Nine years ago around this time I ordered two sets of blank nesting dolls—one was to be a gift for my hostess when I was in Japan a few months earlier and the other was a just-in-case-I-messed-up-the-first-one. I’ve never painted nesting dolls before and wasn’t sure how I would feel about repetition. I mean, that’s the reason why I never took children’s book illustration seriously even though that had been my concentration at SVA. The first set went all right and I wanted to paint another one. And another. And another. 1000 sets later and I’m still going at it.

For a few weeks I was low-key anxious, wondering which set would become the 1000th, as I normally work simultaneously on 4-6 sets daily. When it became clear that Wonder Woman, one of my favorite movies last year, was to be the one, I immediately decided to give up my sugar-free diet for the day and made some cake to celebrate. I’m regretting the cake now, but thrilled about how the set had turned out.

I started painting these dolls at the dining table, wondering if I could ever make a living at it. Turns out I can’t, really. But it does provide me an ample opportunity to meet with people from around the world and hone my craft to a very sharp point on a daily basis. To quote the friend who had gotten me on this path: “When you love what you’re doing, you got it all, man.”