Tu Ha An - Dreamlike & Multicultural Illustration

(Almost) Kill five birds with one stone

Edited by my beloved friend K.L

There is one realization that weighted a lot on me.

Contents consumption, including blog posts, videos or social media, has become somewhat similar to fast-fashion consumption. We seek contents increasingly more in quantity, increasingly in shorter time, and then, we forget just as increasingly easily and quickly what we just consumed.

If this observation hits me so hard, it’s because… it is just exactly how my consumption habit has become. And being a content creator myself, this current trend is threatening, because… I am slow, very slow. 

I need tremendous time for each of my articles and videos to take any presentable shape. The story in my blog post 45 hours for 2 blog posts would be a good example of how incurable my slowness prided itself. Even the blog title would suggest just that. Or if you prefer having something to watch than to read, this video [hiab2] Making a short film ALONE where I explain how it took me 23 hours of shooting and 42 hours of editing for a five-minutes short movie will give you just the most honest idea of how making a YouTube video really went.

Nonetheless, because I want to create more contents without lessen my time for content creation, I found a (what I thought was) great solution!

The idea of the five birds

My “genius idea” was to create one single project, but deliverable through multiple forms of content. Back then, I felt very proud. This strategy could connect illustration, my core activity, and content creation, just perfectly seamlessly and efficiently as any professional could dream of.

Bird number 1: For my portfolio

Create a mock illustration project, the kind of client project I would love to work with.

Bird number 2: For my blog

Write an article to document in details my work process from A to Z, based on the mock client project created after shooting down the bird number 1, and by then build up my readers audience.

Bird number 3: For my YouTube channel (professionals oriented)

Film all the steps of my working process, and by combining with the text earned from the bird number 2, make a YouTube video of that process, and send it to my potential clients to illustrate beautifully but succinctly my work method.

Bird number 4: For my YouTube channel (general public oriented)

With the raw footage recorded from the bird number 3, make a study-with-me type of video (videos filming work in real time, aiming to offer a virtual presence to those who study or work alone)

Bird number 5: For my SNS (Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn)

With the images recorded with the bird number 3, and the text written with the bird number 2, prepare posts and videos suitable for social networks.

This “genius idea” started in June 2022. Since then, for the past year, I felt confidentwith this project, thinking I would be able to relaunch my YouTube channel before the summer, all while having enough contents to feed my social networks throughout the third quarter of 2022.

I was too naive, and my stone was too heavy

Thing is from the very first step of this birds shooting project, my energy dried up very quickly throughout each work session. The reason might seem obvious now as we think about it, but back then I did not anticipate any of this mess at all. Precisely, in order to follow through this project, from the very first line of drawing on paper, I had to film and take notes of all the details of the process at the same time.

I am used to draw, film and write. I do. But it was ten times more energy consuming to create an illustration at professional quality, all while watching out for battery and memory card, thinking about varying the camera angle, making sure to not cover the drawing with my head, and diligently taking notes of my reasoning for each decision in art making that I took.

Besides, since this was only a side project to my main activity as an illustrator, my progress on it was very, very slow. And I was very, very late to release any product that resulted from it.

I still remember the climax of my disappointment, precisely on July 15th, 2023. It was the day that the blog post, my bird number 2, was supposed to be published. And the reality was that I didn’t even manage to kill bird number 1 (the actual painting). Back then, I would get up at 4 in the morning to do coloring, and stay in front of my computer screen until 11PM to write up my blog article. But it was nowhere near being enough. I was throwing stone somewhere at the speed of an epic slow-motion Bollywood scene (the one that always took place before a cliff-hanger). During all that simmering time, my YouTube channel and my social networks were left deserted to my audience.

Advice from the “professional stone thrower”

One evening in early August 2022, while collapsing on the ground due to exhaustion and heat wave, I sent a distress message to my boss, who is also an expert in “stone throwing”.

This very expert is Chi Nguyen, an well-known author in self-developement and education in Vietnam under the pseudonym The Present Writer. Between us, I often just called her “Chi”. In 2020, at the beginning of her YouTube journey, Chi turned several articles from her blog into podcast episodes and animated videos, at the pace of one publication per week, in addition to multiple posts on Instagram and Facebook, which were also derived from her blog articles. All the more fascinating, back then, Chi was still working completely alone.

With all those experiences tightly packed, Chi’s first advice to me was: “You need to get your five birds lined up if you want your stone to hit all five”.

In addition, Chi told me: “Now you need to prioritize your birds. The most important one must be at the top of the row so that your stone can hit it first. The others can wait behind!”

It hasn’t been a year yet since I started working as a freelancer illustrator. And the most important thing for me is still undoubtedly to fill up my portfolio with actual works, and thereby have solid grounds to bring potential clients to my side.

The two priority birds

In August 2022, I updated my portfolio with the project The week of the music.

With the help of two volunteer editors, my friend K.L. and my Viet-unnie Chopsticks, I published the article Illustration: from start to end (client project): when discipline is the base of magic, an article so long that I had to cut it in two parts.

Birds number 1 and 2 were hit and done.

And since both parts of this blog article document my working method in a very complete way, I decided to include these articles in my emails to potential clients, without waiting for the video.

Among all prospects that I contacted, one was special for me personally.

I made one fictional illustration project inspired by my favorite song, the one that I have been singing since I was 10 years old. This song comes from the tape and the textbook Il était… une petite grenouille from French class at elementary school, that I used to listen to repeatedly during my years of childhood drawing in secret. So, I contacted the publisher of this manual, hoping that they would notice the deep bond that I always have with one of their works.

The result was far from being a fairy-tale ending. This mock project did not help me to get a collaboration with the publisher of my dream, nor did it help me to get any response to any of the other emails that I sent out. This is actually very common in the publishing industry, because the editors would be receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of prospecting emails everyday.

But still, looking at these results, I had to accept the reality that the first two birds did not bring any tangible result. Mayhap, the effort that I put into those first two shots was not enough.

The sleeping birds

If you are reading this article on the day it came out, that is, on April 15th, 2023, you probably noticed that there is no trace of the birds number 3, 4 (YouTube videos) or 5 (SNS posts) coming from my project “The week of music”. I didn’t really have the energy to make it happen.

The intangible results from my first two bird-shooting attempts did not extinguish my motivation. It’s the 163Gb of footage that extinguished it.

August 2022, I had 163Gb of my drawing process footage waiting for me in my computer. To give you an idea of how it was like. 163Gb would equal about 120,000 photos; and if one takes 100 pictures a day, it will take more than 32 years to reach 163Gb.

I felt exhausted. I felt like I was stuck with just one project for an eternity! As soon as I finished shooting one bird, another mountain immediately appears, standing between me and the next bird.

September came with new and more exciting content ideas. October came with time-intensive training. November came with fun client projects.

But from time to time, I would still think of 163GB pending in my hard drive, and how naive I was to aim for five birds with just one stone.

I was wrong

I was wrong thinking I could not lessen my time for content creation.

While doing a big project at the end of 2022 (the most chaotic and the most wonderful I have ever done), I understood that there was a very efficient way to shorten time: DELEGATION.

I came to understand that my presence was not that vital for all the steps of the content creation process. There are even parts of the project that my participation would block the progress from moving on at wanted pace.

And I am phenomenally lucky: Jo, the chief editor who joined my adventure in December 2022, is also a master in editing.

My birds fight with stone for the project “The week of music” went back to bird number 3: Making its YouTube video. But this time, I am not alone anymore.

Why am I writing this article, when my stone has not hit all the five birds yet?

Because there is a twist in the story.

The twist

The moment I decided to attack the bird number 3, the annual contest “Pouces d’Or” of the association Les Internettes was announcing its return after one year of break!!

And as my phenomenal luck kept rolling on its track, the video that was edited, my bird number 3, just miraculously meets all the criteria of the contest.

Without leaving its natural course, before I know it, my stone is on its ways to strike the bird number 6: I will participate to the “Pouces d’Or” 2023 contest.

Thinking back, if I managed to shoot down five birds last year the way I wanted, I would’ve missed the opportunity to join the contest “Pouces d’Or” this year. 

And talking about that, the blog article that you’re reading just happens to be the bird number 7 that I didn’t plan for the same stone to hit as well.

Nothing is over yet. But I learned an important lesson.

The lesson for the “stone throwers”

An idea may seem great, simple, and obvious. But if it was easy, everyone would do it.

I always think those who managed to make their ideas work are incredibly brilliant. And all the creators who were capable of releasing a lot of contents and delivering one same idea in multiple ways with high frequency are real warriors.

But I also think that those who are still on their path, who at least always try to get to the end of their idea, who move forward step by step (even when these steps are invisible to the public), are just as incredibly stunning.

My bird number 3, the video that results from 163Gb of raw footage will be released on YouTube by April 23rd, which is also the deadline of the “Pouces d’Or” contest!! And I hope that, YOU, my dearest readers, you will always be with me to celebrate every additional bird that I would manage to shoot down with my dramatic slow-motion stone.

Keep creating!

Tu Ha An

Update of April 23, 2023

The bird number 3, the YouTube video has been successfully edited and uploaded before the last deadline to participate in the Pouces d’Or 2023 contest.

This video finally came to life thanks to Jo’s participation on the editing and on the subtitle preparation, and thanks to the help of my friends K.L., Gynnie Hương and Đũa unnie on the proofreading of all the text in different languages. A big thank you to everyone who supported me through my Instagram stories during editing 😉

I hope you enjoy this bird number 3.

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