June 23, 2011

Illustrating non-naturalistically

I have been thinking recently about getting a different platform to be my corner of the internet. Maybe it's that I want a fresh layout, maybe it's that I feel that what I have to say or share hasn't been particularly suited to this blog for quite a while. So I'm thinking I may retire this blog. But if I do, you'll probably find me somewhere else.

Also: I wish I had the rights to put the image on this post, but ah! this painting is wonderful. I love the sense of life the colors communicate. I want to learn how to work with watercolors like this.

On a related note, I wonder how to make my paintings have a style that isn't intended to be strictly realistic. I want the piece I'm working on to be believable, but I am not looking to imitate the effect of a photograph. Let me show you the draft I made up a few days ago so you can see what I mean. The font and the wing (yes, that's a wing in the corner) have changed a lot, so pay most attention to the style. [Oh yeah, and it's my book cover if you hadn't guessed. ;)]

I want the colors and outlines to stand out, so that the effect of the image is the ideas it represents, not the actual objects. If you're open to giving input. . . right now I'm particularly struggling with the water. The way it is in the draft is very unrealistic. The images I'm finding look much smoother or whiter.

So I'm not sure yet what I'll do. Let me know if you have ideas.

May 31, 2011

May 30 + little children

Would I tire of this? Surely -
But not so much as to want to stop.
I'd be consciously and contentedly simple:
Heart tied to theirs, trading intellect for empathy.

This past weekend helped me appreciate, understand, and love little kids so much more. Makes me want to be a mother. The staff at the children's program I was teaching at told the kids to listen to "Rebecca Jie-Jie" (Jie-Jie means older sister). All I could think of when I started to write a poem last night was, "I may never march in the infantry. . ." 

I have thought about being a child of God, in the sense of being the daughter of my heavenly Father. Now I empathize with little children themselves, and see how I am like one in relation to God. I would like to write more about this to share with everyone who was praying for me. Juggling social media. :)

[Shout-out to Serfy for doing this with me. :GRIN:]

May 24, 2011

May 23

For love I lost the dreams I planned
   The horse carried me off before I had quite held on
In waiting for Him I found strength to sustain me
   Now we're racing through wind and my face grows flush
I'm finally content to accept the new:
   My eyes are still blind but my heart's secured.

May 22, 2011

May 21 [sonnet]

It makes me dizzy how much I bend,
Molding my words to fit those who hear;
I form to the pattern of those who are near
Or feel that for not doing so, I must defend.

Unmoored, I fear my faith's mettle's lack:
If outwards were gone, would substance be there?
But by moving for God's sake and not for the care
Of the world, I am righted and cannot turn back.

When Christ is the center, all else becomes straight
Though God's presence in me is not fully distinct,
And people are varied and roles are diverse.
Seeking after His heart makes my doubting abate
- Communion with God and true speaking are linked -
Thus trusting in Him breaks the power of the curse.

May 13, 2011

May 11

If I can't have a confident joy,
can I at least have insistent tears?
You know how I am driven mad
by my surrounding fears.

I've poured my heart out weeping
I know too much useless grief
I want instead to be filled, and drown
the sound of my doubts with belief

When the paralyzed sought healing,
he lowered himself and knocked
Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven"
and he stood up and walked.

May 11, 2011

I have a friend who writes songs and sings them. I heard her gentle voice, telling of wishing to stay, and it was as if her care extended even to me, as if, even if she was not thinking of me when she wrote it, she would want me to believe that the words were meant for me. I am more moved by empathy with her - or by hers for me - than I am concerned with comparing myself. It is well.

May 7, 2011

May 7 [1 John 1:9]

Today was like concrete.
Some things just take flat time,
a dose of concentration,
a computer, notes, and fingers.
Hearts fell rough, though.
I was as hard as the sidewalk,
and less accommodating.
My care came out like
cherry juice, thinly sweet,
in words to make apology
and efforts to help.
Forgive me, I cried,
I want to change my ways.
My grieving didn't scrub me clean -
His blood did that
(thicker and more live than cherries,
and a surer soap).
Today I was walking to exile
but the road has turned to lead me home.

May 6 [perhaps I should write earlier in the day]

sleep is like the water hole
the animals gather round
their spread-out journeys
drawn together

activities are disparate
galloping, grazing
but at the close of day
they rest as one.

May 3, 2011

May 2 ["Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say"]

I love reading passages aloud, I confess.
It is like acting; and I find it a delight
To move my lips to deliver an address
And exercise my voice to raise its height.

But using words to cover up the spaces
That silence fills, ungainly, causing us offense
Denies the hope of understanding, and replaces
The childlike questions with cowardly pretense.

May 1, 2011

May 1

Is faith a substitute for patience
Or love pressed out of desperation?
Is truth excuse for discontent,
the cause of disillusionment?

April 17, 2011


What if I wrote until 9?
The mall outside my art history building is my favorite place on campus, I think. It's a mall in a Washington DC sense, not a shopping sense - just to clarify.

The sky was dark blue, and turquoisey. The petals of the saucer magnolia are starting to fall off (already!) but their pink is still very lovely. It surprises me how very green the grass has been, this entire week. It reminds me of the passage in Downright Dencey where you learn about Dencey's love for vibrant colors.

Today at my CS Lewis society, we were discussing the last few chapters of the Ralph Wood book, The Gospel According to Tolkein. Somehow we started talking about how stories teach hope. (It surprised me, because those are the very words I used to think about it to myself.) But I had a hard time thinking about how books really have given me hope. I can think of ways books teach you things about living and human nature and suffering. I think that fantasies or allegories try to tell truth on an even larger scale - to say not only "this is the way particular people act in certain situations" but "this is the way life is." I think the idea of fantasies is the whole dragon-conquering business, about showing us that stories, and life in general, really ought to end well.

I haven't read a work of fiction for months. I wonder what it is doing to my soul. There's a whole lot of things that are important for life. Today in the CS Lewis Society meeting, I got the sense of having come upon something else I had forgotten that I knew once: the sense of clarity or narrative in living. Stories have themes. This time last year, at Regionals, I remember I had a story to tell. It was a story about redemption and about learning how to desire God alone, and not competitive success. It was a good story to live.

I had this idea in my graduation speech that childhood was a time for stories, and in being grown-up the stories would get larger and we would have to be more patient to see them completed. I know I have neglected to read stories this semester. I hope I have not also left out living a story. But the themes are less clear than they used to be.

When I write about practices (like blogging, or vlogging, or reading, or engaging in discussion) that I think are valuable, I can't just muse upon their benefits, like I might talk abstractly about how running is a good thing to do, or how it's good to watch movies for leisure every now and then. I don't want just another way to spend time (though my older sister and mom are running for a bunch of very good reasons, and I enjoy watching movies with my family - nothing against my examples), I want to know if I am living well and truly. I think the examined life is an ought, not just a "if you feel like it." But self-examination doesn't have to happen in one set way.

When I'm writing this now, I know I am not doing justice to the ideas I am touching upon. I think I am writing because I want an outlet. I am attempting to understand and explain.

It's nine already. There is still so much I don't understand, but I will rest.

April 10, 2011

so my soul longs

This was done with ink wash and a pen and nib.

Story behind the artwork:
I'm coming to the end of my art course; the last lesson is to compile a portfolio that showcases the skills I've learned, from figure-drawing to animal art, from working in paint to ink to pencil. I've been given five projects, but they are all fairly open. I'm so excited about getting to work on them! The first of the assignments was to create an ink piece that studied an animal. I appreciated the chance to refresh and refine my abilities in dealing with ink, as well as to research in order to find reference photographs.

When working on it, I thought of a quote from Eric Fortune, an author on an art blog I read called Muddy Colors:
I've had people approach me with their portfolio and show me work that was definitely not at a professional level. When asked how much time was spent on the work I've heard "about 10 hours". It makes you wonder why someone is trying to be in the field if 10 hours is the limit they've devoted to a "final" piece of art. Are people interested enough on a personal level to put in extra hours and to refine their work beyond what is necessary even when not asked or to pour themselves into a personal piece they aren't getting paid for?
There is a danger in talking about art instead of just letting it speak for itself. It's the risk of claiming more than it really deserves - putting thought and time into making something doesn't ensure that it is good art. When I was studying for the AP English Composition exam two years ago, I read a short passage from Emerson, a complaint against the misuse of books. He wrote, "The poet chanting was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also." And because "the poet chanting" is such an uncommon phrasing, I remembered it.

But back-stories can be worthwhile for people who are interested in the life of the artist, and not just the meaning in the art; they are also enjoyable to recount. I will add that some types of art historians put a great deal of significance on interpreting the artwork considering the artist's own life; maybe the expressive power of art cannot be separated from its historical and personal contexts.

I like deer because of their beauty. I'm not a driver or a landscaper, so instead of roadkill or munched vegetation, deer make me think of Psalm 42 and spotting them in the park at night.

April 7, 2011

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find"

“He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.”

Note: This post is a progression of thoughts. If the beginning sounds disconnected or detached, it's because it is.

Writing is such a worshipful experience, that I feel poor to not have written for a while.

[there’s always the pulling on things to try to transition, and to connect some past thought with where I am now, or to draw my thoughts into a narrative for others to understand]

I guess I could try to cite my sources, in a sense, to compare my thoughts to things I’m studying in comm class or reading – I hardly feel as if I have any of my own thoughts. My comm professor would say reality is socially constructed, but I would say that words need spirit behind them, and life is in being connected to the vine, not in withering away in my own head.

I wonder if I think too much about what it means to present myself to the world. Here in this I’m writing now I have a tendency to want to solidify some idea, bring unity, etc etc. And yet I also want to experiment with talking from the place I am now. But I can’t help but think about my audience, [how we communicate ourselves depends on who we’re with] so as soon as I realize who is reading this, my internal dialogue changes to an attempt at connecting.

Where I am – how I spend most of my time – right now seems to make my mind kind of quiet. Maybe spending time with different groups of people changes the overall mood of your presence and existence. I don’t know if I should try to describe it. I suppose I will try:

Today the sky was gray, but light as I come out of class. The air is quite cool, and I am standing by the side of the road, waiting for my bus to come. The ticker informs me there are six minutes to wait, and the people around me are waiting too. I can hear two guys by my left talking to each other about when test scores will come in. Most people have earbuds in their ears and are in their own worlds. I girl turns to me to ask about something our professor mentioned, then after I give her my answer, she returns to her music.

I thought then about talking to her more, and striking up a conversation. She’s in my class, after all, but I haven’t ever seen her before. The class has a hundred and fifty students. Earlier in the day I was thinking about what a pleasant mood I was in. I think we all notice how spring is here. But this includes the April showers.

Maybe it’s too simple, too satisfied, to go about my day in placidness like this. I occupy my mind with brief observations about the world, or try to think through something I need to plan for later in the week, or text people, or make conversation with the person next to me. I hope I am describing it well enough: I just wonder about this feeling of normalcy.

I have a short speech I’m working on for tomorrow about becoming a cultural communicator.

Oh praise God!
It’s already almost written, it’s … a wonder

I didn’t want normalcy, I didn’t want to recycle old ideas to parrot them without meaning ….
It all seems to relate to my day, what I was attempting to describe, with the seeming lack of my personality being there. I don’t know if this makes any sense at all. If it’s incoherent, I apologize. But in general I feel like I don’t post enough of what I’m actually thinking on here. To put it in other words, I was thinking earlier today how unlike myself I felt, how I did not feel like my discussing-ideas-with-friends self, or how I didn’t feel particularly led by the Spirit, or like a possessor of some truth to impart.

But speaking, and life, is not contrivance. The Spirit speaks to hearts in a way that is deeper than external ideas from society acting upon your mind. To say a true word is not to use your own judgment to reorganize and rearrange the thoughts you’ve gained from others.

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”

So can’t I simply begin to speak, believing that God will let me go forward in his own Holy Spirit? It means asking God to make my words true, seeking out what He would have me say, and rejoicing that He has already answered.

What this means for life:
Over the past few weeks, God has kept answering my prayers in surprising ways. It makes me so delighted and pleased and whole. So I will keep asking, because I believe that he loves to bless us, he loves to accomplish good by his Spirit working within us.

I’m really happy right now. And every answered prayer is a miracle.

March 30, 2011

things I am thankful for.

1. Last week, I understood a little bit more about how pain and community and independence interrelate. [Basic thought: being in community unveils our selfishness; duty to love shows our inability to be righteous; we need people to purify us and teach us to depend on God.]
2. The bagel I had at lunch was delicious.
3. I have a computer that works.
4. I have a family to talk to when I'm discouraged.
5. I don't have to pay for airfare to the conference I'm teaching at next week. (My mom's driving us!)
6. I'm going to college and learning things.
7. God has given my Chapter the opportunity to run the Children's Program at an evangelistic conference/camp in May.
8. Internet access.
9. Books.
10. "Take heart, I have overcome the world."
11. Extra-credit assignments.
12. Gift cards.
13. More hours of light each day.
14. Intervarsity.
15. You, my friends, reading this.
16. The prospect of sleep.
17. "Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory."

March 20, 2011

"Is there anything you can think of that makes sin truly revolting to you, so that you are repulsed by the thought of it? ...
Is there anything you can think of that makes God's love seem more real than your best friend's smile?" ~Kris Lundgaard, The Enemy Within

convicted hearts
like herbal tea,
steep me in reality.

"You can only keep the rottenness of sin and the kindness of God in mind if you fix your eyes on the cross."

March 19, 2011


what are you doing with me?

my eyes ask all the questions
lit like still stars
hanging in the sky

my silence a reproach?
or is it the sound of questions
echoing into space

my window opens to the moon
it's whole (and
reflecting in my eyes)

March 14, 2011

a rather large disaster. . . at least from one perspective.

A major plot point in my novel is that a family isn't able to pay for hospital care.
I just realized that Scotland, where my novel is set, has a National Health Service which provides healthcare that is free at the point of treatment.
Oh dear.
I am too struck by how laughable this is to figure out what to do about it yet.

March 12, 2011

works [of love]

Yesterday I had a thought.
What if I took the pressing desire I had to love my distant friends and put it into caring for the people I see? To treat my neighbors like people who matter in my story. [Yesterday I saw a performance of Julius Caesar, and I was struck by how Brutus and Cassius simply met each other on the street and Cassius knew his friend was troubled.]

Today I had another thought.
What if I blogged for you all?
I try. I would like to try some more.

love's mercy is to create need.
(which means: the reassurance of knowing that I owe love is that I must seek out how to live it)

March 2, 2011

[Text by Catey Yuen.]

February 21, 2011

"mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved"

It is hard when communicating with my friends and crafting my novel seem to be the things I want for myself,
while writing a paper due this week and doing my school readings and studying for tests are what I feel I ought to do.

I am willing to lose everything;
- or pray to become willing -
but I must believe that God is the one who has made me desire expression and connection so much.

Now you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba, Father!'

Fear warns that God withholds what I need most
so I must fight for myself.

Faith assures me that He loves me.
All I have is Yours.

Artwork: made in MS Paint with a pen tablet.

February 10, 2011

Wherein I increase my musical literacy

Yesterday was fascinating. I’ve signed up for a one-credit seminar at my college, which aims to expose non-music majors students to music. The first meeting, which was yesterday, took place on the stage of a large concert hall, along with my three other classmates and a Steinway piano.

We heard our Professor play segments of pieces by famous composers; she covered eight, from Bach to Liszt. She told us that it was like a game: we were to listen to the eight, and then see if we could identify which was which when she played them again. I learned to hear some differences, to listen for the shape of the sound. For example, Baroque composers (like Bach) stayed within a smaller portion of the keys since their pianos were smaller, and composed very symmetrically, geometrically. The pattern of the notes are like squares placed up and down the length of the keyboard.

I loved listening, and I felt that I grew. Especially with the Romantic-era pieces I could understand the feelings. It interests me that some pieces seem more intellectual and some more emotional.

And then this evening, my class (privileged to be so small) went to the city for a piano concert, to hear some of our professor’s graduate students perform. I’ve been assigned to write a report on the concert, though perhaps giving you all my impressions of the music will be hard to follow. I think art is best discussed in person, with others who have experienced it. Then you can glance at your friend with shining eyes, or ask them about the questions the art raised, or confide the thoughts it inspired. Without having the common experience of the art or music, the close perceptions I record hold far less meaning.

Still, since it might interest you, (and since I would anyway for my class) I’m going to tell you in detail what I thought of each piece. After my description of the ones I particularly liked, I've embedded sound files so you can listen.

First we heard Alexander Beridze play Beethoven’s 32 Variations on an Original Theme, WoO 80. Before I looked at the program I guessed it was Beethoven – it was dark, dramatic, stormy. It felt like a great exertion, or a journey. At times it seemed very formal and hard to enter into. But the pianist felt it very strongly; there was grief in his countenance. I understand pianists who show everything on their face: I am like them when I read or worship in the subway, or when I view a painting.

The next pianist was Rebecca Choi, with three pieces by Rameau, from Nouvelles Suites de Pieces de Clavecin. In the beginning, it was sunny and hopeful, like the weather in May. Then seemed affirming like a quiet nodding of the head, and relaxed, like taking a dog for a walk. She then played Ile de feu 1, from Etudes de rythme by Messiaen. It sounded like a great disruption. I imagined a clock tower shaking and mice scurrying away. When she took her bow, I was still unsettled. She’d made me think.

But the next musician came up quickly, Stella Chia-Shan Cheng playing Debussy’s Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum and Etudes no. 9 and 11. It was peculiar to have such a clear sense of growing, life surging through all. Then it was comforting, the way sun dries up rain. And the last piece was harp-like, with a strumming that seemed to beckon to another world. By the end I had the feeling that I had emerged from a fantasy realm but there was still wonder in my own world.

I found the fourth piece, Mozart’s Sonata in C major, K. 330, and played by Min Jung Song, harder to be of one mind with. I noticed that the hands played similar roles (instead of one carrying a clear line of melody) and the piece conveyed stateliness, like being a fine lady walking down a mansion’s curving staircase.

Next Michelle Rofrano played selections from Bartok’s Suite for Piano, Op. 14. The Scherzo was at first a little impetuous, then it became more insistent, or clanging like church bells. There were some slower parts that rocked back and forth. The Sostenuto gave me the sense of returning to a town that was once my home and finding the streets deserted, not knowing why. And the Allegro molto part seemed to bear down on me with a firm hand.

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Major Op. 10, no. 3, performed by JooHee Lee, showed me that Beethoven wasn’t always frustrated. I felt a rising up, and the piece was very open like a county fair, full like daytime.

I particularly enjoyed the next piece, played by Patrick Wong: Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90, no.3 in G flat major. It seemed to be guiding me, reassuring me. I could anticipate which notes would come next, and in that sense it reminded me that all would come out right in the end. It was realistic while remaining hopeful:

It was hard to resonate with the piece Sojung Lee played, Chopin’s Sonata no. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47. Overall, it was quite loud, like someone walking with a lot of energy. At one point near the beginning I felt like I saw something coming out a shadow in the corner of a room.

Soyeon Park’s performance of Chopin’s Sonata no. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 was one of my favorites. It seemed to show the passage of time, a character growing older. It began boldly and intensified, then came down into longing, even sadness. The music seemed to be sighing, settling with life as it was. Then I felt that the character took on responsibility and matured. Looking back, there was joy (not as spontaneous as happiness but more deeply felt) coming through. There was a great sense of resolution as it ended.

Barber’s Sonata Op. 23, played by Sang Tae Park, was quite the contrast to the last piece. It was stern, like an authority figure confronting you with the reality of punishment. Not all of it was unpleasant: at times it sounded kind of hollow, like a cavern or desert.

Then the last, Ravel’s La Valse, performed by Jahye Kim, carried such a range of emotion. It began very low, and then the feelings flowed out, picking up speed. The pianist’s fingers zoomed up and down the keyboard, but one note came out clearly and caught my heart. The music became stunning in its beauty. Then it was more bouncy, like raindrops on my head. If it was like rain, the clouds got darker and the rain poured down more furiously. Or maybe I was the one moving, running through a crowd. The piece ended before I’d found home.

[part 1]
[part 2]

So this was what the evening was like for me: music that taught me about the world, music that made me feel. As the concert came to a close, my professor thanked the musicians for their dedication, “We know how hard it is to love the things we love.” But I am so glad they do.

February 3, 2011

a tree.

This tree caught me outside my Art History class today. Of course I’d seen it before, but today, it seemed more alive, more expansive. You see the trunk first divides into two broad branches? They seemed to dance, and the space that kept them apart was filled with the thrill of their attraction. And then the twisting branches rose above and spread themselves over me.

February 1, 2011

Doors guarded glory
hidden until the final day
You looked up with pixie eyes

But the secrets shut me out
and your saving wounded me
I grasped because I had nothing

Could you dwell in in-betweens,
made of grief and joy?
A word in my own tongue

January 30, 2011

"Young boys should never be sent to bed. . ."

January 27, 2011


Have I said this before?
There is something very powerful behind creative works, so that to make something is a miracle, and I am awed by acts of creation.
When I write, there is a difference between remembering things God has taught me in the past and trying to restate them, and speaking a living word. It's the difference between a flying butterfly and one pinned to a board.

I've wondered about giving - speaking seems like giving and silence seems like shrinking. But when I feel empty, or as if the flame in me is too fragile to let out, trying to express something is costly. So how can it be better to give than receive?
But perhaps in those cases, it would be only my preoccupation in capturing things that I sought after, instead of truly giving, instead of communicating life (I mean that quality of spirit which is the life of God).

I read a translation of Jonah 2:8 which struck me: "Those who cling to worthless idols forsake the grace that could be theirs." Being a communicator is good, but it is not the same as loving God. 
When something is alive, there is always more beyond what is seen.

January 25, 2011

I was stretched out, rubbed roughly
I step down gingerly;
I could fold myself into a cube

but arms jump out like dolphins

January 23, 2011

Two Dudes.

I've been studying portraits and figure-drawing in my art course, and was assigned to draw these characters. I do not usually spend this much time staring at men.

January 18, 2011

big numbers seem poetic

I have written a few half-finished or unpublished poems that employ the use of numbers, in particular "a thousand" of something. And then just now I found myself thinking about what the world would be like in seven hundred years. I seem to recall a few (cheesy?) songs that do the same thing. ("And I would walk five hundred miles. . .") I think this is perhaps because large numbers convey a sudden burst of strength or emotion.

This post is hardly at all indicative of what I have been thinking about lately.