Back to Basics With Art and Illustration

Millie Ho Illustration Work In Progress

My work-in-progress digital illustration.

Here are some sketches and illustrations from the past few weeks. I’m getting into the habit of sketching at least one idea a day. At first, I was just drawing to update my Art page, but now drawing has become a daily habit.

Millie Ho Sketch Supernatural Office

The original sketch, “How you doin’?”

I always sketch with a pen because a pen glides better, and also because I don’t erase things much.

Millie Ho Cat Riding Fish Sketch

A cat and a translucent Leviathan.

While I love drawing cats, the more I sketch, the more I find myself introducing supernatural elements into my art.

Millie Ho Giant Cat Sketch

“I bring you peace, I bring you love.”

I think the process of sketching a lot, like writing a lot, is that you get to know yourself better and discover what you actually like to draw, beyond the default options.

Millie Ho Sketch Submerged Woman Art

I sure hope that’s gum.

Once you let go of any judgement and faithfully transport what’s in your mind onto the page, that’s when you discover who you really are.

Millie Ho Illustration Demon Hugging Cats

Inspired by this book on giants I’ve had since forever.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my life would’ve turned out if I went to an art school instead of majoring in business. I would definitely have a better grasp of fundamentals and the tools of the trade, and would also have produced more artwork. However, I think it ultimately comes down to working hard, regardless if you majored in art or not.

I’m grateful for where I am in life, grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, but art has always been an itch I couldn’t scratch, a hobby I kept pushing to the sidelines. But if I can learn to write every day, then I can learn to draw every day. I can and will improve. I owe that much to my younger self, to that kid who found her self-worth through art.

I must practice more, practice consistently, and maximize my potential. Basically, I’m going back to basics. But the good news is that we live in an age where anybody can learn or improve anything if they want it badly enough and keep at it long enough.

More sketches and illustrations to come!


Millie’s Note: I post more art on the SORROWBACON Facebook page.

92 thoughts on “Back to Basics With Art and Illustration

  1. writingbolt says:

    Maybe you have the business sense now to pair with someone who has invested more time in creative pursuits to make a working machine. Two sides of a creative coin.

    Aside from the spooky specters, I like where your sketches are going. ‘Sort of a My Neighbor Totoro feel to them. I especially like the cat asking the magical fish if there’s a place they can be together.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for your feedback. I probably won’t team up with another illustrator (at least not now), but many of them give great advice online and elsewhere, so I will tune in to that. Still re-developing my style, so we shall see how everything evolves.

      • writingbolt says:

        I have missed seeing some of your Sorrow Bacon comics. I know I haven’t exactly gone looking for them, lately. But, when I see a post by you, I think of them.

        I know I would have a bit of a clash with another illustrator, being that’s what I’ve been striving to be most of my life. Yet, recalling someone I met when I was five, who wanted to “share the business,” perhaps it would be a good business model to have such a partner, provided both partners have adequate room to express their own styles/works. I feel you and I both would benefit from a partnership. [I wish-per to myself that I’d like us to pair up. We both have a bevy of budding ideas just itching to break open wide into something big.]

  2. paulabroome427 says:

    Your artwork has an amazing narrative quality to it. I started thinking of plot lines with each one! :-) There’s always that “something else” that calls us from a distance, from a past time shrouded in mists and lovely dark spaces. In quiet moments I still wonder what or how my life would have turned out if I had gone into one of the following: Archaeology, I’m fascinated with the process of discovering a culture through artifacts. Contractor: I built my own house in Mississippi and lived there for twenty years. I love house construction. I enjoy building one’s home not just as a physical structure but also as a dream made real. Zen Buddhist Monk, I actually came close to this one. When I was a graduate student I became obsessed with Zen Buddhism. I toyed with the idea of going to California and moving into a temple.

    Indeed I became an English teacher. A field I love and now I”m retired. I’m a writer, so in some ways I can do all the other things via imagination.

    I think you are following the true path. Keep drawing! Of course you will. How amazing you are. I think you will find that your art and your writing are in many ways inseparable.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. I wonder if the diverse interests people have all come from a similar place. For example, Archaeology and house construction may come from the same desire to help something realize their full potential. There is a hint of what something could be, but it’s up to you to do the work to bring it to life (or, in the case of Archaeology, bring it back to life). I see a similar pattern with wanting to become a Zen Buddhist Monk, which may be about the realization of your mind’s potential. Perhaps that’s the “something else” that calls out to you from a distance.

      Your comment got me thinking about how some musicians are also artists or writers because they enjoy self-expression so much. The art and writing are just other vehicles for them to exercise their main desire. Really interesting how everything is connected like that!

      Thanks for your encouragement. I will definitely keep drawing!

  3. kvennarad says:

    I think schooling would have spoiled you – they would have taught you how NOT to draw.

    Just think what would have happened if I had taken ‘Creative Writing’ classes – I’d be as mute as a post!

    • Millie Ho says:

      Interesting perspective, Marie. I know a few artists who have polarizing opinions of art school. Some enjoyed it while others felt like they didn’t learn much. It might just depend on the person, and I can only hypothesize how my experience would’ve been.

      Might be the same way with creative writing classes. Some people benefit from those classes more than others. But we’re all creating for ourselves first, so it makes sense that you should create the things that work for you—whether you were taught to or not!

      • kvennarad says:

        Emma Goldman said “Every great idea is against the law.” I know she was talking about politics, but I really feel that the same can be said for true creativity. Artists have had pupils for centuries, yet those pupils go on to do something radical, something that they always had in them, something that shatters the rules that their masters taught them. Maybe we should content ourselves, if we are to be taught, with some very basic technique – how to hold a brush, how to use a QWERTY keyboard – and then go out and explore. But it’s debatable whether we need much more than that, and it’s possible that more holds us back.

        In the field of literature, ‘creative writing’ wasn’t even an academic subject until the second half of the 20c. The University of East Anglia first offered an MA in it as late as 1970. Before then, all the great writers, all the innovators, challengers, poets , playwrights, novelists, just upped and did it! To me, everything else is popcorn chicken.

        I love this cartoon by Tom Gauld:

        • Millie Ho says:

          “Maybe we should content ourselves, if we are to be taught, with some very basic technique – how to hold a brush, how to use a QWERTY keyboard – and then go out and explore. But it’s debatable whether we need much more than that, and it’s possible that more holds us back.”

          Yeah, agree with you there, Marie. I think going to art school or taking creative writing classes is good for understanding how to use the raw materials (and knowing what those raw materials are), but anything beyond that is debatable. In my mind, going to art school would’ve meant being immersed in an environment that inspires you to be more productive and technically adept (i.e.: I’m still learning how to use some digital illustration programs), but you could just work at it on your own time and get the same result even without the art school.

          Love the cartoon! :D

    • writingbolt says:

      I have often objected to art classes after my teenage experience with a cartooning teacher that merely copied a page from a book I already owned on a chalkboard. He then sat down and let us practice that. That was teaching? I had some other bad experiences with independent art classes and struggled to get my work done on time in school classes. Years later, I saw a video of a black teacher who shot down art schooling. He said artists learn from their own practice and find the talent within themselves. At that moment, I was sure I was against art schooling.

      Then, I met some art teachers who were young parents. They didn’t like me grumbling about how pointless art class was. And, seeing how hurt they were by my words, I went off in thought to ponder my bold, stern opinions. I later realized some lessons are useful and informative. A self-taught artist wouldn’t likely learn much about the past artists if he/she didn’t do research. A self-taught artist would not learn terminology or techniques for certain tools if he/she didn’t look into that, too. I myself am not the most versed in proper art terminology nor skilled with some modern tools. I just seek out what looks interesting and work with it when inspiration strikes or someone requests my creative assistance. [I can be full of ideas in an instant.]

      Though, I guess, in this age of internet, anything could be “self-taught” if you consider looking up a YouTube teacher as research and not a lesson taught.

      Historically, I think, art class was like philosophy. An aspiring artist would seek out a known artist and ask to be an apprentice. You don’t hear of cases like that often these days.

  4. aetherhouse says:

    I love seeing Eldritch type monsters in your art, Millie :D

    I agree with most everyone else. I don’t think you needed art school. And majoring in business has given you the stability to focus on your art, where I think you may have burnt out on art had it brought you success, or been distraught with it had it been a source of unemployment, woe, regret, etc. That’s how I look back on my own choice to major in chemistry. Sometimes I think “hey, what if I’d gone to film school or gotten an MFA?” But then life would either be sucking me dry making creative things for other people or it would be a bunch of minimum wage chaos and still not using the training for anything.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Michelle. That’s a positive way of looking at the situation. There doesn’t seem to be a golden rule that leads to success in creative endeavours aside from working hard and continuously improving. Having gotten that MFA probably would’ve put you on the path to submitting to literary magazines, but you’ve been doing that anyway, and readers don’t care whether you have the degree or not. Stability matters, absolutely. There are pros and cons for both scenarios, it seems, but since we both didn’t major in the creative arts, might as well embrace where we are right now.

  5. Quintessential Editor says:

    I really enjoy all of your artwork, my favorite is, “I bring you peace, I bring you love.” Felt a complete story in that image. Perhaps an old woman reminiscing on lost youth, dreams, or aspirations. The baggage on the ground being discarded, and the flower being offered by a mystical being symbolizing something more profound.

    A cat and a translucent Leviathan, is a close second. I feel there is an entire children’s series that could be built around this concept. Just a cat, and his/her best friend, the misunderstood but good-natured translucent Leviathan, trying to find a place to call home. Learning valuable life lessons and making friends along the way.

    Regardless, your artwork is refreshing, much like your writing. I feel you are definitely someone to keep my peepers on as you will surely do big things.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thank you for the interpretations! Very thoughtful. I think you captured what I was trying to convey and also took things up a notch, which is always welcomed. The children’s series is an interesting idea. I’m still refining my style and subject matter, but the cats/supernatural elements are here to stay.

      Thanks for the support. We shall see how things evolve.

  6. elenacaravela says:

    So glad to hear that you are writing and drawing every day. It shows. I agree that in the end, it’s the hard work that serves us. Every day discover is more important than anything taught.

  7. Dalo 2013 says:

    I’ve always enjoyed looking at sketches…something I’ve always looked at with amazement as my skill at sketching is horrible :-) So I admire the talents of others, a great creative process.

  8. debiriley says:

    I love your approach and thought processes. Great Post… and The opening sentences were fabulous! It is wonderful when an artist frees them self to let the inner artist come out…. that is what its all about!! cheers, Debi

  9. thelifeauthenticblog says:

    I’ve been discovering my own self through my art lately as well. The biggest hurdle to surpass was definitely my own self-criticism and judgement… I’m not professionally trained or good enough to be considered an artist, etc. Now that I have gotten past that, I am really enjoying seeing what comes out of my mind every day. It’s been a beautiful process. I love your sketches! Thanks for sharing!

    • Millie Ho says:

      I’m right there with you when it comes to that inner critical voice. I’ve come to realize that it’s something that will always be there but it must (and can!) be disciplined so that it doesn’t hinder my creativity. I’m happy to hear that you’ve gotten over it—I wish you all the best! Thanks for dropping by. :)

  10. malloryadamsblog says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and looking at your sketches. I think they were really creative, and I love how you do it because it helps you express yourself. I am inspired by this. I am a terrible terrible drawer. I have problems with stick figures, but this really motivated me to try a little more even if it just for myself. Thank you! :)

  11. mumblingtrouble says:

    You’re art reminds me of the work of John Mortenson, where he draws on post–it’s these truly stunning monsters hiding in everyday life. You’re an inspiration to me as I’m also learning to draw everyday and it’s good to know other artists doing the same things. Good luck on your journey!

  12. sal354 says:

    Absolutely great post. I could relate with it so much, loved it. Also, you don’t need to beat yourself up over the fact that you did an undergrad in business. They say your experiences shape who you are. I don’t know if this will make any sense, but maybe studying business made you realize how much more you prefer writing and illustrating; to the extent that it drove you to be where you are today and will further drive you to grow as an artist.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for reading! Happy you related to this. I agree that majoring in business has made me see my path more clearly. I’m getting a better understanding of where I need to improve and what improvement entails. Just keep practicing, day in and out.

  13. femmemia says:

    I feel like I can relate to you and your thoughts because I realized how every day writing is important for me. Also, your work is original an inspiring, I’m glad I found your blog, keep up the good work! :) :)

  14. gebbysmith says:

    I am a former teacher and administrator, and now I am freelance writing and making things. I love music, theater, art, design, and everything surrounding the arts. What I have always wished I could do is draw. I feel like in some areas of my life I have grown and become more skilled, but attempting to draw makes me feel like a pre-K student. But after reading this phrase in your blog – “anybody can learn or improve anything if they want it badly enough and keep at it long enough” – I am going back to the (excuse the pun) drawing board.

    • Millie Ho says:

      I’m happy you’re going back to the drawing board! I’m still re-learning the things that came more naturally to me when I was a kid elbow-deep in paint and glitter. It feels like I’ve gone back full circle in a way, but it’s a worthwhile journey to take. Good luck with yours :)

  15. Yana Zorina says:

    I love the comment you made about owing this to your younger self that would get lost in the art process. I feel exactly the same way and am going back to my roots now as well.

  16. mummypowerblog says:

    Lovely little post about something I can relate to!I’ve studied art for a long time,always something quite dear to me..wether I create or’s personal.maybe it is to you starts off with self taught before any real official can read my post, ‘something in the air this spring…’ ,kind of shares a similar story.good luck on your journey!

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