Hello! I hope you’re doing well. I just wanted to share that recently I made a two-page comic for Autoptic’s 2020 Catalog!
“Autoptic is an arts festival that celebrates independent print culture, with an emphasis on comics and print-based multiples as well as alternative & small press labels of varying media (autoptic.org).” The festival is based in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
Since the festival wasn’t able to host an in-person event this year, they opted to create a catalog showcasing various artists and conducted some podcasts and interviews as part of their virtual event.
For my submission, I thought about how this year we all had to kind of revert back to the basics. Hard times like these really make us appreciate the small and simple things in life –at least for me it did. This comic was inspired by the “simple times,” childhood, and the ability to keep on dreaming.
Exciting news! I am happy to be a host for the launch of V.T. Bidania‘s Astrid & Apollo book series illustrated by Dara Lashia Lee! The book series officially releases Saturday, August 1st, 2020; therefore, the writer, artist, and I are hosting a Facebook LIVE virtual book launch to celebrate the release!
BOOK LAUNCH DATE: Saturday, August 1st, 2020 TIME: 1 p.m. CST WHERE: On the day of the event, the LIVE stream will be viewable on the Facebook event page HERE
There will be a BOOK GIVEAWAY! Two winners will receive: a set of the four books in the series, special bookmarks and stickers, and an Astrid and Apollo tote bag!
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY: **ENDED 7/30/2020**
During the launch there will be a live reading, Q&A, a writing/drawing challenge between the writer and artist, and the giveaway winners announcement!
It’s 2020…and my first post of the year. Yup. It’s been a while since I posted anything really. With everything going on, it’s been hard to focus on anything really –except maybe that roll of toilet paper.
With this post I kind of wanted to do a recap of what’s been happening in my world these past few months amidst the virus. As an artist, I believe it is my job to shed some light into the world to make people feel good about themselves or show them the good stuff in life despite everything.
There were several projects that I participated in that have been about bringing several artists together and making art. I was part of a Hmong Artist Facebook group where we illustrated our own Tarot cards. This deck focused on the Major Arcana and was illustrated by 23 artists.With the same group, we also decided to create a series of coloring pages to share with our community. Since people weren’t allowed to go anywhere really, so we thought creating a coloring sheet project would be a great way to get away from reality and just have fun. The group voted on doing fantasy-themed illustrations. The coloring sheets can be downloaded for FREE here.
My design was inspired by Hmong motifs found on our traditional fabrics. I feel those symbols serve as a universal language and art form in the Hmong culture. The design consists of two rings encircling a circle The outermost ring with the triangles represent the grandparents/older generation. The triangles symbolize mountains and serve as a form of protection and guidance to the younger generations. The ring with the snail symbols represent the parents/middle-aged generation. The snail symbolizes “family,” which is an important aspect in the Hmong culture. Parents are essential to the family and is the glue that binds the young and old generation. The innermost circle represents the children/younger generation. As the youngest generation we take everything that has been bestowed upon us and plant the seeds for the future. My hope is that the future of the Hmong will continue to blossom into something beautiful.
Other than that, I have some VERY EXCITING news coming up later this year! So stay tuned! Thank you for reading and take care!
On the weekend of May 3-5th, 2019, I had the opportunity to attend the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators’ Marvelous Midwest Conference in Naperville, Illinois. This was my first time attending any SCBWI conference, since I recently just joined the organization last fall. I wanted to share with you my experiences going to the conference for the first time! As a quick background, SCBWI is a non-profit professional organization for children’s book writers, illustrators, editors, agents, art directors and anybody who is interested in or wants to be part of the world of children’s book publishing. The conferences usually consist of guest professional speakers from the industry, breakout panels, critiques, and workshops/intensives. People from all over get together to present, network, and learn from each other.
First of all, I wouldn’t have been able to attend this conference without help from SCBWI-Wisconsin’s Diversity Committee. The committee offered a generous scholarship for diverse attendees and I was selected to receive it.
Going into this conference, I had high expectations because I’ve heard so many great things about them from other authors and illustrators. I was also a little bit nervous! I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to connect with anybody. I had this idea in my head that most of the people who attended this conference knew what they were doing and had it all together.
But I was wrong.
Little did I know, I wasn’t alone. In fact, a good number of the people I met at the conference were new to this just like me. I met people from all over the United States including: Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and of course Wisconsin. There were even some attendees from outside the U.S. including Thailand, Turkey, and Canada.
At the conference, some of the sessions I attended were about crafting voice, optimizing your portfolio, doing author visits, and how to promote your self-published book. There were so many good sessions going on at the same time that I wished I had the time to attend them. One tip that was suggested was to make friends with someone at the conference and if they went to a workshop you weren’t able to go to, tell them to take notes for you and vice versa.
Furthermore, I also participated in the conference’s Art Show. The show had two art categories. One was a prompt category. The prompt was, “Unfair at the Fair.” The other category had no-prompt, so illustrators can submit any unpublished illustration of their choice. I entered my piece Celebration into the non-prompt category. There were so many amazing artists who entered the show. It was amazing to see how much talent there were.
Awards were presented to those who entered the show. One was from a panel of judges and the other was from the people who attended. On the last day of the conference, my artwork was announced as an Honorable Mention for the Non-Prompt category. I was so happy!
Of course, being at this conference was also about networking and getting to know other people! Below are some postcards I picked up and received at the conference.
Like I said before, there were a ton of talented people here, and I’m glad I was able to meet and connect with a few of them.
Some of the people I met were John Parra (illustrator), Cheryl Klein (Editorial Director of Lee & Low Books), Christine Mapondera-Talley (COO/Co-founder of Kidlit Nation), and Debbie Ridpath Ohi (author/illustrator). I never thought I would have the opportunity to meet these people. Some of these individuals were people I follow on social media, so getting the chance to meet them in person was even better!
I also had the privilege of getting my illustration portfolio critiqued at the conference. Even though the critiques were only 15 minutes long, I felt it was much needed. A few things I took away from the critique was to keep making art and putting it out there, to be persistent, but to also enjoy the journey. These are advice I hear over and over, but I do believe it is one of the formulas to being successful in anything.
Overall, the conference was wonderful; however, if there was one thing I would love to see more of, it would be more diverse authors/illustrators who attended the conference. As a diverse author/illustrator myself, I highly recommend other diverse authors/illustrators to attend future conferences if you can. I want to let you know that you are welcomed here and that it is your job as an author/illustrator to let your voices be heard and your stories be told.
Going into this conference, my goal was to get a better understanding for the children’s publishing industry and learn from industry professionals. What blew me away about this conference was the amount of encouragement and resources out there for people like me who wants to pursue a career in children’s publishing. People were there to share their stories and experiences. People were there to willingly listen and learn from one another. Being at this conference was a reminder that everyone has a story they want to share with the world. It reminded me that a career in children’s publishing isn’t about the published book, but more so about the journey. It is about who you meet along the way and sharing your struggles and joy with others just like you. I met so many individuals who had totally different careers, but turned to writing and/or illustrating because that was their passion or calling. The stories they wanted to share in their heart never went away. There is a part of them that always wanted to do this.
I am glad to say that I don’t have to be on this journey alone,
because I really am NOT alone.
And that pretty much sums up my experience at SCBWI’s Marvelous Midwest Conference. It was a memorable one. I am definitely going to more in the future.
Thank you again for reading.
P.S. If you are interested in writing/illustrating for children’s books, I highly recommend you join SCBWI. They are full of wonderful resources to help you on your journey.
Hello everyone! I just realized this is my FIRST post of 2019! It’s been a while, but I had so much going on in my life. Things are kind of settling down now, so I had the time to write here. I want to share with you guys some things that have been happening and things to look forward to.
First of all, I started a mini project where I’ll be doing written interviews featuring Hmong visual artists! Basically, I wanted to share the stories of Hmong artists from all walks of life and ask them why they do what they do and how they do it. Looking online, I was barely able to find any interviews conducted featuring Hmong artists. Now that there are more Hmong individuals pursuing art, I feel there is a need to share their stories and experiences. My hope is that by doing this, artists can learn about one another and become aware of others doing work in the community. You can read the interviews here.
Secondly, some of my other projects that I’ve been working on is doing illustrations for a Karen children’s book for the Saint Paul Public Library!
In May, I’ll be attending my first SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference! It’s basically a conference for authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, agents, or anybody involved or interested in the KidLit industry to come together to share ideas, learn, and connect. I’m hoping to learn a lot of things and network with individuals who also share a similar passion as mine for creating great stories!
Lastly, I’m hoping to restock my book inventory and maybe attend some local events to sell them! But I’ll update you guys when the time comes!
Again, thank you for supporting and following my journey as an artist!
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Some of you probably even did some shopping for the holidays, while those of you who have your own business may find yourselves having to ship out things! So with that, let’s talk about how to ship artwork! Some of you may have your own art business or want to start one, but isn’t sure about how to ship out things. I remembered when I was first starting out my business, I didn’t know where to begin and had to do some Youtubing and Googling around. Although there are many things you can ship out as an artist (depending on what you make), I’m going to focus this post on how to ship out art prints and comic books/graphic novels/art books.
NOTE: Some of the services I explain in this article only pertain to those who live in the United States and might not pertain to those who live outside of the U.S.
1) Art Prints
There are several methods to ship art prints. Some people ship them flat while others ship them in a cylindrical shipping tube.
For flat artworks, I’ve seen people put the artwork into a clear plastic sleeve. Then what they’ll do is place the artwork in between 2 cardboard pieces that are slightly larger than the artwork. From there, they can put the cardboard pieces into a bubble mailer or large envelope and ship it. For larger pieces of artwork, some people would use a large cardboard box instead and place shipping peanuts, newspaper, or air cushions into the box to prevent the artwork from moving around.
For artwork placed in a cylindrical shipping tube, all you need is a tube with the appropriate dimensions, then you’ll roll up the artwork and place it in there. The only downsides to shipping in a tube is that some people don’t like their artworks rolled up, plus shipping in a non-rectangular package can cost a bit more money.
2) Comic Books/Graphic Novels/Art books
To ship books, you can do it multiple ways. I’ve seen people just put a book inside a bubble mailer and send it out. This is probably the cheapest and easiest route to take especially if you have a hardcover book. You can do it where you place the book between 2 cardboard pieces and then put it inside a bubble mailer or a regular large envelope. There are also pre-made cardboard book mailers that comes with scored edges that you can fold your book according to the size you need. And of course, you can put your book inside a cardboard box and include peanuts, newspaper, or air cushions along with the book to keep it in place.
*USPS also provides their Priority Mail flat rate envelopes and boxes that you can use to ship. This is helpful if you think you’ll be shipping out a lot of books and need to save on shipping.
*Tip for shipping out graphic novels: Whichever way you choose to package it, when it comes to shipping graphic novels, you can actually send your books using the USPS Media Mail service. It is a cost-effective way to send media and educational materials, as long as you have nothing else in your package besides books or graphic novels. Comic books (the floppy ones) can’t be shipped with this method due to the advertising included. With this method, there is a possibility of your package getting inspected in case you really aren’t shipping books. This method may also have a longer delivery time.
After that, you can create a shipping label and take your items to the post office to ship. If you want, you can also pay postage online and drop off your package instead.
And that’s it! I know shipping may be a pain and may not be the most fun thing to do, but it’s great to know that your package was put together by you and that it might be delivered in one piece.
The months of November and December mark the celebration of the annual Hmong New Years. In the United States, Hmong communities from around the country would each host their own public events to celebrate the upcoming New Year. Traditionally, the Hmong New Year celebrates the end of the harvest season and was a time of gathering and feasting amongst family and friends. Nowadays, most New Year events consist of an entertainment program like singing and dancing competitions, kwv txhiaj (traditional Hmong folksongs), ball tossing, and various food and business vendors selling goods from clothing to jewelry to music and movies.
But we all know that one of the reasons to attend these events is the opportunity to wear Hmong clothes. As a child, I remembered my mom tried to sew my sisters and I a new pair almost every year; however, being young, I was that kid who did not want to wear Hmong clothes! I honestly thought I was not pretty in them and that it was too complicated to wear and take off (especially when using the bathroom). I also didn’t like to wear the Hmong hats because it concealed my hair and I thought that did not make me look pretty. Another reason why I didn’t want to wear Hmong clothes was because some of my Hmong friends didn’t wear it and I wanted to fit in with them. I thought wearing Hmong clothes would not make me cool. Growing up as a Hmong-American, I usually wore t-shirts and jeans and wasn’t used to wearing Hmong clothes that often (maybe once a year at most).
It wasn’t until I got older that I became more comfortable with myself and eventually grew to liking to wear Hmong clothes. Nowadays, Hmong clothes come in all sorts of styles and colors. The variety allows individuals to chose the ones that caters to them and their liking.
A few weeks ago was the Wausau Hmong New Year in my hometown. It was the first year in a long time that I wore a pair of Hmong clothes. It was also the first year that I put on Hmong clothes by myself. Usually my mom would be the one helping me. As I was putting on my Hmong clothes I enjoyed the process of layering on each piece. Each piece served a purpose and you had to put in on a certain way. The process of putting on Hmong clothes is an art form in itself.
My Hmong clothes were stored in a large black suitcase. I realized that I was probably going to wear these only once a year, so why not take them out? They were beautiful –so why not show them off?! For once, I was so excited to wear them. I picked the pair with the most sparkle and jewels embroidered on the fabric. And of course, you can’t forget to wear the money sash because you need that hear those coins jingling!
When I arrived at the Hmong New Year dressed in my Hmong clothes, I felt so proud and beautiful! I could not believe I used to be that kid who did not like to wear them. My mother once said, “You are only young for so long, so wear as much Hmong clothes while you still can.” And she is right. Now that I am a mother myself, I see the value in Hmong clothes and the meanings they hold. When my children grow older I hope to continue this tradition of dressing them in Hmong clothes for the New Years. Hopefully they learn to appreciate their culture and be proud of who they are.
Hello everyone! Today I’ll be talking about how to open an online store. This article is written particularly for artists and the platforms they can use to start selling their work online.
As artists, some of us may want to make money from our art or enable people all over the world to purchase our work, but where do we begin?
First of all, you’ll need merchandise! Whether that be art prints, books, charms, or any physical/digital goods. But how do you get these made? Well, with a simple Google search, you can find many companies that create art prints, books, phone cases, and all sorts of materials! Heck, there are even websites that will have these materials ready for you and all you have to do is upload your artwork! (Example: Society6 and Redbubble). Also, if you’re the type of person that don’t want to deal with shipping out to customers, these might be the right stores for you.
After you have your materials you’ll need to choose a store platform. Lucky for you, there’s so many options to choose from. Here’s a list of several online stores that you can use to sell your merchandise:
Please note that each platform has their own policies and fees, so please take the time to research and compare the different stores and see which one is the fit for you. Everything’s about trial and error, and if you don’t like how something works, you can always change platforms.
After you choose a platform to go with, all you got to do then is set up your store, merchandise, policies, and prices. From there, let people know that you have a store running and hopefully you can get your first sale!
I personally use Gumroad as my online store for now because I can sell PDF/digital versions of my books. Plus, I don’t have to pay a monthly fee and listing fee for each item that I put in my store. Gumroad does, however, take a percentage of your sales, but that goes for some of the other online stores. For my store I sell art prints and books (physical and PDF versions). I’m hoping to expand it and sell other merchandise in the future as well. The only downside of Gumroad is that it’s not super well-known, so you might not get as much traffic as per say Etsy or Storenvy.
I remembered thinking about this question a long time ago, like back when I was still in high school. I remembered getting promotional mailers from the Art Institutes and thinking to myself if it was worth it to go or if I could even get into one? I also didn’t know if I was able to financial afford it.
There are a lot of things to consider before deciding whether to go to an art school (or a college that offers an Art or Design major). For one, it isn’t for everyone. A lot of high schoolers get bombarded with the message that they have to get a college education to get a good job or career after high school. That isn’t always the case, especially for artists or designers. Sure, some companies may require you to have a technical or Bachelor’s degree, but if your portfolio work stands out, there’s a chance they might consider you anyways.
Nowadays, with the help of the internet, one can learn how to improve their craft through the means of taking online classes, watching video tutorials, and of course reading and learning from good old books. You can actually teach yourself how to draw better by using the resources around you and doing some independent study and/or life drawings. Not all great or successful artists attended art school, some were self-taught. If you are the type of person who can learn on your own or be self-disciplined, not going to art school can save you a lot of time and money.
Then what is art school good for then? Is it worth it to go into debt for an Art education? Well, that depends on your situation and what you want out of it. I was that person who went to college and majored in Art, specifically Entertainment Design. Why did I go you may ask? The answer at the time was simply because I needed to get a college education. I was a first generation Hmong-American college student and this was my chance to prove to my parents that I was capable of fulfilling their dream. They wanted all their children to go to college because to them they saw it as a means of success and because they themselves were never given this opportunity. I went because of their encouragement, but also, because I felt it was the right thing for me to do. I knew I didn’t want to go into the workforce yet, and I knew there was more to learn and explore. I also wanted to get better at my craft, so I applied to local universities and got accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I chose Stout because it offered my field of study, the type of community I wanted, and it was affordable. I was thankful things fell into place and I was able to afford it. I took every opportunity I could to fund my education, such as applying for grants and scholarship, and it all paid off. I spent four years at Stout doing my best in every course and taking advantage of what it had to offer.
One misconception people get about art school is that it is supposed to teach you everything there is to know about being an artist, and that is just not true. Sure, some colleges could probably offer more business classes for artists, but as much as they would like to teach you everything, there’s just too much to know that cannot be covered in such a short time. Most of us learn on your own after college, and that’s just a part of being an artist and a part of life! We do things, we make mistakes, and we learn from them.
What I did learn in college was you got to work hard to get what you want, and that it takes great practice and discipline to stay an artist. You have to treat your art like a job, otherwise it’ll never be finished. Being in art school pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone and to do things I wouldn’t have ever done on my own. I was able to try all sorts of mediums (such as screen printing, oil painting, and graphic design) and realized which ones were and were not for me. While in art school, I learned about the human figure and did a ton of figure drawings, which helped me improve my anatomy. Taking art and design courses meant being involved in critiques, which played a major role in improving my work. Art school allowed me to connect with professors and other art students that shared a similar interest as me. It enabled me to build life-long friends and partake in all sorts of experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not gone to it.
So what does all of this really boil down to?
Go if you feel it’s what you need. Things will work out only if you’re willing to put in the effort to make it work. And if you go and don’t like it or things didn’t work out, it’s okay to leave.
Don’t go if you feel you don’t need it or if you’re unsure what you want to do yet; however, it’s never too late to go later in life if you decide to change your mind.
Growing up as a Hmong-American girl in a mainly Caucasian community, it was difficult to find books (picture books, chapter books, novels, and graphic novels) featuring Hmong characters or experiences or books written or drawn by Hmong individuals. I always felt insecure about being Hmong and there were not enough resources to reassure the way I was feeling.
In a way, I felt like our narratives didn’t matter when they barely exist in literature or the media. I often wondered to myself if there is someone out there going through the same things I’m going through?
For the longest time, I didn’t bother with my culture. I thought that if nobody cared about it, why should I?
It wasn’t until I took a children’s literature course in college that I realized the importance of portraying diversity in books. I learned that a good book can aide a child’s growth and that books can provide answers to some of our issues and questions in life. Good books connect with our emotions and show the world in a way which we may never have imagined. When you portray diversity in literature, you have the ability to empower an individual, and when you empower someone, you’re showing them their voices matter.
And so, I embarked on a mission to search for books that feature Hmong characters or Hmong-related subject matters, or books written or drawn by Hmong individuals. Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of published and self-published books with these qualities.
I hope that my list will continue to grow as I am certain there are authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, educators, parents, and readers who feel it is important to have books for all children. I hope that the children of the future will be able to open books and see themselves as the main character of their story.