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My Art Journey: How I found a way to pursue my passion in arts

For those who are in similar positions as I am, currently unable to go to art school due to the lack of finances, time, and/or the need to priorities responsibilities, I have found a possible alternative to still be able to pursue your passion for arts (or any passion for that matter) and that is to take individual online courses.

I will first talk a little bit about my background in order for you to understand why I have chosen to take online courses instead of going to university, then I will talk about what I am doing to pursue my passion, as well as the courses I am taking.

This is going to be a series about the courses I am taking and how much improvement I have gained from them.

My Background:

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree majoring in Global Business Management and I currently work full-time as a paralegal. I have been taking continuing studies since graduating university:

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design               

  • Introduction to Digital Photography
  • Introduction to Adobe InDesign
  • Introduction and Intermediate Figure Drawing
  • Introduction to Watercolour
  • Introduction to Oil Painting

University of British Columbia (Game Writing Academy)

  • Video Game Narrative
  • Writing Dialogue for Games
  • Writing with Style
  • Fantasy Fiction
  • World Building

I do not have the finances to go back to art school unless I take out another student loan. I do not have the time to take 2-4 years off to go back to school as I am going to join my family’s company soon.

Drawing (and writing) has always been passions of mine that I have not fully academically pursued because of my responsibilities. Throughout my life I have placed my passions second to my responsibilities, such as going to business school instead of art school. I regretted doing this in the past; however, I told myself that if I want to succeed in something there is always a way. I realized it is possible to pursue both passion and responsibilities successfully because I did know someone who was an accomplished singer and at the same time, was able to manage and grow his family’s business.

I finally accepted that I needed to make some changes in my life in order to be succeed in both my passions and responsibilities. The following are what I have decided to do and may help you as well:

1. Prioritize your Time:

The first step I made was to change the way I used my free time. I used to always complain that I did not have enough time to do the things I wanted to do, then I realized that I was using my free time for things that did not help me accomplish my goals.

The first sacrifice I made was to discontinue playing the video games that took up a lot of my time, such as FFXIV. I then decided to stop watching T.V. series and stop mindlessly checking Facebook and Instagram. I then vowed to devote all my free time to learning and perfecting my art: this includes drawing and taking courses after work and during weekends. I do still play video games, read novels, and watch some shows, but only when I am too tired to draw/write and for inspiration.

By prioritizing my time, I can become a better artist and writer, while at the same time I am able to work and prepare myself to be a capable and qualified member of my family’s company.

2. Set Your Goals and Time Line:

I wrote down exactly what I wanted to accomplish for the following reasons:

  • In order to keep me focused since I am doing this on my own
  • In order to focus and narrow my search for courses and tutorials
  • To keep me motivated
  • To see my progress

The following are my goals (Both short and long term):

  • to be able to draw the human figure at any angle (and with several figures together)
  • to be able to draw realistic clothing on a human figure
  • to draw in perspective
  • to be able to create characters and draw them exhibiting their personalities (the way they walk, stand, and their gestures, etc.)
  • to be able to conceptualize and draw environments
  • to be able to tell a story through my drawings (comics, etc.)
  • to create artwork that I can proudly hang on the walls  ^_^
  • Long term: for my artworks to be bought and displayed, to have comics published, etc.

I want to be able to do the first 5 within 1-2 years, although I understand I will need a lot of practice to do it. I want to be able to do the rest within the next 5 years of my life. This will be dependent on my other responsibilities.

3. Find a Way to Accomplish Your Goals No Matter What Restrictions you Have!

The Alternative to Art School: Individual Online Courses

The best way I knew for me to improve my skills was to further my studies. Even after graduating in university I never stopped learning. I took continuing studies in arts; however, I felt these were not enough to fulfill my passion for arts and I really wanted to go back to full-time studies.

I researched different programs in Canada and the U.S.A. and found several schools besides NSCAD, such as the Academy of Arts University, VanArts, and Emily Carr University. Among these schools, I found the program that best suited what I wanted was the Visual Development program of the Academy of Arts University; however at $2,000 USD a course for 4 years, I could not afford it and I did not have that time to take off. An option would have been to take their continuing studies program, but it still cost a fortune!

I looked back at the other universities, but I did not find that their curriculum suited what I wanted for myself and still, even if they were less expensive, all the programs were 2-4 years. They were not as flexible as I wished they could be.

I found the possible answer through my search for “ways to become a better artist”, and that was to take online courses from accomplished artists themselves. I know of many artists who are self taught: drawing from life, master studies, books, tutorials from other artists. Since I did not have the time or the money to go back to university, I decided that taking individual online courses was a viable option for me.

I carefully read the curriculum of the Visual Arts Development program I wanted to join. I found many online courses and tutorials that taught similar subjects. I also searched for courses that matched my goals. With these, I created my own “curriculum”.

Taking individual courses gives you the freedom to choose what you want to learn, but you must be careful as well, because you do need to properly learn the fundamentals in order to become a good artist. Some courses also offer critiques from the artists, but many do not and so, cannot really ask questions the way you can in a classroom.

For the next few months, I will chronicle my experiences with this self-taught program I made for myself. I will provide meaningful critique of each of the courses I take (both free and paid courses). I will also share the practice drawings I have done to show my progress.

Online Art Courses I’m Taking:

Currently, I am focusing on the fundamentals: figure drawing, perspective etc. These are the courses I am currently taking and will be talking about in the next few posts:

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll be talking about my experience in the first few weeks of taking these courses. I have been doing this for only a month, and I can happily say that I already see progress!

If you have any suggestions, such as courses and books, please let me know through the comments!

Note: This is a personal path that I am taking and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should do the same. I cannot determine that this path is comparable to going to an art university because I have no experience going to one except for continuing studies courses. As I mentioned above, taking online courses is just the most viable option for me at this time. I am experimenting with the resources I have and I am just showing an option if you are in a similar position as me.

Art is not going to be my main source of income because I am going to be working for my family’s company. So, if you are planning to pursue arts as a career, school would probably be better than taking individual courses, although individual courses can help improve your skills and knowledge.

This blog series is  meant to show how this experiment of learning on my own will turn out: whether my skills improve and at what pace, as well as provide you with resources and ideas to help develop your art skills.


Artwork: Rothe Zarganduin

This is a drawing of my character in FFXIV whom I named Rothe Zarganduin. My character isn’t wearing that kind of outfit though. His outfit was inspired by the gear I’ve seen while playing Fall Out 4 (which is also a really fun game!).

I drew this using a 13HD Cintiq Wacom Tablet, which I purchased few weeks ago as a Christmas gift to myself. So far I really like it. I’ve had difficulty with digital drawings when I used tablets that did not have a screen. I somehow couldn’t get used to it, but with this tablet, it feels almost like drawing on paper.

I wish I could have gotten the 27 inch tablet, but it’s expensive and I don’t have the space.

I’m excited with all the different drawings and paintings I could do with this!

If you’d like more information about the tablet I got, here’s a link:







The Last of Winter

This year was one of the worst winters I’ve ever experienced. Icy roads, sidewalks that disappeared underneath a foot or so of snow, and sometimes piercing ice cold winds. (It’s a good thing I don’t have to shovel, or I would definitely hate winter). Despite all that, I still do love the way winter changes our surroundings, like fresh snow on the trees. I love the way snow falls slowly from the sky and sometimes I just have to stop and watch (and try to catch some on my palm).

These photos are from my last project in the Introduction to Photography class. My professor said looking at these made her like winter a little bit (and that’s a compliment!).

Father and Daughter

A father and daughter, taking a stroll at the park.

Rocks and Shells

There is still colour and warmth in winter.

winter 07

Beauty in white.


Trees covered in snow.


Birds on a post.


A winter tree.



Souls at Sea

Steadfast journey to the great unknown

the red and white boat, it carries

hearts filled with excitement and awe

danger and mystery create no fear

for the young look at death with innocent bravery

And those on land left behind

wait in anxious agony

Time passes and the red and white boat returns

red with blood

white, their souls surrendered

and left at sea

Liebster Award

Hi everyone, so something exciting happened a few days ago: I was nominated by Manasvi for the Liebster Award. If you have not heard of this, this is an award given to bloggers by other fellow bloggers. Here are the rules for this (which I copied from Memoirs of a Wandering Mind):

1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.

2. Answer the questions given by the nominator.

3. Nominate 11 other bloggers, who have less than 200 followers and link them.

4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.

5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.

And these are my answers to the questions:

1. What was your favorite class in school?

English was my favourite class in school. I have always loved writing, especially fiction. I was really good at it too! I would get really high grades for my essays and stories.

2. What is your favorite season and why?
Fall. I love leather jackets and leather boots 😀 I love the colours of the autumn leaves. I also like the temperature, it’s just right.

3. Do you have pets?
Yes, I have a Pomeranian named Piers. He is named after the Resident Evil 6 character, Piers Nivans.

4. What is your favorite childhood memory?
I have so many fond childhood memories, but my favourite ones would have to be the ones where I spent time with my family and friends. One memory that stands out for me at this moment, is the time I slept over in my friend’s house and we made tents out of pillows and blankets.

5. What is your favorite dessert?
My favourite dessert is cake 😀

6. What’s the must-visit spot around your hometown? If you could, name a place better known by local people.
A must-visit spot in my hometown is Bonifacio High Street in the Philippines. In Halifax, a must-visit spot would be the Bedford Park, by the basin.

7. What are your goals for 2015, if any?
One of my goals is to complete a story that I have been working on for a while. I also wish to complete the Final Coil of Bahamut in FFXIV (it’s a tough part of the game!). And a huge goal of mine is to attend art school!

8. What are you most grateful for in your life?
Everything! The people I love, and all the good things around me.

9. What is your favorite place in this world?
Home. And Palawan.

10. What would you do if you won the lottery?
Pay my student loans, attend more school, invest (for myself, my family, and for charity), travel with family and friends, buy artbooks, books, electronics, art materials. I guess it depends how much I win!

11. If money was not a concern, what would you most like to buy?
Tickets to travel around the world!

There have been variations to the rules of this award. Anyway, I’m nominating I love the poems in this website. Go check it out 😀

So my questions:

1. What inspires you to write?
2. If you were to meet anyone in the world, who and why?
3. If an actor/actress were to play you, who would you choose?
4. What is your current most important goal?
5. What is your hobby?
6. What is your favourite book?
7. What is your favourite movie?
8. I can’t think of more questions, so tell me more about yourself!
9. What do you find interesting in people?
10. What do you think about free will?

Characters and Fashion

When I create characters for my story, I use fashion as a way to describe their personalities. Fashion is a choice people make. The choices people make reveal their personalities. However, fashion may not show all there is to someone’s personality as sometimes it can also be a way for people change the perception of others towards them.

I realized in my previous chapters of the Lighting Hour that I forgot to describe any sort of clothing for Blake or Madame Agathe. Since there is not much time for me to edit the previous chapters, I will add more details to their clothing in the next ones.

If you need some inspiration or ideas for fashion, you can find some in pinterest or even through watching YouTube make-up and fashion gurus. My personal favourite is Ingrid. Her channel is called MissglamorazziShe had a fun personality and she shows it through her colorful clothing and make-up. Even when she dresses more formally, she adds colour through her accessories and shoes.

How do you use fashion to describe your characters? Comment below!


“Nothing holds attention like a great story.”

Smudgy Notes is a website and blog for those who love a great story, whether it’s fictional or about the daily life of the author, Denise.

Here you will find the short stories, novels, artworks, book reviews, and inspirations.

Why Smudgy Notes? Well that is because Denise writes and draws with her left-hand, and ink tends to smudge!

Disclaimer: My stories are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


It’s already the second week of Nanowrimo! If you don’t know what Nanowrimo is, it is the National November Writing Month where the objective is to write a 50,000 novel by November 30.

In the first week I have written 750 words. Not a good start! Anyway, the reason why I am joining Nanowrimo is so that I could finally complete a novel. I won’t be editing my work too much, since I have to complete it as fast as I can. I will edit it afterwards. My drafts I will place under Nanowrimo, and once I have completed editing them, I will place my entry under Novels.

The Lighting Hour


Blake recalled an incident where she had met It, a strange person she found in her kitchen, who she could not describe as either male or female. She never saw It again, but when she opened her planner years later, a note from It appeared. In her planner were details of a meeting she did not remember arranging and when she decided to pursue this meeting, her life takes an unexpected turn and she finds herself in an adventure full of strange characters and events.

I will be posting Chapter 1 soon!

Future Learn

I have been taking a fiction writing course from Future Learn. This website offers free courses in writing, business, history, etc. The have 40 different partners from all over the world, including leading universities and institutions, such as the British Museum.

One of the assignments was: Write a paragraph (50 to 100 words) containing one fact and three fictitious elements. Then try the reverse – write a paragraph containing three facts and one fictitious element.

This was my entry:

1 Fact 3 Fiction

Her husband was having an affair with her cousin. She understood why. They have not had a child in their 15 years of marriage. She desired so much to have a child, and to keep her marriage together.

She went to the Church the next day. She knelt at the entrance doors and prayed. She walked with her knees until she reached the altar. That was the prayer, the sacrifice, for fertility, for a child, for a husband who could not wait.

She performed the ritual everyday, but it did not work.

3 Facts 1 Fiction

“You there!” A strange man said and pointed towards me.


“Yes you!” He exclaimed. The strange man skipped to the bench I sat on.

“I’m the Rooster Man, nice to meet you,” he said.

He dressed as if he was a part of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. He wore a necklace with a rooster pendant, which he showed to me. It was gold. It was probably not real gold. It was a big pendant, not something I would wear, but it definitely symbolized the Rooster Man. It was the center of his being, but why a rooster?

Can you tell which elements are fact and which are fiction? I’ll let you guys know in my next entry!


“Nothing holds attention like a great story.”

I have always found that quote to be true. I have loved writing since I was a child and I thought, why not create a blog where I can post my stories? And so, I created Smudgy Notes for that purpose.

Why Smudgy Notes? Well, that is because I write and draw with my left hand and many times inks tend to smudge.

In this blog, I will share my stories (long and short), my inspirations for my stories, my artwork, interesting life experiences, as well as books I am currently reading.

Welcome to Smudgy Notes and I hope you enjoy my work!