Process: GARDEN Words & Illustration

This month I wanted to create something inspired by Valentine’s Day (even though it technically won’t arrive with anyone by Valentine’s Day… but never mind :)). I wanted it to be sweet but not too saccharine. After a couple false starts, I started thinking about a passage from the Little Prince and an accompanying image idea came along with it. I became completely absorbed with exploring and finishing it, so I knew this was the one to do.

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Limited edition print available on



The passage I had in mind is where the Little Prince, having escaped his vain but beloved rose, comes upon a whole group of roses in the desert. His rose had always told him she was uniquely beautiful. He is disheartened to discover his beautiful rose is really not so special at all. However, the fox reasons that his rose is special because it is his rose. It is the time he has spent on it that makes it special (although, I think Saint-Exupery technically put it as time he has “wasted” on it haha) .

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 10.18.56 PM
From the 2015 Little Prince movie. While I’m speaking of the book passage, the art direction of the movie is too good not to show.


I partly agree with this, but not entirely, so I wanted to take the portion of it I resonated with. So I simply had the line in mind “my favorite flower in this garden is still definitely you,” and wanted to incorporate that idea that part of what makes your person special is the time you have spent to grow your relationship with them. The rest of the poem came together around that.

Draft of words with sketches visible in the back.


The idea of the couple being surrounded by their garden was set from the beginning, but there was a lot of tweaking in the details.

For the plants, I have been on a kick to study nature from primary sources. So either things I have seen in person, e.g. on a hike or garden, or from a real plant resource. I didn’t want to draw from other people’s illustrations of plants, or very commonly illustrated plants (e.g. vines, daisies, etc.). I ended up with the leaves and fruits of ginko, maple, pine, beech, and olive trees, as well as some moss and grass I had seen during a hike in the LA mountains. This approach is new for me, and it gave me a much deeper appreciation for the plants I was interpreting. Rather than being simply decorative drawings, they were actual species I had observed and cared about.

Wild growth along a hike trail. I especially LOVE the bronze and charcoal-colored moss growing on the rocks, and am trying to figure out what it’s called.

For the boy and girl, I’ve actually drawn a plant-haired girl and a water-haired boy a long time ago. I still like those portraits and it was nice to be able to adapt the idea into this drawing. It’s the concept of the symbiotic relationship.

Finally, for the overall color and style, I’ve been attracted to graphic-style of illustrations as well as very neutral but high-contrast color palettes. I also always like hits of metallic on top of those black and grey tones. I felt the darker palette balanced the sweetness of the words in the way I wanted.

Technical Process

1. Sketch. I generally sketch on paper first, as ideas flow most naturally to me at that time. The sketches themselves are super rough and embarrassing looking 🙂

2. Clean up. Sometimes I do this on paper, e.g. with marker paper or just erasing. Sometimes I do this digitally if I think I have a good idea of where I want it to go. This time I did the clean line digitally.

3. Very loose color. I gather color inspiration and start mixing digitally. I color very rough and shrink to thumbnail size to get a bird’s-eye view. I keep going until I get the aesthetic I want. I then save this as a reference image.

4. Detail line and color. This is the long and tedious part. I will continue to tweak the line, color and texture until I feel they are all cohesive. I keep line and color on separate layers so I can adjust as needed. I also do several test prints because there are certain things you see better on a physical sheet.

Quick video on some testing with the paint. Background music is by Lullatone.


This is the first time I’m doing a limited edition run (versus a limited sale pre-order). This is more to encourage me to keep making the next print and keep things fresh. I also wanted to make it more special and have a physical human element in it, so finished it with some textured gold paint. I really like the Winsor & Newton brand of artists’ acrylic. It didn’t warp the paper at all (tested on 60 lb. and 64 lb. art paper) and holds a nice subtle shape.

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Final drawing, final words 🙂

I hope you like it!

One thought on “Process: GARDEN Words & Illustration

  1. The illustration is gorgeous! 😀 And I absolutely loved reading through the whole process, Mimi. Lovely poem. What got me really hooked was that you based it on The Little Prince ❤ So many lessons in one good movie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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