A Cute Little Project Back Story

The Girl | 

Back in July a very sweet girl from London emailed me with a very sweet request for a commissioned drawing. The girl (let’s call her K) wanted to something that would encourage her friend (let’s call him N) to pursue his passions in art, animation and film. She told me he was very talented but had somewhat given up on his interests and dreams. K didn’t have any ideas on how it should look, but knew the sentiment she wanted to convey. Something motivational and a bit magical.


A message from London. Photo via Google Images.

I thought, this is perfect! I love drawing things with meaningful messages, and I prefer having the freedom to try something new and figure out what someone wants before they even know what they want. It’s a great challenge. I also found out he loves Studio Ghibli, especially Castle in the Sky and Grave of the Fireflies, so I got even more excited as I love them as well. I actually rewatched Grave of the Fireflies for reference, as it’d been a long time (god that movie is sad). All in all, it was a drawing I looked forward to working on.


The fireflies visual was worked into the final drawing, and also inspired the overall sentiment. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) by Studio Ghibli.

The Boy |

Then it got way better. K’s timing was very flexible so I was able to schedule it for later in the year. I started working on it in September/October, when I received an email from a very sweet guy. The guy’s name was also “N,” but that didn’t raise any flags for me right away. N wanted to commission a drawing for his friend. He never told me her name, but he described her as having a passion for photography, their hometown of London and music. I also learned she was a Harry Potter fan (another score for me).

It took me a few exchanges of emails to figure out they were getting drawings for each other but didn’t know it! They both asked me to keep it a secret on social media until they could give it to each other. I thought it was all too cute! ::dying inside::

The Drawings |

I purposefully took longer on K’s drawing so that they could plan to give it to each other during December ^^ ::scheming face:: A part of me wanted to make the drawings literally match, but I decided not to force it. My process involves getting to know someone’s story/sentiment, coming up with several drawing options, letting them pick what they like, and then iterating from there. Since they are obviously two different people, the directions took different routes.

However, I was able to at least have them be the same size and be in complementary drawing styles (organic lines, wistful streaks, subtle texturing, and semi-translucent coloring).

Christina-Andy-SketchOne of the directions we didn’t end up using for K’s drawing for N.

Christina-Andy-BoyFinal drawing for N (from K). The fireflies clearly inspired an element of this star/galaxy atmosphere.

Christina-Andy-GirlFinal drawing for K (from N), which has brighter colors. The test print that I kept for my files (and that is shown in my IG pictures) is more neutral and cool toned. Really enjoyed drawing both the real architectural elements of London as well as Hogwarts and Hogwarts Express.

All Together Now |

The last bit to tie them together was having the yellow swoosh link up when you put them side by side. I didn’t plan for that to happen, I had the element in both independently. But when I was done with both and saw the opportunity, I did tweak them to make it line up.


They finally gave each other their drawings this past holiday (I kind of think they both loved the one of other person more, i.e. the one they requested haha)! So now I can share this story. It was rewarding not only to get to evolve my style but to create the drawings for two super sweet people in a special context. I told N one of the first things that tipped me off to their knowing each other was just the way they described what they wanted for the other person. There was a really thoughtful selflessness in both of their tones. And of course they both didn’t know it. Ah it’s so sweet.

Anyway I don’t usually go into the backstory of my commissioned drawings since they tend to be very individual, but I wanted to share this one!

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset
On the shelf 🙂 I added the left text for just test print versions.

* I’m posting way more often than I expected but I hope to eventually get it down to a weekly/bi-weekly post rhythm. 

4 thoughts on “A Cute Little Project Back Story

  1. Mimi, these drawings are so beautifully done! What a sweet story to share! Please do blog more, for I love hearing from you. Also, of course, keep your art coming, for I can’t get enough of it. 🙂


  2. […] Stories behind the stories are developed even in those “as if by fate” scenarios. I recently read a back story written by a visual artist I follow, Mimi Chao. She recently wrote about these really beautiful drawings she did for these two individuals in London who, as she quickly came to realize, knew each other, and were to give the drawing they asked for to the other. I thought it was a really lovely story and if you want to read the rest, check it out here. […]


  3. ahhhh, it’s like a kdrama! you can’t make this stuff up. I don’t know how you kept the secret for so long. I would have been excitedly giggling the whole time I was working with them. The yellow swoosh lining up with such a great touch – it connects the two, but not in a cheesy, in your face sort of way. I love it 🙂


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