'Hey Naj, Watcha Thinkin?' - Volume 1

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Hey Naj, Watcha Thinkin? | No. 1

Well hello there. It's me, Naj.

So I was thinking, I should start a blog. 

But then I was like, wait, I'm an email specialist.
I should totally blog using my totally amazing email skills.
And voîla - here we are with the first edition of... 

This newsletter is going to be a hybrid of my personal musings, curated collection of things I've found and tucked away in my bookmarks and mainly animated gifs I found very amusing.

It might get deep sometimes, but mainly, this is a way for me to have a conversation the best way I know how. At home, in my pyjamas, and typing on my laptop. 

Okay, let's get into the meat of what caught my attention recently, including:
  • Music from Itzy, Lizzo and more
  • Thoughts about Rupaul's Drag Race Season 11
  • Love, Death and Robots
  • Badger, badger, badger, badger...


With my ears and everything
As a great philosopher once said,

makes the people,
come together,

My relationship with music runs deep, but these days it's a way for me to concentrate on tasks at hand. I am now 30 and the majority of my days are spent on amassing currency that allows me to stay in my current residence and buy essential nourishment, so music makes this process much less painful.

You can usually find me at work with my earphones in and bopping to Die Antwoord if I'm stressing about deadlines, or at home, blasting some 90's new jack swing when I need to get some laundry done.

As far as music goes, I'm either really late to the party, or right there when a track is about to blow up. Either way, my selections are normally pretty eclectic, so hopefully you'll discover something you enjoy.
In this era of political instability, doom and gloom and general mistrust of the human population at large - I find myself gravitating towards the things that give me a happy.

Bubblegum K-pop (and the insane production value behind its music videos) is one of the things that make me bop, so hearing this was a pleasant surprise on my random Spotify mix. 

If you've never dipped your toes into K-pop, give it a try. What have you got to lose? Or do you really want to keep listening to mumble hip-hop on to the top 40 charts???
An absolute bop/groove. Ugh, what can I say - the lyrics are great, the vocals are flawless and the music video just makes me smile so much. Lizzo is the artist we don't deserve and she JUST dropped a collaboration with Missy Elliot. UGH SO GOOD.
Minimalist loveliness and a voice and aesthetic I'm so jealous of. Listen to this on a Sunday morning when the morning sun is shining and you're feeling a little bit like you're in a rom-com. Special thanks to my niece for suggesting this one. 


And how Yvie Oddly grew on me...
If you know me, then you probably know I am obsessed with Rupaul's Drag Race. I've watched every season along with Untucked and All Stars. It's safe to say that I'm... a fan.

I know everybody says this about every season after season five (with the very big shoes of characters like Detox, Alyssa Edwards and Alaska to fill), but the first episode of Season 11 was feeling a little... dare I say... meh

However, I have to say that the incredibly weird Yvie Oddly grew on me - I've grown to respect this drag queen's approach to conflict resolution, and I couldn't take my eyes off her during Trump: The Rusical as an utterly terrifying, and yet mesmerising Kelly Conway.

(Insert Trixie Mattel scream here)

Brava and snaps at Miss Yvie - I hope she keeps it weird.

Of course, it would be remiss of me to not give a shoutout to Brooke Lynn Heights and Miss Vaaaaanjie. Miss Vaaaanjie.




a.k.a. my vices (apart from all those Sylvanian family dolls I've been collecting) 
This gem popped up in my Netflix homepage like it was nbd but it was very much a bd. A bfd, if you will. It's easy to get jaded with sci-fi offerings at the moment, especially with the superhero-saturated market but this was such a refreshing treat to the senses. An 18 episode anthology series of shorts that are incredibly moreish and was a much needed palette cleanser. My personal favourites were 'Good Hunting' which made me cry, and 'Sonnie's Edge'. 
This Russian-made game was a real pleasure to dive into, and I found it easy to get into the world even though this threequel is my first experience of the series. It reminded me of Rage with a dash of Fallout. While some parts of the game did seem a little bit rushed, I enjoyed the balance of storytelling and action. Hot tip: play through with Russian audio on, it's so much more immersive and I found that there were clearly some things that weren't translating as well in the English version.
Okay, I admit, super late to the bandwagon here but I wanted to watch this one when the rest of the internet had stopped talking about it, and it was absolutely worth it. At some points while watching this, I found myself literally gripping a cushion with the tension and dread this masterpiece in horror created.
If you haven't had the pleasure of watching this movie, do yourself a favour and don't read anything (else) about it. Just watch it fresh. 
It's a weird time in the gaming calendar where many of us are waiting for the real juicy releases to drop - so I've just started replaying Dying Light. This parkour zombie game from 2015 was an absolute delight because I hadn't expected to enjoy it so much when I first played it, and I'm STILL enjoying it!! The graphics still hold up, the parkour still feels pretty smooth and I'm still chucking firecrackers into oil puddles and watching zombies turn into walking bonfires. 


Remember that one badger video?
If you're about the same age as me, you are part of the in-between generation - that strange middle place where you've spent some of your adolescent and adult life before and after the internet.

I can remember the days before smartphones and having one of those clicky Nokia contraptions with a full QWERTY keyboard. I can remember when watching videos on the internet meant loading an embedded 3 minute Quicktime video for 10 minutes.

This newsletter is an ode to the heyday of the organically weird and wonderful. Being viral hadn't been honed down to an art by meme-stealing social media content creators and was purely a happy accident by some weirdos who put a surprising amount of effort into flash animations.

(Big love to my favourite OG blogs. Pink Is The New Black and Fourfour (I miss Winston). Special commendations to tumblrs of yore, inothernews and Babe City Babes)

I plan on recording my personal memories of this strange time, back when Facebook was a thing that happened to other people and you'd start conversations with "a/s/l?". Ah, IRC. 

One of my personal favourites:
I was reminded of this gem by a coworker who introduced a badger emoji into the company slack. We now use the badger emoji to encompass all emotions. 

I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure I first watched this on Newgrounds. 

There is no context to this video, and someone actually took the time to animate it. Please enjoy. 


And that's the end of my very first HEY NAJ, WATCHA THINKIN? It's been cathartic.

Some ideas for upcoming newsletters:
  • Craft tutorials
  • Suggested icebreakers for your next soirée
  • My super quick corn chowder recipe
  • A list of things I've overheard in Salisbury, where I live, like "You've simply got to get the pink Hunter wellies".
What did you think? Did you find something you hadn't known about? What shall I write about next?

Tell me all about it: najmahsalam@gmail.com 

I hope you have a great week, and tbh, you're alive and you're doing great, which is pretty good considering the climate we're in. Keep your head up. 

HEY NAJ, WATCHA THINKIN? is a personal blog and newsletter by Najmah Salam.
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A sprained ankle + Too much time indoors = Creativity Spurt?

Okay, I already regret using the word 'spurt'. Ew. Long story shirt, my adventures in roller derby came to a very sudden and painful halt last Saturday while falling down and spraining my ankle. 

It was kinda funny until I realised I had to make my way all the way from the leisure centre to Basingstoke train station, and then from Salisbury to home. Uncool. Luckily with some help from a team mate (Thanks Tom!) and my totally amazing husband who carried me bridal style (yes, I will admit I pretended to be Whitney Houston in the Bodyguard for about 30 seconds) I finally got to the safety of my house. My ankle was about the size of a lemon and I started sniffling because I was then totally overwhelmed. 

Foot fetishists eat your heart out

What the hell was I going to do about work? When was I going to be able to walk?

Spoiler alert - I didn't go and it's been 13 days and I still can't walk. 



So after a day or two of freaking out, I did what I usually do and started making stuff. Or to be specific, started making art.

I relied on the things that made me happy - junk food obviously! With some googling and doodling, I put together an awesome pattern that just makes me smile. 

This print is available as awesome merch from Society6 & RedBubble!

It's 2016... already...

Cue the baffled sound I make when I take a look at the date of my last blog post and it says July 7th, 2015. Eep. What was that about writing regular blog posts again?

But nevermind, we shall strive to do better! 

In the period of time between my last post and this point in time, I've been employed, turned 27 and eaten at least my weight's worth in rose flavoured Turkish Delights (I regret nothing). The air is now cold after a very mild Christmas and I am on holiday for a week. 

I'd like to kick off 2016 with a collection of drawings. I don't usually make resolutions but I would like to  (a) learn a new skill, as usual, and (b) keep improving  upon my digital painting and designing. I'm also going to actively date everything I've made so I can cringe at my past work AND know how long ago I made it. Bonus. 

I first attempted to do a painting of Yennefer of 'The Witcher' in a pretty awkward pose.

Didn't work out and I quickly gave up. I then moved on to another gaming franchise and made a portrait of everyone's favourite egg, Solas, from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Also included, a fancy process gif! 

I also painted a pretty nightmarish scenario - the deep sea fascinates and scares me in equal measure. 

And finally, wrapping it up with a study of Hughes Merle's 'Mary Magdalene in The Cave'. Studies are hard to do, and I guess that's why I should do them. I'm definitely going to aim to do more. 

And that's the update from 2016! I'm excited to see what's next. 

Blogging on site

So you're a designer and someone says to you "We want you to design something..."  

Okay, good so far... 

"it can be ANYTHING you want!"  

Oh dear. You see, this is exactly the point where my brain completely shuts down.  

The problem, I think, is with the way I'm wired. I'm used to seeing many different possibilities, when faced with a design brief. It's just smart to come up several choices when approaching one! However, as soon as someone says "do ANYTHING you want", it's often times more limiting.

I start overthinking, getting excited about the project and finally my brain peaks at the sheer amount of possibilities and... Nothing! Absolutely nothing.   This is why I'm currently in a Starbucks having a coffee and in, what I call, my idea incubation stage. It's when I absorb a ton of great design ideas and look at different references, and then go outside of my little work bubble at home and just zone out. So far it's worked but there's always an underlying sense of anxiety that I won't find an idea I love.  

Heres hoping my muse helps me out soon. 

English summers... 

English summers... 

New Items & Russell's Posing Skills

So to get my etsy store back in action, I've been making a lot of new things...

Mini Cat Mobile, perfect to brighten up any home!

And getting my products looking on fleek with new pictures...

I wanna be, the very BEST!! 

I've also got a model around who doesn't seem to know that he's supposed to model my products and not his biceps. (Working with the talent is SO HARD) 

Uh... I want a closeup of the badge... not the biceps... 

Domestic & Boring = Best Me

Lately I've been finding it really amusing at how my present self would appear to my late teen self - probably very boring, and very content with very little. I'm actually incredibly pleased by that. 

That's not to say I don't demand a lot when it comes to certain things - Casa Hope has always been very picky about having an insanely good TV and sound system for our insanely good video games. We cook good food well and often and oh god now that I've written this out, I've realised. We're actual hobbits. 

As a result, my blog will never be filled with pictures of myself in new and exciting locations because I'm really content at home. I do love seeing my friends' pictures of their travels but it's personally taken me a lot of travelling to get to where I am now, literally. 

What's next? That's a question that's been on my mind so much this week. It's been two years of waiting for this exactly moment that I guess I didn't have enough space in my head to think about what I'd do now. I've been applying for jobs and working hard at the things I to do like making art or crafting fancy new things. 

I have to take it as it comes, I guess! 

In the meantime, enjoy my doodles this week:

London Exhaustion & Jurassic Weird

Okay so I'm a bit behind of this week's blog but I'm still mentally exhausted from a jaunt up to London. Being Singaporean, I'm used to everything being within an hour by public transport from one end of the island to the other.

Obviously, being in the UK is a completely different story because getting to London was 1.5 hrs just by train from Salisbury, and not to mention all the fiddling about on the Underground and walking through swathes of tourists.

The British Museum is my place of choice when going to London since I'm not really a fan of anything except what old people like, apparently.

If there's one thing about my UK that still wows me, especially in a town like Salisbury, it's the history you seen down every road or every building. The place where I live now dates back to the 14th century from what i've found with a little bit of googling.

I personally don't like London - I've lived in busy cities all my life and it tires me out to be some place where there's so much hustle and bustle - but I do love the British Museum. It's a strange feeling to be a bunch of molecules looking at another bunch of molecules that were formed and re-formed a long time ago. Puts things into perspective I guess.

After spending two hours in the veritable collection of things classified under OAB (Old As Balls), I wanted to track down some specialist craft places in the Soho area but it turned out to be a really tiring endeavour. For one thing, I'm used to craft places being a hodge podge of various supplies in one convenient place, like DAISO. One thing I'm still getting used to here is words like haberdasheries, and fabric suppliers, meaning that I have to plan exactly what it is I want to buy before heading somewhere to buy it! Yikes! Guess my agak-agak way of making my crafts are going to have to take a back seat.

Oh man, I DIDN'T EVEN MENTION IT COST £180 JUST TO GET TO LONDON!! Yeah, London's cool but not £180 cool to get to all the time. Think I'll stick to my new fave shopping place, Bath. Again, I'm blogging for the benefit of Singaporean readers so bear with me people who live in places larger than a borough in most continents.

So Russell and I went to watch Jurassic World yesterday with a few of his friends and I have to say, I'm still flummoxed? Meaning I'm not sure if I went to watch a good film or a bad film. Either way I wasn't bored because I distinctly remember laughing at moments of violence, but that's just me.

Remakes must be incredibly hard to make good, because the people involved have to make the movie good for both the generation that grew up with the original awesome film and also make sure that the film is still awesome for the current generation. I think the approach they took with making Jurassic World was turning it into a dino-fest with a huge dollop of self-deprecation. And you know, thinking about it, how could you not? You're making a dinosaur movie. You have to make fun of yourself.

I'm not going to talk too much about the content of the film itself, but I'm fairly sure anyone who's watching the trailer can put two and two together. A thrilling suspense this film is not -  but hey, I did eat a lot of popcorn watching Chris Pratt mindmeld with raptors.

The mixture of nostalgic music which seemed more dated to my ears, soaring shots over a theme park as opposed to inspiring shots of cute herbivore dinosaurs, mixed with clunky dialogue should have rendered this movie terrible but with its tongue-in-cheek tone, it still managed to stay really entertaining! The action scenes hit all the right points and Chris Pratt's impression of a leading man was kind of hilarious within itself.

I'm not going to say anymore except #teamBlue! It's a film you have to see and not have described to you and most importantly, don't expect too much waxing philosophical about the folly of man. Just come for the dinosaurs.

Otherwise, being the old lady I am in soul, I haven't been doing too much except cooking up some really delicious food with Russell which I regret not taking pictures of due to extreme hunger and lots of painting and crafting. We've yet to start binge-watching Orange Is The New Black since it dropped yesterday and I should probably hydrate and get snacks ready for the marathon watching that's going to commence as soon as I finish blogging.

In recent things I've been painting, Eva Green as the totally perf Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful. Victorian occult, gothic horror with a generous helping of camp, brilliant actors and actually witty dialogue, this series totally hits the spot. I'm obsessed with the world and so had to do a pitch-perfect painting dedicated to my favourite character on the show.

As always, check my Art > 2015 for new things I'm adding all the time! I'm still free for commissions so hey, if I can shamelessly plug my services here - drop me a line at najmahsalam@gmail.com if you need an illustration or design project done




Post-Apocalyptic Brain Soup

Another week's gone by and I think it's safe to say that nothing has quite captured my attention the way the release of the brand new Fallout 4 trailer has. 

It's kind of an understatement to say that I love the Fallout series. Fallout New Vegas is the first video game that got me into gaming in a big way, and made me realise all the things that video games were capable of.

Cut to two days ago where I found myself looking at this:

I'm absolutely beside myself with anticipation for this game and it has been a long, long time coming. Hey, I'm stil subscribed to the tumblr Is Fallout 4 Out Yet and now I'm mostly subscribed to see their reaction to actually buying a copy for themselves.

In light of this good news, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to all the things that I love about the Fallout universe.

From the moment that my character, the Courier was shot in the head, I knew that I was in for something that I was going to absolutely be obsessed with. Before Fallout, I already had an affinity with post-apocalyptic media, namely Tank Girl. In fact, one of the major perks at working at a comic book store in my late teens was being able to buy trade paperbacks at a discount and even being to find the damn books in Singapore anyway.

I've tried to inspect exactly what it is about post-apocalyptia that attracts me and I've come to the conclusion that I love a very specific kind. Wacky Wasteland tropes (which coincidentally is a name of a perk in Fallout). I love humanity's weird side and randomly bizarre antics in general and media like Tank Girl, Fallout and Mad Max seem to explore this particular trait. I know that a world post major world war/zombie outbreak/natural disaster of some kind is bleak but I think the beauty in these kinds of fictions can be found in people themselves and the choices that they make. That beauty in life is something people might strive for even when faced with the choice to go completely insane, to just keep surviving or just to end it all in an instance.

One of the main gameplay elements in Fallout that attracted me to it was the fact that it was open world in every respect, especially in the way that you could shape your particular character. Your character in Fallout is faced with various difficult and landscape-changing decisions and based on these decisions, you can be on the spectrum between Nefariously Hand-Rubbing Evil or Glowing Paragon of Good.

In between accomplishing various tasks for the main storyline, I think what blew me away about both Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas was the attachment that I could feel for fictional characters who in the long run didn't have that much bearing on the overall story. I still feel strongly that if Lily Bowen was ever real, that I would adopt her as my grandma in an instant. Don't even get me started on the main storyline of F3!! Don't even!

So while there is a lot of weird in the wasteland, there is a lot of heart, and the kind of stories that definitely inspired me to look for better storytelling in the things I consume. See, before putting my paws on the PS3 controller to shakily move my Courier about, I'd only ever seen or played video games like Guitar Hero and much farther before that, owned a yellow Gameboy Colour my dad had bought for me in an airport with Donkey Kong Land.

I don't I'd ever expected to be so immersed into a world so quickly or deeply in FNV. With various conversations with NPC, I felt like I was a real person in a real place and could feel the mood in different locations within the game world. Playing Fallout made me realise the huge difference a great premise and story writing can do for video games. Then came learning how to shoot a gun in a game for the first time... One of the most curious things I've found out about myself is that I am a killer sniper in video games. Russell calls me Headshot Hope.

One of my benchmarks for how good a movie, book or video game is, is whether I can imagine other stories within the fictional world. Case in point, just take a look at how much fan fiction media can inspire. It just says to me that people love the universe so much that they want to extend it and make the experience last that much longer, and to put themselves into the world as well.

I completely feel this way about Fallout (and yes, when I can't sleep sometimes I do peruse Fallout fan fiction).

All this outpouring of love being said however, Russell did say not to hype the new game too much, so I'm going to try my best to forget the entire thing is happening, or at least until the E3 reveal. Hence, the reasons why I'm going to try NOT looking at every single frame of the trailer and speculating what the new game will have in store.

In the meantime, I've been indulging in making some Fallout fanart! It's not the first time I've made a tribute to my favourite game series of all time and definitely not the last.

While I'm here saving up all my bottlecaps, let me end this blog post with my own personal musical tribute...

Mad Max, The Witcher and All The Cheeses

It's been another week here and time is really flying by. No job yet, but a lot of interesting developments at Casa Hope-Salam. 

Yaaaas Charlize yaaaass!!! 

The first real thing I have to cover is Mad Max: Fury Road which I watched yesterday with no small amount of anticipation at the tiny Odeon here in Salisbury. I have to say, this is the first film in a while that's actually lived up to the hype. 

Not being a fan of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) as such, Age of Ultron didn't really interest me, so I guess Mad Max was the only real popcorn offering I was looking forward to. I definitely heard and read all about the 'negative' feedback it was getting and decided I had to watch it straight away. 

Reading the trivia and certain tidbits about the film definitely make its weird, fast paced, frenetic and fresh taste make so much sense. The last time I watched a film that 'felt' this weird in a good way was Snowpiercer, and anybody who knows me knows that I loved that film to bits.

So I don't think I'm spoiling anything for anyone when I say that the film is basically one long action scene, and I was totally okay with that. The skill of the cinematography, art direction and editing combined meant that every second was exciting to watch. I don't think I'll ever get over the combination of aesthetic and comedic genius behind guitar guy. You'll know what I mean once you watch the film.

One thing I always find about action films is that, you get to a certain point before gunshots and explosions become boring. I didn't feel that way about Mad Max at all. The tension of every action  scene had me sitting up and gleefully gripping Russell's arm (sorry babe). The comedy of certain moments while minimal made me giggle, like Tom Hardy's frantic filing at his metal muzzle while in the middle of a major chase. And Charlize Theron, once again, is a stone cold bad ass.

Bad parts of the movie? I've yet to think of any - and fully thought the movie achieved everything it intended to be. I definitely can't think of anything I would have done differently. 

So? Watch it already! I give it 4 out of 5 fuel tanks. 

Apart from some serious holiday eating, I've once again been doing some major game playing. It's been nearly three years since I've had my hands on a Playstation, so when plopped in front of an awesome TV and sound system and a shiny PS4, can you blame me for indulging? 

I'd finished Tomb Raider (excellent, can't wait for the next instalment), inched bit by bit through Alien Isolation (really excellent if you're into being terrified and pooping your pants from fear) and was dabbling in some Destiny (still on the fence about whether 'shared first player shooters' are my thing) when The Witcher: The Wild Hunt came out.

"Should I get the meat supreme or the tandoori chicken sizzler..." 

Holy medieval boots, it was all that it said on the box and more. The developers really weren't kidding when they said the world was huge. I'd been exploring the beautiful vistas of Velen over horseback for a few days before I remembered I actually had a main quest to do because I kept getting sidetracked. 

I think the main thing that took me by surprise about The Witcher, was the actual writing. I really love it, so much so that it's making me want to track down the series of novels it's based off. From interactions with major characters, to the decisions you have to make right down to things overheard in conversations between peasants, the world building is incredibly rich and detailed. I fully appreciate the extent of work that had to go in to this game because I have yet to be disappointed by my experience. 

It also made me realise that in an open world RPG, you don't necessarily have to start with a character made from scratch provided you can get invested very quickly and also have a large amount of customisation in other areas, which I really enjoy greatly. For some reason making alchemical potions excites me in video games. If only I'd felt the same way about O-level chemistry.

My only quibble is that the Witcher does tend to feel a little 'spongy'. You certainly can't move stealthily, for example. 

i'm really excited to see where the main story goes, but for now I'm going to keep distracting myself with shiny objects and fighting water hags and other beasties. Maybe I'll write more about the storyline once I'm farther along. 

So far, I give it 4 out of 5 drowner brains. 

A hearty homemade cottage pie with a lovely cheddar/mozarella cheese baked crust on top. 

In other news, there has been so much delicious, delicious home cooking that I'm convinced I've already gained a healthy amount of happy holiday weight. I'm actually okay with that... especially if you've seen the food I've been stuffing myself with. 

I've always associated good home cooking with a happy family life. Some of my best childhood memories are simply hanging around the kitchen while my dad would be cooking up a storm on the rare occasions that he would be home from flying. Not much has changed, but I now have a hand in the cooking too.

I can't help but see the similarities between Russell and my Dad as cooks. Although the fare couldn't be more different, I've never seen either one use a single measuring cup or a timer. This is a quality in Malay cooking called 'agak-agak' or literally, guess-guess. While Russ has had to teach me a lot of cooking, I've come up with some crazy ideas of my own with delicious results which has become further proof to me that we're a good team. I guess our future kids are going to grow up with a lot of fusion cooking.  

Fuck. It's so fancy. 

One last piece of news - we recently acquired a Cintiq 13HD. For people who are not familiar with drawing tablets, this is a really fancy piece of equipment that enables one to draw directly on to the screen. I'm incredibly excited, but also a little wary and scared. 

It's been a while since I've settled down and done some drawing with all the craziness that's been happening recently, but I have no excuse now. And that's a little daunting. I suffer from that altogether common quality of oh dang I'm really shit at drawing syndrome. Replace 'drawing' with any creative endeavour and you'll find most of your creative friends have the same thing. 

Just imagine all the things I can do with this new technology. 

I guess I just have to sit down and get on with it, and just remind myself I'm never really as bad as I think I am.

Actual evidence of my drawing prowess right here.


An Official Introduction: Family Edition

It makes sense to officially introduce the people of my life if I'm going to start blogging regularly. 

Myself, Najmah Salam. Currently 26, married, just had a tuna sandwich. Writer of this blog and also an artist and designer. 





Russell Hope, Husband. The real MVP and has the cutest gams in town. Will turn up frequently in blog posts. We've been together since 2010. 

Also pictured: Cat Friend, Actual Cat. We don't own him but he meows insistently at the door and we let him in. Very clumsy for a cat.

Jasmine and Linda, my nieces. Will also appear frequently, along with my honorary furry niece Chloe, (Linda's dog). They both live in Melbourne. 

The 'rents, who are divorced and have unfortunately been left behind in Singapore to my mother's chagrin, as this has disrupted her weekly ritual of sharing cake and tea with me and streaming Dancing With The Stars to look at all the hot dancing bods. My dad still maintains his classic Asian Dad stoicism by messaging me mildly passive-aggressive things about delicious Singaporean food that he's eating without me. 

I also have two sisters, Durrah and Wardah, whose pictures I don't have. They're 11 and 12 years older than me. Durrah lives with my mother while Wardah lives with her husband in New York. When I say my family's all over the place, I totally mean it. 

I do miss my family but if i'm being completely honest, living with them did seem like I'd never left my childhood. I'd wake up some nights in a panic thinking that my entire tertiary school experience never happened and I had to put on my secondary school uniform because morning assembly was going to start in an hour (yikes!!). 

I do have to say, there's nothing like being booted straight into adulthood again like moving to another country.

Singapore ---> Salisbury

If there is anything I should be the poster child of, it should be of completely changing one's living circumstances. 

About little more than two months ago, I was living on tenterhooks because I, like many other people, was waiting for a response on my settlement visa application to the UK. 

Before I launch into the details of it all, I first want to say that I've decided to use this platform for both my personal and professional blogging. If I've learnt anything in the past couple of years, one aspect definitely affects the other, so it makes sense to bring both into the mix. 

Russell and me being ultra cool as usual

So, the story is that about five years ago, I met a wonderful man who I'm now married to. We ran into the pesky obstacle of both being from different countries and the red tape that goes into that. A settlement visa is what someone like myself has to apply for in order to live and work in the UK.

My circumstances were unlucky, but definitely luckier than most. I had the benefit of being able to live with my family back in Singapore while trying to sort things out with my visa over the course of two years, and also having the unwavering support of many people along the way. While it did seem very hard at times, I now feel eternally grateful at the opportunities I have now.

So as you can probably guess, it finally happened for me. And... now I'm a little overwhelmed with all the possibilities ahead of me in the future. 

My current place

But, as Russell says, I'm taking a little time to get my bearings, work out the business of being an adult in another country which is always a little strange and unwieldy and get into some kind of rhythm. Besides, it's lovely being able to type with a view of a pretty cobblestone path and knowledge that Russell will be swinging by during his lunchtime so we can have sandwiches together. 

Revolutionary Ninja Bunnies

In awesome news today, there is a cool person walking around with my artwork tattooed on their body!

Rory sent me this picture of a present she got herself for the 8th anniversary of turning vegan. Congrats and I’m proud that you treat yo’self girl!

She describes the tattoo as a revolutionary ninja bunny  - "I like to think he's preparing to rescue all the other bunnies from the cosmetics testing labs."

Tattoo done by Riley Leachman who I think did a really great job!

Two weeks into 2015

Here's a weird thing - I posted a package off to my nieces a few days ago and I'm fairly sure I wrote the date on the registered article receipt as 01/14.

One thing I still get really excited about is buying a new sketchbook. My brand new Daler-Rowney sketchbook (which is way more affordable than a freaking Moleskine) is so fresh and so clean and full of wonderful possibilities. And then I put my pencil to the paper...

After all the hullaballoo that's been happening in my family recently, I finally got some time to buckle down and do some doodling.

And true to my resolution, stuck to my guns and did some digital painting.

These are still works in progress! They're just playful little doodles but I think I might be getting an idea for a longform work. Hopefully. Oh no I've jinxed it. *SIGH

Painting the nerves away

It's been pretty crazy at home with my dad being admitted to hospital, and my grandmother being admitted to hospital for the third time in the last two weeks. I think I have to thank my muse for sticking around in this time and allowing me to get painting and practising. (It's a lot easier to imagine a muse being present so it eases responsibility off myself on the days when I have a complete onset of artist's block. It's been a very useful fiction).

I fully recommend doing a little bit of drawing or painting if you're a bit sad today.

30 mins, from reference. I noticed that all of the figures I draw all look pretty samey so I'm making a conscious effort to try different skin tones and body shapes!

20 mins. From a picture of Cheddar Gorge. Man, nature is really complicated. Really, really complicated. For a first time effort at landscape painting it's actually not as bad as I thought.

And finally a warm down doodle, 20 mins.

Digital Figure Drawing. Oy.

Well i for one feel mentally exhausted but strangely satisfied. That sounds wrong.

My new resolution to progress to digital as much as possible has resulted in some strange blotchy looking digital sketches and paintings.  I think I'm starting to understand that I have to switch from looking at things like outlines and structures and more like blobs of colour in order to progress more in digital painting, and have a healthy balance of switching between the two if that makes any sense.

These super quick digital paintings are not quite 'An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump' but I've got to start somewhere, as they say. Who's they? I don't know. You can really tell where i'm lacking in the difference between the purely outlined sketch and the actual paintings. Just click to embiggen.

Some sketchpoop

If I'm proud of anything this year, it's the fact that I'm finding sketching digitally a lot easier nowadays. Next year, I aim to do more digital painting than ever.

Watercolours, the new frontier

Okay dear reader, have you ever written up this fantastically long rambling blog post at about 3:44 in the morning only to have your computer die? Imagine then you wake up, as you do, and open your computer up only to find your blog post disappear before your eyes because Firefox decides to crash.

Well, this happened to me not one hour ago. So I think I'm finally ready to re-write this blog post after one minute of mourning and some 20 minutes of drinking tea and eating a bowl of very soupy lontong.

Back to the art. If you were to look at my art and time travel backwards, it's pretty clear that my modus operandi used to include a lot of black pens and white paper. That was it. I was obsessed with texture, patterns and lovely clean lines when put together would make striking pieces.

I'm now on the cusp of turning 26 and I realise, hey, I need to be more well rounded. I need to understand more about making art! So I step into the murky waters of watercolour painting. Watercolours are pretty much the antithesis of what i used to do. It's unpredictable, splotchy and colourful. Not to mention all the paraphernalia that's involved like a palette and the crappy cup with water and the brushes, etc. You get the idea.

Damn you chicken thigh!! Curse your delicious crispy covering!

Yesterday I was feeling pretty bummed so I decide to start on something that makes me happy, painting a deconstructed nasi lemak. Easy peasy lemon squeezy right? Actually, no.

Who knew painting fried chicken would be SO HARD? A delicious piece of fried chicken thigh has so much texture I never even thought about in terms of light and colour. How much brown to red do I mix? And where do I put the highlights??

At this point I'm pretty annoyed because I'm like, really? Me? Lover of all chickens fried, unable to paint a single thigh piece?

So I go on to more familiar ground - a nice face!

As I'm plodding along with this painting, I realise I'm making choices that Naj from one year ago wouldn't have made. I'm mixing a little bit of blue and purple into browns for shadows! I'm putting highlights here and there! It probably sounds like a silly thing to be happy about but believe me, it's pretty cool to acknowledge that you are in fact progressing.

All in all, I'm not 100% happy with the stuff I made but hey, they're experiments and I've got to start somewhere! Think I'll do some more painting soon.