January was a very creative and productive month - perfect for the start of the year!
It might be the effect of enthusiastic new year's resolutions combined with the fact that it's been really cold here in Korea and all I wanted to do was curl up in the warmest spot of the house and draw: That made me finish a lot of commissions automatically.
Working from home can be very cozy and comfortable if you've got the right "ingredients" (more on that below!)
But the reason I felt super energetic had a lot to do with my exercise and eating habits - read on to get the full illustrated take-down of my January favorites!
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Biggest change & favorite thing: Weight lifting!
I'm by no means a "good" weight lifter. I started last summer with just the 8 pound dumbbells we had lying around. On top of that, the closest gym is more than an hour drive away - and here in Korea, most gyms don't have a free weight section anyway. The belief that lifting anything heavier than a 1 kg dumbbell will give you bulky muscles is very, very pervasive here (both among women and men, actually).
While I jumped on and off my miniature weight lifting train all through 2017 I really enjoyed the feeling of getting stronger by tiny bits and wanted to ramp that up in the new year.
With new dumbbells I was able to challenge myself in January! After loosing weight last year, it's so much fun to actually build muscles and see how that changes my body instantly (#noobgains). It really helped with my terrible posture from long hours at my desk, too.
I use simple 15 pound (7 kg) metal dumbbells for most lifts and my old 8lb Neoprene ones (make sure to get non-slip ones!) for the stuff I still struggle with. Not ideal since I can't progress that much, but you gotta improvise! I increase reps instead of weight in a very loose Push-Pull-Legs routine.
Do you lift in any form? What's your exercise of choice?
Favorite Food: Vegan Cookie Dough
Does anyone else get obsessed with certain foods for periods of time?
I had an intense hummus phase last autumn, followed by a nut butter obsession (eaten straight out of the jar because that's how I roll...) after learning how to make those myself. In January, my food of choice was Cookie Dough. After seeing recipes for these pop up all over YouTube I used the excuse of needing more protein - because, again, #noobgains - to pop all kinds of ingredients in a blender with just enough sweetener and chocolate to pass as cookie dough.
While I never followed one recipe exactly, here are some of my inspirations:
Just mix and add in ingredients until it tastes good! Since no baking is needed and no eggs are involved, this made my childhood dreams of eating all the raw cookie dough come true.
Favorite Social Media & Editing Tool: VSCO Cam
My camera broke. I'm making lemonade out of lemons: Falling back in love with my phone's camera!
Now, I got my phone for free with my last contract renewal and the quality of the camera is ~meh~ at best.
But being forced to take pictures with it made me focus more on the actual setup and editing. I had to save the quality somehow, after all! I really loved getting back into VSCO Cam and the simplicity of just using my phone for all my social media (and even blog!) images.
Do you use VSCO Cam? If yes, what's your favorite filter?
I love HB1, A6, and on rare occasions T1.
Favorite Thing for Working from Home: Lemongrass Essential Oil
Working from home means being stuck in the same environment all day long. In winter, this can get claustrophobic for me - I'm literally in the same ROOM all day because heating is a pain.
As a result, I like to keep the bedroom/workroom/livingroom clean, clutter-free and cozy!
Scents help so much with that: They can energize, calm, banish other scents (Kimchi vapors left from lunch are a thing) and change the atmosphere of a room completely.
Recently, I started using more diffusers instead of scented candles (I went through those WAY too quickly!) and now have a humble little collection of essential oils. My favorite scent in January was Lemongrass! Not only did it remind me of our trip to Thailand and warmer months, but it went really well with the pervasive scent of oranges we were eating non-stop. A combination of a summer and winter scent, if you will!
Lemongrass oil is citrus-y but less sweet than other citrus oils, with earthy undertones that make it relaxing and refreshing at the same time. It also mixes very well with lavender oil - a favorite mix of mine for late evenings.
I use this one by NOW. Their essential oils are affordable and cruelty-free. You can find it on iHerb.
For a diffuser, I use a simple ceramic one with tea candles but I bought this more luxurious diffuser for the family up in Seoul (gotta use up my blocked PayPal money on international shipping after all!).
If you shop via Amazon you can use Ebates to get cashback on your order. The % changes often, so best keep an eye open for higher days.
If you sign up via my referral link, a bonus 10$ is added on top of that~
Reading & Strange Productivity Tip: Epic Fantasy Audiobooks
Working from home as an illustrator can get boring and I love to listen to audiobooks while painting!
Audible is my best productivity hack ever since art school. I got through all of A Song of Ice and Fire while drawing my graduation project, after all. There's something extremely calming about long, looong books read to you as you work away. Even if you don't draw, I'm sure you have tasks that only require minimal thought but just lots of effort and time. That's when this little productivity hack comes in!
Music makes it too easy for me to just thoughtlessly jump on social media or get otherwise distracted. An audio book needs just enough brain power to keep me focused while leaving my hands free to be productive for hours.
You can find out if this works for you - just get a trial membership to get two books for free! Definitely worth it especially for these epic long books that cost a tiny fortune otherwise.
Now. This isn't a book review. This is a productivity tip!
I do like Brandon Sanderson's books. I trust him to build a story that doesn't disappoint - even if his writing isn't the most elegant.
So when I embark on an audiobook journey that takes over 40 HOURS I need that level of trust. I want to be sure that all those hours build towards something epic! (And that's only the first book in a series, mind you. They get longer.) Only a few series manage to keep my attention for that long time and lots of fantasy/sci-fi is still littered with cringe-worthy betrayals of female characters that annoy me too much to keep reading.
The Way of Kings might meander and the dialogue often be clunky, but you can sense how much the author is earnestly in love with it and I got caught up in the plot and twists along the way. Not my favorite of his, but definitely addicting!
Long series to listen to when long work hours loom: The Expanse | The Broken Earth | A Song of Ice and Fire
Do you have strange tricks to keep yourself productive?
I hope you enjoyed my illustrated January favorites! It's February now and I'm still obsessed with all of them.