End of an Era ... Sort Of

As of tomorrow, my art will no longer be hung at the CoCA gallery or Freshy's Coffee. It's truly been a wonderful and surreal experience showcasing my work in these venues, and I am so grateful I that had those opportunities.

When it comes to trying to get your artwork hung in public places, I've found that it requires being super proactive and persistent. I've had so many cases where I contacted a venue several times (of course I would leave some breathing room in between messages because obviously I don't want to seem like a crazy person) and never heard back. But, it's one of those things where if you notice something isn't working out or going anywhere, you just have to move forward and look out for your next possible opportunity. 

I look forward to getting my art hung in more places hopefully soon! I will keep all you lovely artists and art lovers out there updated for the next time you can see my portraits on display. :)

Exhibition at the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)

Exhibition at the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)

Exhibition at Freshy's Coffee in West Seattle

Exhibition at Freshy's Coffee in West Seattle


Guess What? My Art will be in a gallery this May!

I have a major announcement: My piece "Daisy #2" (below) will be featured in an art gallery exhibition this May! Specifically, the gallery is CoCA (Center on Contemporary Art), located in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. As someone who had two amazing internships and volunteers there, I feel super proud to have my work be in its space and I couldn't be more thrilled!

Click here to read details on the exhibition and be sure to mark your calendars for the opening reception, May 3rd, 6-9 p.m.! :)


Song of the Week

I'm trying out this new thing where I share "Song of the Week" posts. Music has always been an important part of my life and also one of my must-haves for when I'm creating my artwork. I thought I'd share whatever particular songs have helped me get "in the zone" while art making, and also it's always fun in general to talk about good music!

What songs get you in the zone when you want to get creative? Here's one of my top choices ...

SONG OF THE WEEK: "Desperado" by Rihanna

Back when I spent most of my free time choreographing at the Velocity Dance Center (in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle), I would often find myself overthinking every move I came up with. The song let me loosen up, lose the fear of doing a "wrong" move and just go with the flow. Out of that came some of the dance moves I was most proud of that were part of a performance I did sometime last year.

It turns out the song has had a similar effect when it comes to my drawing process. I tend to get too cautious and worry I'm going to do a "wrong" stroke that's going to ruin the whole sketch, and the song (among other songs from the same Rihanna album) has helped me get out of my head, really focus and lose the fear of making mistakes. Besides, awhile ago I had decided to force myself to make any drawing mistakes look like they were done on purpose, so it all seems to be working out so far. :)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Rebranding Coming Soon

Hey guys!
I wanted you to know that pretty soon I'll be giving my brand and website a big makeover. This may or may not include changing Black & White by Shirene to a different name. I'm super excited and a little nervous ... and it might partly be because I have at least a hundred business cards with my current brand name printed on them and I wonder how much it would/will cost to print new ones. 

Anyway, stay tuned for the new version of my website! :)


With love,


Getting in Touch With My Inner Leslie Knope

For years, my precious charcoal drawings were sitting in my sketchbook, waiting to be released from their mini prison. Today, I finally set them free. 

If you know me, you know I get a lot of joy from organizing and doing other super productive things. I like to think of myself as a less intense version of Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation. So, not only did I finally rip the cherished pages from my sketchbook but I also slid each piece in a plastic sleeve and put all the sketches in a (really cute) binder in chronological order. 

Thanks to my inner Leslie, a cup of coffee and a trip I had made the day before to Michaels (where I try not to go more than once a week ... #addict), I was able to get all of this done in a flash. Also, I can't stand how adorable the binder is; I go crazy for coral and simply the act of resting my eyes on the gold pattern makes me happy.


Basically, it feels damn good to be organized especially when it concerns something you truly care about. Plus, it's a lot of fun.

Watermelon Daisy

If you read my last blog post, you're already aware of my latest obsession: my new Wacom Intuos Pro tablet. 
This past week, I've used the tablet to add color to my latest charcoal portrait (see below). I didn't add any filters on top unlike what I did for the first piece; I just added the green in the background and various shades of pink and red on the lips. Along the way, I somehow ended up with this watermelon theme. It was totally unintentional, but I don't mind it. :)

"Daisy" (2018)

"Daisy" (2018)

"Watermelon Daisy" (2018)

"Watermelon Daisy" (2018)

Stay tuned for more versions I plan on making of the same drawing. I might keep the same colors in there and add filters on top to make the charcoal strokes darker and more intense.

Blast From My Past

This past week, my Wacom Intuos Pro came in the mail and it felt like Christmas morning. After getting the hang of using the tablet and pen with my laptop, I decided to revamp a charcoal portrait I had done back in high school that was based on a Burberry magazine ad.

It took awhile to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with the drawing, and at the same time I had to try to figure out how to solve the problem of the picture not being of the best quality. It was slightly pixelated and blurry. Below is the first result of reworking the portrait on Illustrator.

Decided on a whim to title this "Women in Motion"

Decided on a whim to title this "Women in Motion"

Not only was this fun because I did it all while blasting Katy Perry and Britney Spears on Spotify, but it also felt great to work more freely with tablet and pen. And, I then made a second version of the portrait ...

Big surprise, but this is titled "Women in Motion #2"

Big surprise, but this is titled "Women in Motion #2"

Overall, I enjoyed adding lots of texture to the charcoal piece (which I thought helped solve the pixelated-look problem) and more texture on top of that with the bright illustrations. Stay tuned for when I make more versions ...

One Woman, One Voice

Originally posted on August 28, 2016.

When you look at these two images side by side, it's obvious one is straight up the zoomed-in version of the other. But, if you were only observing one of the two on its own, you'd probably come up with a different interpretation.

This was the idea I explored while drawing the above piece. I didn't want to copy the original photo (which I found thanks to Google search); I tried to think of a way to illustrate the same woman in a new perspective. Thus, the close-up drawing.

The eyes have always been my favorite facial feature to draw just because here I have the freedom to add as much intensity as I want in the person's expression (which always turns out to be a lot). Surprisingly, I also found that for this specific picture I could add intensity through the eyebrows. Something about this woman's eyebrows made me think I could use them to make her face bolder, more attention grabbing.

The woman in the image on the right has stopped in the middle of an outdoor stroll to wonder where she's going next (literally and figuratively), looking to the viewer for some sort of possible guidance. The woman on the left, however, is in deep thought, too deep to even realize there is a viewer. She's withdrawn from any outside influences or voices and is focusing on the internal, relying on her voice and her voice alone to tell her where she's headed next.

Dance the Night Away

Originally posted on August 26, 2016.

Last night, I decided to divert a bit from my usual style of portrait drawing. Instead of zooming in on and making sure to carve every facial feature of a woman's face, I focused on drawing the whole body. I also told myself not to spend more than five minutes on each piece. And, of course, I only drew dancers. :)

In case you didn't already know, I. Love. Dance. I've also always been fascinated in general by the human figure, whether I'm watching someone perform a modern dance piece or catching sight of a Bernini sculpture, dramatic movement and muscle and all. Thus, even though I didn't spend that much time on the above pieces, I put most of my energy into detailing the dancers' muscle tones. I wanted to accentuate the power and contagious energy that a person can carry within them, which shows through movement, especially dance.

Embrace the Fall

Originally posted on August 19, 2016.


Above is my first-ever abstract portrait. Specifically, it's my first-ever abstract self portrait, reflecting the past month or so where I've been coming to terms with past events in my life.

I won't go in too much detail, but I recently realized that while I believed I had dealt with the past events and moved on, I really was pretending that they had no effect on me. Basically, I was in denial. I believed I was untouchable. Some of the past hardships took place as far as 20 years ago, so I was struck with the fact that I have a lot of catching up to do. This is where I explain why my self portrait is abstract: After I came to the realization, all the memories and feelings started adding weight to my shoulders; one day, I was so overwhelmed I reached the point where I suddenly saw my body in the form of flat shapes falling on top of each other and crumbling to the ground.
What was most interesting about this moment was that I couldn't remember the last time I saw a mental image so clearly. So, I saw it as a sign that I had to get it down on paper.

I used to think that realistic looking portraits, drawings that were faithful to original images, were more powerful than abstract portraits, but now I see it all differently. These last few weeks also taught me art can be used as a reminder of one's past and of the lessons that came out of it. I actually still have the drawing open in my sketchbook in my room so that I don't go through a day without seeing it. It reminds me that even though I may fake smiles for the sake of others, I don't have to fake a smile at myself.


Originally posted on June 21, 2016.


The above photo is my latest work. It's the first time maybe in years that I've used charcoal and oil pastel in a single piece. Oh, and I have my adorable 7-year-old cousin to thank for generously lending me his oil pastel set. He's an angel. :)

As per usual, I had grabbed a picture that caught my eye after typing something along the lines of "portrait photography" in Google search. But, this time I chose to draw a figure instead of a face. Also, I decide to create a portrait of a woman facing away from the viewer rather than toward the viewer. I was generally faithful to the original photo of the dancer ... except for the fact that I completely removed her dance partner. I wanted the woman to be alone to give the piece an air of solitude -- not in a negative way, but in the sense of one facing inward, toward your own thoughts instead of focusing on all things outside yourself. Basically, I wanted to focus on the internal versus the external. I partly chose to think this way while drawing because generally I see dance as a profound way of expressing oneself, of deciding who you want to be and how to portray that through movement.

Do you modify original images as you draw or paint? If so, to what degree? What things inspire you to do this?

Just Do It

Originally posted on March 13, 2016.

Have you ever found yourself tired of hearing your voice going on and on inside your head, and you just have the urge to think less and do more? As someone who tends to overthink, I end up in this situation from time to time, and it feels liberating when I let myself go and allow things to happen on their own. I do this letting go particularly in drawing, which I guess in a way classifies drawing as a form of therapy for me.

Last weekend, after finishing my latest piece (see in previous blog post), I decided to draw without thinking. I thought it would be a good way to take a break from all the concentration and energy I put into the last portrait, and I went on Google images to find a picture of a figure rather than just a face (which I usually do). As soon as I found my image, I told myself to complete the figure drawing as quickly as I could. I didn't even put time into finding the right music to play on Spotify to fit whatever mood I was in (which, again, I usually do) -- I just went for it.


Even though it's not the most neat or finished looking drawing, it fits the idea of drawing from spontaneity and impulse.... And, before I end up getting deep into Art History and writing an essay-long blog post talking about artists like Jackson Pollock, I'm going to stop writing. :)

First Attempt, Results

Originally posted on March 10, 2016.

Hello, All!
My apologies for the weeks spent not writing a blog post... This apology not only goes out to you readers but also to the blog itself (because, yes, part of me believes this beautiful thing I created is a living thing that shouldn't be neglected). I hope you can forgive me.

Anyway, I thought I'd update you since the previous blog post and tell you that I tried the whole half-being-faithful-to-the-original-portrait-photo-half-winging-it thing! I had taken a photo of a beautiful woman from Google search and drawn her face to resemble as closely as possible how she actually looked in that photo. Then, for a couple of weeks, I let that face sit in my sketchbook as I waited for inspiration to strike that would allow me to complete the drawing. 


Finally, one day I forced myself to draw the rest of the portrait simply because I didn't like that I was basically postponing finishing the piece. Shortly after, I learned that I lost the original photo and could no longer find it on Google images (this taught me to always save whatever photo I'm drawing from instead of assuming it would always be one search away). This was when I decided to just "wing it." I had the woman's hair, neck and hat left to draw, so I went for it. Here is how it turned out:


I wish I could show you the original photo so you would know how much I winged it in this drawing! What I can tell you is that in the original photo, the woman's hair is pulled up in some sort of loose bun as there is much more shadowing in the neck area. For my drawing, I decided to let her hair down partly because I just love drawing hair this way and I thought the waves would frame her angular face really well. I also chose to lessen the shadow in her neck region so that the eye would wander in that area instead of just focusing on the face.

So, there you have it! Let me know what you think. I would love to hear any feedback you might have that I can perhaps use in my next attempt at half-being-faithful-to-the-original-portrait-half-winging-it. :)

Drawing Like Nat King Cole and The Strokes

Originally posted on December 9, 2015.

When I go about drawing my charcoal portraits, I do so in one particular pattern.
I will Google search "black and white portrait photography" for inspiration and see whatever catches my attention. Specifically, I will look for any photos where I feel like the subject is holding a lot of emotion inside. I will also search for images where I know I can create lots of shadow in the drawings. For example, I ran into this photo for my latest piece:

Photo by Malte Pietschmann

Photo by Malte Pietschmann

I found this photo very striking. The woman's eyes are locked on the audience in an intense stare, and they seem to be the focal point of the image. I could barely take my own eyes off of hers.

Aside from Google searching, I will blast a particular Spotify playlist on my phone where I get lost in the music. The tracks are mostly ones that I've barely heard on the radio or that I know not a lot of people are familiar with (at least I assume). I'm not sure why, but these things help me get absorbed in the songs.
In order to keep myself alert and focused on my drawings, I'll have the playlist alternate between super mellow and fast-paced songs. For example, Nat King Cole's "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You" will play followed by "Machu Picchu" by The Strokes.

Once I have the subject chosen and the music playing, there is no stopping me -- well, except for my adorable little cousins who will sometimes drop by my room to see what I'm working on.

When I'm done, I like to take a step back and take in what I've just created. There's something amazing about turning a piece of paper into a person who comes alive through the sheet. Also, I enjoy the process where I internalize what's in the picture from Google and make it into something of my own. In what resulted below, I ended up softening the woman's stare and adding a bit of a smile to her mouth.


Now, I like to turn over this one-sided (oops) conversation to you.
What do you do when you go about creating your art? Do you have a set routine or do you like to mix things up?