Are you thinking of applying to graduate school?

Whether you’re hoping to gain new skills or just need a break from the “real world,” we’re all equal on the application playing field. (Except when it comes to financial barriers, support structures, and your overall social and cultural capital. Lol. But what is this, a social justice piece?) We all owe our share of blood, sweat, and tears.

That’s where I come in. As a person who applied to graduate school just last year, I am now a certified expert. You’ll find that I am uniquely qualified to guide you through the process and can 1000% guarantee AT LEAST a 0% acceptance rate. You can’t get numbers like that anywhere.

So kick back while I reveal the inner workings of the graduate school application system: Sociology Ph.D. edition. This guide was created from real world data AND is mostly pictures. You can’t get that from GradCafe, can you?

The Art

When you embark on your grad app journey, you might think your goal is to get accepted somewhere. But don’t put that pressure on yourself. All you need to do right now is GET IT!

The following is a list of 10 easy steps to help you GET IT!


Step 1. Get pumped.

You’ve decided what you want to do with your life, to a certain extent. You’ll be going to school for the next few (or several) years. It’s going to be everything you’ve ever dreamed of.

applying to grad school comics: excited woman in a pink sweater imagining what graduate school will be like


Step 2. Get overwhelmed.

Okay, this is harder than you thought. Realize you have no real criteria. You just want to go somewhere good. And you know there should be faculty you want to work with. That seems clear enough until you start looking. How do you define “good” exactly? And do you really need to look through every single faculty member’s web page?

applying to grad school comics: woman at a table in front of a laptop looking frustrated


Step 3. Get help.

Connections are a thing. Your former professors know a lot of things. Conversations are good. Apparently you’re lucky that you can use websites and not microfiche. After some pointers, it’s back into the trenches for you.

applying to grad school comics: illustration of two women talking at a table. Woman facing us has two thought bubbles showing her true emotions


Step 4. Get choices.

You’re now a master at navigating sociology department websites. Except NYU. Theirs is confusing every single time. You have your top choices. Your list of schools is starting to mean something.  But let’s be honest, there are multiple lists, and Word docs, and excel spreadsheets. Organization is a farce.

applying to grad school comics: three simplified figures with a placards that represent different schools. The first school is a yes, the second a no, and the third simply has a question mark.


Step 5. Get worried.

That deadline is sooner than you thought. Did you ask for rec letters yet? You’d better hope that last professor says yes.

applying to grad school comics: woman sitting in front of a laptop looks stressed. Papers, notes and writing utensils litter the desk. The upper right corner reads "Dec 1" in green dripping font.


Step 6. Get to work.

Your letter writers want a draft of your personal statement? Let them know it’s going to messy af. Write that in a hurry. Then agonize over your CV. And statements. And the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. And the arbitrary (lack of) standards between programs. Couldn’t they all have agreed on a standard definition, for your sake?

And that program asking for two statements? Who do they think they are? (A top school, that’s who.)

applying to grad school comics: woman in the center of an illustration mimics pose from the painting "the scream". Background is a green swirl with objects like papers and coffee in it.


Step 7. Get those first applications submitted!

Triumph at last! You feel a swelling sense of accomplishment followed by a creeping …concern. Its name is The Next Deadline. How much do you really need to tailor your statements to each school?

applying to grad school comics: happy woman in a silver gown occupies the center of the illustration surrounded by yellow sparkles. The background shows a "Submit" button being clicked with a computer mouse.


Step 8. Get to work overachiever.

You tell yourself this next round of applications will look even better than the first. You turn into an editing monster. But you really can’t tell if there’s a difference.

applying to grad school comics: woman sits in front of a laptop with fire for eyes and medusa-like hair flying in every direction


Step 9. Get over it.

The other deadlines rush up in no time. You submit your work rather uneventfully and suddenly the whole process is DONE. You feel a little empty. Grad school applications have drained you of everything. Promptly forget about them and move on with your new, application-free life.

applying to grad school comics: woman in a red sweater, glasses, and dark brown hair pulled back in a bun walks through a background resembling a child's illustration with grass, flowers, and an apple tree


Step 10: Get…Accepted?

React with shock when a school gets back to you far earlier than expected. Exclaim out loud that you’re not ready to find out yet! Then mash your finger against that screen immediately while holding your breath.

applying to grad school comics: the top of a smart phone screen shows that the user has received an email from "A University" regarding her admissions decision. In the foreground, a woman closes her eyes while reaching out to open the email on her phone.


Note from the Real Author

Hello everyone, Monica here.

Hope you enjoyed these illustrations. This was my real life at the end of last year. This is also my way of announcing that I’ll be heading to graduate school this fall. For the next 5 to 7 years, I’ll be attending a Sociology PhD program at Indiana University Bloomington.

I’m excited to finally be taking this next step, but don’t worry, you’ll still hear from me on this blog. Figuring out how much time I can dedicate to art and blogging in my first year of grad school will be an adventure. But nothing new.

Fitting art into the cracks is just part of any non-full-time artist‘s life. I’ve made my peace with it.

See you again next week,


Succs in Pots Title Image with succulent drawings in the background. Title text reads "The 8 Types of Succulents I've Drawn (and Owned)"

In building the foundation for an art business, I’ve been doing a lot more art. Naturally. What might not be natural is how much of that art has been of succulents. But the identity of plant addict is one I’m coming to terms with.

I saw an article a while back about how millennials are filling the child-shaped holes in their hearts with houseplants. Sure, I can go along with that.

Some of the most recent artwork I’ve done have been pages of succulents. Although I intended to use these pages as a way to draw a wide array of succulents, I filled a whole page with succulents I own or have owned…and didn’t even cover them all. This addiction might be worse than I thought.

But since each of these succulents has a story, I’ll share those baby pictures with you now, in one easily accessible blog post. Stick around (or scroll down) to the end to see a sneak peek at the second succulent page I haven’t yet posted anywhere.

Mini Succulent Pots

Here’s the full page. 16 plants. 9 still alive and well, 3 in a questionable state, and 4 no longer with us.

Succs in pots - Page of 16 colored pencil succulent drawings, 4 across and 4 down. Each plant is a different species and is in a terra cotta pot which is one of three colors: red, orange or yellow.

Now for close-ups and proud parent captions.


The Ones that Started It All

Succs in pots - 3 succulents drawn in colored pencil arranged in a horizontal line. The first is light green with an orange pot, second is dark green with a red pot and the third is light green with hints of red in a yellow-tinted pot
From left to right: Sedum adolphii/Golden Sedum, Sedum hernandezii, Crassula perforata variegata/”String of Pearls”

These are the first three succulents I ever purchased. I picked them out from Home Depot (probably) and they’ve thrived on beginner luck ever since.


The Elusive Ones

Succs in pots zebra plant drawn in colored pencil in a red-tinted clay pot
Haworthia fasciata

Writing an article about zebra plant succulents is one of the things that got me interested in succulents. So you can bet that I was looking for one of these. But none of my local stores ever seemed to have a zebra plant. Or if they did, it was part of a larger arrangement, which was just cruel.

Finally, on one bright day, I obtained my first zebra plant, from a Home Depot on the other end of town. They must have sold like hot cakes because I’d never find them in the same location twice.

Sadly, my favorite succulent wasn’t meant to be. Three have them have died on me. But love the way most haworthia succulents look, so I jumped at the opportunity to get this cool-looking plant:

Succs in pots cool haworthia drawn in colored pencil with light green at the top and a violet-red gradient near the bottom of the plant. It's in a red-tinted terra cotta pot.
Haworthia reinwardtii/”African pearls”

It died on me too.


The Patriotic Ones

Succs in pots - 4th of July colored succulents with blue, white and red succulents in a horizontal row from left to right
Senecio mandraliscae/”Blue chalk sticks”, Senecio haworthii/Cocoon plant, Sedum adolphii/”Firestorm”

For the 4th of July, I bought red, white, and blue succulents. They looked amazing. Until the “blue chalk sticks” died off and the fuzzy white ones shriveled up. The red ones are another variation of Sedum adolphii. They’ve turned mostly green with less light indoors, but are survivors.


The Pale Ones

Succs in pots - Colored pencil drawings of two succulents in orange-tinted terra cotta pots. Both plants have a pale blue-green tint with pastel pink or purple on the tips of their leaves.
Graptoveria/”Opalina”, Pachyphytum bracteosum

These two have similar coloring and are both sensitive. Apparently, they don’t like to be touched because the oils on your skin wear away their protective pastel coating. So any spot you poke has a permanently green mark that’s darker than the surrounding area.

I’m on my second pachyphytum. It was a scraggly plant with most of its leaves missing in the clearance section. Although my first pachyphytum died of sudden unknown causes, I like to think I’m making up for it with this “rescue plant.”


The Fuzzy Ones

Succs in pots - 3 colored pencil drawings of succulents in a horizontal row. All three plants are fuzzy with various shades of green leaves with brown tips.
Kalanchoe tomentosa/”Teddy Bear”, Cotyledon ladismithiensis/”Bear Paws”, Kalanchoe tomentosa/”Panda plant”

I love that there are fuzzy succulents. And that they’re all named after bears. But once again, I seem to have bad luck with these varieties. I got these three around the same time and arranged them neatly in a communal pot. The Bear Paws didn’t seem to like having roommates and didn’t last long. The Teddy Bear was doing fine but has been strangely stiff since the first freeze…

Meanwhile, my Panda plants seem to be surviving winter just fine and loving their space.


The “Hardy” Ones

Succs in pots - a colored pencil drawing of a single succulent in a yellow-tinted pot. It's a sempervivum with leaves that are light green with purple tips.
Sempervivum/”Isella” Not pictured: Sempervivum/”Ruby Heart” and Stonecrop sedum

Near the end of last summer, I finally crossed a line. I order succulents online.

They arrived quickly, well-packaged and not at all harmed. Since these were hardy outdoor plants, I stuck them into a planter outside. For a few months, I enjoyed seeing them grow rapidly, produce chicks, and change color according to lights and temperature.

Then one not-so-cold winter day, I decided to eat my lunch outside. I glanced over to the planter where my outdoor succulents were and did a double take. There was NOTHING THERE. The planter was empty except for torn up leaves and trampled dirt.

I don’t know what animal did this, but I hope they got indigestion. If that’s a thing animals can get.


The One That Grew on Me

Succs in pots - A colored pencil drawing of a Kalanchoe succulent in a red-tinted terra cotta pot. The plant has green leaves that fade into a purple gradient at the tips.
Kalanchoe longiflora coccinea

I bought this succulent because it looked different and then sort of regretted it. It looked like a regular plant. There was nothing cutesy or succulent-like about it. But I planted it in a wine glass with a cactus-shaped neck and let it grow.

This plant is surprisingly hardy. And the tiny baby leaves that pop up at the top are bright red at first and then morph into a violet-red/green gradient. It’s quite nice and is actually low-maintenance, unlike most of these other ungrateful succulents.


The Mystery Plant

Succs in pots - Colored pencil drawing of a tall thin plant that's leaning over to the right. Two new shoots come out of the base of the plant, which is in a red terra cotta pot.

One of my plants came with a little sprout in the same pot. I assumed it was from another succulent and planted it in its own little pot. And that plant has grown nonstop. It graduated from a toothpick support to a chopstick and is still getting taller. The lower leaves have started to produce their own sprout. Any leaves that fall off seem to develop roots instantly.

Is this even a succulent?


I had a lot of fun drawing these – even though colored pencil blending takes forever. So much fun that I started a second page of succulents drawn from a top view.

Here’s a sneak peek before these hit my Instagram:

 Succs in pots - a cropped image of a page of colored pencil succulent drawings. There are 9 plants visible, all from the top view, in various stages of color.

Which do you like better?


Two Weeks into Inktober: Tools of the Trade

It’s already over two weeks into Inktober – that’s halfway through! The realization that I’ve reached the midpoint inspires both relief and a slight panic. As in, yesss! I’ve made it this far! and wait, have I actually done 16 drawings already? There’s only 14 left, and I’ve been lazy for the last few days!

But being 16 days in, I have a rhythm (most of the time) and have my favorite tools within easy reach. Here’s a list of my favorite Inktober tools so far:

Inktober Tools

FYI, this post contains affiliate links, so if you decide to try the same materials, I get a small commission at no extra charge to you. For more information go the bottom of my About page.


Faber-Castell Pitt Pens

Faber-Castell pens have been my favorite since high school. Honestly, I now realize that I haven’t tested a wide variety of pens, because I’ve mostly stuck with these. However, my sister has tried more pens than I have and these are still her favorite, so there’s that.

I usually opt for a set with four sizes: Small, Fine, Medium, and Brush. I’m a super detail-focused artist so I use the small and fine pens the most, but I have to take a second to brag about the brush pen. Brush pens are exactly what they sound like – a pen with flexible brush-like tip. They’re flexible and really satisfying to use.

My set of pitt pens is pretty old and all in various stages of drying out or running out of ink. I no longer have a Fine-sized pen. But I make do, for now.

Dip Pen and Ink

I use a very basic dip pen handle with a couple different nib sizes that aren’t worth linking to. I might have purchased them back in college when my professor said that they were more legitimate than the Faber-Castell pens. I’m still not very competent with a dip pen – using one still feels a little awkward – so I have no plans to go out and find a better quality pen anytime soon.


When I use a dip pen, I go to the only two inks that I have. I did look into them when I first bought them and found that they were decent student-grade inks. They are Higgins Black Magic and a Higgins white ink.

Odd Assortment of Miscellaneous Pens

Finally, I have a smattering of random pens that I occasionally use, mostly ones I picked up in Korea. These are also running dry, so by the end of Inktober I should probably get new pens or commit to my dip pen.


Thanks to the class I took at the Bemis School of Art, I now have the materials for Sumi-e ink painting. On one hand, sumi-e is more like painting than drawing. On the other hand, Sumi-e is definitely ink, so expect to see a few Sumi-e pieces before Inktober is up.


I didn’t plan on using Sharpies…but one day I was craving a bold line and my dried out brush pens were doing the trick. Enter Sharpie permanent markers.


Best of the Week

Each week I’m highlighting my favorite Inktober drawing. This week is me running into a couch. (The ants in my dog’s beard was a close second though.) I was chasing my dog without watching where I was going. It seemed like a nice, ridiculous moment to illustrate. I had a bruise under my eye the next day.


Inktober Day 11: I ran into a couch today. #inktober #inktober2017

A post shared by Monica Heilman (@monicartsy) on

One Week into Inktober: I Have a System!

It’s been one full week of Inktober so far. And while I’m loving it, keeping up is a struggle. As I mentioned in my last post, this is my first time doing Inktober. But the idea of dedicating one intense month to creative pursuits isn’t new to me.

For the last two years, I participated NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month, for those of you not in-the-know). Producing 31 ink drawings might seem more manageable than writing 50,000 words of a novel, but it all depends. In the end, both creative challenges seem to be about making time to pursue the art you love – which is far more difficult than the creating itself.

Inktober System One Week Title Image

My Approach

I do each drawing – usually late at night – and post them to my Instagram account. I’m a bit more verbose than I usually am on Instagram, because there’s almost always plenty to say about your artwork.

On Subject Matter & Prompts

I decided before October started that I didn’t want to follow the prompts. I mean, they’re cool, but there are plenty of topics I want to draw, and I didn’t want to be limited by a prompt. What if one day’s prompt just sounded really boring? I wasn’t going to lock myself into anything.

But now, seeing the Inktober drawings that the community is posting, I realize how fun it is to see other people’s interpretations of the same prompt. I’d like to try following the official prompts one year.

This year I do have a loose theme, which can and has already been interrupted by tragedy and holidays.

Sometimes I wish I’d chosen a theme that was more focused or more exciting, but the one I chose is “Home.” Hence the succulent and dog drawings you’ve seen recently. You can look forward to Colorado Springs scenery and other homey scenes. I have a long complicated rationale for choosing this theme but I won’t go into it today.


Self-Imposed “Rules”

As I’ve gone through this week of Inktober, I’ve had to think about how I want my system to work. So I’ve set guidelines for myself. For some artists, this probably seems strange and unnecessary, but sticking to system works for me and helps me take Inktober seriously.


1. No posting judgment.

I’ve found myself almost constantly wanting to criticize and explain what I view as shortcomings in my work. It pops up naturally, even something as simple as “oh this one isn’t that good.” The negative comments and excuses keep up a steady stream in my mind:

“I was too tired today.”

“I messed up on that spot.”

“The ink started to run out.”

“The material didn’t react how I expected, so it looks a little weird.”

And so forth.

Luckily I caught myself in this negative spiral, so rule number one is no posting anything critical about my work – nobody really wants to hear it anyway. But I’d be perfectly happy to hear others’ honest opinions and critiques.


2. If I made it, I post it.

This rule deals with insecurity too. It’d be easy to only post the artwork that’s “good enough” and of course, that makes sense. It’s what every artist does, isn’t it? But for Inktober, and just for Inktober, I’m ignoring my filter. I won’t skip a day because I don’t think my drawing for that day is good enough. A day with no Inktober post will just mean I didn’t make the time to draw that day.


3. Skipping days is okay.

Skipping is difficult for the perfectionist in me. I committed to this challenge, so I need to go ALL THE WAY! RIGHT? Well, maybe if I wasn’t planning on doing NaNoWriMo next month. A month of daily ink drawings followed directly by a month of roughly 1667 words a day sounds more painful than fun.

I have a confession to make. The drawing I posted for Day 4 may be dated 10-4-17, but I actually made it October 5th. I didn’t draw anything on October 4th, and to make up for it, I did two drawings on October 5th. You’re probably thinking, okay who cares? But this forced me to consider what I’d do when I missed more days. Did I always need to make up for them? Should I only post according to the number of drawings I made? Or post according to the true dates?

I decided I’d let myself skip days. But doing a quick, rough drawing is preferable to skipping a day altogether. I won’t get stuck in a mindset of having to make up for missed days like this is some sort of homework assignment. But if I find myself wanting to do multiple drawings in a day, I won’t stop myself.


Best of the Week

While I’m producing so much art, I might as well show it off. For each week of October, I’ll highlight a best-of-the-week piece. This week is Day 2’s zebra plant!

A post shared by Monica Heilman (@monicartsy) on

Everything You Need to Know about Inktober

This year I’ve decided to finally try Inktober! I’m the kind of person who’s highly motivated by challenge-type events, so it’s surprising that I haven’t tried it yet.

October is considered arts month, at least in the Pikes Peak region, but nationally too? This was news to me last year, but hey, why not?

Inktober – a play on Ink and October – was started by a guy named Jake Parker. He began doing Inktober in 2009 to practice his inking skills and the art challenge took off. Today Inktober is massive – just do a Google or hashtag search.

Inktober 2017

You can find the official Inktober website here. There are no fancy rules, just do one ink drawing for each day in October. It doesn’t even have to be ink if you’re looking to practice other skills. A group animators has started “Animtober.”

If you’re stuck, you can follow a list of prompts. There’s a list of official prompts from Parker:

Inktober 2017 Official Prompts

And several prompt lists that people have created on their own. Since it’s October, there are a lot of Halloween-themed lists.

Inktober 2017 ochibrochi witch prompts
Inktober 2017 Witch Prompts from ochibrochi

Art Prompt Generators

The internet is also full of art prompt generators, so having no ideas is no excuse.

Art Prompts

  • Choose a category and refresh until you get a prompt you like
  • Categories: character, creature, environment, object, situation, & challenge
  • Example: The pet your parents wouldn’t let you keep

Random Art Prompt Generator

  • Very simple with only two choices
  • Choose the number of prompts you want (1, 5, or 10)
  • Choose between “simple” and “elaborate”
  • Simple Example: achromatic
  • Elaborate Example: Your picture is set in the ruined parts of a city and involves two of these three elements: a corset, a deep sense of history, or cool weapons.

Concept Start Inktober Random Generator

  • Looks complicated at first
  • Choose from Character (Inktober Ch.), Creature (Inktober Cr.), or Random (Inktober Rm.)
  • Click “Generate Brief” and your prompt will appear next to the icons above
  • You can only generate 6 per day
  • Example of Inktober rm:
    • Keyword: Book
    • Theme: Evil
    • Ink Type: Ballpoint Pen
    • Process Focus: Stippling
    • Time Frame: 1 day


Inktober Tips

  1. Relax.

    Maybe I’m biased since I’m saving my intense creative focus for Nanowrimo, but don’t stress if you miss a day or two. Or ten. The creator of Inktober even suggests making a smaller commitment if a drawing a day is too much. You could complete a drawing every other day, or even once a week if that’s more manageable for you.

  2. Look to others for inspiration.

    The cool thing about taking part in a worldwide challenge is the community. You might feel like you’re holed up in your room,  madly scribbling away, but in reality, you’re part of a giant community all scribbling away together. Search for other Inktober artists on social media using #inktober, #inktober2017, or other hashtags that are too hip for me to know about.

  3. Try Different Kinds of Ink

    I’m a fan of trying new media when you’re stuck. And just because it’s Inktober doesn’t mean you’re stuck to one type of medium. There are tons of different types of ink, from a simple ballpoint pen to a Sumi-e ink painting with a brush. So if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, don’t forget there are still ways to switch it up and stay true to the INKtober namesake.

  4. Have fun with it!

    Maybe you have your month all planned out. Or you’ve decided to follow a theme (like me). But if you find yourself wanting to do something else instead, go for it! The point of Inktober is to encourage creativity. That might mean simply creating more art – even arbitrary deadlines help us be more productive – or practicing specific skills. Sure, follow your plan, but be open to change and giving yourself the freedom to do what you want!


Good luck to everyone out there doing Inktober. You can follow along with my Inktober drawings on my Instagram account, monicartsy.

How I Became Obsessed with Succulents (And Why It’s Good for My Art)

If you follow me on social media, mostly Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve recently gotten into succulents. Some might even say I’m obsessed with succulents.

obsessed with succulents instagram

Maybe just a little.

So I’ve ended up doing succulent art. Go figure.

But seeing as I’m obsessed with them, and this is basically a post about succulents anyway, I’m going to give you my full succulent journey. With pictures, of course.

Let’s begin our journey.


Rewind to 2015

The succulent trend was out in full force. But I was living in South Korea, far away from hipster trends.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t know about the succulent trend. I mean, I had the Internet. The fastest Internet in the world, actually.

I’d heard about succulents and seen them around. But it wasn’t until one appeared in my friend Arria’s apartment that I really thought about getting one. It was just SO CUTE.

But I had one barrier. Being in Korea, everything felt temporary to me. I had less than a year left there. I was traveling around the country a lot. I didn’t want to commit to getting something I couldn’t take back to the US, like a plant.


Return in 2016

Fast-forward to my return to Colorado a year later. After just a month of being back, I decided to start a freelance writing business. One of the first gigs I landed was ghostwriting for a content creation agency. This meant I wrote about virtually anything.

Occasionally, I wrote for a gardening website that was one of the company’s consistent clients.

The client had asked for several specific plant care articles. One of my assignments was on Haworthia Attenuata or the Zebra plant. It turns out Zebra plants are a popular indoor succulent. (And being a zone 10 plant, they couldn’t survive outdoors in most of the US).


The more research I did on this plant, the more attractive it seemed. Just look at those dark mysterious stripes:

obsessed with succulents haworthia attenuata closeup

Photo by Stephen Boisvert licensed under CC by 2.0

After writing (and doing research for) my article, I had the knowledge to care for one, so why not finally get a succulent?

Feeling like a potentially capable plant parent, I did some browsing at Home Depot. With some advice from my sister, I picked out three succulent varieties:

  • Sedum adolphii or “Golden Sedum”
  • Sedum hernandezii
  • Crassula Species Asstd.
obsessed with succulents first trio sedum crassula
From left to right: adolphii, hernandezii, crassula

obsessed with succulents art bucket arrangement

Sedum adolphii / Golden Sedum

The Golden sedum was actually my favorite at the time, but don’t tell. It looked the most like the typical succulents you see on Pinterest and Instagram. I had to have one of those, right?


Sedum hernandezii

This sedum doesn’t seem to have a common name, but it’s easy to remember since it appears to be named after someone named Hernandez. Why do so many plant names have that double “i” at the end?


Crassula Species Asstd.

So I didn’t actually look closely at the name of this one before I bought it. I got home only to realize this was some sort of mystery Crassula.

Being a research-fueled plant parent, I was upset. How was I supposed to provide proper care when I didn’t even know the exact species?!

I made do. And later I deduced that this plant was Crassula perforata or “String of Buttons.” Bam.


Hunt for the Perfect Succulent Container

The biggest appeal of succulents, besides their cute planty selves, is growing them in cute containers. So the next logical step was to find a picture-worthy container.

Okay, well I wasn’t that set on a fancy container.

I spent a few minutes digging around in my room and found a random bucket I’d been using as a pencil holder. Voila! Cute succulent container.

obsessed with succulents art bucket container

obsessed with succulents art bucket container top view


I didn’t put much effort into this one.

But now I go to a store like Target and can only see containers for what they’re really worth – their succulent cuteness potential.

obsessed with succulents cute container

The Sketching Begins

Making yourself do art, when you should actually be writing, blogging, marketing yourself, and pitching to new clients, to name a few, is a task.

I could always be doing something more to further my business. Since writing is also a hobby, and I identify as a writer, it also feels like there’s more at stake to my work.

Art is an equally valuable hobby, but I’m not trying to use it to pay my bills. So art gets thrown to the curb quite a bit.

Fortunately, art can apply to just about everything. I can take my excitement or interest in one thing, like social justice, and do art about it. Orrrr, I can take my new obsession with succulents, and all the excitement that comes with it and transfer that to art.

And that’s what I did.

I’ve been sketching my new plant babies when I feel uninspired or just want to do some relaxing art. It’s been fun because I’m still in that honeymoon stage with my plants and I like just looking at them.

It’s also relaxing. I can focus on putting marks on the page instead of trying to think up some grand art concept. I really need to shake off that art school (and IB HL Art) mindset.

obsessed with succulents colored pencil art sketch

Perhaps this post is premature, since these are only quick colored pencil sketches. Or maybe this is just to say, expect more succulent art in the future. Much, much more.


Propagating Succulents

My other favorite part about growing succulents is how easy they are to propagate. I already knew all about this, since I had to write articles on various plants and how to propagate them. So boy was I ready.

I started propagation from day one, using leaves that had fallen off of my succulents during transport or repotting. One leaf from the hernandezii was already growing its own plant! Currently, it seems to have stagnated a bit, but maybe I’m just too excited.

obsessed with succulents propagate in water

obsessed with succulents pup progation

I rooted my first leaves in water because it seemed cool and I could watch them grow each day.

Out of the three plants I tried, only the hernandezii leaves rooted, and they’re still doing well. But I envy those photos with fifty gazillion succulent leaves all sprouting teeny tiny plants.

Maybe someday.

obsessed with succulents art hernandezii pup

The Obsession Advances: More Succulents!

I didn’t stop at three, oh no. I frequented the garden sections of Home Depot and Lowe’s and eventually got my sister to split a plant with me.

  • Pachyphytum bracteosum
  • Sedum rubrotinctum

obsessed with succulents pachyphytum and sedum

For myself, I chose a Pachyphytum bracteosum, with puffy pale green leaves. Together, we got a pot with four Sedum rubrotinctum and split them.

obsessed with succulents aurora and pachyphytum


The Succulent Outdoors

Eventually, my mom noted, “don’t we have those kinds of plants in the front yard?” AND WE DID.

obsessed with succulents cobweb sempervivum

In my parents’ front yard, nearly buried under the mulch were three Sempervivum plants. These are also known as “Hen and Chicks” because they propagate easily on their own by producing “chicks.”

obsessed with succulents hardy succulent sempervivum

After some deliberation, I cleaned out a pot, took some chick cuttings, and potted them.

obsessed with succulents outdoor sempervivum

Don’t worry. I have plans for that empty space in the middle.


Foray into Online Succulents: No Hope Left for Me

I should mention that this whole time, I began following more and more succulent blogs. Pinterest and Tumblr became notorious time wasters. But also sources of endless entertainment.

Many people buy succulents online, especially if the plants don’t grow well in their region or they want a particular plant.

obsessed with succulents pups propagation

You’ll remember that the Zebra plant was what had gotten me into this whole mess.

Tragically, I still haven’t been able to find one. On my very first succulent shopping trip, I spotted a Zebra plant at Home Depot. Just one. It looked a little worn, so I opted for Golden Sedum and Co instead. I now regret that decision.

I haven’t seen a single Zebra plant in stores since. Except for a couple that were included in a larger succulent arrangement. No thanks. I can arrange them myself, thank you. Why take the fun out of it?

obsessed with succulents sedum water root

So my online browsing turned into seriously searching. I wondered whether Etsy was really a valid place to buy a succulent. Many online places didn’t have Zebra plants in stock yet. Was the world conspiring against me?

obsessed with succulents sedum hernandezii water root

Instead, I ended up purchasing a few Sempervivums to pot with my existing ones outdoors. No, I didn’t buy a Zebra plant. Since it started me on this journey, it only seems right to finish this journey properly – to someday handpick a  Zebra plant in person.


I still search for a Zebra plant sometimes often, drawn into home gardening stores as if to a siren’s song.

obsessed with succulents haworthia attenuata zebra plant potted

Photo by Stephen Boisvert licensed under CC by 2.0



7 Easy Art Tutorials to Help Anyone Get into Art | Why Do Art Bonus

Today I have an art tutorial roundup for you.

You can think of this post as a secret/bonus part 4 to the Why Do Art series.

The idea for this post only occurred to me after I finished up Why Do Art. But after hearing about why it’s so great to do art, wouldn’t it be nice to have a list of easy art tutorials to help you get started?

7 Art Tutorials to Help Anyone Get into Art

There’s an endless supply of art tutorials online. You don’t have to attend an art class to learn to draw (although there is definitely value in having a real person right there to guide you). But let’s assume you aren’t committed enough or don’t have the time to attend a class. Simply Googling “art tutorial” is overwhelming.

That’s why I’ve gathered a list of some of the best art tutorials for beginners. There’s a little something in most major art media, so you can pick what appeals to you.

Let’s get started.


Pastel Portrait Tutorial

pastels art tutorials

I chose to highlight this pastel tutorial first because this artist’s website is so colorful, light-hearted, and fun. Hence the name of the site.

Thaneeya from Art is Fun has tons of drawing and painting tutorials. I like this pastel tutorial in particular because it’s so clearly laid out. This portrait isn’t a realistic one and the subject is a little silly, which gives you permission to explore and experiment with the material, instead of trying to obtain a perfect standard.


Scratchboard Basics Tutorial

scratchboard tools-art tutorials

You knew I had to include scratchboard in here somewhere, right?

This scratchboard tutorial from Russ McMullin of is a little different from Thaneeya’s approach. You don’t just get a  simple walk-through of one piece.

Russ guides you to an understanding of how scratchboard works – hint: it’s not just drawing in reverse – packing in plenty of important details. There’s an overview of the tools you need and an interesting technique for getting a drawing outline onto a piece of scratchboard.

All scratchboard artists seem to have a different way of doing this. Russ’s method is definitely on my to-try list.

He even goes into how you can correct mistakes on scratchboard, something I’m still learning myself.


Painting with Coffee Tutorial

cup of coffee-art tutorials

I break from the traditional art media here to bring you coffee.

Yes, coffee! You can even paint using a lot of simple household objects, and coffee is one of my favorites. Instant coffee works best, as you’ll learn from Zakkiya at Inkstruck.

This bright and tastefully designed coffee painting tutorial just makes you want to keep scrolling. If you like watercolor, or you feel like you’re someone who would like watercolor, coffee painting is a great place to start!

Bonus: you only have to deal with shades of brown – none of that confusing color mixing!


Comprehensive Watercolor 101 Tutorial

watercolor strokes-art tutorials

How could I give you a tutorial on coffee but not watercolor?

Although this watercolor tutorial is a little incomplete, and I’m not sure if it’s on track to get updated again, its watercolor tips are thorough and tastefully designed. The author is an architect, so that would make sense.

James Akers has some wonderful images with handwritten notes that give this post a personal touch. You can imagine that you’re learning from some kind-hearted Internet teacher,  or that you’re copying the notes of a highly organized and also artistic classmate.


Melted Crayon Art Tutorial

Crayons art tutorials

So while I was doing research for this post, I found that no one really wants to do plain old crayon art. The cool thing now to do is melted crayon art.

And actually, it does look pretty cool.

I like this tutorial from Steph at 52 Kitchen Adventures because her post looks beautiful and hey! who says a cooking website can’t have an artsy post now and then?


No Drawing Tutorials?

Wait, you might say, what about regular old drawing? Don’t you have any tutorials for that?

Well, sure, there are tons out there. But a lot of drawing tutorials are like those boring step by step drawing books I’d check out from the library as a kid. They were fun, to some extent, but even I grew bored of them quickly.

You’d follow each step exactly, drawing the shapes and adding eyes, ears, fur, and then bam! your masterpiece was done! Except yours always looked a little wonky. And when you held it up side-by-side with the example, all you could see were flaws.

That’s not very fun.

I cringe thinking about going back to those books and tutorials, so I didn’t want to share any of that here.

Good art tutorials need some flexibility.

So I’d much rather refer you to posts that go into technique.


Beginner Drawing Art Tutorials

pencil sharpen drawing-art tutorials

Fortunately, there are people doing much-improved tutorials and guides over those “how to draw [insert noun here]” books.

I especially like Darlene’s tutorials at Rapid Fire Art. I found her page through this tutorial on drawing hair, which is pretty legit. She goes into a lot of detail and explains the rationale behind what she’s showing you.

Darlene also has a beginner’s drawing course that she’s in the process of teaching. You can currently view the first two lessons. A unique twist on this course is that she’s using her non-dominant hand for examples so she can progress along with you.

Of course, learning to draw and learning to draw with your non-dominant hand are different beasts, but her main point is to show that you don’t need precise control over a pencil. Be willing to be loose!


Digital Painting Tutorial on Rocks

rocks sea-art tutorials

Don’t laugh. Rocks are really hard to draw or paint. And I recently came across this great digital painting tutorial on DeviantArt. User ichan-desu presents a cute and funny tutorial that’s at the same time really useful.

DeviantArt, Tumblr, Pinterest, and probably other sites I don’t know about are full of brief, informative tutorials like this one. I definitely recommend wasting a few hours scrolling through the millions of distracting– looking for specific tutorials on these sites. They’re great. Huge, even.



These are just a few easy art tutorials to help you get started. Do you have any favorite art tutorial bloggers or websites? Or have you tried any of the tutorials above?

Let me know in the comments!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Part 1: Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Are Wrong

Part 2: 5 Non-Artists Who Do Art (And It’s Awesome)

Part 3:  Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Should Do Art




Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Are Wrong | Why Do Art, Part 1

I’ve heard it a million times.

I can’t draw.

I’m not artistic.

I could never do that.

And to that I say…


What people don’t realize is that the world isn’t divided into artistic people and non-artistic people. It’s divided into people who do art and people who don’t.

But it’s not your fault. The world is constructed in a way that makes it look like there’s a huge gap between the creatives and the not-creatives.

Even I contribute to this myth.

One, the art that I let you see is only the good stuff, or the good-enough-to-show-someone art. I have artistic failures all the time, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get to see them (and honestly, I doubt you’d want to).

Two, the art that you see isn’t a standalone piece. I didn’t just one day just will it into being. My art actually takes  a lot of planning. And it’s the result of over twenty years of practice. I don’t remember at what age I started drawing, but trust me when I say it was pretty early on.

Kids draw.

Kids like to draw.

The difference is that some kids receive validation of their so-called artistic talents, while others don’t. Unfortunately, these others might even be laughed at, mocked, or relentlessly compared to their more “artistic” peers.

When someone else is really amazing at something, and you’re not, you probably get a little bit discouraged. And when someone who is an ultimate authority in your life (say, a parent or teacher), reinforces this belief, well you might decide to just abandon that thing you’re not very good at anyway.

Who needs art, right?

why peoplewho can't draw are wrong not artistic


Smushed Interests

By the time we become adults (I’m not sure exactly when that is, to be honest), most people’s artistic dreams have been smushed. Or their artistic interests have been smushed before they’ve had a chance to turn into dreams.

But guess what?

People actually like doing art.

Not just looking at it, or pretending to be cultured

And I’ll prove it.


Proof #1

To best illustrate this point, I need you to get up. Get out of bed. Go to any hipstery part of town. The people who frequent this area should be mostly white, in the middle to upper-class income bracket.

Take a walk.

And time how long it takes you to come across one of those “canvas and cocktails” places. You know, the ones where you take a painting class and drink wine.

Painting with a Twist.

Paint and Sip.

Cork and Canvas.

Pinot’s Palette.

Sipping and Painting.


I could go on and on.

Why are these painting classes are so popular?

Well, people like wine, you’re probably thinking. Okay sure. I won’t argue with that. But people must also like to paint. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they just drink their wine at home or with a nice steak?

wine painting abstractPhoto by Prawny licensed under CC0.


Proof #2

Before you go home, I need you to make a detour.

Go to a bookstore. Maybe not a used one, but any other bookstore.

Check out the arts or crafts or miscellaneous items section. Tell me how many adult coloring books you see.

coloring book for adultsPhoto by the3cats licensed under CC0.

A lot.

These books have blown up. They’re everywhere.

But I actually hate them.

-Tangent time-

Aren’t these coloring books supposed to help you relax and de-stress? And yet, just because they’re for adults, the creators make them so intricately detailed that it takes an eternity to finish one page.

I have one of these books.

I’ve never completed a single page. There are just too many tiny leaves and flowers for me.

I hope publishers rectify this situation soon.

-End tangent-


Even though I don’t like these coloring books, other people do. So apparently, there’s something about coloring that people like.


Coloring and painting. Can I make the leap and say that adults, even non-artistic adults, seem to like doing art?

Not just going to museums and galleries to feel fancy, but actually doing art themselves?

So what’s that you say?

You can’t do art because you’re “not artistic”?


So What?

If we’ve been taught that we’re “not good” at something, it’s frightening to go and do that thing. We’re not good at it, right? So we’ll probably just fail. Why even bother?

The thing is now that you’re an adult, you’re free!

It doesn’t actually matter what anyone thinks of your art. It doesn’t matter if you fail.

Technical skill is irrelevant.

No one needs to judge your art or even see it.


But if you’re still not convinced, you can hold off for two more weeks, using the excuse that you’re waiting for my upcoming posts to procrastinate.


Other Posts in this Series:

Part 2: 5 Non-Artists Who Do Art (And It’s awesome)

Part 3: Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Should Do art

Bonus: 7 Easy Art Tutorials to Help Anyone Get Into Art







“Come to Mama” [Political Cartoon]

Some events beg to be illustrated. They stick in my mind and I have to get them out onto the page.

The latest education debacle in the US was one example.

The events leading up to Betsy DeVos’s election to Secretary of Education were maddening, and actually a little incredible.

I’m sure I don’t need to go into how she failed miserably during her Senate confirmation hearing.

Yet here she is, newly appointed and asking where to find the pencils.

But this cartoon is about someone closer to home: Colorado Senator Cory Gardner.

On Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s acceptance of a $49,800 donation from DeVos

I was among the Colorado citizens who protested, asked, and pleaded with Gardner to consider the views of his constituents, but to avail. Then to find out it was all about the money.

I shouldn’t be surprised. But I won’t be complacent either.


4 Online Resources to Practice Figure Drawing

Drawing the human figure is one of the hardest skills to master. People shirk away from proportions and anatomy. They complain that hands are too difficult. Heads and eyes come out too large. Torsos are truncated. Characters mutilated!

I’m guilty of taking shortcuts to avoid the human figure too. “Stylized” or simplified figures are common in my work. When I stop to think about it, I probably started using these figures because they allowed to me convey my message easily and quickly. Portraying a realistic-looking person takes so much longer.

Then I took my first figure drawing class.

Any traditional art student will go through the experience. The atmosphere of the first class pregnant with awkwardness as the first model de-robes. The body that has taken center stage is nude, not naked, your professor insists. Your more immature classmates suppress giggles – or did that sound just come from you?

Before you can bat another eyelid, the model is in a pose and the timer begins. You’re forced to contemplate the awkwardness of nudity alone and in silence. Well, not complete silence. The frantic scratching of charcoals and pencils is audible because you’ve all been thrown into a series of lightening-fast sessions.

Thoughts of nudity are forced out of your head as you try to capture its form on your paper before- time’s up, next pose!

Figure in Tone

After a while, maybe even just one class later, it isn’t awkward at all. You jump readily into the task of capturing curves and contours, lights and shadows, as accurately and as quickly as time allows. You revel in 30-minute sessions – what an excess of time! – but also find them exhausting. Then you graduate to hour-long sessions, and find 30 minutes wasn’t bad at all.

Does figure drawing seem fun yet?

Figure in contour

In my case, a class like this leads you to develop a love for this art form, so strong that when the class is over you’re at a loss. And when you graduate from college, you’re even more lost. And when you go and live abroad, well, you’d better stop feeling lost and do something about it.

At first, I was determined to find figure drawing classes or open sessions in my area. But being in a country more conservative than my own, I didn’t even know how to go about asking where I could find a place to draw nude models.

I turned to the next best thing – the Internet. And no, I didn’t have to weed through any sketchy (haha) websites.

These are four resources I’ve used over the years to maintain my skill and continue figure drawing without models.


Stock Photos from Deviant Art


This is the most basic resource. You can find thousands of stock photos online. I’m sure there are a number of other websites you could use. But the site I started with is

For those not familiar with Deviant Art, it’s a social media-esque platform for posting your artwork. I think I started using it in middle school. I’m sure a lot of kids still use the site, which features a lot of fan art.

Unfortunately, there have been many cases of art theft, with people using, reprinting, and even selling artists’ work without their knowledge. It was a fun community for me, but you won’t see many professional artists there.

Users also post stock photos! You’ll find a range from the extravagantly costumed to simple poses for drawing reference. Don’t expect to find nude models though. Two of the most reliable stock providers I’ve used are senshistock and jademacalla.


I like senshistock for their variety and simplicity. They focus on the human form. There is one primary model – the user – and although other models show up frequently. Most of their models are in leotards or tank tops and tights, so you get plenty of arm and leg muscle.

They have unique poses like a running hug and even a whole category for pregnancy. They have both male and female models.


Another good user for action poses is jademacalla. This user specializes in action and military-like poses. His stock images are clothed according to the scenario – in suits, camouflage and Kevlar vests.


It turns out there are a lot of stock photo groups too. Here are a few I haven’t tried, but look okay based on a quick browse:

DA Poses:

Lady Stock:

Man Stock:

Action Stock:


Quick Poses


Quick Poses is a step above stock photos. It’s one of many websites made specifically for artists practicing figure drawing. This is the first one I tried.


  • Challenges (themed collections; 10 different categories, with examples below)
    • Athletes
    • Female silhouette
    • Lying poses
    • Seated
    • Warriors
  • Timed gestures (my favorite)
  • Random Gestures
  • Library (images you can browse freely)

For each session you can choose:

  • Nude and clothed options
  • Gender
  • Type of images (full poses, hands, feet, or faces)
  • Time intervals: 30sec, 45sec, 60sec, 90sec, 120sec, or custom

At the end of each session, the site displays all the poses you drew. While I like this feature, but I don’t really use or do anything with it. Maybe it just reminds you of how much you’ve accomplished.

You do have the option to create your own custom image sets, either by browsing through the library or from the images shown after a session. Make a Quick Poses account to try this, track your progress, and even earn a certificate.

There are other features that I don’t really find useful, but some might. You have the option to choose a white or black background. You can also work in upside down mode, but this reminds me too much of tedious art class assignments.

Overall Opinion

Quick Poses is a solid figure drawing site, with a lot of different features. It feels a little unorganized to me, and as a result, I mostly stick to what I tried first. I typically use the Timed gestures section, and that’s about it.

The images are good quality but started to repeat for me after a few sessions.

I do like that Quick Poses keeps track of the poses you’ve drawn and shows them all to you at the end.  This feature, combined with the button to skip images actually saying “skip,” makes me feel more pressure to draw each pose.

So in a subtle way, Quick Poses is a little more motivating. They’ve also started hosting competitions, though I’m not sure about the frequency of these, and I tend to see more new features and blog content, which similar sites seem to lack. But the next site might provide some competition.


Line of Action


Line of Action (formerly known as was just revamped on November 24th, with a new name, domain, and features that I still haven’t fully explored.

Even before the change, Line of Action was quickly becoming my new favorite tool. My first time using it was with a 30 minute class session. It wiped me out and made me hungry enough to eat a second breakfast that day.


  • Four main categories:
    • Figure Studies
    • Animals
    • Hands & Feet
    • Faces & Expressions
  • Lessons and tips section
  • Community forums
    • Critique
    • Practice & Advice

Making an account allows you to post in forums, but no other features require you to log in. The forums allow you to post your work and receive feedback or simply share your successes.

For each session, you can choose:

  • Nude or clothed
  • Gender
  • Timed intervals or class mode
  • Time intervals: 30sec, 60sec, 2min, 5min, 10min, or custom

Overall Opinion

Line of Action has a lot of images to work with – it took me longer to run into repeat images compared with Quick Poses, though I do get repeats with this site too.

I’m a fan of class mode, which starts you off with images shown for 30 seconds each and gradually moves up to longer periods of time. You can choose class modes ranging from 30 minutes to 6 hours! (Is that even possible?!)

Line of Action is still my current favorite. While its functions are similar to the other two figure drawing websites on this list, I prefer the layout, which to me feels cleaner and easier to navigate. The site feels more active now, with a regularly updated blog and forum activity.


Sketch Daily


Sketch Daily specializes in simple. It has the essentials, with no distractions.


  • Categories:
    • Full body (poses)
    • Body parts (hands, head)
    • Animals (bird, fish, reptile/amphibian, bug, mammal)
  • No option to make an account
  • Available in different languages

This site doesn’t start timing immediately after you start a session – you have to press play. This seems insignificant, but I do like that I choose what type of session I want and then get settled with my materials. It’s a little more relaxed. Of course, you can also just prepare everything before you hit start.

Unfortunately, I found this feature the hard way, when I forgot to hit play and kept drawing, wondering while this session felt so long (it must’ve been my skill, right?).

Another nice little detail is that when time is almost up on an image, it begins fading to black, giving you a warning to wrap it up. I really wish other sites did this too.

In each session, you can choose:

  • Nude or clothed
  • Gender
  • Type of pose (action, stationary)
  • View (front, side, back)
  • Time intervals: 30 sec, 1 min, 5 min, or 10 min

Overall Opinion

Sketch Daily is easy to use and customize, and has the most straightforward layout. They have a couple of extra options that the other sites don’t, like choosing the type of pose and the viewpoint.

The site creators are transparent about the number of images available for each category, shown at the bottom of the page. You can see exactly how many images of a certain type are available after you choose your desired settings.

There is no option to put in a custom time and fewer time choices overall.

Have you tried any of these resources? If not, I hope this gives you some ideas on where you can start to improve your figure drawing game. If you have, let me know what you thought!