What is your creative medium?
Digital Art – Concept artist, graphic designer, and illustrator
Tell us how you started your business / creative venture?
I started doing freelance in college, but took a small break for graduate school.
Has your culture and heritage impacted your work? How so?
A guiding phrase or mantra about my art is “We have always been here” in regard to how I draw from my experience. I am Asian/Vietnamese, but I am also American. I grew up going to Buddhist temple, but also watching John Wayne movies with my father. I think for me the moment my eyes lit up was when I was reading about Chinese Americans in the west coast during the age of the wild west, Japanese Americans in America during the 1940’s, or Vietnamese Americans who came here during the 1970’s. The media at the time totally erased our lives of course (still does but it’s getting better), and the systemic violence we endured and still endure in this country is immensely painful to study, but my work, I want to offer a retrospective solace and joy. I immediately thought about Chinese cowboys, Noir Japanese Americans solving crimes or Vietnamese private eyes in the big city in groovy bell bottom pants, etc. So, my art is very much a blend of the mainstream American media I watched as a child, but also a celebration of what it means to be an Asian American, because like I said, “we have always been here”.
Has your family supported your creative journey? Did you have to overcome anything?
It was my parents who pushed me to apply to grad school in art and to work in animation and illustration. I want to break apart the myth of the “strict Asian tiger parent” that get perpetuated by the mainstream media and by other Asian Americans. We are not a monolith. My parents grew up under French colonization, their logic is that under colonial rule, their lives were not their own, everything was dictated and in their own countries they were treated like second class citizens, so why on earth would they want to dictate the life of someone else? That’s the way they explained it to me.
How long have you been doing your creative work?
Actually only the last three or so years. Sure, I took one art class in high school, but it was a general entry level one. For the most part, I taught myself art in undergrad and now getting a master’s degree in it.
What made you choose this journey?
There is a joy I have whenever I watch cartoons, read a good comic, novel, etc. Stories stick with me. I remember when I was scared on an operation table the first thing I thought about when I was going to go under was a story my grandma told me. It was so instinctual, so natural, but also gave me courage. Stories, movies, novels, the creative arts are the life blood of humanity. They feed us, nurture us, and when we feel the most alone, they will never leave us. There is something powerful about that, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. If my art can touch one human soul, or if my stories can inspire one person, that’s all I need.
What advice can you give to another AAPI creative who maybe struggling to follow a creative career pathway due to stigmas?
Life is full of compromises that we must make, whether we come from a collective culture or an induvial one. If you cannot make art your full-time hustle, find a way to encompass it into your life anyways. You don’t have to be concept artist at a major studio to get your voice out there. You don’t even have to be “the best”, your art just has to be the purest extension of your spirit, and I promise you, people will connect with it.
Share a quote you live by. It can be yours or something else that inspires you!
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt
What are some resources that have helped you succeed and would love to recommend to others?
Facebook groups, Reddit groups, Discord servers for your specific field or interest or your community. Mentors that are willing to guide you, and a strong network or peers who will proudly say your name in a room of opportunities .
How can people learn more about you and your business?
CMATL is an interview series where our team collects submissions and find Atlanta’s hidden gems of creators and creative entrepreneurs. This project powered by The Creative Folks.