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 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 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

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Interview with Charlie O’Shields – Creator of Doodlewash and founder of World Watercolor Month and World Watercolor Group

I am so excited to turn the tables and interview Charlie O’Shields! Charlie has been featuring other watercolor artists from around the globe since he started painting and blogging. Charlie has built an amazing and supportive community of artists who love watercolor.
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Charlie O’Shields is the Creator of Doodlewash and founder of World Watercolor Month (July) and World Watercolor Group. He currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri with his Parisian partner, Philippe, and a temperamental basenji named Phineas.

What made you start drawing and painting AND posting?

Well, my partner, Philippe, decided to try watercolor and it looked fun so I started doing it with him and I was immediately hooked. I began by Urban Sketching, which was super fun, but ended up just learning many fast sketching techniques, as I didn’t often want to sketch only what was in front of me. I also use a mixture of reference photos and bits of imagination. What I was making, however, wasn’t a studio watercolor painting or an authentic urban sketch. It was something in between, and I didn’t have any group to share it with. I couldn’t fit in entirely with any one tribe, as cool and fun as the people are, so I needed somewhere to post what I made. I called it a “doodlewash” and started posting them on my blog while also raving about the fun of the watercolor medium, however people liked to use it.

Did you have any previous experience?

I actually have a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art & Art History, but my emphasis was in computer animation. So, I only took 2 drawing classes and one painting class. The painting class was in acrylics and I was horrible at it because I just didn’t like the medium at all. I didn’t realize that was the reason at the time. I thought I just didn’t like painting, so I never tried again until just last year (over 22 years later), when I discovered watercolor.

How did you motivate yourself to do it everyday?

At first, it was just pure obsession, something new and shiny that I was excited to try every day. These days, all of my inspiration to keep going comes from the many wonderful people who visit my blog and keep encouraging me to paint, sketch, and write more.

What made you decide to include interviews with other artists? Was that something you did from the start? 

I started painting on July 3rd, 2015 and made the blog immediately in my enthusiasm. I told Philippe that he should do the same, because his paintings were beautiful, but he wouldn’t do it. So, 10 days in, I made the first Guest Doodlewash post so I could share his painting. Then our friend Aesha started painting with us as well as our friend Sandrine, in Paris. I posted what they made as well and started meeting others artists online. By July 28th in that first month I created a World Of Doodlewashes post as I’d then featured work from artists in the UK, Australia, and Indonesia. Since that time, I’ve featured over 240 additional artists and counting!

Did you have a vision for the community you’ve created?!

Very early on, I started talking about creating a Doodlewash movement, but I truly didn’t know exactly what was involved in that. I was just overexcited. There were already so many popular watercolor and sketching groups, that I wasn’t sure if the world really needed one more. But there wasn’t yet a group that was based simply around the love of the medium of watercolor that didn’t impose specific rules on how to use it. My vision was to just focus on why to use watercolor. Because it’s lovely and fun! This approach has created a rich and wonderful community with an incredible amount of variety. You can be an urban sketcher one day, a studio artist the next, an illustrator, or an abstract painter and you don’t ever have to worry if it “fits” in with the group. As long as your art features watercolor, it does!

Getting July named “World Watercolor Month” is such an amazing thing. How did it happen?

I do monthly themes and one of my favorites that I’ve repeated twice so far was to use all those various national and international celebration days as a prompt. There’s always several to choose from on any given day so it’s really fun. For example, I’ve illustrated everything from National Ferret Day to World Cliché Day. But this past April, when I reprised this theme, it seemed odd to me that there wasn’t anything for the medium we all loved. I originally thought to simply get a Watercolor Day created, but not wanting to dream small, I created a submission to National Day Calendar for World Watercolor Month. They receive around 18,000 submissions and only add 30 to their calendar each year, but they liked the idea and so July is officially World Watercolor Month!

How was the turnout for the first World Watercolor Month?

The turnout was amazing. I thought it would be cool to get a few hundred artists playing along in the first year and didn’t expect many people to discover it. It was an entirely non-profit initiative and I partnered with the Dreaming Zebra Foundation hoping to also help raise awareness for arts education. It was a lot to communicate with no advertising budget and simply relying on word of mouth. But somehow it still worked! Over 4,000 artists joined in on Facebook and there were over 18,000 posts on Instagram! (Update: Over 9,000 artists participated in the second World Watercolor Month in 2017!)

Any plans for next July or other holidays you plan on starting?

I probably won’t be starting any other international holidays soon. It’s a lot more work than I thought! Though, I’m not sure now why I ever thought creating an international holiday would be easy. As for next July, it will continue to be a 31-day art challenge, but I’m hoping to have more exciting things lined up for participants. I probably won’t know until February exactly what’s coming next. Stay tuned!

I’m really intrigued by your day job – can you tell me more about that?

I’m the Executive Creative Director for a packaging design studio called Venn49. We work with local and major brands on new packaging concepts and designs, primarily for the food and beverage industry. Essentially, we’re an innovation lab. We help people concept ways to repackage their existing brands, as well as coming up with entirely new branded products and/or innovative packaging.

What are your favorite doodlewashes (done by you)?

I love food illustrations so those end up being some of my favorites. I like my tray of desserts, which I titled My Favorite Dinner Food. And though I normally don’t enjoy drawing people, there was a selfie of just my eye that I rather liked. Usually my favorites are the more recent ones, as I see little things in them that show slight improvement.

I loved the doodlewash dinner – it was such a fun idea. What is your favorite doodlewash theme so far?

That was probably one of my favorites as well! I just love food! Also, I enjoy sketching it. But, I do really love illustrating those random daily holidays, because it’s always fun to write about them.

I found you on WordPress and I follow you on Instagram. I know you also have a World Watercolor Group Facebook page and you have a Twitter account. Any I’m missing? Is there a certain platform that you consider your home base?

Doodlewash is on pretty much all of the major social media platforms. When I started, I was active on all of them and realized that’s both insane and impossible to sustain. I then switched to a focus on just WordPress and Instagram, but this has broadened with the creation of the World Watercolor Group on Facebook (which now has over 7,000 members and growing). WordPress is where it all started and where I met my first friends in art. It’s also where my full blog posts live, so it’s definitely my home base.

How do you continue with a daily doodlewash and daily posting?! It’s impressive to say the least, and I’m sure time consuming!

If you want to form a daily art habit you have to decide how much time you can devote to it and protect that time with your life. Well, not quite that extreme, of course, but you do have to decide it’s a priority. For me, I chose just one hour a day and the hour I chose was Happy Hour. You know, that time after work and before dinner. I figured it was a perfectly named time for making art. While I do often enjoy a glass of wine while sketching and painting, in order to preserve this time for it, I am no longer available to meet friends for Happy Hour and will simply do lunches instead. It’s a trade off, to be sure, but it’s worth it to me and has helped to form a consistent habit. On the weekends, I just slip an hour in wherever I can and if there are no plans I might get a little extra bonus time. My posts are usually written in about 15 minutes, so on average this leaves just 45 minutes for sketching and painting. If it works out, I can sometimes sneak a quick 10 minute base sketch in at lunch and get some bonus painting time, but often it’s just a race against the clock to post before or shortly after dinner.

You have a knack for storytelling! I read your stories, usually laugh, and then want to share my own somewhat related story. What’s the best or worst story you’ve shared?

Thanks so much! I’ve always loved reading and writing stories so it was naturally going to happen on my blog. I don’t preconceive or edit my posts, so I’m as surprised as anyone as to what actually comes out. Personally, my best stories are the ones that surprise me. For instance, I doodlewashed my dog’s stuffed duck simply because I saw it lying on the floor and a rather nice story of our family came out of that experience. The worst was last December when I got the crazy idea to try a Choose Your Own Adventure month. I remembered those stories as a kid and thought it would be fun to have people choose what I drew next. While the voting part was received positively, I started writing in the style of those stories and the result was confusing and ludicrous. I soon stopped and returned to normal posts and all sanity was restored.

Any future doodlewash plans you can share?

People have often asked me to create demonstration videos and I’m still toying with the idea. One thing that’s truly different about Doodlewash is that I’m not actually promoting myself as an artist. Art is simply my hobby at the moment and I’m just practicing things. I’m more of a curator who’s promoting other artists. So, in that spirit, I’ve just added a Tutorials section to pull forward the lovely videos of my talented guests and if I get up the nerve to join them, I may start including my own. Beyond that, I’m not sure yet. Like my art and my posts, I never try to think too far ahead. For now, I’m just excited to see where the community leads me.

Lisa Congdon book signing!

Last week I took the train to the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, to hear Artist, Illustrator, Author Lisa Congdon speak about her latest book The Joy of Swimming. I have been following Lisa on Instagram for a while, have heard several podcast interviews with her, and really admire both her artwork and her story. Lisa is a self taught artist and didn’t begin creating art until she was 31. Of course the late blooming, self taught artist in me loves this! And as someone whose entire childhood was spent on a swim team, I also loved the subject of the book, which Lisa not only illustrated, but wrote. Lisa was a swimmer as a child and as an adult.

I was really excited to meet Lisa. She was so nice, real, and honest. I really enjoyed how her talk documented the process of making the book. Here is a link to a video interview where Lisa talks with Danny Gregory (author of Art Before Breakfast) about the book, her process, and more.

I took horrible pictures, that I won’t post because it would embarrass myself and possibly Lisa! But, as I ran for the subway after the event, I turned left and saw the most spectacular view, the Manhattan Bridge, the sun setting, and the Empire State Building lit up all in green!

Here are some other photos I took that day.
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An Interview with Crystal Moody of a Year of Creative Habits

At the same time that I made my creative resolution, December of 2013, Crystal Moody challenged herself to build her own creative habits by doing one little, creative thing each day. In 2014 she made a drawing every day, often photographing it with her breakfast. In 2015, she painted each day, and her journey continues in 2016. (

Crystal Moody’s 2014’s year of creative habits….drawing a day:

Crystal Moody’s 2015’s year of creative habits…painting each day:

Crystal Moody’s 2016’s year of creative habits…:

What has impressed me, from the beginning, about Crystal, is her dedication to create something every single day! As I struggle with the ups and downs of my creative resolution, she seems unwavering in her commitment. I reached out to Crystal recently and here is what she shared with me:

Eileen. When I started (my creative resolution) I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish, aside from being creative on a regular basis. Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to do?

Crystal. No, me either. It was really important to me to not miss a day that first year and that was my main goal. Other than that, I just went with the flow.

Eileen. I thought I might end up refinishing furniture and instead I ended up working in watercolor and ink. What was the biggest surprise for you?

Crystal. I thought I was going to change habits every single month. I was thinking – drawing, collage, watercolor, etc. I thought I’d be trying lots of things and that I’d find THE one. Instead, after a month of drawing, I knew I wanted to stick with it for the whole year and that surprised me. (I didn’t really like drawing that much!)

Eileen. I’ve gotten a lot of joy and fulfillment out of being creative and continuing to work on my skills, but sometimes it is hard to stay with it. Some weeks I’m not very inspired. How do you keep to your daily creative habits?

Crystal. The online commitment really helps me. I pretend that a lot of people are watching me and I don’t want to let them down. I’m often not that inspired but I just do something, something to keep the momentum going until I do feel inspired again.

Eileen. I had a year where my goal was to try many different things. I admire how each year you focus on a specific project. How do you go about selecting what you’ll work on? Is it hard to select the project, since you’re making a year-long commitment to it?

Crystal. Well like I said I didn’t have this plan in the beginning. I just knew that after a month of drawing, I hadn’t really improved as much as I wanted. I realized that growth takes a whole lot longer than that. It was kind of natural to go from drawing to painting. I knew the second year I wanted to have more finished work. (The first year was mostly just sketchbook drawings.) The painting a day in 2015 was a really difficult task but it wasn’t a hard choice. It felt like a natural progression from the year before. Also in 2015, I decided to do a weekly painting project called Fursday where I painted a rescue dog. As I was coming up with ideas for 2015, my husband and I came up with the idea to paint rescue dogs but I just didn’t think I could do that every single day for a whole year. So that’s when I turned it into a weekly thing and let the other days of the week be open to whatever I wanted to paint.

This year the choice was more difficult. I knew couldn’t continue doing a whole painting in a day. I think if I’d stuck with the loose, abstract style that I began with, I could’ve continued painting this year. But instead my style changed and paintings took longer and longer and pretty soon I was spending hours each day on it. This year I knew I had to cut back but I also wanted to do another weekly project which I agonized over for weeks. I initially chose to collage for the year and to do it in a sketchbook to keep it simple. It didn’t take me long to realize collage wasn’t my thing and now I’m back to drawing and painting. Instead of finishing a painting, this year I have a set amount of time that I make myself stick with. I also began a weekly project called Monday Mournings which was intended to be a mixed media project—collage and paint mostly—but has become just a painting. I guess overall the decision is not that big of a deal because I allow myself to change. As long as I’m creating, it’s ok.

Eileen. At what point did your challenge grow to include encouraging others to start a year of creative habits?

Crystal. I don’t know! That’s been a surprising part of it too. I always encouraged people to join me. I knew if others came along for the ride, it would help all of us but I never really thought of myself as an encourager or a leader. I think through the blogging and writing my newsletter, I found my voice. Maybe the teacher in me came out. 🙂

Eileen. Your blog has evolved into a business with you selling your artwork, and teaching online classes, was that your intention from the beginning?

Crystal. I did hope to sell my work eventually but I never imagined I’d be teaching classes. I’m not sure why…I used to be an art teacher and then a math teacher. I didn’t really enjoy teaching art before but that was mostly because I didn’t enjoy grading it. Luckily with online courses you aren’t expected to give out grades, just feedback and encouragement.

Eileen. I love your weekly newsletter. It’s full of valuable links, and your personal reflections often resonate with me. {Sign up for Crystal’s newsletter here: } Did you originally intend on creating a newsletter? What inspired you to add this to your challenge?

Crystal. Thanks Eileen! This is funny because someone recently asked me about how I started my newsletter and I said that I started a few months in. Then I looked at my archives and I was wrong. I guess that’s just how I remember it . I started my newsletter right at the very beginning. I had 6 subscribers and that included me, my husband, and my mom. I’m not sure what inspired me because I don’t even remember doing it! I’ve probably blocked it from memory because those first few months were so terrible. I didn’t know what to write about it. It takes time to find your voice, your style, and your way. I’m still finding it!

Eileen. What are your future plans? Many of the blogger/newsletter creators I follow have a podcast. Do you have any plans to start a podcast of your own? 🙂

Crystal. No way! I’ve been on a few podcasts and I can’t even listen to myself! It’s so awkward for me. It’s just not my thing. I’m excited to develop some more classes. I’m interested in teaching classes about process and not media. I’m starting to work larger and share my work in more gallery spaces. That’s been a learning process for me and I’m still deciding if that’s what I really want. I’ve been having a great time with my weekly projects (the Fursday one and my current one Monday Mournings) and I’m looking for ways to turn those into something other than a blog series. I don’t have anything specific planned for 2017, I really like being able to stay open to opportunities and try new things.

Eileen. Thank you so much Crystal for sharing and answering my questions! I find it so inspiring and motivating to hear about other people’s creative journeys.
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