Ghibli Talk: Favorite Movie

High action. Complex characters. Talking animals. Princess Mononoke was destined to be my ultimate favorite Ghibli film. Truthfully, it is my favorite film of animation or live action, but that’s not important for this post.

I was still in middle school when I saw Princess Mononoke. I’d watched Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Spirited Away before I stumbled on Hayao Miyazaki’s more mature film. It didn’t become my all-time favorite until I was older, but the seeds were buried in my heart

MPW-53071Why is this my favorite? It comes down to Ashitaka. And a quote. When asked why he was there, he replied, “To see with eyes unclouded by hate.” This struck me. It latched onto my soul, as though those were the words that shone light onto who I was, or at least wanted to be in my core.

Throughout the film, Ashitaka is on middle ground. Iron Town loves him, but wants him to stay with their cause to live and survive in the fight-against-nature way. On the forest’s side, San accepts him as an odd human who really shouldn’t give the humans any leeway. The Forest Spirit likes him, anyhow.

Each side wants him to choose. Industry. Or the environment. Ashitaka is instrumental in the events throughout the film, but he doesn’t lose the perspective he has as someone from the outside. He wants all of the people he meets to be happy and healthy at the end of the day, but he’s not willing to let the hatred they have for each other consume his judgement of anyone.

The end goal isn’t on the polar opposite ends, rather, somewhere in the middle. In peace. Not a compromise. People and nature living in harmony.

And that’s why Princess Mononoke holds my heart as my favorite Ghibli (and every) film. As I’ve gotten older, it has been harder to keep my eyes clear of the hate around me, but I strive for that philosophy to be who I am.

Besides, it’s gorgeous to watch. And the English translation is by Neil Gaiman.

What is your favorite Ghibli film? Why? Comment below!


Thoughts on My Professor: AKA Why I’m Crying Three Years Late

I’d like to share this moment that I’m crying. This may seem, at first, an odd moment. But for the person I write about, please read.

I recently updated my LinkedIn as a way to encourage myself to make steps towards new opportunities. The information hadn’t been updated in at least a year, more likely two. I still don’t even have a picture up yet. As I updated the dates on my jobs and moved my education information around, my eye caught something.

In my recommendations, there is a lone comment. A wonderful comment from my art adviser in college. I’d like to share it with you:

Bohne Rec

Now, I’ve known this comment exists. But coming upon it years later, I cry.

The spring after I graduated, Professor Bohne passed away from cancer. Half a year before he died, and half a year after I graduated, he made that note.

I didn’t know during my time in college, but Prof. Bohne was a very well known and respected artist.

I only knew him as the man who convinced me to go to a school counselor when I was having social trouble in my first year, exchanged Italy stories before and after my semester abroad (making sure all my classes would transfer, too), and encouraged me in the only 3D art class I took in my college career. Headphones weren’t allowed in the classroom, so his pick of a Toto album was our normal jam in that class.

He encouraged me after college, too. As seen with that note.

His ability to be fully present touched many people, and I think that’s what made him such a great artist. Why people loved and esteemed him. It’s that personable trait I think is why I never fully grasped how great he was on a larger scale than my college adviser.

Instead of a wake, a public gallery was set up with Prof. Bohne’s artwork. Mixed media of found objects and paint told stories that the watcher could interpret themselves. The reception had wine and hors d’oeuvres, all selected by him. His favorites. So many people showed up. There was a lot of crying. And a lot of laughing. Many clicks of the wine glasses. He had touched so many people in the art and college community. Many people, including the college president, shared stories about him.

I didn’t cry at the reception. I don’t think it was real yet.

He was 73 when he died. If you looked at him, you couldn’t have guess it. He was still teaching, too! None of us students knew that he had been in and out of his cancer for years.

I finally understood why he commented that my grandfather had tied so young at 68. Prof. Bohne was already pass that when my grandpa died in my junior year. That information returned to me like a lightning strike when I learned about his battle with cancer. He was still alive after so much. And he knew life could continue longer.

So I’m writing this post because I’m crying. It’s finally real. Three years later, a glance at my LinkedIn profile, and I’m bawling my eyes out. I’ve already gone through half a box of tissues as I’ve tried to find the right words to describe what I’m thinking and feeling. In reaction to a few words. A few kind, immeasurable words by a man I respected who thought way too highly of me.

I want to work until I embody the standard he saw in me.

Thank you, Professor Bohne.



Ghibli Talk: First Film

What was your first experience of Ghibli Studios?

Mine was Castle in the Sky.

This was the cover

I was in 10 or 11 when I saw a VHS (yep, a VHS!) with a castle floating in the sky, people flying about, and two kids staring off into the distance. Immediately, I was entranced. Sure, you shouldn’t judge a book or movie by it’s cover, but I knew I had to have it.

So, with my allowance money, I bought it then and there.

The flying machines. The magic. The colors–I couldn’t get enough of it. It became my favorite movie. Even though it was 2 hours long, I’d watch it over and over. My art and writing projects at school began to incorporate flying scooters and magical stones. The movie had my heart full of adventure.

The scenes getting to and on Laputa are the most prevalent in my mind. Storm clouds whipping about and ripping up airships that are unlucky enough to enter them. Buildings underwater! Animals! Especially the indoor garden. Oh the colors…

As I watch the movie as I get older, I latch onto different details. The real danger Sheeta and Pazu are in, and how courageous they are in the face of a situation they were forced into. How crazy Muska is. Dola’s impressive adaptability (who runs on train carts??). And how smart and skilled Sheeta and Pazu are–I’m always inspired to identify my own skills and improve on my confidence with them after watching them interact on Dola’s ship.

There was no way I’d know this was the opening to a love of animation and pictures to tell a story. I watched Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh on my Saturday mornings, but those didn’t foster a spark to tell my own stories.

Castle in the Sky isn’t my ultimate favorite Ghibli film, but it holds a very special place in my heart. What’s your first Ghibli film? Please share in the comments below!

ReCover: ELLA ENCHANTED – Block Print

ella first

One of my favorite books growing up was Ella Enchanted. I read this book so much that the spine bent. I will still take an afternoon to breeze through it, smiling the whole time.

The copy of the book I have is the movie cover. It’s not my favorite. Love Anne Hathaway, didn’t care for the adaptation. For years I’ve wanted to upgrade to a new cover. One I wouldn’t mind having on  my shelf.

So I had the idea… what if I made a new cover? And here’s the process of that! (Video process is at the bottom of the page!)

Major supplies: linoleum block, brayer, baren, carving tools, water-soluble ink, printmaking paper, glue stick


trace coverTrace Book on Block First things first, I had to cut the linoleum block to the size of the cover. Easy enough: place book on block, trace, cut!

sketch overTransfer Sketch I did my practice sketches, then chose the one I liked the best. I decided on this one because one of my favorite aspects of Ella is her love of languages.

Title Stencil Since a block print is opposite what you put down, there was no way I was going to try to freehand the title. I messed around with a few different ways to format the lettering. The one I chose, I cut out, placed backwards on block, and traced.

carving1Carving! I paid special attention to the direction of my carving tool. The swirls were circular and had a lot of movement. For the background, I kept them all up and down. This is because I know the background will still get ink no matter what, so that would look good in the final product.

  • I realized in the end, I didn’t give myself a lot of room for error when I carved too much before I inked. Normally I’m good about that, but I guess I was too excited for this project to adhere to that rule (measure twice, cut once!)!

Inking Always a fun time. I have a sheet of plastic I place the ink on that I move around with the brayer. The first inked block never holds enough ink, so a few goes at it need to happen before all’s done.

  • inkingA few notes on my mishaps inking this time around. I didn’t clean the block before inking, and that caused a lot of little white speckles until I figured out what the problem was.
  • Also, I was doing this outside, and the ink got really runny, which caused the ink to slosh around on the final product. So it’s not as sharp as it could be.

barenBaren The circular tool I use is a baren, but you can use a wooden spoon for this part, too. I always start circular movements in the middle of a piece before moving outwards.

Ink and Repeat until I got the best one! This took a lot longer than normal due to the problems I listen above.

paper traceBook Cover Template I traced around the entire book as though it lay flat on the paper. Then I cut around that, with 2 inches around each edge. Where the corners were, I cut those out to the tips so the flaps could be folded over later. Hopefully the picture helps illustrate that! If you can’t see it, the video is a good demonstration of it, or I’ll make a template available rather than just a picture.

foldingCover Book I used plain old glue stick for this part. Folding the top and bottom flaps first, I made sure they were secure and no extra paper was in the fold. I folded over the book’s edge flap after that. This was a lot of moving the book around and making sure the folds were creased nicely.

cut and foldPlace Print Self-explanatory. I almost put it on the wrong side, though! So really have to watch out for that!

Details As I looked at the cover, I wondered what it was missing. The entire back of the book was blank, so I googled some quotes and found a very fitting one! After that, I added the title and author to the spine, and the author’s name to the front cover.

And that’s my ReCover of my Ella Enchanted book!! Thank you for reading so far. If you have any questions about my process, or even just your favorite book, please comment below!

cover done

Make sure you watch the video of the process, too! It was good fun trying to edit all that footage.

Gyanda’s Story: Character, Clothing, and Flowers

t.gyanda's cover short 1 copy

The first installment of Alkahest Shorts (on Smackjeeves or Tapastic) follows the journey of Gyanda through an outdoor marketplace. I wanted to challenge myself to have a completely silent comic (minus sound effects), relying on the picture to tell the story.


Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 9.36.33 PM
A bored kid gets into trouble…

Because it’s a silent comic, you never hear the protagonist’s name. Well, her name is Gyanda! Gyanda’s name means “knowledgeable, learning” in Hindu. As the firstborn girl to a family-run flower shop, her parents wanted her to be able to take on the knowledge of their business and be a proper successor to the shop. Lucky for them, Gyanda has a knack for flower magic and seems to know what a flower needs just by looking at it–unfortunately, she finds this unchallenging and boring.

Which starts off this little short!

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 9.38.23 PM
There’s, like, only two Pinterest posts on this flower.

The flowers Gyanda is nurturing are all native Indian flowers. The one she magics is actually a super rare flower, Woodrow’s Crinum Lily. Which is one of the reasons she rushes after the fox-squirrel so readily!



In my research, I couldn’t figure out what style her outfit should be. The mother of a good friend of mine let me borrow a seriously intense book on Indian clothing–categorized from region to region, explaining why certain areas wore veils and others did less so, etc. The book was from the 80’s and the pictures that were colored had to be glued into the book. It was a fantastic resource! I hope to borrow it again, soon.

t.gyanda's cover short 1 copy
The final outfit

With all the information, though, I realized I didn’t know enough about my character’s family to know which region to base her clothing style after. In the end, because I wanted to get started on the webcomic, I settled for a more rural-generic-Indian style. Since Gyanda’s family had been in Alkahest for several generations, having the clothing be specific to one region wasn’t necessary, but it does make me think.

I love doing research! I can get so involved with it that I never start the final project. As a first, fully-finished webcomic of my stories, I’m very happy with what I produced and hope I continue to improve the world of Alkahest!

Thanks for reading! My next post on this webcomic short will discuss my style and choices in medium. Please look forward to it!

Love and hugs!

In the Wind – Linoleum Print Progress

lino thumb
Video for this piece is here or at the bottom of this post!

I love to paint and draw, but if I could do one thing for the rest of my life, it would be printmaking. Lithography or etching–I’ve spent hours milling over projects in joyous contentment. Block printing is the easiest to do in my home setting, though, and that’s what I’ll be sharing with you today.


I use linoleum sheets or blocks when I block print. The sheets are less expensive than the blocks, but don’t last long after a series of prints. If I’m doing a commission or a series that I haven’t fully figured out in my sketchbook, I may use the sheets as a test-run. It isn’t impossible to use them for final pieces–I think there is a way to attach them to your own blocks, too. That isn’t in my knowledge, though. The blocks are a lot easier to carve into, and they will last passed your initial series of prints. Of course, you’re paying for that stability.

I bought my stash a few years ago from Utrecht. Here’s a recent side-by-side of the two. It refers to the sheets as ‘unmounted’ and the blocks as ‘mounted’. The difference isn’t staggering with the price, and in bulk, the difference only ends up about $3.00.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 5.47.29 PM

Now to the process!!

img_0530I always start with a sketch that I’ve inked in black. With block printing, you have to think backwards. So I try to have all my whites and blacks set-in before I start the permanent process of carving out the linoleum block. It saves a lot of time, money, and your wrist to have a solid sketch before you start. Like with sewing: measure twice, cut once (or in this case, color twice, carve once?).

Even when I sketch my picture onto my linoleum block, I shade in the parts I don’t want to carve. This reminds me not to touch those parts. Every bit helps so you don’t have to start over.


sketch to sketch lino
From sketch-to-block


img_0516My carving tool of choice is this Speedball carver. It comes with 5 different tips, but I mostly use the three pictured here. It’s very easy to change out the tips, and you don’t have to have several tools lying about. They all fit into the hollow handle–so it’s easy storage, and super light! I bought mine at an art store up north, but I know Michael’s Craft Store and Hobby Lobby have some in stock, too. It’s fairly standard for art supplies stores, so I’m sure you can find one!

When I start to carve, I start with my thinner tips to outline details I want to keep, such as the mouth and eyes on the face.

Continue that until everything is carved!

skirt carve

Baren – Brayer

For inking you’ll need a roller (or brayer), baren (or wooden spoon), and some ~fancy~ paper. I have two brayers: one hard and one soft. I prefer the way the soft brayer puts the ink on the block–you can mess around and see which fits your needs better. I did go and buy a real baren for my printmaking kit, but the back of a wooden spoon does the job just right, too. I like how I’m able to exert pressure with this tool rather than a spoon.

Not ‘printing’ paper, but it does the job right!

Now, there’s a lot of printmaking paper out there. Many textures and colors. Depending on your project or personal preferences will decide on what paper you choose. After a lot of messing around, I found this rice paper very cheap at Hobby Lobby. One side it slick, the other is heavily textured. I use the slick side for my prints. I really like how the ink settles on top of this paper and doesn’t move around.

img_0517For ink, I use Speedball’s water soluble block printing ink. I wouldn’t use this near food, but it’s definitely safer to use than an oil-based ink. Since my studio at the moment is the kitchen table, this is a must-have. Also, it’s super easy to clean up! Dish soap and water.


First thing to do when getting ready to ink a block print is to make sure the block and your area is clear. I have a sheet of plastic to set my ink on and use a flat drawing board to minimize the space I need to clean up. And my mom appreciates me not getting ink on her table.



Try as you might, you may still end up like me and have something on your print that messes up a clean finish. I have a plastic palette knife I use to clean off stuff such as this.

For a full step-by-step of the process, please check out the video I did for this project!

Something I’d do differently the next time I do a block print is not have a large area to be inked–it was very difficult keep enough ink on the linoleum for a completely black space in front of the woman. Adding some texture to the black area would probably help the ink hold onto the medium better.

And that’s that! Thank you for reading my blog post, and if you have any questions about the materials or the process, please comment below! I’d love to help!

Love and hugs!

Manga I Would Buy: FukuyaDou Honpo by Yuchi Yayomi

hanpo girls

This manga holds a very special place in my heart where love and the imperfect family merge to make a heartwarming, tenacious tale.

The story revolves around the Fukuyoshi family, a mother and three daughters, who run a Japanese confectionery shop in Kyoto. Their shop has been in the family for 17 generations, over 450 years–the last few generations have been through the women.

As the story takes place in one of Japan’s most traditional areas, immediately you’re thrown into Japan-specific terminology. Such as noren: the cloth curtains on shop doorway or entrances with the families’ brand or crest or calling characters tanuki (as many who’ve read manga are happy to recognize, means “raccoon”). Customs specific to the Kyoto area are even explained for the reader. When the characters speak in round-about dialogue while talking about money, or even (not) holding hands, the narration jumps in to help the reader understand. Throughout the story there are tea ceremonies, calligraphy lessons and Kabuki theater–all very traditional parts of Japan.

Fukuya makes wagashi. Wagashi is a Japanese confectionary that plays an important role in tea ceremonies. The trials the Fukuyoshi family endures revolves many times around the success, and love, of the store.


The madam of Fukuya, the mother of three young daughters, is a tough, shrewd woman who has navigated the traditional business-landscape of Kyoto by herself for the last 10 years. Though it is obvious she loves all her children in her own way, her own expectations of them has caused difficulties in her daughters’ relationships and heartache through misunderstandings.



Eldest daughter and expected successor, Hina, is a reserved, smart young woman with a complete understanding of the shop’s business. Her life has been directed by her mother’s expectations. She’s the perfect example of a Kyoto lady.



Arare, second daughter, is jobless, dreamless, and spends her time drinking and betting with her friends. Her strong personality equals that of her mother which causes them to perpetually be at each others’ throats.



The youngest daughter, Hana, is still in middle school and loves the shop immensely. She’s incredibly observant, and is the voice of narration for the reader to learn about Kyoto and her family. Hana is very tall for a middle schooler, which causes some anxiety for her when she’s next to her crush.


True to some family dynamics, the sisters voice opinions of each other–Even though they’ve known each other forever, their observations are not always correct. As the story progresses, they realize their assumptions were wrong and they’ve hurt their sister from their actions on the stereotype.

sharing a meal
Eating ramen after understanding more about each other

The story walks through the lives of each of these daughters, weaving through their daily lives, marriages and loves. None of it comes easy, though, in the culture that doesn’t speak its mind. The end result is that it all culminates in love, familial or for their significant other.

There’s a marvelous 11 volumes to read through the lives of these enigmatic women. A definite must-have as a hard copy!

Do you have a manga you wish you could have in your hands? I’d love to hear what you have to say!


As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.

Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.

You Are What You Read: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

I’d been mulling over the next book to do for the “You Are What You Read” series–how could I top The Scarlet Pimpernel? Some stories don’t have very distinct clothing or objects to them. After a recent conversation with a friend about the new book to Lady Trent’s memoirs, though, I remembered that The Natural History of Dragons exists!

Would I want to be a dragon scientist? Why yes, I would like to be a dragon scientist! So drawing myself as Isabella was set into motion.

Isabella’s world is set in a Victorian-inspired time, so first order of business was to create a Victorian reference board on Pinterest. I have no idea why I hadn’t made a Victorian Board before this. It seems like it’d be a staple to any reference-geek. I located some websites and blogposts on clothing color, too, since black and white photos don’t tell that information.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.51.39 PM

During my color studies of the dress, I became conflicted. Isabella wasn’t rich, but she had a comfortable living. Drab browns, or fancy purples?

The scribbles are the studies. Do you see the three studies? Purples, and two different browns.

Fancy purples won out! I thought it was classy, and waaay more interesting than the browns. I wish I actually owned the book so I could fact check what Isabella wore.

Since I’m keeping the series in the same style, I used my thinnest fine liner–Sakura Pigma Micron 005, and flat layers of ink for the Copic markers for the outfit. The hair has layers of color, and so does the skin. In the end, I used several purples to create darker shadows, and unite the piece. Process video here:

What book do you find yourself in? Please write them below!!

Thank you so much for reading and watching! I’m really happy with how the piece ended up. Maybe one day I’ll sew this outfit together. Have a wonderful day! Hugs!


Reply vs Like: It’s Okay to Retweet

like vs tweet01

I’ll admit it: I rarely talk on social media. I “like” on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter all the time, but rarely have enough confidence, even with a screen and the entire internet between me and the recipient, to send out a comment or question.

How’s the quote go? “Introverts unite! Separately. In our own homes.”

I chuckle at this, but the problem with the sentiment is, as a creator trying to build a following, it doesn’t work. Being active and engaging the audience is what brings people in and keeps them.

Truthfully, I do engage. I have long conversations on my YouTube videos nerding out about Ghibli and art supplies. My problem isn’t about engaging those who interact on my post or videos.

My problem is not engaging on others’ content.

I’ve had a Tumblr I’ve used for in-progress and sketches for years. Like, since 2011 years. The main purpose of the blog was to just put out art. Specifically, my art. Only. I have under 150 followers–a byproduct of only posting original art and no fandom affiliation.

And not really interacting with anyone.

This has become painfully obvious to me since I started posting to my YouTube channel earlier this year. Engagement isn’t a one-way street. I make fantastic content, but I don’t connect on other people’s content. I like and then scroll on by. I don’t reblog it because it’s my sketch blog. My art. Others’ content doesn’t “belong.”

It’s really difficult for me to “allow” other people’s content in my space. A space I wanted people to come and want to see only my art.

Recently, along with posting videos to my channel, I started a Twitter account. I hit a ‘restart’ switch on my ~it’s my space!~ attitude and started retweeting content I enjoyed on top of posting my sketches. Replies are still my preferred method, but if something speaks to me, I convince myself into retweeting it. No harm done. Deep breaths, Mikaela!

Instead of viewing others’ content as not my art, I’ve tried to think of it as an extension myself: my likes, what I hope others might enjoy because I enjoy it. This totally sounds like I’m some inconsiderate human who is ‘allowing’ others into her *superior* space. It’s not that at all. It’s more of a misplaced understanding of what I thought should work for me, and now intruding into the spaces other creators have made, resulting in the anxiety of being too forward, too direct when I do more than acknowledge/like a work (“notice me senpai”-feels comes to mind).

The reason I’m writing this inner-rant is because I’ve seen immediate effects of interacting with others. By retweeting or commenting on their post, they’ve gone and retweeting my work. Rather than just giving of myself, my artwork, helping those around the interweb-space, a little bit comes back. I haven’t grown exponentially in any means of followers (and I don’t think I’ll ever have a copious number) on any platform, but I feel like I’m moving forward, rather than staying still.

And maybe, eventually, it’ll all pay off.


Audio Book vs Music When Being Creative

mucis blog.jpeg

What works best for you to get in the zone?

When I’m working on art, whether it’s painting or drawing in a sketchbook, I will listen to my highly-modified Colbie Calliet station on Pandora or an audio book. I’m not really listening to the words. It’s more like white noise, blocking out the distracting noises of a cafe or house so I can focus on what I’m producing.

But when I’m writing, I can only listen to instrumental music. Words in the song or audio book distract me, taking place of the words I’m typing on the page.

How do you get into the zone? Do you need to listen to anything at all, or always need something to block you into focus?

Picture process: video