You know those moments when life seems completely out of balance? You sleep through your alarm, spill your coffee on your white fur rug trying to take an #ootd for Instagram, get a flat tire on the way to work and lose your wallet all in the same week? Sometimes it feels like the universe is intentionally working against you. Whether you’re stuck in a rut or in need of a life overhaul, Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With The Universe by Yumi Sakugawa is an artful way to help get things back on track – or at least adjust your frame of mind.
Yumi’s beautiful illustrations combine with her instructional expertise to deliver an inspiring illustrated self-help guide – encouraging us shift our state of mind and seek inner contentment. Her positive namaste vibes and cute comic illustrations are sure to put yourself back on track to happiness. We caught up with Yumi to learn more about her expertise in meditation and mindfulness, and how she turns these concepts into self-help story lines, complete with illustrations, in her most recent book, An Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe.
If you’re in LA, don’t miss the chance to meet Yumi at one of her upcoming appearances:
November 29: GR2 (Los Angeles, CA)
December 7: Think Tank Gallery (Los Angeles, CA)
CULT: Tell us about yourself – how did you begin to / learn to illustrate comics? What do you love most about sharing stories via illustrations?
Yumi: I’ve always been drawing, writing and making up stories as a kid, and the urge has always remained with me well into adulthood. I never really had any proper formal training in the arts (or in writing, for that matter), so it was and is always an ongoing, intuitive process of seeing where my art evolves and fine-tuning the best way to create stories that resonate with me and with others.
I’ve always loved the overlap between writing and art because there is something extremely intimate about both art forms but combining the two somehow for me makes it an even more personal and raw message from the artist’s mind to the reader. I feel tremendously lucky that many people respond so strongly to my illustrated comics.
CULT: What was the inspiration behind ‘Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe’?
Yumi: I’ve been making short comics and doodles about my meditation practice since 2008, and in 2010 I made my first meditation-themed self-published comic zine titled “There Is No Right Way To Meditate.” It seemed to strike an emotional chord with a lot of people on the internet, so I thought it would be interesting to make a full-length, completely illustrated online course.
“Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe” was actually meant to be a paid online course (hence the instructive lessons with the homework assignments at the end of each chapter) and it almost happened, but long story short–somebody at the self-help online course website where I was supposed to debut the online course never followed up with me. In hindsight, I am actually glad that this never worked out because it reaches a far wider audience in a more accessible way in book form.
I am going to backtrack a little bit and also mention that I used to work full-time as a blog editor for a wellness website and wrote a lot of my own personal development blog posts about happiness, mindfulness, decluttering and all the other usual self-help topics. Writing in the usual bullet-point format of tips (“10 Ways To Be Happier In 10 Minutes!”) was starting to get really boring really fast, so I started making my own surreal meditation exercises in comic form. And before I was a blog editor for a wellness website, I’ve gone through many bouts of depression and so I am always drawn to the idea of creating works that help people through their own internal struggles or emotionally difficult times.
Though I am a bit of a self-help book junkie, as an artist and a visual thinker I found myself wishing that more self-help books existed in comic form. “Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With The Universe” is my own contribution to the self-help genre that will hopefully inspire readers who usually shy away from the genre to pick up my book. I would also love for more visual creators to contribute their own visually-minded inspirational literature.
CULT: What draws you to illustrate themes of meditation and mindfulness?
Yumi: Taking up a daily meditation practice has changed my life for the better. I can’t imagine life without it. I hear about a lot of people who are interested in doing it but have no idea where to start because meditation and mindfulness is such an abstract thing. Exploring ideas of meditation and mindfulness in visual form, I’ve found, has helped me define for myself what meditation means for me and it has helped convey to other people what meditation can do for them.
CULT: Where do you go to feel relaxed and ‘at one with the universe’?
Yumi: Usually a nice ten-minute walk in the neighborhood helps me clear my head. That, or sitting in a cafe with a nice cup of coffee or tea. Also, i’ve only been here once for a weekend meditation retreat, but Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California is one of the most calming, inspiring and healing places I’ve ever been to.
CULT: When creating a comic, or a story such as “Your Illustrated Guide…” which comes first, the storyline or the illustration?
Yumi: The words usually come first before the illustration. Once the words and story are set, then it is easier for me to start working on the visual aspects.
CULT: How long does it take to produce a full story?
Yumi: It depends on the story and the length of the story! I dislike the idea of a story somehow having more weight and significance because of its hefty length. A “full” story can be told in a single image.
CULT: In the past 24 hours, what has inspired you?
Yumi: I am blessed to be surrounded by so many hard-working, creative and down-to-earth people in Southern California, especially in Los Angeles. Last night, I went to an art opening at Los Angeles County Store for my artist friend Melinda Tracy Boyce, who does these amazing, vibrant gouache paintings of flora, mammals and sea animals in addition to really awesome autobiographical comics. Seeing the intense creative energy of the people around me keeps me inspired to continue my artist path to its fullest.
CULT: Words to live by:
Be the tiger and the lotus flower.