Upper Rooms

Sketchbook: grumpy ladies

Channeling my inner Daniel Egneus, but what do I know about fashion illustration, really. Also testing new materials in between work. These include A) a kolinsky brush, which still intimidates me and sometimes I kind of feel dumb just holding it haha. And B) a couple of Holbein watercolor tubes in shell pink and payne’s gray. I’ve read a lot of good reviews of this brand, and I’m convinced! A little goes a long way, which makes it worth the price, and I like the color range.

Project Q: What is?

Project Q is the working title that I’m going to call my current side project, which is learning how to do lettering.

Background! A while back I enrolled in Jessica Hische’s Skillshare class called Lettering for Designers: One Drop Cap Letterform at a Time, but never made enough time to follow through. I joined this class, and I’m catching up on it now because:

1. I like lettering, and it may seem like I’m jumping on the bandwagon, maybe, who cares haha, but I’ve always had a penchance for drawing letters, or letters in general. Letters are one of my favorite graphic design elements, as geeky as that may sound, and it’s why my favorite design projects are logos and layouts.

I remember first being really interested in lettering when I was in college, and I was so fascinated with friends who could draw their own letters for design projects. As in really polished logos for their theses, or for org posters with typography not made with actual fonts. This was a rarity back then, because lettering and calligraphy weren’t as popular before as they are now. There weren’t really workshops, and there were only a few books about them (especially here in Manila). Years later, when I found out that Jessica Hische, one of my all-time favorite designers (even though I discovered and first liked her as an illustrator), was teaching an online class, I had no second thoughts signing up for it.

1.5. I like how Jessica Hische teaches the class. It’s informal, but she points out that there are rules, which I like. Because, well, there are rules, and I personally believe that if you like the craft very much you would respect what it really is and know how it’s done properly, and try to do it as well as you can yourself. I like rules as much as I like going wild with creative work.

2. I think my handwriting is fairly presentable, and my aunt, who was a public school teacher before, had taught me and my cousins how to write in script, and I can do a good job at it most of the time if I’m careful not to lazily scribble. However, I can’t translate that quite well yet with my work which is mostly graphic design. Sometimes, I have all these ideas for how I want a certain logo, for example, to look and feel like, but I can’t physically translate it as well as I want to, or as polished as I can see it in my head. I signed up for this class because it’s one step of getting rid of the deficiency of not having the skill to execute an idea. I know learning how to draw letters would help me be a better designer! I would really love to make better logos and titles for layouts and everything else without having to rely on what typefaces are available.

3. I think it’s important to keep learning new things, especially when they contribute to your work or to what you’re really interested in doing. It’s important because it makes you better, in a sense. Right now, it’s more practical for me to enroll in workshops and in these online classes to update my skills, instead of going back to school for further education, especially that there’s no practical master’s degree courses for design here in Manila. Skills, for me, are like ammunition, or bala in Filipino , and the more you have, the bigger your chances are of ~winning~

3.5. I have neither the time nor the budget to enroll in actual workshops here in Manila haha. I was actually thisclose to joining an upcoming hand lettering workshop at the end of the month, but it turns out that I have something else to do on that day, so goodbye workshop. Online classes are convenient because I can work on my own pace, and I don’t have to physically go anywhere. 

4. In the illustrator’s org that I’m part of, Ang INK, we have a monthly drawing challenge, kind of like Illustration Friday. This month’s theme is illustrated words and letters. I figured that whatever I finish for my Skillshare class, I can submit to my org as well.


The Skillshare class is inspired by Jessica Hische’s Daily Drop Cap project, and the Penguin Classics Drop Cap series that she made. The first book I chose to do back when I first signed up was Light Boxes by Shane Jones, but now I’m changing my book of choice.

Tada! I’m finishing Querida right now. Aaand. I also don’t like the cover very much, so I’m challenging myself to make an alternate cover. Therefore, Project Q!

I’m on my third Skillshare video, Ideation, which covers brainstorming and making sketches. Since Querida is an anthology, it’s easier to digest bit by bit, and it fits into my schedule better because I can finish reading (operative word being finish) one part every night when I get home from work, and make sketches accordingly. This seems like a plan where I can make more progress, compared to when I pick a novel and lose my stream of thoughts every day because I keep on stopping when I have to go to bed already haha.

So there. Some fanfare in the house for education! I’m happy I get to finally squeeeeeze in time to up my game despite all the other things I need to do. I realized that the first step to levelling a skill up is to make time to actually do so. I should also stop undermining my side projects and considering them as just hobbies, because they do contribute to my overall improvement. Also, well, they make me really happy.

Which brings me to something personal.

I have figured that one thing that makes me happy is keeping myself busy. The time spent being sulky can be time spent being productive. The time spent looking at other people’s work and feeling miserable about how I might not be good enough ever CAN be time spent working and improving my craft instead.

I guess this is how I can ”choose” to be happy. It used to confuse me a lot, because I thought, how can I “choose” to be happy when I can’t choose how I feel about things (ie when I feel irrationally blue all the time over everything)? I guess the “choosing” part has something to do with realigning my goal (happiness and contentment) to my life, which is made up of everyday decisions and actions. Writer Anne Dillard articulates it quite nicely: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I have also asked my friends about the great quarter-life crisis, and everyone says that it’s a myth, and I believe them now. Some crises exist because you let them.

I won’t get to choose how I feel about a lot of uncontrollable things that bring stress or sadness, but I can filter some things that might influence me. I can decide what to look at, or listen to, or watch. I can deliberately choose how to allocate my time. There are things that I can decide to let into my head, to make me feel either better or worse, and then there are things I can ignore or just say no to.

Nobody said that the “choose” part in “choose happiness” would be easy, and would take effect immediately. I see that now, and I feel much better just typing everything out here. Being able to articulate it feels kind of liberating because it means I understand it already, even on a basic level, and that I’m on my way to acting on it.


There’s a lot of talk about mental illness and depression since Robin Williams’ passing, and I thought of just leaving a couple of quick reads on the topic here on my blog. These are in no way extensive readings on how to deal with depression, but I think they paint a quick picture of it.

these Hyperbole and a Half comics about depression: Adventures in Depression, part 1 and part 2

and this article on suicide contagion and social media

I have many feelings about depression. I have known the feeling of living with depressed family members, and I can tell you that the home, along with the rest of life, becomes a dark place when depression is around. My family has overcome it already, but sometimes, like now, I still wish I had known how to deal with our situation better when it was upon us.

I encourage you to sincerely take time to check up on your family and friends for early signs of depression, especially if you think something is going unusually wrong or if your loved ones are uncharacteristically very sad all the time. Know that it’s something they can’t just snap out of, that they’re not making up their own problems, and most importantly, know that it’s not their fault and that they don’t want to be that way. It takes a whole lot of love and help from you for them to get better and recover completely, and you CAN do something to make it clear to them that suicide should not be an option.

If you are experiencing depression or early signs of it yourself and you are not sure who to call, here are some local groups you can get in touch with:

Manila Lifeline Center
(02) 896-9191

hopelines of the Natasha Goulborn Foundation
(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673)
2919 (toll-free number for ALL GLOBE and TM subscribers)

Emmaus Center for Psycho-Spiritual Formation
3/F CEFAM Bldg., Seminary Drive
Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights
1108 Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: (02) 928 6040
(02) 927 0077
(02) 426 6001 loc. 4875