4 Days in Seoul - Diary Drawings & Life in Korea

I enjoy combining journal entries with sketches - it works wonderfully as a way to keep both little notes and memories in a more visually appealing way. So when we went to Seoul for four days a while ago, I decided to draw diary entries for each day, documenting anything from food to sightseeing, events, and shopping. 

Especially since I like the idea of travel sketchbooks, but rarely find the time while actually traveling to just sit down and sketch landscapes or buildings, this is a nice alternative.

 Travel diary sketch - short trip to Seoul, Korea. Shopping, vegan food, freelance artist life.

I went with a simple chronological order (I'm boring like that), so we start with the heartbreaking departure from our cat Hedwig and leaving Jeju Island for Seoul. 

Seoul-Jeju is actually the world's busiest air route which you can definitely feel - especially around weekends! The route to the airport is always very busy and the parking spaces are packed, so if you plan to hop from Seoul to Jeju, keep that in mind. We're seasoned Jeju-Seoul travelers so we've got a secret parking space close to the airport. ;)

 Travel diary sketchbook - Korea, Jeju to Seoul trip. 

After a quick lunch (rice noodles! Yay!) with a friend at the Gimpo Airport in Seoul, we took the subway to Incheon where we always stay with my husband's family. Seoul and Incheon are practically touching, but the hour-and-a-half-long subway trip is always THE time to catch up on long-unanswered messages, emails and the like. 

The rest of the day was spent babysitting our little nephews, going to the art store, grocery shopping and LOTS of cooking. Seriously, visiting family is such a food overkill. Not that I'm complaining! 

As a vegan (though not the only person with specific food preferences in the family) I'm happy that Korean traditional cuisine is so full of vegetable side-dishes and grains that it's easy to find options without needing to prepare 'extra' food on the side. Also, my mother-in-law is a wonderful cook and loves teaching me her recipes, so cooking is fun here. (No horror stories in the vein of Korean dramas with their evil mother-in-laws to tell haha.)

On day 2, we spent the morning at the house - guess what, eating a lot, again. When with the in-laws, we usually eat Korean food in the morning, so a full menu from rice to soup and kimchi. This day, we took it slow with just some fruit and a ton of rice cakes, plus my obligatory coffee.

In recent years, the fine dust pollution in Incheon and Seoul has gotten very severe, so you'll probably need face masks if you're there for a while. Especially after coming from Jeju, the difference in the air quality is noticeable. 

I spent the afternoon in Seoul, Gangnam, on the 'Garosugil' road - a street lined with all the beauty brands and boutiques you could want (and more than you could ever afford, probably). The perfect spot for a miniature K-Beauty blogger meet-up with Sarah from Ohmyglossblog and Katherine 'skinfullofseoul'. Both, btw, the perfect shopping guides and enablers in chief for makeup purchases. After being on a beauty no-buy since autumn last year, I went a bit shopping-crazy!

Later that afternoon we were invited to a wedding - you can read all about my Korean wedding experience and some tips for wedding guest etiquette here.
That didn't take more than four hours, so we had time for meeting friends afterward before taking the express bus for a looong ride back to Incheon

After running around all day long on Saturday, Sunday was very relaxed. Guess what, mostly just eating and drawing. We may have been in Seoul, but not exactly on a vacation, and I had art commissions to sketch and files to edit en masse. Being self-employed definitely has its flexibility perks!

The one big downside to staying at my in-laws is that their home is probably the only one in all of Seoul/Incheon without wifi. So to get even more of a vacation feeling, I went to work at a pretty little cafe nearby.

We also went to a restaurant with the whole family - so really, food everywhere on that day. 

Caught up (more or less) with work, Monday was more relaxed. More Korean food, more sketching, and then a meeting with a client for an illustration series. It's rare for me to work with Korean companies, so that project, while still under wraps, is very exciting!

After the successful meeting, we noticed that due to the Academy Awards, several Oscar-winning movies were back in Korean cinemas, so we took the chance to finally see 'Arrival'. 

Korean cinemas are quite cheap and I'd love to go more, but with us living far away from the city on Jeju, we often miss out on movies with short running times.
Also, if you've ever been to a cinema in Korea - everyone just runs out as soon as the credits start running! Is that normal in a lot of countries around the world? I'm always flustered because I'm used to sitting through the credits. 

The evening was family time again, hanging out with the nephews and playing Korean monopoly (the easy, kids version) while blogging with borrowed wifi, while sketching, while cooking. Multi-tasking is key.

Then, like a living cliche, my mother-in-law, husband and I watched Korean dramas while eating sweet potatoes until late at night. This is when I started drawing those fashion illustration stickers, too.

That's it! Do you keep travel diaries or sketchbooks? And did you ever visit Seoul or Korea in general?

Travel in Korea: Jeju Island Vegan Restaurant 'Jayeoneuro'

Today, I want to introduce my favorite (and vegan) restaurant on Jeju Island! If you're traveling to South Korea or even living here, you should definitely give it a look when you come to Jeju.

All the food is made by two sisters with a love for organic, natural produce and traditional recipes. And, as I found out later on, everything is actually vegan, so if you're vegetarian or vegan, you can eat to your heart's content!

Hidden on Jeju Island - Countryside Restaurant

We'd discovered the restaurant called "Jayeoneuro" (자연으로), which means 'by nature' or 'through nature', about three years ago. It has since changed its name to 'New Jayeoneuro', but everything else stayed the same and we like to visit there every couple of months since the side dishes change seasonally.

 Jayeoneuro 'By Nature', a restaurant on Jeju Island focusing on natural, organic, vegan food.

How to find it? The address is: 079-5 Samdal-ri, Seongsan-eup, Jeju-do, South Korea

You can find a link to the map and more reviews here: Happy Cow Jayeoneuro Jeju Island

Jayeoneuro is located on the southeast side of Jeju Island. If you're visiting Seongsan Ilchulbong or traveling towards Seogwipo, you're not too far away. 

 Jayeouneuro 'By Nature' restaurant on Jeju Island. 

Cozy Interior - Jeju Cafes and Restaurants seem to always have such whimsical decor!

The building doesn't look impressive from the outside, but everything is lovingly decorated, clean and bright. I love the atmosphere, which is so much calmer and relaxing than most traditional Korean restaurants.

If you've traveled around South Korea before, you might have noticed how noisy and quickly eaten most meals are (which has a charm of its own, of course) but if you'd like to sit for a while, maybe look at your travel guidebooks, sketch a bit, or just take a breath, this restaurant is a great choice. 

It feels more like a cafe than a restaurant, actually!

 The interior decor for the Jayeoneuro restaurant on Jeju Island is distinctly vintage, bright and creative.

The interior decor for the Jayeoneuro restaurant on Jeju Island is distinctly vintage, bright and creative.

There are a lot of creative little decor elements - bring your camera!

Below, you can see the menu. 

 Menu at the 'By Nature' Jayeoneuro Korean restaurant on Jeju Island.

Menu at the 'By Nature' Jayeoneuro Korean restaurant on Jeju Island.

The most famous dish is actually the 'Sinseonbab', a large bowl of rice with different grains and nuts that is served with a variety of side dishes. If you love Korean cuisine, then you know how important side dishes 'Banchan' are!

 Banchan side dishes at Korean restaurant 'Jayeoneuro', Jeju Island

A variation of that is the second item on the list, Ueongteopbab. Ueong is burdock root, and Teopbab just means rice with something served atop. It's similar to the Sinseonbap and definitely worth a try if you haven't tasted burdock root yet.

 Ueongteopbap - Burdock root mixed rice at the Jayeoneuro restaurant on Jeju Island.

You eat the rice dishes together with the leek side dish, which is seasoned with sesame oil and spicy pepper flakes.

The menu is seasonal and changes often - maybe come back on your next trip to Jeju and compare!

Other available dishes change depending on the season, but there's Tomato Bibimguksu and Tomato Memilguksu - both noodle dishes served with a tomato sauce instead of the chili-based sauce typical for Bibimguksu ("mixed noodles"), so if you're on the look for something not spicy, this is a refreshing choice! Memilguksu are noodles made from buckwheat.

As mentioned, Jayeoneuro offers a lot of Banchan side dishes, and they change up their ingredients and recipes depending on the season. Last time, they had these delicious sweet dried radish stripes ('sweet radish' sounds like an oxymoron, but it was so good!) and pickled plums.

Another in-season side dish was 'Gosari', a Korean fern bracken that is very sought-after in spring.

A favorite of mine are the Kongguksu, though. It's soybean noodle soup - imagine noodles in a soymilk sauce. Now imagine that again but in delicious. I know it sounds strange, but the broth prepared from soybeans, with just a hint of salt, is creamy, nutty and unique.

 Korean dish kongguksu, a soy bean broth with noodles. Very refreshing and filling!

Korean dish kongguksu, a soy bean broth with noodles. Very refreshing and filling!

Since the ingredients for this dish are so minimal, it's all the more important to find a restaurant that gets those basics just right, and the lovely ladies at Jayeoneuro definitely do!

This is a really filling dish, so make sure you have someone to share it with...

 Interior of the Korean restaurant 'Jayeoneuro' on Jeju Island. 

The cozy interior and friendly cooks really invite to stay for a while! This is also one of the very few traditional-style Korean restaurants that serve a dessert. Sometimes a sweet drink (we had pine tree tea last time - a very pricey delicacy made from pollen...) or tea are served along with the dessert, too. 

 Colorful curtains at the Korean traditional restaurant 'Jayeoneuro' on Jeju Island. 

Colorful curtains at the Korean traditional restaurant 'Jayeoneuro' on Jeju Island. 

 Dried radish stripes, ready to be made into Korean side dishes 'Banchan' on Jeju Island. 

Dried radish stripes, ready to be made into Korean side dishes 'Banchan' on Jeju Island. 

There's always some ingredient being prepared for future Banchan. Both inside...

 Gosari, Korean fern bracken, laid out to dry in the spring sun of Jeju Island. 

Gosari, Korean fern bracken, laid out to dry in the spring sun of Jeju Island. 

... and outside. Take a look around the garden! As is typical on Jeju Island, there's a mandarin fruit orchard behind the house, too.

Also, if you speak Korean, it's a lot of fun to talk to the owners/cooks. They're very kind and love sharing information about their cooking methods, traditional Jeju Island plants and recipes - I'd love to just go to a cooking class at their place!

 The restaurant 'Jayeoneuro' on Jeju also sells side dishes, snacks, oils, extracts, and teas depending on the season.

Small Vegan & Korean Food Shop

They also sell special delicacies you'll have trouble finding anywhere else. From tiny crackers/cookies made from a mix of whole grains, to a honey-like paste made from grains (do you see a pattern there?) to oils, and even nutrition bars, again, made from mixed grains.

We've been to this restaurant so often but the dishes never get boring  - and especially when family or friends from back home in Switzerland visit, I make sure to take them there. The very healthy, non-spicy dishes offer something for every taste, and we love to take our meals slowly and laze around afterward - unlike with my Korean in-laws, where we barely managed to eat the dessert before everyone was getting antsy to leave for the next Jeju tourist attraction. Koreans always travel on a strict schedule, it seems... 

All food served is vegan - with the exception of that mentioned pine pollen tree, which contained honey, so maybe try asking about that if you're concerned. 
I hope you liked this little tour! I love taking food pictures and drawing food, so I'll probably introduce more vegan restaurants both on Jeju Island and in South Korea in general.  

More Restaurant and Travel Tips for
Jeju Island & South Korea on the blog:

The Korean food stickers in the image above can be found on my Etsy shop. Thank you for reading!

March Favorites - Korean Beauty, Food and Strange The Dreamer

I'm SO late, but here are my favorites for March! 

Well, it's not like I just stop liking something after a month has gone by, so these are still relevant. 

Contains affiliate links. Visit my Disclaimer page for all information.

Favorite Foods and Drinks

It's strawberry time here on Jeju and we're buying them in bulk at the 5-Day-Market (the local equivalent of a farmer's market). Any kind of berry is normally very expensive here, so eating strawberries pretty much every week feels so luxurious! 

My favorite drink lately has been smoothies in general, but without a good blender (I get choppy bits instead of, well, smooth smoothies) my ingredient selection is a bit limited. What works best is anything 'creamy' like bananas, soy milk and the mentioned above overripe strawberries.

And then there's my secret ingredient for when I don't have soy milk on hand: Misugaru / 미숫가루 , a popular blend of different grain powders widely available here in Korea. A tablespoon of this mixed with water and maybe half a banana makes for a nutty, satisfying smoothie, and the powder is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals (I don't consume any protein powders, so this is my cheap/natural alternative).

It also works wonderfully with vegetable-heavy smoothies, balancing out any bitterness and absorbing excess water. 

Misugaru is also great on its own, mixed with just water. I really want to buy some special powder variations to add to my basic supermarket mix - something like black bean powder, or black sesame Misugaru... Misugaru lattes are delicious, especially when served ice-cold in summer!

Then, there's the joy of finally having Netflix. When Netflix first launched in Korea about a year ago, the selection of shows was still very limited, but now I finally caved so that I could put my husband on a 'The Expanse' season 1 marathon - which then quickly expanded (haha...) into watching ALL THE THINGS. We managed the whole season of Stranger Things in three evenings and loved it so much! The nostalgia wasn't even a factor - we both have no connection to the US of that time, but the show itself was just so well made and the children were both adorable and badass! 

Since I can't just sit still while watching something, I actually sketched a lot with my Shinhan Watercolors during March! 


Something else to do while marathoning Netflix shows: Exercise!

I loved the 'Ballet Beautiful' series for that. The videos are intense (wayyy more intense than you'd guess...) but mostly, you stay in just one place without hopping around, so these are great for keeping your eyes on a screen... #multitasking

By now, I know that Swan Arms video by heart and actually see a difference in my fat/muscles, yay!


For beauty and fashion, I was keeping it simple and quick since my work schedule was quite tense towards the end of the month, especially. 

I've been using the Eye Contouring Stick  by Innisfree in #2 'Sweet Milk Chocolate' pretty much every day. It's the perfect shade to look completely natural on my lids while providing a hint of color. It hides discoloration (...anyone else having visible veins on their lids?) and doesn't budge all day long. It also makes any eyeliner I apply on top stick around even longer! 

I also found the perfect skirt to work in - which means drawing while being on standby to help out if there are too many clients at the cafe, so I want to be both comfortable and presentable. It's nearly knee-length, has both a zipper in the back AND stretchy material on the side, is super comfortable when sitting down on the floor (plus point here in Korea) and IT HAS POCKETS. As in, actual pockets that are big enough for my phone. I've been waiting for this!

Also, high-waist skirts always make me feel put-together and the sky-blue color of this one was perfect for spring. 

Now, for my Audible audiobook choice of the month. I was so torn! I re-listened to some old favorites and nearly finished two other, longer books in March, but I really wanted to mention "Strange The Dreamer" by Laini Taylor. I'd been waiting for the release with my breath held. Books by Laini Taylor are beautifully written and great binge-reads, if sometimes a bit wonky when it comes to plot/pacing. Listening to the audiobook was like day-dreaming!

The first... 95% of the book definitely delivered. I loved the world building - Laini Taylor has this way of creating worlds that actually feel wondrous and fantastical, instead of just doing the 'insert generic fantasy setting with one specific point of interest here' thing. The POV was refreshingly humorous without being snarky and there was an atmosphere of mystery and longing woven into the plot. Also, her writing is so beautiful without going into flowery!

The pacing was great! The book cut out unnecessary time periods, jumping ahead and looking back at just the right moments to keep me always curious. And the characters were lovingly developed, from protagonist to antagonist.

 Sarai from 'Strange The Dreamer' - in my sketchbook.

Sarai from 'Strange The Dreamer' - in my sketchbook.


The ending though? Fell totally flat for me. I don't want to get into too many spoilery details, but the last chapters of the book felt like a slightly distorted retelling of the Akiva/Madrigal backstory from 'Daugther of Smoke and Bone', which wouldn't even have bugged me that much (there were little fun nods towards that trilogy all throughout the book) if the theme and conflict weren't so very similar, too. I'd loved our simple human hero Lazlo Strange and while the reveal of his true identity at the end didn't come unexpected, it took away much of my enjoyment of seeing him aspire to great, heroic deeds while staying kind, humble and creative - and most of all, human.

I'll still get the next installment of the series, and still, recommend the book as a whole (especially if you're a first time Laini Taylor reader) but the suddenly very melodramatic romance and character-theme-switch bugged me. A lot. Like, legitimate anger at the last three or so chapters. I'm so conflicted because I LOVED most of it so much I want to recommend this book to everyone (that's why I'm posting here) while really disliking that part only. 

But hey, that's personal, and everything else is great, so give it a listen and maybe you'll like the ending, too!

 Look at me, complaining about a book but loving it so much I want to draw all of it. :'D

Look at me, complaining about a book but loving it so much I want to draw all of it. :'D

I even drew fanart for it as part of my #100daysofportraits challenge starting in April, so the book, setting and characters definitely hit my sweet spot. Fingers crossed for the next book, in any case!

That's it for my March favorites (mostly book feelings, I now realize) - what did you enjoy? Did you read Laini Taylor's books? Any Netflix show I should definitely binge-watch while training my flabby arms? :)

Stickers Making-Of - Scanning & Editing Watercolor Drawings

If you've ever scanned in a watercolor drawing (or any image with soft hues and delicate color transitions) you probably know the horror of seeing your digital image looking VERY different from the original.

Where black-and-white images or strong colors are quite easy to edit, techniques like watercolor and colored pencil require more care. Especially if you prefer leaving parts of your paper white, but don't want the paper structure to show up in eventual prints or digital presentations. 

So while I'm still new to color images and maybe not the best choice for advice, I'll show how I usually edit my watercolor drawings in Photoshop.

Photoshop can be purchased on a monthly basis, which is a bit of a curse and a blessing in one. While I hate paying every month instead of just 'getting it over with' once, I'm glad that this takes care of eventual program updates, and it makes the initial expenses a lot more manageable. While I've used a lot of different graphic programs, from freeware like GIMP to Paint Pro SAI, Corel Painter and Clip, I do come back to Photoshop for image editing all the time. It isn't the most intuitive program for actual 'painting' (that's where Corel Painter wins...) but since I prefer painting traditionally anyway, that doesn't bother me. 

But these tips should be applicable to a lot of programs since I'm not using anything fancy. The basics are, well, basic enough to work nearly anywhere. 

My other materials can be found on my 'Resources' page - from watercolors to scanner and graphic tablet, I've listed them all there. But as with Photoshop: The materials really don't matter all that much, as long as you know what you're doing. ;)

Let's go!

First, you'll need something to scan, of course. 

Select the highest resolution that works for your laptop/PC. I work with 600 dpi since that allows me to zoom in while correcting the image - anything beyond 600 dpi is just a pain in the ... backside of my laptop. 

Once you've got your scanned image open in Photoshop (or graphic program of your choice), crop it and duplicate that layer! Having a layer, set to invisible and pushed to the very bottom, is the perfect backup and comparison material for when you mess up along the way. 

For a long time, I then went directly into color adjustments to get the image as bright and natural looking as possible. But I've changed my approach a few months back:

I apply a selection mask to my objects first.

It's a lot of work, yes, but I've found that trying to get the background white by color selection/adjustment layers only, I always use more color nuances than necessary in my drawings. Especially for my sticker motives I like to keep the 'hand-painted' feel and the editing to a minimum, so this gives the closest results. 

Step by step: 

Background Color Selection

Go to 'Select' and choose 'color selection', then click on the white color of the paper to give the program a color reference. This will select all white or white-ish spaces on the drawing, with more or less leeway depending on the percentage you enter. Play around a bit - this really depends on your paper, the intensity of your watercolors etc.

But really, don't fret too much if the selection isn't all that accurate. Because next, we'll expand that selection (by clicking on 'Select', then 'Options') by 1 pixel, thus swallowing some of the pesky dots that refused to be selected. 

Then, inverse the selection (again under 'Select') so that instead of your white space, you have only the colored objects selected. 

Create a vector mask by clicking on the tiny symbol at the bottom of your 'layers' window. This makes everything that isn't part of your selection transparent. 

Working with Layer Masks

Now for the incredibly dull part: Take out your graphic tablet and refine that mask. This means both correcting the borders of objects and the interior of objects where you'd left white space or only very light colors in your drawing.

Really, my only advice for this is: Reduce the size of your Photoshop window and re-watch your favorite episodes on Netflix on the same screen. For reference: Correcting the mask for my Bonsai trees took two episodes of Parcs & Rec. Yay. Good times.

Yes, it's possible to get good, clean results without masking. But especially if you want to 'cut out' individual parts of the drawing (like individual trees) to make stickers, re-arrange the layout, or plan on printing anything: You'll be glad you did this later on. Our eyes see details like gray smudges or dots much better on paper than on screens, so while your picture might look clean on the monitor, you might be in for a surprise after printing. 

Bonus Tip: Personally, I find working on a transparent background or white background incredibly hard on my eyes. That's why I created an extra layer in a dark color. Much easier to spot stray smudges this way!

 Upper right part of the tree is 'cleaned up', the lower left leaves much to do. 

Upper right part of the tree is 'cleaned up', the lower left leaves much to do. 

Adjust Layer Mask with Brush Tool in Black and White

I tend to leave a slight border around my drawings, especially if I have used a pen instead of just watercolors. It's easier to keep the drawing's borders looking natural and hand-drawn instead of overly digital. But every image requires a different approach. 

You can also see that now that my masks are in place and the clean-up well-advanced, I've started playing around with adjustment layers to see how my final pieces will look. I mostly adjusted brightness levels and cranked up vibrance, saturation and shifted the hue slightly down. 

Color Balance comes in handy especially when working with colored pens to draw the outlines, like the sepia I'd used for these. Sometimes, they can look too bright or not match the colors in the aftermath. I toned down the yellow in those lines via Color Balance. 

Apply Layer Mask

Once every tree is corrected, a right-click on the vector mask (the small black and white thumbnail in the layers window) and selection of 'apply layer mask' will make the mask permanent, leaving you with individual images on a transparent background: No paper textures except in the drawings themselves, no smudges, no dust grains from the scanner. 

Then, I can select individual trees with the lasso selection tool, copy-paste them into new files and save them individually for future use - like arranging them on A4 paper for printable files, or smaller formats for sticker sheets. Here's where the initial 600 dpi decision comes in handy: I only need 300 dpi for my prints, which makes the trees large enough to work on A4 paper despite the original drawings being slightly smaller. 

Is this the most time-effective way of getting a white background? Nope. But it is the way that keeps my original drawings looking as close to reality as possible, with me being able to adjust the background and the drawings separately.

I'm not sure if this 'tutorial' is helpful - I do hope so, but I think you'll need to know some Photoshop/graphic program basic knowledge, like how to work with masks and adjustment layers, to follow along.

So do tell me where I should expand or add additional steps. I'm thinking of doing a breakdown of how I create coloring pages, too.

The finished drawings can be found on my Etsy both as printable files and sticker sheets