JTOONED is… Feeling Grateful

Lately, I’ve been in a writing mood and I have so many thoughts in my head but no time to get them all down. A lot of my blog posts lately are culminations of days and/or weeks of entries that just get built up over time until I feel they’re complete. It’s rare when I get to sit down and write all in one sitting lately. I guess it allows for a few things – it lets me go back and re-read what I wrote and let’s me re-affirm that how I felt when I wrote it still applies and that it all makes sense.  I received a surprising amount of feedback on my last post – primarily because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m glad that it was able to resonate with so many of you and it makes me feel good when something that I’m feeling rings bells with so many others. It’s almost such a taboo thing to talk about because you feel guilty for feeling that way, but if you don’t talk about it, then how do you feel better about it? Anyway, if you care to read on about my life, then welcome. If not, then I wouldn’t know otherwise :).

Whenever it gets to the end of the year, I can’t help but start to reflect on it and think about what kind of change it brought my way, what hurdles did I have to jump over and how many positive things I’ve been lucky to come across. Notice my choice of words when I talk about the challenges – “what hurdles”, and when I talk about the good things “how many”. It’s important to reflect on all things but it’s more important to, as they say “count your blessings and not your problems”. I don’t count the challenges because they are nothing but a weight that you just can’t lift yet. I do count my achievements and victories because those are the things you build to lift the weight you couldn’t before. In other words, it’s kind of like adding to your squat or bench press – you’re never looking at the weight that’s not on the bar, you’re looking at the weight you’re pushing so that you can put more of it on, feel me?

It’s been 2.5 years since I started this thing called JTOONED. It was never meant to be what it was today… I guess what I mean is, I never imagined it to be what it is today. You know when people talk about how where they are today and how it’s because of the people that believed in them? That’s literally JTOONED. I didn’t think I could draw cars or create digital artwork but all it took was someone to see potential to try something new and convince me to jump for it. One thing led to another and here I am, knocking out all sorts of artwork because I began starving for challenge and new things. I’m a bit embarrassed at where I started because I look back and cringe a bit, but in that same breath, there were people that believed it to be amazing and that meant a lot to me. It still means a lot to me, because despite where I am now or what kind of art I’m creating, there really isn’t a day that goes by where my pencil hits the canvas and I don’t think about where I started and how grateful I am to all of you.

There have been many weeks where I have literally said aloud to Diana, “I think JTOONED is dead”. Maybe because some days I feel totally burned out and don’t feel like picking up the pencil, or maybe because I haven’t had a commission request in a few days. But I’ll admit to you right now that there also has not been a week that has gone by since May 2020 that I have not had at least one commission. Wild. I’m not trying to brag either. It’s just me validating the fact that I’m thankful for every single one of you that has reached out to me for a project. Some of you want the popular item on the menu, some of you want to try something new, some have new ideas and chose me to test it. Whatever the reason, I’m still here because of you and I’ve grown an exponential amount because of it.

I’ve logged a little over 1000 toons since I started. One, zero, zero, zero. Three zeros.  What the hell? Isn’t that insane? What’s more insane is that I’ve been able to connect with almost that many people around the world. Obviously not a 1:1 ratio since many have had more than one toon with me, but DUDE. Art is a crazy thing. Combine that with social media and you have something crazy powerful. I feel like I’ve tooned almost all the local cars here, I’ve tooned for someone in almost every State in the US (probably), I’ve tooned a literal dump truck and hauler for a guy in the East Coast, I’ve tooned a motorcycle for a guy down under (Australia – get your mind out of the gutter), I’ve tooned a guys’ guitar in Japan… I can go on, but you can see the reach that this all has and I’m absolutely grateful for every single person whose path I’ve crossed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – for every toon I’ve done, it’s made the next toon – even if it was just a miniscule difference – better. A 0.1% improvement over 1000 toons is a 100% improvement. Refer to what I said above again – ” it’s kind of like adding to your squat or bench press – you’re never looking at the weight that’s not on the bar, you’re looking at the weight you’re pushing so that you can put more of it on”. Mind. Blown. 

You know what I never understood until now? When people say “without you guys, I wouldn’t be here” or “I’m able to do what I do because of you guys”. It never made sense to me because – what did I do? I just watch your videos, or I just like your posts, or I just follow you. And sure, there are people that just like to come along for the ride and there’s nothing wrong with that – I enjoy you enjoying being here – you don’t matter any less. But it’s mainly for the people that say “hey, I trust you to bring my vision to life” or “yo, I know you don’t toon X or Y, but I totally think you could if you tried” or “I’ve got an idea and I really wanted you to draw it because I dig your style”. That kind of belief, that kind of faith – that’s what people mean. That’s what I never understood until now. I didn’t believe in the trust that people could place in some random person like me to bring something really personal to them to life, so here I am telling you; without you guys, I wouldn’t be here and I’m only able to do what I do because of you guys. Truly. I wish there were some way that I could pay you all back for this amazing thing you’ve given me in some form other than my digital art.

Maybe it’s just that though, maybe this art is all that you’re here for and once again, I am eternally grateful. So much so that it almost brings tears to my eyes (hell, even if I were bawling right now, you wouldn’t know). I don’t know when the day I put my pencil down will be, but the day that I do, I’ll be thinking of the first toon, the last toon and every single one of them in between. JTOONED has been a big part of my life these last 2.5 years and it’s hard not to reflect on that the most. Here’s to more cool toons!

I said the word “grateful” 4 times in this post. Just shows you how grateful I am. (6 times now).

An Actual LifeWithJson Post

Can we do a little lifewithjson blog real quick? Like not about cars, not about being sad about one of the best shows ending this year, not about anything that some of you might only come here for. Just literally life with me, positivity, relationships, achievements, progress, downfalls, and some self-reflection. Maybe this can be a feel-good post for some of you reading it, it may feel like nothing to you, it may feel like jibberish, or maybe you can relate to it depending on how you’re feeling right now. Maybe you’re reading it while you’re waiting somewhere trying to kill some time, or you accidentally clicked your way here and are caught in the middle of this paragraph and are too invested now to leave. I just want to use this space to reflect on things and get my thoughts out – afterall – this is what I started the blog for.

I used to write and take pictures about everything. There was a sense of joy when I got to share what I was up to in my life because there were people that were interested. That’s why people blog – because there’s a certain niche that is interested in knowing what’s going on with other people. It’s like a sort of free-ride voyeurism where I decide what to show you. It’s like an old-school Instagram/Tik-Tok where instead of watching, you’re reading. Kind of a lost art nowadays. I wish more people gave more capacity and time to write things rather than record things. When you read things, you decide how you feel as you’re doing it – you assume the tone and the emotion – and it’s all dependent on whether you are having a good day or a bad day. When you watch things, all of it is laid out for you already – there’s no brain power needed to watch a reel. The difference between the two is the level of emotion that is invoked during each activity. As you’re reading this, perhaps you’re relating or agreeing. Maybe you’re disagreeing and finding that you’re unsure what I’m rambling on about… The point is that there is some sort of thought.

I’m not in a mid-life crisis. I’m only 35. “Only?” you ask. Maybe I’m old depending on who’s reading this. I want to talk about how I feel – I feel complacent, happy and calm. I feel like I’ve reached the point in my life where some sort of Zen is all I want and feel because I’ve had so many hard years of learning how to get here. So many years of the devil on my shoulder telling me to feel jealous, angry, or upset about things that were outside of my control and then cooking myself over that same fire over and over again when really, all I needed to do was let go. Mind you, letting go is not easy when you’re young and you think everything is about you and everyone’s opinions and criticism chips away at you. Let me tell you – it isn’t and it shouldn’t. Letting go for me was realizing I could only control myself and how I felt towards people and circumstances. I can’t control what people think of me, of my things, my thoughts, my actions, or my life and so when you come to that hard realization, you’ll feel free.

As an example, there are times Diana would tell me a story about something that upset her or bothered her at work because someone did something and she was stewing over it. Many times, my answer would be like “but that’s not your problem?” or “but you can’t control that?”. And every time, she would say “I know” and my response would be “so then lets forget about it”. Instantly, the gas would shut off, the fire would dissipate and she would move on. It’s not about “not caring”, just to be clear. I care about a lot of things – my family, my self, my well-being, my family’s well-being. It’s more about not letting things that negatively impact the things I care about negatively impact me. Read that again. It can be things, people, attitudes… You name it. The way that I stay complacent, happy and calm is by focusing only on the closest things to me and ensuring they get 100% of my attention. I don’t mind other peoples’ business, I don’t compare myself to people. It might be brazen to say but the things I “don’t care” about are other peoples’ lives. That’s not to say I can’t be happy for you or share joy in your achievements, but at the end of the day, my happiness is what matters the most. In other words, your own happiness should be your number one priority and responsibility – however you get there is up to you.

I think social media has made it very difficult for people (myself, included) to find and marinate in their own happiness. Opening an app and seeing people make money, raise families, buy expensive things, eating at expensive restaurants, sharing their beauty and workouts, new cars, new parts… The amount of “good” things to take in within 5 minutes is underestimated and overwhelming. Imagine doing this hundreds of times a day – at one point, you’re bound to say “I need to workout”, “I need new clothes”, “I want to order takeout”, “I need to find new ways to make more money”, “I need to be a better parent”. All the needs and so little time. What happens when you have all these “needs” you think you need but can’t achieve them all right now? Feelings of conflict. Despair. Frustration. Cognitive dissonance. Maybe you didn’t think of that exact term, but that’s what it is. And if you don’t know how to disconnect or detach from what you’re seeing and what you’re feeling, you’ll never be 100% happy with yourself. It took me a long time to learn how to view it with a blank mind, so to speak. I relish in the truly happy moments for my close friends and I leave the rest behind with a swipe without a second thought.

The last thing for me was the realization that not everyone in your life is good for you; friends and family alike. I’ve always been the type to easily be able to disconnect from relationships if I felt that it wasn’t positive to me and it was good because it really helped me focus on good people and to seek positive relationships without much guilt. I think it’s important to be able to realize that and to let that go. The hard part for me is constantly trying to assess the relationships that we create and/or have and now not only figuring out how it impacts me, myself, and I but how does it impact Diana and the kids. These last few months, I’ve really had to do some soul searching, and a lot of the searching led me right back to these relationships on our front step all along. People don’t get a free pass because they’re blood or because they’ve known you for all their lives – they only got free entry. So many destructive relationships hide behind the mask of the loving, familiar face and I hate that because you have to lie to yourself that the mask is not really there. The hard part is not letting go; it’s telling yourself to stop giving excuses for someone else to be a part of your life when they really shouldn’t be. It’s a really hard thing to come to terms to because you say “but they’re family” or “but we’ve been friends for so long” and I often have to remind myself that people change just as I do and sometimes what was once good for your life can now be toxic.

Alas, let’s have some final thoughts together cause I’m feeling good about where we are. It’s taken me a long damn time to really feel comfortable in myself and my life and not having to worry about things like followers and likes and making everybody happy at the sake of my own happiness. Man, if you’re at that place now or you found this garden of Zen sooner – I’m happy for you – because it’s truly a good place to be. If you’re not there yet and are seeking the way, I hope you get there with good people along the way. Social media is just entertainment – it’s not a life guide or a place for competition on who is living the best life even though we only share the best aspects of our life. I just want to take cool pictures and post dope videos and create wicked things. Destructive relationships are not confined to people you just met – they can exist in all people and it’s important you filter them out somehow. They are an unnecessary burden that don’t deserve your shoulder. To all the people in our circle – I’m glad you’re here and thank you for inspiring W’s over L’s.

Thanks for reading. Maybe I’ll find some time to blog again in the next year LOL

Sold! Onto the Next One…

No – not my car LOL – our house! Adulting at its finest…

As with all things on lifewithjson, I’m totally stoked to say that we’ve officially sold our house and now it’s story time. That’s mainly why I’ve been MIA these last few weeks – lots of prepping and getting things cleaned and moved and set up for showings – it’s been a lot more work than I would’ve imagined. A lot of my gear is packed away – including my personal computer, so I haven’t been able to do any editing or take any photos… Hopefully I’ll be back up and running again soon.

This is a huge change for us because this was our first home that we built from scratch and where a lot of our other life-firsts have happened… I proposed to Diana in front of the lot here before they even started digging. Both Aria and Rin grew up in this house and we’ve really just learned a lot of adulting skills here – from landscaping and building a Pergola in the back with friends, house maintenance and everything in between. I don’t particularly get too attached to things so I’m not too sad about it but I know Diana has started getting the feels now that we’re starting to pack up and make our way out of here. Our plan when we built the house was to stay here for 5 years and move on. It’s been 6 years and while we’re a year overdue from our original plans, I’m glad we’ve finally bit the bullet. While we weren’t in any particular rush, I’m hoping we move onto better things. We’ve had our fair share of some really awkward and unfortunate situations with some amigos in the last little while and while most have been really great, sometimes one is all you need to finally say “f*** it, we’re outta here”, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. My dream is to have neighbours that are seniors that just wake up early and have a nice quiet coffee, go to bed early, and say hi when we happen to encounter each other and have no idea what coal rolling is because they drive a Corolla. In case you missed the message: please be a courteous neighbour.

I wanted to give a shout out to our Realtor and friend – Albert Mah. I really think he just deserves a little praise in all of this because it obviously wouldn’t have happened and I don’t think we would’ve got things done this quick without him. Albert has been a longtime “social media” friend in the sense that, we knew each other over Instagram and Facebook but we never really met until this whole situation. We exchanged words and likes but that was about the extent of our interaction together – like most of us in today’s world – so for all intents and purposes, I don’t (or didn’t) know Albert as a Realtor or him as a person – but I’m all for supporting friends if it means asking them to help us out with personal affairs if they pass my litmus test LOL!

If you know me personally or have been following me here for a while, you’ll know that I’m a pretty anal, OCD, impatient and particular person. It’s basically a bad combination of characteristics because it just means that I want everything to be done perfectly and immediately LOL – so sometimes dealing with situations that involve me having to rely on other people to juggle multiple tasks leaves me super anxious. That’s just me… So you can imagine that stepping into this frontier of selling our house (which we’ve never been through before) was super foggy to me (us) and I had a million questions.

That’s where Albert comes in. Two things… 1) Albert proved to me very quickly and early on in the process that he also had a million answers. Checked off my first box. And 2) Albert was also surprisingly an anal, OCD, impatient and particular person. Checked off my second box – and at this point, none of my other boxes needed to be checked because I knew that if he was anything like me, then this was going to go well – and as per the title of my post – you know it did.

Diana and I had been at this crossroad (of selling our house) a few times now over the last few years but we just never went through with it. We were always 49% ready and that 1% that we needed was never there and no one inspired the confidence in us to get it. Even after simply messaging Albert, we were still at 49%. He came pretty quickly after we chatted to check out the house, ask about upgrades, took a careful look around and then we sat down and he presented his findings and homework. I trust that all Realtors do this, but if they don’t – they should. Careful findings about other homes around us, days on market, average price, a calculation of where ours stands… Blah blah blah. At the end of it all, we agreed on a selling price and signed some papers and he was off. We were still at 49%. It wasn’t real yet.

In a few short days, he brought us up to speed on the process – get the house ready, take pictures of the home, do some showings, get an offer, sell the house (in a nutshell). Easy enough right? Not really. Not for Jason. Two kids also comes with a fair amount of abuse in the home – little dents, fingerprints on the paint, things that need to be patched up… So over the course of a weekend, I spent most of my time patching walls, sanding, repainting them, fixing things and making the house look like it was brand new again. I started going down a rabbit hole of things to do because I’d find something to fix, but then I’d find something else near it. You know how you probably have a little corner somewhere in your house you forgot about? Think about it – there’s probably dust/dirt there – I went into every one of those corners and cleaned them and while it doesn’t sound like a whole lot – corners add up. By the end of it all – the house literally looked brand new. Like we had no kids at all and we moved in yesterday. We’ve now gone from 49% to 100%… Things are getting real.

Picture day. We got the house back into show home condition – I left for a few hours while the photographer and Albert took pics. Probably nothing crazy worth noting but it’s the little things that gain brownie points in my books. When the photographer was done, Albert messaged me to head on back – he was just cleaning up and putting things back. When I arrived, he was rearranging our laundry room back to the way it was based on a picture he took before he moved everything. I mean, I wouldn’t have remembered the bleach went in front of the glass cleaner, but he made sure he was covering all the bases… Refer back to “OCD”. Everything was put back in the exact same spot as it had never left – again, not a big deal – but every little thing counts. Details matter.

Listing day. The listing goes up, he sends us a link and a 3D tour of it all – looks great. I had no doubts that it wouldn’t. All that was left was to wait – like fishing – you cast your line and you just hope something bites sooner rather than later. Long story short – we had showings pretty much everyday – in total we got through 4 before we had an offer from 2 of them the same day. Albert was pretty conscious about the timing of showings because he knew the girls had a specific bed time – but we made it work. The night of the last showing, Albert called me at 10:30PM and said two offers are in and are due in 30 minutes. After a million questions from me, we agreed on a bunch of things and everything was put in place and we were done before midnight. Wait what? This guy is still working? My bed time was like an hour ago but you do what needs to be done…

In 6 days, the house had an offer and we firmed up in 15 days. Bank appraisal, home inspection, conditions, waiving – all of this – so foreign but made so plainly clear by Albert. Considering houses around us have been up for 40 to 260 days, I would say 6 days is quite the achievement. That really brings us to the end of it all… It was maybe 3 weeks in total but it felt like an eternity going through the motions of cleaning the house every showing and making vacuum lines in the carpet every damn time and storing everything in boxes and tucking them away and taking them out again at night. It’s a tiring and repetitive process.

Through all of it, Albert was there for us for literally every second of it. Whenever I messaged him, I received a reply within 30 seconds or less – no matter the time of day. When I asked if he had an update on anything only because I was being impatient – he would call and get an update. If he said he’d let me know in an hour, he would message me in 59 minutes. If I asked the same question a hundred times, he answered it a hundred times with no hesitation. I’ll tell you this much – at first, the thought of using a Realtor to sell your house might seem expensive because their commission is not a secret – you know how much they’re going to be getting from the sale of the house and it’s a tough pill to swallow because you know that money could be used for so many other things. Albert literally shouldered every single thing of this transaction and went through so many hoops and hurdles that I couldn’t even mention here without making it more of a novel than it already is that I don’t even care how much money he takes. In fact, I wish we could afford to give more because it’s a stressful f***ing thing to take on. I work my 7.5 hours a day and I turn off. He’s on 24/7. It’s their job, I know – but certain people are better at a job than others and I think Albert is truly a needle in a haystack. So, in the same sense that we got every corner of this house cleaned and ready to sell, he covered every corner of his job to follow it through.

It may just be a pairing of two very anal, OCD, impatient and particular people – and I think that made it as smooth as it could’ve been – but even if you aren’t like me, as long as you have Albert in your corner, you’ll at least have one person ensuring all the bases are covered and supporting you. He’s not there to take your money (although he is), he really feels like he’s on your team and I think that’s important in such a big transaction. He didn’t pay me to say all this – we technically paid him – but because we can’t afford to give him more than he’s taking, this is all that I have left to give. If you need a Realtor in the future – I’m not begging you, I’m telling you – get Albert on your team. You won’t regret it… Or else I’ll shut this blog down forever (and I know it won’t happen :))

Thanks for reading the wall of words! Onto the next one!

Rooftop Shenanigans?

I guess every photoshoot that I’m not actually doing is just a shenanigan now cause I don’t know what else to call it lol. Yesterday, David had a few of us come out to do a quick photoshoot downtown. He’s been wanting to do some urban/downtown rollers for a while now and he got his chance! I met up with Steve in his GTR to get our cars washed and we rolled out to the top of the parkade downtown. I’ve never actually driven all the way up to this one before since I’ve never had the need to but it ended up being a really nice spot.

There was a bunch of things going on yesterday afternoon – between Steve getting some shots of his GTR before he sells it, some model pictures, a BRZ and FRS duo shoot, and rollers – we were all just following David’s lead. It’s a weird thing to not be the one coordinating the shoot since that’s what I’m used to.

Being the bystander at a photoshoot is a new thing to me… Like, where do I stand? Am I in the way? Should I talk to the photographer or do I shut up? Is it creepy to watch while the model is posing on the cars? I dunno – me and Steve just ended up talking cars anyway and looking away while awkwardly trying to get out of the way LOL. Personally, while I’m shooting – I enjoy talking about the persons car and what they’ve done to it and what their plans are. It might not look like it, but I’m listening and it helps me add a little flair to the write up that I usually do, or if you talk about a certain aspect of the car a lot, it hints to me that it’s something you probably enjoy and like a lot, so I’ll take pics of it. For me – while shooting – the silence is likely as awkward as it is for you standing there watching me LOL!

Anyway, most of the shots below are just behind the scenes shots and random things I took while we were there. I can’t not bring my camera to a photoshoot and take some pics, even if it’s not my photoshoot…

Since these weren’t really serious photos for me, I ended up getting a chance to try out my new polarizer and played around with some different colour gradings to give a different effect. I typically like to stick to a very natural feel with a very minimal post-processing look but sometimes playing around with sliders to give a different look makes it a bit more interesting. I typically tend to favour the warmer and yellow/orange hues over cool tones like the above, but I tried something a little different today…

Which one is the photographer?! Just kidding – Steve just grabbing some shots on the sidelines while David does his thing.

I was able to snap a quick pic of the GTR as well – one for the books I suppose. I never did get a chance to shoot his GTR while he owned it.

A view from the top of the parkade. A nice overcast day with some sun peeking through here and there – perfect weather for pics.

And then me in my creeper mode… David shooting Lexi with my FRS and Jason Tang’s BRZ.

Focus switch…

Me just snapping randoms of my car while Jason T’s car gets all the attention.

Here is where I started getting a little crazy with the colour grading and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m 50/50 on it because I think it gives a cool feel but I think it’s just “not me” that I can’t fully hop on board yet. Lexi was looking off to the left at David while I shot this and it ended up looking pretty good. What do you guys think? Too much? Looks OK?

Another random shot I took just cause David was off doing something else. Sometimes random shots work and sometimes they don’t… Here is when it doesn’t but I edited it anyway.

Another shot of David doing his thing. I’m really looking forward to seeing these pictures as I’ve never been to a shoot with a model with cars while someone else was doing the shooting. Yesterday was completely new and strange to me because it was so out of my element but interesting to watch. Like I said in my previous posts with Mike and Ricky – it’s crazy to see how different shots can be of the same subject once all is said and done.

Another random that I creeped on to take.

And one last one of David taking shots with Lexi.

And finally – something I’m OK at – a shot of Jason’s BRZ and my FRS together with more blue/cool colour grading. Hopefully when David is done I can share some on here for you guys!