“The Ticking Clock” by Nina Chen

Category : Thoughts · (1) Comment · by July 7, 2016

So proud of my niece who just got published in the latest issue of Ireland’s RTE Guide. Nina recently won the RTE Guide/Puffin Young People’s Short Story Competition in her category – 15-18 years old. Her short story below (full text after the image):


The Ticking Clock
by Nina Chen (16 yrs. old)

My mother used to talk about time like it was money. To her, time was precious, something valuable. I was more interested in the thing that told time; the pretty, bird-shaped ticking clock that stayed on the living room wall. My mother used to place it into my chubby, toddler hands, and I would be entranced by it’s bright, colorful numbers, and how its ticking was as steady as a heartbeat.

“Elian,” She would say, her voice light and lovely. “Elian, time is precious, okay?”

My mother often said this. I never understood (or cared) what it meant. I didn’t understand many things. Why did my mother not sing anymore? Why did she insist I hide when my father came home?

Why was there always yelling when my father returned?

My mother gave me the ticking clock a few weeks after I turned eleven. She said the ticking bothered my father.

It never bothered me. Not much does.

Yet I remember the yelling in the middle of the night, how my mother begged him not to break any of our delicate, china plates, and he yelled, “Would you rather I break you instead?”

I remember waking up the next morning, only to see my mother with hollow eyes and a red mark on her cheek. I remember her handing me the pretty, bird-shaped clock and asking me not to break it.

And not much bothers me, but I always hate how my father speaks to me in a snarl, how he says my name like it’s a disease.

It bothers me how I felt like a disease.

I started counting down the days to my eighteenth birthday when I turned fifteen. On my eighteenth birthday, I could run away if I wanted to. I could run away and never come back.

I swept up the glass from the vase my father shattered when he thought my mother was cheating on him. (She had only gone out to buy groceries).

I used an old painting to cover the hole that my father had punched in the wall. (He had barely missed my mother.)

I got a part-time job to buy food after my mother stopped packing me lunch.

I counted down the days until I could go. One thousand eighty-four days. One thousand thirty-three days. My ticking clock counts down the seconds. Sometimes, I hold the clock up to my ear so I can hear it instead of my name being screamed in the kitchen.

“Get rid of Elian! I don’t give a fuck about Elian!”

When there are seven hundred and two days left, when I am almost sixteen years old, a blue-haired boy introduces himself at work.

I have not been the same since.

When I was younger, before I cared about my eighteenth birthday, before the ticking clock was moved to my room, my mother liked to have friends over to talk. She said the same thing often; “My husband is only violent when he drinks.”

The blue-haired boy is never violent.

The blue-haired boy is called Tyler and he is so beautiful it hurts. He is the embodiment of the sky, with eyes like grey clouds and a smile like sunshine.

Tyler’s hands don’t constantly shake. He does not hold a ticking clock to his ear in attempt to drown out screams. Yet he makes me forget to count down the days to my eighteenth birthday, and he listens to me when I speak, and when I press my ear to his chest, I can hear his heartbeat, which is steady as my ticking clock.

My father is arrested for domestic abuse thirty-five days before my eighteenth birthday. Our neighbors had called the police. When I ask my mother why they never called the police before, she says, “Your father paid them not to tell.”

Sometimes I am afraid that I’m like those people. The type who hurt the people they “love”. The type who stay silent for money. The type who say their children’s names like it leaves a bitter taste in their mouth. Sometimes, I hate my name so much that I tear myself apart.

Yet when I do hate myself, Tyler brings me my bird-shaped ticking clock. When my name feels like a disease, he whispers it like it’s a precious secret, sings it like it’s his favorite melody. Tyler can make anything beautiful. He could make a sad story worth listening to.

On my eighteenth birthday, I don’t run away. I return the bird-shaped clock to my mother, and it stays on the wall in the living room, where it belongs. Tyler gives me a new clock, shaped like a star with glow-in-the-dark numbers.

“Tyler, you know that time is precious, right?” I say when he hands me the clock.

Tyler’s eyes light up and he grins. “That’s why I spend all of it with you.”

I laugh and turn on the star-shaped clock. It doesn’t tick, but that’s alright. I have nothing to drown out.


The Body Beautiful

Category : Sketches · No Comments · by August 3, 2015

Last month, I entered several pieces from the “Love My Bare Naked” series into the Art & Beyond magazine cover competition. Two of them have been included in a special online issue titled, “The Body Beautiful.” I won the inside-back cover and got a full page interview (pg. 18) – GAH!!


Love My Bare Naked – Solo Exhibition

Category : Sketches, Watercolors · No Comments · by June 8, 2015

It’s my first solo exhibition!!!!  Quench your thirst and start your Thursday Happy Hour with me at Sole Repair Shop! Hope to see you at the PrideFest Queer Art Walk!

View the entire collection here: Love My Bare Naked – Solo Exhibition


Category : Thoughts · No Comments · by June 1, 2015

At the beginning of 2015, I left my job of seven years to focus on drawing and painting. The Voice of Doubt (VOD) has always been LOUD. It kept telling me “you can’t do it”, but my soul craved it. So I asked the Universe what I wanted and this time I meant it. By April, I showed my first art collection, and next week I will have my first solo exhibit! Just got final confirmation that I will be one of ten artists featured at the Pridefest Queer Art Walk this month! Who knows where this will lead… but for now, FU VOD!!

How to use the Law of Attraction

Photo Shoot

Category : Thoughts, Watercolors, Work In Progress · No Comments · by April 26, 2015

After a 2-day photo shoot, 8 new friends, 1500 photos, 30 figure drawing sketches, I’m excited about my next painting series in progress. Thanks to Kyung and Thomas for all their help this weekend!

Print Sale…Collect all the QUEENS

Category : Sketches, Watercolors · No Comments · by April 11, 2015

Print SALE!! Get ALL nine QUEENS for only $20 at my Etsy store (plus $6 shipping). Add all nine in your shopping cart, then use the coupon code “QUEENS” >>

Sktchy App Icon

Category : Digital Art, Graphic Design, Sketches · No Comments · by April 9, 2015

Stoked and honored to have my art featured as the new Sktchy app icon! Thank you, Sktchy!! Click on the following link and swipe right on the image to see the inspiration:

Queens Collection, Mar 30 – Apr 26, 2015

Category : Sketches · No Comments · by April 4, 2015

Opening night at the A/NT Gallery is tonight. I’ll be there from 6-9pm. The Queens will be on exhibit through April 26 – hope to see some of you there! View the entire collection here: QUEENS Watercolor Collection

¡Viva España!

Category : Sketches, Urban, Watercolors · No Comments · by February 25, 2015

It was in 1998 when I first visited Spain. Since then, no other travel destination has compared to my two favorite Spanish cities, Barcelona and Sevilla. I was so inspired by the culture and traditions. It made sense that 17 years later, I would want to spend my 40th birthday returning to beautiful España! And she didn’t disappoint…

More so than my first visit, I really connected with my Spanish-influenced filipino heritage. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. It feels like home! The cuisine – Empanadas, Arroz Caldo, Chicharron, Pastillas de leche – are very familiar. The Spanish colonial buildings remind me of some of the houses I would see in provincial Philippines. Oh, the architecture!! I could literally stand on any street corner and find something interesting to draw. Here are a few of my favorite sketches from the trip, which you can purchase from my Etsy Store!

La Sagrada Familia – Nativity Facade, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia – Passion Facade, Barcelona

The Barcelona Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona

Basilica at Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, Montserrat

Metropol Parasol (“The Mushrooms”), Sevilla

Fuente de la Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, Sevilla

Patio de las Doncellas, Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Patio de las Muñecas, Real Alcázar de Sevilla

“Birds of a Feather” Scarf Design Contest

Category : Graphic Design · No Comments · by October 15, 2014

I recently discovered Printed Village, a signature scarf line and an online community with hundreds of artists and designers that take part in Monthly Design Contests.  This month’s theme is “Birds of A Feather” and the winner gets $300 plus their artwork presented to Nordstroms, Anthropologie, and Barneys.  I love a good challenge!

I find inspiration in the most random places. It was on a rainy Seattle morning, on my bus ride to work when I noticed drops of water grow and dissipate as they trickled down the window pane.  Single drops would combine to form larger masses of water, and in between you could find interesting shapes within the negative space.  This became the concept for my scarf design.  Scroll down to see the full design process and click on the images to enlarge.

Rough Pencil Sketch | Inking | Scan & Fill in Photoshop
IMG_2637 IMG_2638 IMG_2639 process_psd_fill

Image Tracing in Illustrator | Color and Filter in Photoshop
process_ai_imagetrace process_psd_colorfilter

Tile Image in Photoshop

Final Entry

Check out all the other designs on Printed Village’s website and Facebook page.