. A funny remake of this, a rendition of a famous artist’s style, or something that looks b a d a s s on that one empty wall in my room. I mean, why make anything if you don’t like it, right?

This painting has lots of interesting moments within it, and that’s what keeps me curious. To me, this piece conveys how we each spend so many of our moments judging ourselves and thinking and rethinking each moment to the point that we drive ourselves mad with our own thoughts. Sometimes, these patterns of thinking are helpful, other times not. The colors are vibrant and lively to capture the immense energy that our minds are able to produce with each thought; and it can be used for good or bad. In this work, such colorful brushstrokes look as if they are easily swayed in a nonsensical pattern, turning at each bend but never really going anywhere.

Much like how an anxious mind works–trying to “solve” a situation by overthinking and creating “worst-case scenarios.” Pre-planning for what bad thing could happen. And in the end, was it productive?

Our thoughts are so powerful, they can affect how we feel.

Our thoughts can lead us to awe-inspiring journeys that no man has ever set foot. And yet, if we are not careful, such thoughts can lead to our distress. So instead, be still, and find your inner anchor through your breath. Take comfort in the notion that your self-worth is internal and not dependent on what goes on around you. Realize that you, too, deserve your love and care.

And really mean it.

Music on deck: It’s All In Vain by Wet

This whole self-love, compassion, and care is a forever journey that I hope we each find ourselves on at some point in our lifetime. Because we deserve it. We are innately worthy. And that is not something that changes with experience or luck.

To quote my favorite poet on this matter:



❤ Danessa

Word of the year 2018

If I could choose a word for the 2018 year, mine would be:

Serendipity: To stumble upon something that is favorable by happenstance or luck

I want this year to be all about me digging deeper into my mindfulness practice and learning to trust my instincts. To reach for the stars and see what I find on my way there. To joyfully breeze through each moment, knowing that with each one that passes, time is leading me to something bigger and greater. You know those Nike ads all over the place?

Yeah, I agree.

I want it all.

And is that so bad?


Photo by Danessa from Art Market SF 2018

But maybe, like always, life has something else in plan for me. For so long, I have planned and pre-planned my life because it seemed chaotic and unpredictable. Personal tragedies have a way of changing people–you are either broken by it or made more formidable. Me? I hate to say it but sometimes I don’t know. So I paint to get it out of my system. It’s a way for me to process what is happening inside and around me–sometimes even unbeknownst to my conscious self.

I’ve been painting a few new pieces that have been an exploration of this idea of serendipity. This latest set began much like any other–a lot of trial and error, feeling unsatisfied about what is currently on the canvas, and wanting to secure a purpose or direction in my work. It. was. tough. But I did hold on and keep trying until I reached a state of mind that was (close to) calm and even-keeled. It was at this turning point that I was able to unlock something excitingly different in my art.

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OMG. Becky, Look at those waves. 0.0

I haven’t painted like this in a long, long, very long time. And stumbling upon this was so fulfilling. It made me think of the post-impressionist works of Vincent van Gogh, and how he reveled in the sheer beauty of color, impasto, and movement in his paintings. What it must have been like to live being misunderstood, isolated, and destitute but doing what you loved. What was that like for him?

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I gave in to my curiosity and dove right into painting with graceful, slow movement. It was when I stopped fighting the unhelpful comments/judgments in my head (“Don’t do that” or “Why don’t you paint like you’re a real artist”) that I found progress in my artwork. I initially planned to create a triptych. But ended up with a diptych. Ah, well. A chance to practice some mindfulness skill of going with the flow and adapting to changes, I guess.

Even after all the artworks and paintings I have done in my life, I still battle with these negative automatic thoughts (NATs) in my head. Sometimes, the external world isn’t really as helpful, either. Several times, I have received previous feedback from other artists that I should paint BIGGER. And with MORE SPEED. And demonstrate MORE POWER in my works. Here, look at this paintbrush stroke–seems to lack CONFIDENCE.

UGH. I thought they were helpful in my growth and I considered them for a time being, but now I see that I have a certain style that works for me and that is all true to my own. So, thanks, but I got this.

And here’s the progress.

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What do you think?

All in all, I’m pretty happy about where this curious adventure has taken me. I think that art is deeply personal and serendipity takes you where you didn’t know you wanted to be, but am infinitely grateful for. I, like everyone else who has ever tried anything new in their life, will continue to work on my NATs and keep serendipity in mind as I continue to take on those new blank canvases.

And I hope that you will too ❤



Art Appreciation

You know what feels awesome?



When someone looks at your artwork and tells you, “I get it. I LOVE IT!”

Hearing these words immediately trigger a rush of chemicals to my brain’s reward pathway, and I am addicted.

It is SO validating and heart-warming to meet others who accept you for exactly what makes you unique. And it’s quite infrequent that this happens to me since abstract expressionist art is a niche field that attracts a specific kind of soul.

I started painting a new set of works called Metta. This collection falls under the Mind Games series and has been super re f r e s h ing for me.

The Metta paintings are made with gouache on mixed media paper. This was inspired by my recent and more regular practice of yoga and meditation practice. Although I’ve been involved in these for nearly 6 years now, I am now seeing yoga and mindfulness through a different light. They say yoga can be a religion, and I now see what people mean by that. Often times, I leave a yoga session feeling really cleansed and peaceful. I have a clear goal of what I want out of life and how I want to live the rest of my days. I sometimes even feel a bit emotional after a mindfulness meditation practice or find myself weeping while listening to a guided meditation.

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These new paintings are titled Metta for a reason. I want people who know little to nothing about mindfulness and meditation to have an opportunity to learn about Loving Kindness by coming across these artworks. Loving Kindness or Metta meditation was my gateway to practicing deeper over the years, and I believe it can ring true to others as well. The idea that we can share gratitude, compassion, and empathy towards our fellow humankind (and more importantly, with our selves), all simply because we understand that this is our one life. That we are all that we’ve got. And that we are in this life together. Through the vehicle of creative arts pushing this message forward, I believe that we can get there.

I have noticed that people tend to become captivated by my work from the early days when I painted from a place of sadness, anger, and pain. And I know why. I get it. We all find solace in others who we think can understand what we are going through or have experienced. For that reason, I understand why art patron and fans alike have clamored at my doorsteps asking if any of my early works were up for grabs.

Now, I paint from a different space and mindset, which I believe is just as meaningful, captivating, and may even reflect my increased development as a fine artist. I paint from a place of peace, calm, and balance. I have made it a regular practice to not only create art on a regular basis but not let my mood set the tone for whether I will be making something amazing today. I am moving away from glorifying turmoil, the dramatic, and destructive; I seek the possibility of holding a light to the opposing still, quiet, and balanced way of living.

What do I want my viewers to take away from the Metta paintings?

I want my paintings to serve as a daily reminder to ground oneself to the present moment. To live in the here and now, no matter what you were doing/thinking/feeling right before you took a glance at the painting. Similar to how meditation teaches us to come back to the breath when the mind becomes distracted during practice, I want the Metta paintings to help the viewer remember to be here now. To breathe deeply and live in the present moment with full intention. To take notice and become curious about the image in front of them, and approach it with a beginner’s mind. To look at it from different perspectives, deconstruct it with their mind, and see the image in a brand new way each and every time.


No interpretation is false–art is personal, and abstract art is poetry in visual form.

Come read my poetry sometime.


❤ Danessa

Light and Bubbly

Started some new paintings recently and had the inescapable craving to splash on a light and bubbly colorful palette for a change.


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Maybe it was inspired by my recent art hangout with friends when we made some cute Year of the Dog paintings, or my recent trip to the Museum of Ice Cream, or maybe it’s the recent surge of friends who are on the path to parenthood at the moment (this does not include me lol). OR Maybe it was ALL of it. I am currently inspired and touched by the amazing journey ahead into this weird life phase we now are in. Straight up adulting, guys! From all this happening around me, I wanted to help welcome such new and exciting times by creating new babes of my own (yet still an art reference!). 😛

Check out this time-lapse vid of me getting my mindful art on!


Here I am using my calligraphy brush to whisk on some beautiful light strokes of Windsor & Newton and M. Graham watercolor paints on the good ol’ trustworthy Arches watercolor paper. Super fun! What you didn’t see was my new art-making ritual process of doing a brief but grounding mindfulness practice right beforehand, and then an ease towards making the painting.

My goal is to make each into a triptych set. I don’t really make triptych paintings often, but I think this idea lends well to it. Something about the fleeting movement of the puffy, cotton-candy colors that make me want to keep creating and re-creating it, to evoke the feeling of breathing in and out deeply, resembling when I engage in deep breathing during mindfulness meditation.


and breathe in

a big colorful bubble of light.


and breathe out

an airy,

fluffy cloud

that bobs slowly



and away.

Themes of playfulness, sweet, and carefree. Distant memories of childhood not yet tarnished by the realities of adult life. Curiosity and cheerful giggles that radiate a whole room.


Still a work in progress, I must say. Stay tuned for updates!

Oh HEY! Have you grabbed your copy of my latest FREE art calendar? Get it here and share /print it as much as you want!

An elegant flower lily of delicate hues and a white leaf bumigi for writing lies on a light pink background.


My (Anti) Valentine


Dénouement (2015), 24″x30″, Acrylic on canvas


The (ANTI) Valentine art show featured one of my old artworks circa 2015. Friends who came by for the artist reception show were sure in for a rare treat and witnessed a different side of me that I usually don’t show.

Here are some photos from the event:


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They were interested in hearing about my work and its meaning. I was hesitant to open up about all the things I never told anyone. This painting has been one of those that has haunted me after I painted it. It was one of those that after I made it, I didn’t ever want to look at it again. But I couldn’t get rid of it. It was a part of me that I didn’t want to know, to accept, or acknowledge.

There’s an undeniable mood of heaviness, a feeling of sadness, and despair when you first take it all in. This painting was made back in the day when I particularly found it artistically fitting and physically soothing to use palette knives when painting. (Yeah, I know how that sounds. Still.) I found numerous ways to utilize the palette knife and my marks were very intentional with each hit, smear, slice, and drag application on the canvas.

This is one of the paintings that I have cried in front of, not really knowing why, but the rush of the art-making process suddenly brought me to it.




Tears of scarlet red and black are dominant in this painting. The fiery red consumes a big part of this image and has the effect of a roaring flame brewing inside. There’s an incessant energy in the black marks that depict a heavy object falling again and again, in different ways, and shattering to no end.

I hated this painting.

I hated it so much I kept it hidden away in the deepest end of my pile of old paintings. Not only that, I had to have it turned around whenever it was stored anywhere. This was a painting I made into existence but never acknowledged until I had to no choice but to face it.

You leave in wonder, “How does it end?”

I would tell you, but that’s not the point of the artwork.

Not past or future, all that it was about was the present moment when I made it. And when I made it, this was what it felt like inside my heart.



The thing I love best about this painting?

You don’t get to see all that I’ve described unless you’re thisclose to it in person. You don’t get to feel all that I’ve just mentioned unless this is all you see in front of you. You don’t get to appreciate the unity in the marks, the colors and how they come together, the overall choreography of the lines, shapes, and details. And that’s ok. Because this is a part of me that is not for all to see and know.

Just the really special ones.




Photo: Henry Chen



Never Broken

The Mindfulness and Meditation summit was such a treat. I had a great time tuning in at my own time and at my own pace. At first glance, I didn’t know whether it was worth listening to singer/songwriter Jewel.

Man, I’m so glad I took a leap of faith and did.

All I remember about her in the 90s is that I loved listening to my aunt’s CD of hers and that it always made me feel emotional. Her songs were not bubblegum pop in any way or form, which was what I was heavily into those days. But I truly liked it. Her hauntingly tragic and sweet songs made me contemplate life more deeply. And now, listening to Jewel discuss mindfulness and meditation is another happy surprise. I never knew how committed she was to mindful living, and this discovery alone is such a gift. Here is Jewel in an interview with entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vee:

In Jewel’s memoir, Never Broken, her discussion about life and how she got through so much pain, trauma, and suffering has made me see her and her work in such a new light. I appreciate her recounting what she wanted out of her new-found fame when she first broke into the music industry. What are my values? It’s refreshing to hear a celebrity with her star power reveal how connected and rooted she is to her true self. She happily declined certain opportunities for amassing unspeakable luxuries and immediate rewards and opted to wait for the lasting, deeper, and more intentional blessings that she trusted would eventually find her. Jewel’s inner compass was her art and her art-making, and it never led her astray from her path.

There was a short clip from her interview with Tami Simon when she said something that stood out to me. That she found solace in the Alaskan outdoors. And that she wanted to be one with nature, just like the hard woods. Because “hard wood grows slowly.” And looking into her book, here’s an excerpt what she meant:

To this day, I calibrate my inner life to what I have observed in nature, and one of the most significant lessons it has taught me is that hard wood grows slowly. I know, not the flashiest phrase, but a profound one. I watched soft wooded trees shoot up in the spring and rot only a few years later. The harder woods became friends of mine …

Great survivors have the ability to yield, adapt, give. This stopped me in my tracks. My life was not teaching me to yield, it was teaching me to cover up, protect, harden. I felt a panic. Hardening was the opposite of yielding. I walked home deep in thought and wrote in my book, things that don’t bend break. …

Slow growth meant thoughtful growth. Thoughtful growth meant conscious choices. It was a ladder of thought that pulled me up over the years until I arrived at one of the mottos I try to live by: hard wood grows slowly. …

If I wanted to grow strong and last, and not be brittle or broken easily, I had a duty to make decisions that were not just good in the moment but good for long-term growth.


I loved every bit of her writing. Reading it felt like listening to a close friend talk about how they’ve been doing for the past X number of years and how they’ve learned to overcome so much. I particularly enjoyed learning more about her songwriting inspirations and what life stories influenced them. For instance, I didn’t know that the song “Foolish Games” was about her bittersweet and tumultuous relationship with her mother. As I re-listen to her songs, I can’t help but feel like I have learned so much more about the multiple layers that people usually have.

How she survived abuse, neglect, homelessness, and not become another “statistic,” I’ll never truly know. But Jewel’s story proves that resilience and grit are inherent qualities in the human spirit that propel us towards healing and equilibrium. Our bodies and minds seek balance and harmony, and even when we don’t consciously understand why we feel anxious, mad, or sad, our bodies and minds want to protect us from harm’s way. That is why we sometimes forget, we disconnect, and sometimes become numb. These are not flaws of the human body, its adaptive nature is to protect us from hurt and pain. Only that sometimes, they get too intense and become troublesome when they take the forms of symptoms and clinical disorders.

Here’s a beautiful bit from her book on pain and suffering:

I loved to observe people. I watched love and life play out in a million ways, but one of the best things I learned was this: You don’t outrun pain. I saw men and women in those bar rooms all trying to outrun something, some pain in their life…

I saw that no one outran their suffering; they only piled new pain upon their original pain. I saw the pain pile up into insurmountable mountains, and I saw the price people paid who buried all that pain, and along with it their hope, joy, and chance at happiness. All because they were trying to outrun the pain rather than walk through it and heal.


You know it’s a good book when you begin to have moments of self-reflection.

Reading through this book and talking with dear friends has made me look back and assess how far I’ve come from the years that have gone by. Almost four years ago when my dad passed away, it then seemed like I was never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I found myself wondering why I was such a magnet for all pitiful and hopeless situations imaginable. I remember thinking to myself… really?? how unfair it was that others probably never had it so difficult. That what I had experienced in a matter of a few months was like a lifetime of horrible events balled up to one that could be shared among a handful of individuals. And yet here I was, with the terrible windfall of luck to win it all B I G. I remember being deeply unhappy and spiteful of happy families. Of happy people and their simple and uneventful lives. Why is this my path? Why am I alone in this grief and sadness? And how come everyone seems to have moved on without me?

It took me so long to get to where I am today. And honestly, sometimes I do still feel like I don’t deserve to be. Things got better when I decided to be my own best advocate. My own protector and caretaker. That grief and loss was not going to stop me from living. That I had lots of dreams and goals that were waiting for me to get started. That I was deserving. And I am grateful for the people who have stuck by me. Who have gone with me through hell and back, and have continued to be my solid ground.

Jewel Never Broken

Jewel’s book was such a heart-warming read. Her life stories have reminded me to come back to where it all started for me, too. To practice gratitude, to learn to be a better friend, to accept and know that pain is temporary, and to never forget that I must yield to life when the storm comes.


Artists Supporting New Artists!
Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure.
If you are an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to get your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.

You can get Jewel’s Memoir Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story here

Stranger Things are Strange Indeed

This weekend was so brilliant! The Stranger Things 2 Fan Art Show took place on Saturday at Outlet Coworking in Sacramento. I have patiently waited to see how my newfound interest in fan art would come to be accepted. Seeing as I’ve kind of made a stylistic decision to pursue and keep building on my abstract art-making, this was a personal challenge I assigned to myself to test my abilities. It’s been y e a r s since I painted a portrait of anyone, and I’m glad to say I never lost the magic. 🙂

We dressed up for the Stranger Things costume event–guess who we decided to be?

Check out these pics from the event!

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Man. The Menagerie team did a fantastic job decorating both the indoor and outdoor event. Everything was carefully thought of, from incorporating the Missing: “Mews” posters all over the walls, the Sno-Ball dance decor outdoors, the stringed holiday lights, to oh, the scribbled crayon drawings that Will Byers created to share what the Demogorgon was up to. My friends and I were so blown away by it all, and definitely impressed with the local and national artists that were represented in the show. Some favorites of mine were the two digital artworks to my right and left, the Eleven anime portrait, the mechanical Demogorgon, and the black and white mirrored image digital portraits of Eleven with the numbers “11” aesthetically placed near her nostril to resemble nosebleeds. See here for more event photos.

So happy to have been a part of this big successful art show! It truly warmed my heart to see so many enthusiastic art patrons and attendees, from youngins to young at heart. As for my prints? I think they were completely sold out of the 4″x6″ prints before we left for the evening! Wow! I can’t believe it!


Sad you missed out on this dope event? Don’t be! Because I’ve got five of those 8.5″x11″ limited edition signed prints left! Check them out on my website if you want one for your collection. The original is up for grabs too.

Best of all, I truly enjoyed working on this art piece and would love to add to it as a new line of work called Strong as Hell.

What is that, you say?

Inspired by your favorite sci-fi shows, the Strong As Hell collection is a tribute to all pop culture characters (of binary or non-binary gender) who embody unwavering emotional strength and resilience.

This is a growing, work-in-progress wing of my artist brand line so I keep checking back in the coming few months for new characters and ideas. If you’ve got a request for a specific pop culture character that you would love for me to paint next, hit me up or comment below! I take requests and am happy to make them a reality!

…And in the small chance that you have yet to watch the Stranger Things show, you should definitely get on it. 😉 I heard Season 3 will be even better!





Buddha Nature

Join me for the Mindfulness and Meditation Summit online! It is a FREE global 10-day event beginning 1/22 until 1/31. Looking forward to hearing from all the amazing list of keynote speakers for the event. If there ever was a mindfulness retreat equivalent to Coachella or Burning Man, this is probably what it would look like for me! 😛 I’m particularly keen on hearing Thich Nhat Hanh speak. I’ve grown fond of all his videos, writings, and audio teachings on mindfulness and meditation, and I’m aware that he’s been battling some health problems over the past few years. Leo Babauta was also someone I came across early in my early days of learning about mindfulness and zen living with his ZenHabits online guide to living a more simple and carefree life. One closer step to Buddha nature.

Adobe Spark-42

See, that’s what I love about the teachings of mindfulness and meditation. Like the Buddha, we are taught that we can access this level of enlightenment or growth. The Dalai Lama once said,

” Every sentient being—even insects—have Buddha nature. The seed of Buddha means consciousness, the cognitive power—the seed of enlightenment. That’s from Buddha’s viewpoint. All these destructive things can be removed from the mind, so therefore there’s no reason to believe some sentient beings cannot become Buddha. So every sentient being has that seed.”

To accompany you on this glorious event, here are some of my all-time favorite and highly recommended books on mindfulness and meditation:

  1. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  2. The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living by The Dalai Lama
  3. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  4. NO MUD, NO LOTUS: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh

Check them out on Amazon and get your own copy to fill your 2018 Goodreads bookshelf!

If you prefer the audiobook versions, be sure to check out Audible for the best!



Boba Painting Party!

Hi there! This long weekend, my friends and I decided to have a fun, chill afternoon. We spent time at home hanging out, painting, catching up on each others’ lives, eating yummy Taiwanese snacks and drinking homemade boba!

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Setup all ready, we decided to do a little early celebration of the upcoming Lunar New Year and paint some cute dogs for the 2018 Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dog! We picked a Pomeranian-Husky (aka POMSKY), Wire Fox Terrier, Pomeranian (or Jigglypuff :P), Shiba Inu, and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi!

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This was my first time leading a group of people how to paint (who are not children lol) and it was so much fun! It was good to improve upon my teaching skills and explain instructions to others while painting. I would say that it went easy, and this may be because it was with my close friends and they are super patient with me. Overall, it was a lot of great fun, I learned a lot about how to conduct myself in front of a group of people. Also, I think my friends and I discovered some hidden talents from some unsuspecting few members of the group! Most of all, it was gratifying to see them get lost in what they were doing; they kept painting and working on their portraits without realizing that almost 4 hours had gone by and it was almost dinnertime!

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Here’s the finishing touches to our works, along with some shots of our yummy snacks,  black milk tea, and matcha green milk tea (thanks Chef Andy!) 😀

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Check out our final pieces! What a great feeling of accomplishment with our first attempt at group painting. So happy to hear that some of these are going to be in our friends’ nursery room! Glad with the color palette we ended up choosing for the color gradient in background! 🙂 Also, peep my corgi with the missing butt. LOl. They said I should finish his body because it is so disturbing distracting that he has no booty. What do you think?

year of the dogLRG_DSC09679LRG_DSC09683

Hangout sesh was a great success! Can’t wait for the next one! 🙂 Maybe you should join us?

Artists Supporting New Artists!

Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure. 

If you are an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to get your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.


The Boat

My yoga instructor shared a thoughtful poem with us during our Yin yoga session the other night, and I thought it would be wonderful to share it with you all:

Missing the Boat

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.
The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.
But you had this idea you were going by train.
You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.
And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.
The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy—
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.

-Naomi Shihab-Nye

Naomi Shihab-Nye. Wow. Something about her poem spoke to me inside and made me think back to all the times I felt stubborn about “the right things.” How I envisioned my future career, partner, and other life plans. I had it all mapped out and set to go. Nothing was going to deter me from my plans. The way life unfolds, though, is usually without your grand plans in mind. I’ve been particularly reminded of how much tiresome it was to fight against myself on what I thought was the only marker of success. It was to either get this prestigious job or be a failure. It was the promise that if I followed through on my step-by-step 5-point plan, I can finally ease up and give myself the deserving acknowledgment I worked hard for.

Then I faltered. I stumbled. I fell. I saw that nothing was holding me down but myself. I grew too impatient and tunnel-visioned that I lost sight of other things that meanwhile kept growing in vivid color all around me. How I found my recent and growing art patrons and budding art career a “lucky streak” or “too easy, it must not be good.” How I used to complain so much about how difficult it was to meet new friends as an adult that I took for granted the new faces that I’ve gotten to know at work, in my art studios, and friends of friends that I’ve connected with. And that I have found an emotional connection with a partner that is able to intimately share multi-faceted feelings and thoughts about the world that we all live in, which I forgot was the deal-breaking thing that was lacking my previous relationship.



Sometimes things don’t work out no matter how hard we try. Sometimes it’s just not in the stars. But I hope to always have the ability to be able to step back and see life for what it is and not miss the little things that make the big picture grand.



Artists Supporting New Artists!

Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure. 

If you are an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to get your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.

Find more of Naomi Shihab-Nye’s mellifluous poetry here:


Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins

Oh. My. God. I stumbled across this book accidentally while waiting for my Lyft ride at a FedEx in San Diego, California. It’s called Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. The title was very catchy and it definitely caught my attention. I didn’t end up getting it on loan at the library until a few months later but it was definitely worth the wait.

From the moment the audiobook started playing in the introduction section, it made me shiver with delight and excitement. I wanted to learn more about what Jeff Goins had to say. His initial story about Michelangelo and debunking the myth of the romanticized view of the starving artist had my full attention. I was only listening to a few paragraphs of the introduction and then had the itching desire to just BUY the book and keep it in my arsenal of business and art marketing tools. Yep, the hook was that good.

While I don’t want to give it all away, I wanted to share with you some of the highlights that made me keen on reading this entire book. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins discussed the 12 Rules of the New Rennaissance, which is what ultimately got me to listen in a little closer than other books I have come across on how to make it as an artist in our contemporary world. And yes, I am ecstatic to go through some of my favorites with you today! Here’s a preview of the list:


1. The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you must become one.

I must admit that I have fallen into the trap of the former mindset. This idea we have about gifts or talents can be initially comforting, but at the same time, a very common pitfall. Too often, I’ve thought, well, art is in my blood and DNA, maybe that’s why I’m good? Most days, that is enough, but when there are times when I struggle with self-doubt and criticism with my artwork, I become crippled and stuck. Practice makes us better, and it ultimately leads to our self-discovery and new ideas. Now, I don’t wait for inspiration to strike me before creating a painting. Instead, I now just pick up a brush as scheduled on my daily calendar and paint away.

2. The Starving Artist strives to be original. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences.

I remember an art instructor in college telling me and my classmates that in art, everything has already been done and nothing is completely new. Everything. I was completely mortified! How was I going to stand apart from my peers, and better yet, my predecessors in the art world? Do you actually mean to say that ideas I have about painting with only one brushstroke and calling it art have already been done??? (*edit: I looked this up and yes, it has. See James Nares) Hearing this statement by Goins was thought-provoking and also very freeing. I don’t have to feel pressured to create something entirely unheard of to be recognized as an esteemed artist worthy of attention. I can turn to my inspirations and influences to create something multi-faceted, intriguing, and meaningful. I love this!

10. The Starving Artist sells out too soon. The Thriving Artist owns his work.

Yes, yes, a thousand times Y – E – S! Reading this statement gave me so much validation on my stance about selling my original paintings. Friends and patrons have constantly asked me if I am selling my original artworks, and yes, to a certain degree I am. However, I tend to keep most of my originals (at this time) because I am creating a body of work that will be important to make a collection. I’m not simply hoarding my works to myself because I can’t let go of them. I am preparing for a future endeavor that will be greater than my wildest dreams imaginable. When I set goals, I go big, but with the SMART acronym in mind–specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. And looking back at my track record and notebooks filled with yearly goals since 2013, I’ve been pretty good at keeping myself in check and following through! And finding the right patron who appreciates my work and my background as an artist/doctor has always been worth the wait.

11. The Starving Artist masters one craft. The Thriving Artist masters many.

So much this–this is me in a nutshell! I don’t believe I have ADHD, but sometimes, I do wonder whenever my creative brain just wants to do all the things all at once. Then I realize, nope, it’s just my anxiety. 😛 All that aside, I do enjoy learning for life and that goes along with art-making as well. I love picking up new art materials from the art store and figuring out how to incorporate them into my current art process. For instance, I recently learned woodburning, making digital illustrations, and creating custom templates/webpages/business cards as a freelance artist! I not only enjoy learning about how to do them, but also make an effort to learn how to do them well. Thanks to my endless blogging, tinkering on-and-off with websites and Adobe Creative Suite addiction, I can easily explore these other paths of art-making and creative processes and relate them back to my work.

12. The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make art.

Alright, as a recovering starving graduate student in the past 6 years, I have been programmed to scrimp and save for tomorrow like I’ll always be in student debt or there’s not gonna be any jobs forever. Since I became a part of the real world and working class, my idea of money has somewhat stayed the same. But you know what? Goins has a darn good point and his view on how money fits into the thriving artist’s life has changed my views on this dramatically. So much so that I have decided that this is my new mantra for 2018 and on–make money to make more art. I am fortunate to be employed and receiving a steady income while I fulfill my artistic goals on the side. This allows me the stability and ease of mind to freely make artwork without the nagging pressure of selling or producing work in order to eat, afford gas for my car, or pay my mortgage. I now see the value in seeing money, not as an endgame and ultimate reason to make art, but as a tool or resource that allows me to keep making art. By thinking about money as a means to create more art, it not only fuels your work but allows you to think bigger and better each time around. Money is ephemeral, much as we’d like it not to be so, and since it comes and goes, we should stop chasing it like those waterfalls. Instead, chase ideas, new techniques, color palettes, learn from new influences and let the creativity flow. Humans are social beings by nature, and the more you exude a deep, sincere interest in your art-making and share it with the world, the more you gain others’ interest (and also hopefully their greenbacks).


Overall, I appreciated all the examples of contemporary artists/entrepreneurs Goins provided throughout the book, such as Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson, and so on. The material was very approachable and an easy read. Each chapter was more motivating than the last, and I found myself taking notes and asking myself some questions about how each thought applied to my art-making and business plan. So, if you are at all interested in Goins’ book Real Artists Don’t Starve and his take on how to make it as a thriving artist in today’s world, this is definitely the book for you!


Artists Supporting New Artists!

Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure. 

If you are an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to get your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.

Brand NEW

Happy new year, everyone! 2018 is off to a nice, easy start for me, and I hope that it is the same for you, too.

Adobe Spark-26

I am in awe of how incredibly eventful the past year has been for me. It’s been a wild hayride getting to start my own art business and straight up getting to the finish line with my licensure for clinical psychology. I am ready for what is due to me, from all the years of hard work, troubles, tears, and growth. I’ve got lots of mini side projects to come, so be sure to subscribe to my blog and my mailing list for the latest updates.

I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today if it weren’t for the unwavering support of some outstanding human beings. If you have ever supported an artist and bought their work, you are a rock star.


To celebrate these individuals, I decided to send my art patrons some holiday goodies in the mail. The response has been a giant wave of hugs! I am so full of love from you guys! Thank you, thank you! I just want to create more for all of you and make this world a brighter place filled with mindful art.

If you haven’t already gotten yours, head on over to my website and subscribe to get a FREE art calendar each month. That’s right, EACH MONTH! Print it big, small, as many times as you please. I think the best things in life are free, why not create more to love?


Artists Supporting New Artists!

Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure.

If you are an an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to buy your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.

Get 20% off Blick orders of $79 or more, plus $35 free shipping! Use code CELM. Offer expires midnight (CST), Saturday, January 6th, 2018. Exclusions apply.


Art Commissions Explained

The holidays are just around the corner! What are you getting your loved ones? Are you all maxed out on new ideas and things to get someone who already seems to have everything and anything their heart desires? If only we can give the people we love aspirational hopes and wishes, such as peace, unity, and hope. Well, I’m not saying that I can actually deliver on those things…(I’m not Santa, last time I checked? And does Santa even fulfill these sorts of wishes??) but I’ve got something close to it!

Instead of buying nifty sale goods that will be used maybe once, or purchasing the next great mobile phone and only to be replaced by another the following season, why not give your loved ones something that is unique, from the heart, and something they will cherish for years to come?

And that’s where I can help! Art commissions are by far my favorite part of being a creative artist! 🙂 It gives me the wonderful opportunity to work alongside YOU and help you create a one-of-a-kind artwork that is timeless and meaningful that will NEVER go out of style. As an abstract painter and a licensed clinical psychologist, I specialize in painting about feelings, fond memories, and personal life experiences–things that are difficult to express in words alone or any ready-made object. The good, the bad, the ugly–I’ve seen and heard it all! I’m here to listen and ready to put your vision on canvas.

Interested in an art commission but too shy to ask? To shed some light on my process, this is what I need from you:

  1. Price range for art commission
  2. Proposed size
  3. Material (e.g., acrylic on canvas; watercolor on paper; etc.)
  4. Theme or idea for painting
And that’s basically it! I’d love to collaborate with you on your ideal artwork.  Get in touch with me and reserve a spot on my waitlist! Looking forward to working with you soon!

Otonarashiku Naru

Hi all! ♥️

I recently completed an art commission for a dear friend and I must say it is definitely one of my all-time favorites. This latest piece is titled Otonarashiku Naru–meaning “becoming like an adult” in Japanese. He wanted me to document in 2-dimensional color and imagery a pivotal timepoint in his life that has marked his tremendous personal growth. I was so excited to get started with this project that I had taken countless notes on what he envisioned it to be like. I’m glad to have been able to learn so much about my friend’s experience and be the one to help see it told on canvas.

The painting’s color palette was dominated by shades of cobalt blue, cobalt teal, cerulean blue, cadmium oranges, burnt sienna, and burnt umber. The brush strokes were all fully intentional and organically placed in moments all over the canvas. The effect of swift, steady sweeps created by the mixture of wet and dry brushwork gave the image a depth that could only be made with patience and time.

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But for this art piece to make more sense to viewers who are better in learning via multi-modal capacities, it would be worth noting that the artwork was further guided and inspired by the beloved quote below from Haruki Murakami:

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

-Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

As you can see, there is a lot of emotion, movement, and force applied to this piece. The twists, turns, and crashes continuously propel the viewer to shift their glance from one corner of the painting to another, creating the effect of an inner conflict. The colors–although appearing to be complementary, are caught in a dynamic dance that appears to be struggling to wash away the grit and grime, hoping to gain control.


Otonarashiku Naru (2017). 30″x30″, Acrylic on canvas

This. I cannot reiterate enough how honored I am to have had the opportunity to learn about the most difficult time in a person’s life. I get asked tons why I pursued clinical psychology if all I really wanted to do was paint or do art. And to each and every one of them, I have always said, that my passion and interests in art and psychology go hand-in-hand. I love learning about people, what makes them unique, and who they are today because of their experiences. I love art and the ability to convey something ineffable (ie., feelings) in a way that transcends all spoken languages. My passions fuel each other and create a synergistic effect that is always renewed and continuously perfected over the years. I guess I just wanted to say that I am grateful to be able to be able to do both. ❤

So with that, if you or anyone you know is interested in some mindful, abstract expressionist artwork, let me know! I would love to work with you within your budget range, no matter how big or small. When it all comes down to it, my ultimate goal is to create artwork for others that is purposeful and cherished.

Design with Mindful Intention

When most people look at paintings, the immediate thing that usually happens is that they try to figure it out and make sense of it.

What is it?

What am I looking at?

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This is especially true for abstract art. In my observations and growing understanding of this very human characteristic, I’ve taken this notion and incorporated it into my art-making process.

When I paint, I begin from a place of mindful intention and awareness. I paint what speaks to me from within and go on an adventure with my paint and brush.

And then it hit me.

What if my paintings embraced this phenomenon of making people stop, think, and observe?

In itself, this is a practice of mindfulness. This is meditation. Mindful art is a great way to infuse your busy, daily life with a conscious reminder to stop, think, and observe.

Mindful art is a wonderful way to beautify your surroundings in an intentional and purposeful manner. Mindful art is key to helping our minds reconnect with our surroundings and come back to the present moment.


With that, I’m thinking of new ways to create a movement of mindful art. If you’ve got any great ideas, I’d love to hear from you! Send me your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂



New art project

Canvas stretching! Not what I had in mind but oh, well. I guess this means I should go back to reading for now. I inadvertently bought the wrong size canvas cloth for my new art project, which was super annoying! I rarely go elsewhere for my materials and usually go to Blick Art for my art stuff, but I was under a time crunch and thought, meh, what the hell? An art store is an art store. BIG MISTAKE. So I drove out to the nearest other art store to purchase the cloth and guess what? It was the wrong size and to my dismay, when I asked the staff member a question, she said, “Oh, I don’t know anything about stretching canvases” right after she handed me the cloth. O.o I should have known to trust my spidey senses then and there.

Never again!

I’m happy to say that I later went to Blick Art to get what I needed. And I’m so so glad I did–I just wish that there was one closer to me.

Check out the awesome stretcher bars I bought:



Luckily, YOU don’t have to deal with what I just did. Blick Art is currently having a huge sale and as a Blick Art affiliate, I’ve got you. Click any of the links below to get your offer:



❤ happy art making!


When did I become an artist?

I’ve been heavily awestruck recently by the wave of artistic events and happenings in my life that I just found myself asking this big question–when did I become an Artist?!

No, seriously.


Mind Games No. 06 at University Art store in Sacramento, CA


I started asking close friends and loved ones this personal thought more recently and they all laughed at me as if I was the last person to figure it out. Yes, you are an Artist. Didn’t you already know that?

Maybe the reason why it hasn’t been that obvious to me is that I’ve been many things in my life so far–student, academician, clinician, researcher, trainer, diagnostic consultant–but none have been related to me being an artist. I was always just meddling with the arts on the side and making artworks when I had time to spare or as a hobby. It wasn’t the main focus of my life. After all, my nostalgic upbringing has promoted my love of the arts as something that I should mention to others as an interest or OTHER skill that I possess, but definitely not my main identity.

But now, I feel that the wind of life is drifting me off to a new, untrodden path. This seems to be the story of my life, by the way. I have a plan in mind that is neat and orderly and precise–yet the winds of change remind me without hesitation that there may be other plans for me. I am currently taking time away from working as a clinical psychologist and now focusing on making my artistic endeavors come to fruition. I’ve waited and waited so long to do this and now that I have completed my training and gone through the circus of academia, I feel that I owe it to the other side of me–my creative brain–to go in full force and start working towards my artistic goals.

Don’t get me wrong–I am scared as H E C K. I don’t know anyone else offhand who is willing to give it all up for the dream. But I’ve had this nagging comment in the back of my mind about why I couldn’t. That I would not succeed. That what I had at hand was the best that I could. And how I could do no better than this.

But I’m a Taurus and I’m as stubborn as they come. So here I go with all my might. ♉️


I haven’t written in a while and thought it would be good to catch up!

I also forgot to write about the recent artwork series I have created called Mind Games. I presented it as part of second Saturday in August and have since been painting additional new pieces to add to the collection. The Mind Games series is quite distinct from my previous artworks because of the amount of negative space that pervades. Each subject matter is suspended in a blank white backdrop that almost keeps it trapped in place. As for the colorful strands of objects in the canvas, they are left to the viewer’s interpretation.

Here’s some behind-the-scenes look at the first piece:


And the outcome of this experiment:


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To attempt to describe this work would only fall flat. But I will give you this, dear reader:

The feeling you get when words are simply not enough to express your innermost feelings of need.

That twisted pressure you feel when you’re holding onto something that both nurtures you and pains you.

The circular, nonsensical train of thought you end up having that goes on and on without resolution.

Those secret and personal negotiations you make with your soul that contradicts your lifelong pursuit of happiness.

That stubborn, bullheaded manner you fall back into when you hold something so close that it yearns to leave.

These paintings depict the feeling of being twisted and pulled into various directions. How tightly wound up our minds and emotions can be. How we hope to unravel the knots.

This is Mind Games.