Bunny Hearts

I've covered myself in paper hearts again, but there's a little bunny this time too. It's an alluring motif to me. I get to become a cartoon character with hearts physically manifesting to float around me, love emanating in blue felt tip pen form (its natural form).

I suppose when I add props to my scans like this, it's like I'm adding a visual representation of a thought - or at least, to me it sort of looks like it has some kind of narrative value, like something's happening in my head.

Of course, as we all know, what's usually happening in my head is lots of thoughts about cheesecake and large cups of tea.

The hearts do represent my thoughts about cheesecake pretty well though.


I'm still really enjoying using this red for some reason. I've been sucked in by red and I'm probably going to keep painting in this colour for a while. It's nice to settle into something like this, I guess. Just painting red things for ages. Experimentation is fun, but there's a nice serenity to doing the same thing for an extended period. You get to focus on something and explore the ins and outs of how you do that specific thing. And it can be relaxing, which is nice too.

It was kinda late at night when I painted these, so there's a little extra sleepiness mixed in. That's my natural state though, a bit sleepy.

Maybe I should try doing some more lettering in paint, because I love to paint some big, wobbly words. When you're using words all the time, it's really easy to forget how pictographic they are, how they're drawings too, and I really like how typographic illustration can bring back that sense of words as artistic shapes. It's so interesting. But, y'know, I also just love to write a word in a really wobbly way. There's something satisfying about it. Turning letters into noodles.

One thing that I love about lots of animals is how demanding and grumpy they can appear, and it's kinda funny how much this entertains me. I guess it's such a constant theme for me because it's cute and silly, but it's also pretty relatable. I, too, enjoy eating and sometimes act grumpy. That didn't really need to be explained, but I just love how we forge connections with animals that communicate so differently from us and see ourselves in them. I want to hug all of them please.

Veins & Moons

I was thinking recently about how temporary we are. Before I go into it, I want to just let you know that I'm going to talk about death and space and time here, and if those topics make you wobbly or uncomfortable I don't want you to read this. There is also some mention of bodily mechanics and blood. I wanted to talk about ways of thinking about our existence that help and comfort me, but I don't want to upset anyone who might find those ideas uncomfortable. Please exercise caution and don't read this post unless you feel confident about doing so. With that said, I'm going to continue.

I've always found the thought of how big space is really comforting. I look out at the sky at night and am comforted no matter what, whether I can see the moon, the stars, or just an empty blackness. It's like a blanket to me, almost like a presence somehow. Carl Sagan's whole thing about how we're made of stardust taps into that too. I think he was also delighted to be from a little blue dot wrapped in the vastness of space.

I saw an old picture the other day of someone who is now no longer alive, and in the picture you could see clearly a vein on his neck. I felt really moved to see that. It felt strange looking at this person, and this undeniable evidence of his life and a core element of what kept it there. I was stunned by it, maybe because I don't usually notice anyone's veins, so when I do it's such a clear symbol of how fragile and temporary life is. It's a visceral thing to see, the places which allow blood to travel through the body. I'm a bit scared by blood and the thought of it, so maybe it has another layer of awe because of that, but that image stuck with me.

Later I thought of it again while I was getting out of the bath, warm and tired and with my legs reddened by the hot water. I remembered that vein and how his body doesn't exist any more, and I thought about how someday I won't exist any more, and some day no one I know will, and I thought to myself that "nothing really matters". I won't deny the sadness in it, but at the same time it's such a freeing thought. Nothing matters when faced with that. There is something beautiful about it to me, and when thinking like this I could almost believe in anything. I could talk to the sky like its a friend. Nothing is real and nothing matters, yet all of history and all of these memories are here like pearls hidden in my heart.

Why I'm Quitting Duolingo

I've been studying language on and off for several years, and I've learned a lot about how to find and implement different learning tools and methods for myself across those years. I started out with Japanese. I can't really remember why I decided to try learning Japanese, but I guess some of my creative influences are Japanese (Mogu Takahashi, Nobuo Uematsu, Pompompurin) and I thought it seemed like an interesting language.

Language Beginnings

I remember starting out and combing through different websites and forums looking for resources and beginner's advice. I remember trying out numerous new things that might help with my study - I learned hiragana and katakana on Tofugu, learned some Kanji with Kanji Koohii, downloaded Anki SRS and a "Japanese core 2000" deck of vocab and sentences. The research itself was a lot of fun, and I discovered that there were a lot of curious people like me out there looking to start a language learning journey.

Fast forward some years, and I'm tired of my Japanese study. Kanji aren't going anywhere near my brain any more, and I've gotten to a point where most of the flashcards my Anki deck shows me are for words that don't stick for some reason. At some point here, I become interested in learning a language that is a bit closer to English. I've loved learning Japanese, but what about trying out a language that uses my alphabet, more or less?

Finding Duolingo

I don't actually remember when and how I started using Duolingo. It's one of those things that just happened, I suppose. It felt intuitive and sleek, and learning German like it was a game was fun. I loved turning each subject gold and maintaining a daily streak to be proud of - and most of all, I was learning.

Fast forward some more years (just a couple this time), and I've reached around 40% fluency on the German Duolingo tree (don't be fooled by this number, because it isn't that impressive in terms of how much I can actually communicate, but it means I've done a lot of Duolingo and know what "ein Hund" is VERY well). At this point I am extremely tired of Duolingo. It's become a chore, my daily streak has died a rapid death after I maintained it for over a year because I just cannot be bothered any more. It's a drag.

I would try to get back on the Duolingo horse a handful of times after reaching this stage of full give-uppery (a technical term), but every time just reminded me how much I had grown to hate each practice.

So that's where I'm at right now, and I want to talk about why exactly I no longer like using Duolingo. Don't get me wrong though, I still think it's an incredibly useful resource, and I'm really thankful it's been there since it did teach me a lot of German, and that's awesome.

Duolingo Problems

Here are some things I don't like about Duolingo. Maybe some people like these things or find them useful, or just don't mind them, but for me they affect my learning and bug me.

  • Repeating low level sentences. I'm pretty sure Duo, the Duolingo mascot owl, will show up outside my bedroom window one night to scream "Ich bin ein Mann" in a terrifying German owl screech. Please, I know this sentence. I never need to see this sentence again. Have mercy upon me, green owl of punishment.
  • Weird sentences. You know, I've seen a lot of people talking about how they don't like some of the odd sentences Duolingo asks you about, and honestly most of the time this hasn't bothered me. I do think sometimes weird sentences can stick in your mind well precisely because they're weird, but on the other hand I can see that often the less you're likely to use words and sentences, the less you're likely to remember them. This has gotten to be more of an issue for me towards the end of the German tree.
  • Lack of explanation implemented. I know that you can find extra grammar explanations in some parts of Duolingo, but to me it just doesn't feel super intuitive with a lot of this information and the way it presents it (or doesn't) when it comes to lessons and practice. I feel like Duolingo tries to be a catch-all language practice programme, and ultimately might be better suited to more of a vocab focus.
  • I don't like the app. I think desktop Duolingo is the best Duolingo. The app has quite a different style which focuses on multiple choice questions and pair matching. I find the app pretty tedious personally - however I do think it might be the best way to approach Asian languages.
  • It's not great for Asian languages. When I started using Duolingo, Japanese and Korean were not available. Now they are, but the courses for these languages differ a lot to those I've tried for languages more like English. For one, you mostly do not get to practice by typing. These two languages currently focus a lot on the multiple choice questions and pair matching I mentioned in the previous bullet point. That's why I think using the app is probably the best way to go for these languages, since the practice style suits touch controls better, but to me Duolingo feels pretty stilted as a whole for these languages. Also - learn the syllabaries (hiragana/katakana, or hangul) first, because Duolingo doesn't really approach them in the most beginner-friendly way in my opinion. I do want to say, however, that some of the Japanese sentence learning is decent, once you get to that stage, but personally I'd recommend starting elsewhere if you're a beginner.

What I'm Doing Now

Since I don't like studying Korean (the language I'm really interesting in focusing on right now) or Japanese on Duolingo, and my interest in practising German on Duolingo has died, I'm finally ready to say goodbye to trying to force myself to use it, and try using other learning resources and tools instead. I think if you're really struggling with an aspect of learning, or you're forcing yourself to do something, then it's probably best to change it. The best learning usually happens when you're enjoying what you're doing.

It's always a good idea to diversify your language learning resources. For German I'd really like to try out some other things (I've heard Deutsche Welle's DW Learn German app is good, and I really like the Memrise German courses because they use footage of real Germans speaking), and for Korean at the moment I'm sticking to Anki SRS and an app on Android called Korean Dungeon (there's also a Japanese version of this, so I might try that at some point).

Ultimately, I believe everyone's language learning is something they have to figure out for themselves, and it's also something that should be flexible as you learn and grow. Duolingo has served me well, and if I want to dip into a new language which uses the Latin alphabet in the future then I may revisit it, but otherwise I'm happy to say goodbye to it and forget about that ever-present streak that looms over me, haunting my dreams, judging me forevermore.

Tayasui Sketches: Drawing App Review

I really wanted to try and draw digitally more this year, as it's something that I've found confusing and uncomfortable in the past. Luckily, I managed to find an amazing drawing app called Tayasui Sketches at the beginning of 2018, and I'm really happy I did, so I decided to give it a little review here.

The app is really well-designed, with everything looking clean and fresh. The user interface is pretty friendly and simple, and everything feels so fluid and easy to control. There are a range of different brushes which offer a lot of texture possibilities, as well as options to change brush size, opacity, and colour.

I really like the pencil and crayon-like textures, but there are also lovely watercolour and airbrush options.

The way the app displays your drawings is also super nice. It looks and feels like a perfect combination of a sketchbook and portfolio. Your drawings are automatically saved every so often as you're drawing, and you can easily copy a drawing if you're not sure if you want to declare it finished yet, or if you want to save a picture of your work in progress.

There is a strong undo/redo function that comes in really handy - the only problem though is that sometimes when your drawing is automatically saved it means you can no longer undo anything from before that point. This usually isn't a big problem, but it's the first thing I'd suggest improving upon.

Overall I'm so pleased with this app. It's so smooth and pleasant to use, it provides lots of options, and ultimately I really enjoy drawing with it. It has really made it possible for me to feel more comfortable with digital drawing than I ever have before, so I would strongly recommend it to anyone who also feels a little overwhelmed by methods of making digital art.

Find Tayasui Sketches here for iOS and Android.

Brown Paper & Ultramarine

You know what the perfect art material is? A Primark bag. Or at least, that's what I painted these on, because I love brown paper. It feels nice and different to paint on brown paper, and although I actually have a roll of brown paper that I use for packaging/wrapping purposes, since it's in a roll it's impossible to flatten down. So I used a Primark bag instead, which I kept for this very purpose after buying some boots there a while ago.

I thought I'd use a nice dark blue as a kind of antithesis to the postbox red I've been using lately. It's more of a gentle colour, I guess, but still has a brightness to it. It's pretty much ultramarine, actually. That was my favourite colour for a while. I had a cool biker-style jacket in ultramarine and black. I kinda miss jackets like that.

From the Wikipedia page for ultramarine:
Ultramarine is a deep blue color and a pigment which was originally made by grinding lapis lazuli into a powder. The name comes from the Latin ultramarinus, literally "beyond the sea", because the pigment was imported into Europe from mines in Afghanistan by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Colours are the best.

Bedrooms & Belongings

I've been accumulating some things recently - new dresses, some paper, a weird dog bust (you'll have to imagine it, because I haven't taken any pictures of it yet) - and it's been making me think about my room a bit more. I always really like re-arranging things, tidying things, organising things, etc, and thinking about where all my things are in general. I find I can always move things a little bit to create a nicer or more convenient space. It always feels nice, too. Like giving yourself a fresh space. A nice change.

I find our overall relationships with all the things we have is super interesting. At times I've felt overwhelmed and annoyed by things I've owned, at other times I've felt freedom through getting rid of a lot of things in my possession, and right now I feel a particular contentedness and attachment to all of my things.

I feel like every strange, silly, or sweet item I have right now belongs with me. Take this dog toy, for instance, that I got recently. I have a moderate collection of cuddly toys of various sizes already, but each of them genuinely makes me feel warm and happy. It's the same with this dog. Its face and its pleasant lumpiness provide a unique kind of happiness whenever I look at it or touch it. It's beautiful.

I think I've come around in an interesting way from having a bunch of things without much thought, to then feeling liberated in a way by decluttering lots of stuff, to then feeling genuine excitement and joy with the new things I get. There's an appreciation and understanding that wasn't really there before - and a consciousness about everything. Everything is here because it belongs.

Mostly, at least.