Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
I am so excited to share with you this interview with Yuko Miki, the Artist and Illustrator behind Honeyberry Studios. Back in 2014, shortly after starting my blog, I began following (and admiring) Yuko’s daily “Happiness is” illustrations. In 2015, Yuko shared online that she was quitting her job and pursuing her art full time. Since then I’ve seen snippets of her full time artist life on Instagram @honeyberrystudios, but I’m excited to hear more about Yuko’s artist journey.

What inspired you to do your “Happiness is” project?
At the time (spring of 2014), I was toying with the idea of becoming a working artist. And then I thought, if I wanted to be a working artist, I should be making art every day and enjoy the process. So that’s why I decided to start my 365 day daily art project. I’d also learned about Lisa Congdon (one of my heroes) and her daily art projects and was deeply inspired by it. I wanted to get over my fear of putting myself out there, too. It was sort of a shock therapy where I’d post my drawing (and not always perfect) every day, and eventually I cringed less about sharing my work on the internet.

As far as the topic goes, I wanted it to be something that’s relatively easy. I first thought about making art about food I eat every day, like a food journal, but knew I’d eat the same thing over and over 😀 So then I thought of happiness and what makes me happy every day. I’m not naturally a glass-half-full kind of a person, so being more mindful about happiness would be a good practice for me anyway and decided to make an art about it for 365 days.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Happiness Is Daily Project

How was your daily drawing received? Were you surprised by the reaction?
It was received well. It resonated with many people. My subject was accessible and relatable. A lot of people are also looking for ways to practice mindfulness and want more positivity in their life. I grew my social media following during my project as well.

I also got attention from Sakura of America during my project because I was using their drawing pen (Micron) a lot in my art and hash-tagging them. They eventually hired me to make drawing tutorial videos for their YouTube channel and I still work for them.

The full-circle moment also came when Lisa Congdon featured my project in her speech about sketchbook practice in Portland, OR in October 2014. I was so honored to be recognized by one of my personal heroes, especially because the project and my creative journey was inspired by her.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | I Love Seattle by Yuko Miki
What type of work did you do at the time?
I was working as an Executive Assistant and HR Manager at a local non-profit domestic violence organization at the time. I’d worked there for 14 years in several different positions, majority of it in direct client service programs.

Tell us a little bit about your background (in general) as well as your creative background.
I was born and raised in Himeji, Japan. It’s a small town and our home was surrounded by rice paddies and mountains. When I was growing up, I didn’t appreciate living in a rural part of the town very much. My family also grew a lot of our food, too (on top of their regular jobs), and I thought being a farmer was very uncool. But now I know how fortunate I was to grow up with nature and we were self sufficient in many of our staple foods.

I liked drawing as a kid but never did anything with that in my teenage to early adult years. I started doodling as a hobby in my mid-30s. I took some art classes but am mostly self-taught.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Cards
What made you make the decision to go full time as an artist?

I’d been working at the non-profit for over 14 years – though I had several different positions throughout the years, I was becoming too comfortable. I needed a change. I was also itching to do something more creative and positive. I’d had my first Etsy shop since 2011 but I wasn’t selling very much and wondered how far I could take my business if I’d worked on it full-time. So I took a week off to think and sat down with my husband, Dave. We looked at our finances and found his income alone could support us for the foreseeable future. With his blessing, I gave my notice on that following Monday.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Gift Wrap
Once you went “full time” did you start with everything – art fairs, teaching, etc. or were things slowly introduced?

The very first thing I did was I went on a solo retreat. Leaving work that I had for 14 years was a big transition for me and I needed to take some time to process that. I spent a couple of days alone in my friend’s studio on beautiful Whidbey Island and set my intentions for the next phase of my life. I brainstormed my values and how I wanted to run my business. I also mapped out the year as far as what I needed to work on and put rough schedule on my calendar.

I didn’t start with everything but didn’t have a single focus either. A lot of the advice for creatives out there was “focus on one thing and grow it before adding something else” But I didn’t know what I should focus on first! I was making products with block printing and illustration, doing some commission work here and there, and also offering one-on-one creative coaching.

Teaching came a little later after I realized I didn’t want to make block printing products any more – I got bored and burned out printing the same things over and over. So I focused on creating more products based on my illustrations because it was easier to scale. I started teaching block printing instead. I did some craft fairs in the beginning but not too much – it took me a while to figure out how to be successful at craft fairs – I did many, many very unsuccessful shows in the beginning 😀
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | block printing class

Your posts about art fairs always seems so positive – how have you found doing them?
I love them! It’s a lot of work, but I like how I can move a lot of my products at shows. I get the most sales from doing craft fairs – when you have a product- based business like I do, you need to get in front of as many people as possible. It’s such a simple truth, but it took me a couple of years to actually internalize that and start doing more shows. I also work alone from home most of the time, so it’s nice to meet customers in person and hear their complements all day long 😀 The creative community in Seattle area is very strong and supportive, too. I’ve made many maker friends through fairs and markets.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Spring Cards

What was a positive surprise to your full time artist journey?
I love working for myself. I did fine being an employee and working in a team, too, but being my own boss is SO nice. I love the freedom and the level of engagement I experience every day working towards my goal. I’m also a highly structured person, so it’s great not being interrupted by your co-workers all the time 😀

Negative surprise?
I don’t actually spend a lot of time making art. When people say how nice it is that I get to make art every day, I’m like “I make art maybe 20% of the time. 80% of the time is spent on marketing, responding to emails, packaging, shipping, keeping track of inventories, selling at markets, reaching out to retailers, etc.” It’s just part of being a solopreneur but it’s also an interesting dichotomy.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
What advice would you give others who are thinking about going full time as artists?

Don’t quit your day job until your creative business is making enough consistent income to replace your day job! Or you have other means to pay the bills (like have a big savings or a partner who can support you, like I did.) It can take years for your business to become consistently profitable, and you need to protect your passion – if you were taking on any creative opportunities that come your way just so you can pay the bills, you’ll be resentful and will eventually be burned out. Once you’re burnt out, that’s it. You’ll lose your passion and won’t be doing what you love or love what you do.

Also, don’t do something just because someone else is doing it and being successful. I have a friend who’s killing it with her original paintings. I was tempted to start making and selling original paintings as well, but it just didn’t appeal to me as much as other things I do. I also didn’t have time or energy for it. If I’d gone down that path, I would’ve spread my focus too much and slowed the growth of my business. Maybe eventually I want to do that, but I’m not gonna change my business model solely based on what’s working for other people.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself! It’s so easy to keep working 7 days a week when you have your own business. I was working non-stop when I first transitioned from my day job to a full-time business and started feeling burned out within two months. I started taking every 7th week off in October 2015 (inspired by seanwes at seanwes.com) and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Visit Yuko’s website where you can shop “happy art and stationery gifts” at honeyberrystudios.com. Follow her on Instagram @honeyberrystudios

Read my other interviews:
Interview with Charlie O’Shields creator of Doodlewash and founder World Watercolor Group
Interview with Crystal Moody of a Year of Creative Habits

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


My Creative Year in Review 2018

My Creative Year in Review
Before I get carried away with ideas for 2019, it’s important and helpful for me to look back on 2018, to see what I accomplished, what worked, and what didn’t. The guiding words I selected for 2018 were: paint, teach, share, and connect.

Creating is the point of everything. It’s what brings me happiness, it’s why I started the blog in the first place. Above all, even when I’m creating products or loading things in my shop, I always want to remember to make time for painting and I did this in 2018.

As is the norm for me, I have times when I’m very prolific and other times when I let life get in the way. I’ve learned that a project, goal, or deadline, really motivates me. In May I bought a stack of small canvases and declared I’d focus on painting seascapes in acrylics instead of my normal watercolor. Painting with acrylics reminded me what it felt like to be a beginner. I was also reminded that practice leads to progress. Currently I’m committed to painting watercolor illustrations every day of the holiday season – a huge motivator for me.

I did post a few tutorial blog posts this year – on painting seascapes and on creativity in general, but what was really exciting was I was asked to teach watercolor to kids for a week of summer camp. It was fun, terrifying, enlightening, and exhausting! I really loved the kids. We’ll see what in person opportunities come my way in 2019.

This year I began filming mini videos of my process which is fun and I enjoy sharing. I keep saying I need to create longer step by step videos. We’ll see what the new year brings.

This year I offered my artwork in many new ways including selling originals online, selling at my first in person vendor event, and offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy. I’m really excited, particularly about my Etsy shop. Before I developed illustration skills, I was a graphic designer looking for art to incorporate into my designs. It’s fun to be on the other side of things, offering clipart, invitation backgrounds, etc. to help others with their design projects. It’s also fun to think about each holiday or event and figure out what digital products will help people, and then to see what the response is to that new product.

I’m really enthusiastic about my newsletter. I share all the things inspiring me. I have the opportunity to connect with other artists who I feature, and I love hearing from readers who enjoy what I share. Sign up here!

Other fun things this year:

When I look back it’s been a great, full year of new projects, opportunities, and connections. I’m excited for 2019!

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InkTober … so far

InkTober front porch sketch
InkTober has begun. Here’s today’s sketch inspired by a beautiful front porch design by Ginny of @maplecreekmarket.

Here’s a recent sketch of montauk daisies.
InkTober sketch of Montauk Daisies

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

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50 Ideas for What to Draw or Paint

There have been times when I’ve sat with my sketchbook open and thought, “What should I draw?” In reality, there are so many things around to choose from! Many of these things don’t seem interesting at first, we hardly notice them, but they are great practice. Once you start drawing you’ll see the challenge in capturing their shapes, shadows, perspective, etc.

  1. Lamp
  2. Padded chair
  3. Pillow – capture all the creases and folds!
  4. Pattern on curtains, couch, or pillow
  5. Accessories
  6. End tables – some have such interesting bases
  7. The Living Room – Part or all
  8. Kitchen or dining room chairs
  9. Ceramics – statue or teapot
  10. Cups
  11. Utensils or cooking tools – that pasta thing!
  12. Light fixture
  13. Fruit – whole or sliced
  14. Vegetables
  15. Cleaning product – like a spray bottle
  16. Vacuum
  17. The kitchen – all or part
  18. Sink knobs and faucets
  19. Robe
  20. Shoes
  21. Handbags
  22. Jewelry
  23. Makeup
  24. Makeup table
  25. Bedroom – all or part
  26. Laundry – folded or messy, the basket too
  27. Backpacks
  28. Trophies
  29. Hats
  30. Sports equipment
  31. Stuffed Animals
  32. Kid’s/guest bedroom – all or part
  33. Bookcase
  34. Computer or laptop
  35. Charging area with phones
  36. Pile of mail
  37. Spice cabinet
  38. Pantry – inside and out
  39. Laundry Room
  40. People (take photos if they won’t sit still)
  41. Pets (take photos)
  42. Your neighbor’s house
  43. Your street
  44. Car
  45. Plants
  46. Trees
  47. Flowers
  48. Patio or deck with furniture
  49. Lawn mower
  50. Watering can

Once your eyes open to the everyday things, you’ll never again wonder for long “What to draw or paint?” I love drawing with a smooth Uniball Signo gel pen. It works great alone or when adding details after watercolor paint dries. My favorite sketchbook is the Canson Multimedia XL, because the pages are bright white and thicker to allow for painting without the pages buckling.

Need help getting started with your creative journey? Read this post:

Want to be creative? Start here! creative inspiration | how to be creative Kick up your Creativity with Color! Steps to Creativity for everyone 

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!


Kick up your Creativity with Color!

Kick up your Creativity with Color! Steps to Creativity for everyone
Want to be creative but don’t know how/where to start? If you haven’t already, click here and start with these 3 steps! If you have started with the beginning 3 steps, then you’ve accomplished a lot!

  • Your eyes are open to inspiration. You take photos and make lists of things to sketch.
  • You’ve been sketching regularly in pencil. Hopefully noticing the difference between the softer B and the harder H pencils. You have a regular creative practice!
  • You don’t just draw something once – you practice drawing it several times. Take a moment to look through your sketches and see overall how much you’ve progressed!

Well done. When you are ready, move on to these steps – that are all about Color!

1. Colored Pencil or Watercolor? – The next logical step may seem to be colored pencils, but if you are itching to paint, and want something more fluid, I recommend watercolor. Here is where YOU decide what path your creative journey takes. This is about finding what YOU like. If you need recommendations on either see below.

2. Start simply with your sketchbook. Continue with your creative habit of sketching regularly – but now use color! You can use regular pencil first and then add color – or start directly with color. I recommend working in your sketchbook because it’s a no pressure, play zone, where you can practice and learn. Note: if you decide to use watercolor – please look at my sketchbook recommendation below, so your pages don’t buckle.

3. Beyond the sketch. After practicing in your sketchbook, it’s time for a drawing or painting that you spend more time on. After all your loose, quick sketches, you are ready. It can be a page in your sketchbook, or perhaps use a nicer paper – see recommendations below based on your choice of medium. Before you start, plan it out. Pick a reference photo, study it, and lightly plan it out in pencil.

When you are working on a drawing or painting for a longer period of time, stepping away and coming back to it with fresh eyes, helps a lot. I sometimes work with my reference photo and paper upside down – to check that things look right. Don’t expect immediate results. Don’t give up because it isn’t looking like you envision. I used to be a “quitter,” but I learned that it takes time, and the results often surprise me if I stick with it, and work through “mistakes.” In the end, any “weak” areas – are just things to work on for the next time. It’s a learning process. Good Luck!

My recommendations:

Colored PencilsPrismacolor Colored Pencils
Strathmore Bristol Vellum Pad – Smooth thicker, bright white paper – great for a colored pencil project.

Watercolor Tube Sets – I love Windsor & Newton paints and started with their affordable Cotman “student grade”
Canson Multimedia Sketchbook – I love this versatile, bright white, thicker sketchbook paper
Fluid Watercolor Paper – great for a watercolor painting. Tape down the sides to a larger piece of cardboard with painter’s tape to prevent buckling!

Colored Pastels are another option. I never really got the hang of them, but my daughter loves them. She uses the Prismacolor sticks.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!


Creativity and Procrastination

Creativity and Procrastination
I’ve been frustrated this summer about not finishing my creative projects. I have a bunch of ideas I want to pursue but can’t seem to get anywhere. I knew that one problem was the fact that I had so many things that I was dabbling in. You can’t move very far forward if you keep changing paths. Also, I couldn’t blame time, I had the time, but I lacked the motivation to get to work.

On a recommendation, I downloaded the book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” and it immediately resonated with me.
Eat the frog - procrastination
Not only does the book address the things holding me back, but the author presents clear strategies to overcome this. Just reading a few pages motivated me!

Number one: I needed to define my primary goal, which is to continue revamping my online art shop. Once I identified this as the primary goal, and other projects as less important, I was motivated to attack the list of to do items (I already had). And once I accomplished one thing on the list, I was motivated to attack several other items – just as the quote above states.

Ironically this feeling, of being pulled in several directions and not finishing anything, isn’t new for me. In fact, when I started this blog (My Creative Resolution) it was my #1 problem. Having the blog, held me accountable – I felt I had to finish a project (or at least move forward) so I had something to post. And I was motivated to spend the first month or so pulling out old projects and finishing them. It was very cathartic, very satisfying, and very motivating.

I feel that way now, I’ve accomplished a lot with my online shop and am just waiting for new prints to come in. While I wait my mind is clearer to move onto the next priority – finishing my latest acrylic seascape painting. Prioritizing has helped me focus tremendously.

Click her for more info on “Eat that Frog!”

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!


Know your Subject

Knowing your subject when painting | painting the ocean
I often think about an online class I took by Val Webb called “Drawing Children.” At the time, I was amazed at how well Val knows the nuances of the faces and figures of children. Now as I paint the ocean – almost exclusively, mostly in watercolor, but recently in acrylics – I think about not just the techniques to make the painting look realistic, but the characteristics of the ocean.

As I was painting the water, specifically the foam at high tide, I was painting and pulling back the strokes, because I was thinking about how the water is being pulled back by the tide. This is something you wouldn’t know just by looking at a photo. All the time I’ve spent at the beach might be making a difference in my painting. Last summer, after painting the ocean all winter, I looked and observed the water differently than before.

Work in progress where I was “pulling back”
Know your subject - painting the ocean

My son recently asked if I was going to paint anything else. I guess to him, every painting is similar. To me I’m learning with each painting. The ocean looks so different at different times and different angles. I’m sticking with the ocean, and I’m currently challenging myself by working to capture this amazing subject in acrylics.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas

Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas #creativity
I had the pleasure this week of hearing Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer, and author of the famous book, “The Creative Habit” speak at Hofstra University. Her book, which I already read, is on many “best books on creativity” lists. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear her speak. She was no nonsense and honest, especially in her advice to the young dancers in the audience.

She began the talk, after introducing herself, by going through the book briefly and summarizing each chapter. Then she asked for questions from the audience, and while some were specific to dance, some were great questions that led to interesting answers – like “How do you know the difference between brainstorming and over thinking things?”

Twyla talked about the time she left NYC and went to a farm, where she and other dancers “worked.” No thought of celebrity or success, or social media (which didn’t exist at the time), but just focusing on dance. I appreciated this reminder that creativity is about putting in the work.

She said, “It takes work to have new ideas.” They don’t just hit you out of nowhere. You have to get going first. You have to be in the habit of “going.” She talked about the “rituals of preparation” and how important they are – whatever they are for you – to get you going. Once you have an idea, you move on from the ritual.

As a painter this all makes sense to me. The importance of sitting down every day to paint. Starting with anything to warm up and get going. I sometimes find the sitting down part is the hardest. Life is always trying to get in the way, even guilt that I should be doing something else. But this thought replaces the guilt, “I am a painter. I paint.”

Learn more about “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp here.

This posts contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!


Vacation and creative inspiration

Vacation is such a great time to clear your mind and soak up creative inspiration. My daughter and I spent the week visiting schools in the Carolina’s. We covered Clemson University, University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, and UNC Wilmington. All four schools had beautiful campuses. All were very different. We both loved the city of Charleston.

University of South Carolina

College of Charleston


One highlight was visiting Wrightsville beach near UNCW. Walking out on the large pier that juts into the ocean was amazing. We could stand next to the breaking waves and the surfers, and continue further out above the ocean.

Wrightsville Beach Pier

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach

Eileen McKenna


I certainly took tons of photos that I hope to paint from! I love that the shots are of different angles. Usually my seascapes are from the perspective of standing on the beach. See my collection of watercolor seascapes here.


Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

Have you visited my online shop? Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14″ at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!


Start with basic brushstrokes

Watercolor setup. Eileen McKenna. #artist #setup
It has been over a week since I last painted – gasp! Work has been busy and I could make other excuses. Things haven’t slowed down, BUT this morning instead of diving right in I thought, “Sometimes we have to make time for the things that are important to us.”


I set up all my stuff – which had been put away to use the dining room table. I turned to a blank page in my sketchbook and grabbed a tray of extra blue paint and started making strokes. I had no thoughts about what I would paint. Then I grabbed a fan brush and started playing with that. The strokes reminded me of beach grass.

Beach walkway sketch

Next thing I’m doing a watercolor sketch of the path down to the beach. The jump from no idea to an inspired idea was so quick. So don’t wait for an idea to strike! Sit down, set up, start with some basic lines or brushstrokes. Who knows where it will lead!

I’m so proud that after a year of painting the ocean, there are 21 paintings in my shop,  available as prints on watercolor paper or canvas. Browse them all at shop.eileenmckenna.com.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.