Speed Drawing of “Alone in Your Mind” (Pen & Copic Art)

Here’s the drawing process video for “Alone in Your Mind”, a drawing featuring floating ramen hair, graffiti cats, and eel creatures.

Tools used:

  1. Copic markers.
  2. Faber-Castell black pens.
  3. $2 sketchbook (Dollarama is killing it in art supplies!)

The total drawing time was around an hour and ten minutes.

Millie Ho "Alone In Your Mind" Surreal Illustration Art

“Alone in Your Mind”, the finished drawing.

Thanks for watching, and happy holidays!

The Right Word is the Simpler Word

Note: This is a follow-up video/post to my post “To People Who Think I Use Big Words to Sound Smart”.

After reading “Mystic River” by Dennis Lehane, which was full of clear and powerful language, I realized that the right word is often the simpler word.

This is because the goal of communication is to make sure you are understood. It’s less about what you know and more about how you show what you know.

When given a choice, always choose the simpler word because:

  1. Simpler words are familiar, and therefore understood quickly.
  2. Simpler words are often more in context (vs. a more archaic or technical big word).
  3. Simpler words communicate complicated ideas better.

This goes back to the post about how my classmates said I was using big words to sound smart. After reading “Mystic River”, I’ve started thinking about things from my classmates’ point of view.

My classmates misunderstood me because I used big words purely to help myself learn, instead of trying to communicate well. Ultimately, it was my own damn fault that my classmates misunderstood me—I was not using the right words! I was using big words to improve my understanding, sure, but I didn’t consider whether those words were the right words to convey my ideas.

Now I know better. Now I’m choosing the right—and often simpler—words.

My Art Progress & Some Observations

Millie Ho Noodles Cat Surreal Art Illustration

My current work-in-progress drawing, ft. cats and noodles and bloodshed.

I started sketching at least one idea since July, and I’m happy to report that I’ve made more progress. Here are some highlights from the past couple of weeks.

Millie Ho Cat Parallax Art Surreal Illustration

“Cat Parallax”, pen on paper.

As you can see, I’m adding in more colours and details now. All the recurring motifs (cats, junk food, unimpressed teens) are still there, but they are now less one-dimensional and stiff compared to my sketches from a few months ago.

Millie Ho Phobia Art Surreal Illustration

“Phobia”, pen on paper.

I’ve been filling up more white space. My lines are getting more fluid and automatic. I feel more confident when I pick up the pen now.

Millie Ho Cat Vomit Surreal Art

“Cat Vomit”, pen on paper.

Experimenting with different art styles has also helped me achieve a level of comfort with what I illustrate. When I first started drawing every day, everything came out Studio Ghibli-like, and the feedback I received was almost enough to keep me headed in that direction. Almost.

Millie Ho Oreo Ordeal Surreal Art Illustration

“Oreo Ordeal”, pen on paper.

Thankfully, I remembered how miserable I was when I listened to other people tell me what I should be doing creatively, so I said screw that, and went exploring. So now here we are.

Millie Ho Self-Sabotage Surreal Art Illustration with Copics

“Self-Sabotage”, pen on paper.

Is this surrealism? Pop surrealism? All I know is that it’s fun to draw, it makes me feel better after I’ve drawn it, and it gives me an excuse to draw more cats, and that’s all I’m really asking for.

Some Observations

It’s interesting how my efforts with making art daily is mirroring my efforts with writing daily, in that I’ve become more honest with myself about what I actually enjoy making, and have improved incrementally over the past several months.

It was a challenge for me to get started, to move from a full-time job mindset and into a freelancer mindset that allowed me to draw and write (and travel!) more, but after I started taking the necessary baby steps, and after I stuck with these new habits long enough, I did improve.

I’ve come to the conclusion that everything you do affects everything else. If you change one area of your life, it will spill over into another area. If it’s a positive change, then one good habit reinforces another, and soon you’ll be snowballing your way to a more enjoyable life.

My art style will continue to evolve. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and finding out what else I can draw, and more ways to improve.

I will post some drawing process videos next!

Writing More Meaningful Symbolism

Netflix’s Luke Cage was an entertaining series, and it also helped me understand how to write better symbolism.

Here’s a summary of my talking points.

Avoid Using Superficial Symbolism  

In school, I was taught to reference existing works or mythologies if I was writing symbolism. For example, a guy who was strong would be given the name Hercule. Or I would use colours to represent different character attributes. Green was the colour of greed, so a character who was greedy would carry a green purse, which became a symbol.

These techniques made sense from a literary analysis standpoint, but they failed to enhance the reader’s connection to the characters, plot, or setting. These symbols also missed out on opportunities to accomplish more than one goal and were therefore one-dimensional.

After watching Luke Cage, I realized that I needed to use less superficial symbols that could be replicated for any story, and instead write more meaningful symbols.

3 Qualities of Meaningful Symbolism

In Luke Cage, the ring that Luke was tasked to find took on a deeper meaning as Episode 5 progressed:

  • The ring became a symbol for Harlem (its past, present, and future).
  • The ring represented different qualities of the characters.
  • The ring drove Episode 5’s plot.

I concluded that meaningful symbolism should consist of three main qualities:

1. The symbol must be significant to the characters. 

It doesn’t matter if critics or readers can dissect a symbol for hours on end. If the symbol is not significant to the characters and their lives, it will lack emotional and contextual depth.

2. The symbol should be unique to the story.

Blood is not a unique symbol. It can be used to represent guilt, life, and so forth, but to characters across different stories, it’s still just blood. But if the symbol is original to your story and can’t be replicated elsewhere, it will be more memorable and create more opportunities to take your story to new heights.

Examples: the Elder Wand in Harry Potter, the Death Star in Star Wars, and the One Ring in LOTR.

3. Symbolism should accomplish more than one thing.

You can use symbols to communicate character traits, drive the plot, or reveal the history of your setting. Symbolism can reveal how characters think and feel or were transformed.

Instead of creating different symbols and using them to fulfill a multitude of purposes, one multi-purpose symbol tightens up the narrative and creates a more concentrated impact.

In Conclusion

Symbolism should enhance the characters, plot, and essence of your story first.

Everything else is secondary.

What are your thoughts about writing symbolism?

I Now Have a Facebook Page

Millie Ho Cat Vomit Art Sketch Illustration

“Cat Vomit”, a pen sketch.

This is just a quick note about how I now have a Facebook page.

If you’re interested in getting updates about what I learned about writing, illustrating, or my novel-writing progress, you can follow me here:


I’m currently moving and travelling, but I’m nearly settled down and will be back to blogging soon!

Hope you’re well.