Motivating things

Acceptance: A self portrait journey

I’ve had the hardest time drawing myself, period. Therefore, I challenged myself to try and embarked on a self portrait journey.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been uncomfortable with my body and my self esteem. Burdened by anxiety and judgment, I became my own worst critic. I still am to this day.

Growing up as one of the few people of Asian descent in a predominantly White community, I longed for more Western features. I would wish that my hair and eye color would lighten and the shape of my eyes would widen. In addition to my outlier status, during my formative years, I was also overweight and taller than most which impacted my self confidence. Therefore, I chose to shun my Asian identity. I tried to act more White. The show “Fresh off the Boat” resonates so well with my upbringing. Check it out, it’s a great show.

I clearly remember this one instance in the first grade when I realized I was not like the others. A classmate of mine had asked me if I was Chinese or Japanese without any prompting. Sadly, they also pulled their eyelids taut to mimic small Asian eyes. I explained that I was Korean which lies between China and Japan. I’ve experienced bigoted followups from individuals after that ultimately racist question of “Where do you come from? No, where do you really come from?” with “Oh, are you from the North or the South?”. I’ve always been very aware of my “other” status. It is an awareness that I carry with me everyday.

I learned to present myself as “American”. When in a social situation with strangers, I learned to smile and speak first. I did this to stop the assumption that I didn’t speak English simply because I look different from the others in the room.

After many years of trying to seem more Western, I decided to embrace my Korean-American identity. I became obsessed with K-pop, dramas and Korean skincare. I started cooking foods that my mother would make for our family everyday. These were the feel good meals that I ended up craving after I moved across the country and away from my entire family and relatives.

As an adult, I reflect and see that the world has changed, but not very much. Something I look back at nostalgically are American Girl dolls. When I was a child, there was a limited group of dolls to choose from. All were White. My American Girl doll was Felicity. A spunky redhead from the Colonial period. She is now banished to the attic of my parent’s house, mainly from my fear of living dolls. That was a crazy segue, amirite? Then the first customizable American Girl dolls were released where you could make a doll that looked just like you. What an innovation! Honestly, if I had a role model that looked like me while I was growing up, I think I would have grown into a more secure woman. And that’s the truth.

Currently in 2019, the Korean wave is impacting trends worldwide. This is something I never would have dreamed to be true when I was younger. I am torn in many ways about the Korean wave and its impact. I am glad that there are people who look like me who are in demand and influencing others. On the other hand, I also feel like Korean culture is the hot new thing. Something exotic and somewhat treated as a spectacle.

Because of my struggles with my self identity and self worth, I decided to use self portraits as a stepping stone in my own self acceptance journey. As I look at my reflection in a mirror, as I review my face and body in photos, I learn to appreciate the “flaws” that I used to hate. My freckles and moles are now considered beauty marks. My mismatched eyelids (one has a double lid while the other is single) make my face more interesting. My large lips are deemed envy worthy and can only be given by God or a plastic surgeon. My eyes aren’t just dark brown, they have a brightness in them that illuminates sometimes. And my body whose weight has fluctuated so much through my 3 decades of life has taught me to appreciate that it is both strong and flexible, carrying me through this life and the years to come.

Mother of the Year, 11x14” mixed media piece

Within my work, I’ve learned to incorporate pieces of my background as clues for the viewer. I try to show authentic emotions, such as the feelings of despair during the struggles to conceive a child in “Mother of the Year” or propping myself up and presenting myself as a Korean queen in “RBF: Resting Bitch Face”. Although I do not descend from royalty, so far as I know, I can treat myself like I am, the Head Bitch in Charge.

I feel that my self portraits are therapeutic. As I take time and look at myself, I learn that my features have shaped my life experience. Something that solely belongs to me.

I chose to display my anxieties and joys on a canvas or a piece of paper. I can then look back at the finished piece and feel accomplishment. Once done, I then put the piece away, and that physical act of archiving my work is so freeing.

I believe this self portrait movement of mine will be a lifelong journey of acceptance. I wish to grow and reflect as I embark on more joys and heartaches. I hope you follow along with me on this enlightening journey. Namaste.

Finding my niche

Back on the topic of self discovery. I've been experimenting lately and trying to find my niche within the art world which is ever evolving. I was set on doing oil paintings of people's pets at one point. Then I experimented with cityscapes and enjoyed doing those. And then my husband got me into nerdy paintings and drawings of video game characters. 

I've been feeling this pressure to carve out a space in this vast vast world of art. When you think of the greats, you think of their masterpieces and the movements that they helped promote. Monet had his Impressionism and his lily pads at Giverny. Hopper had his cityscapes and landscapes. I ask myself everyday, what is my thing? 

My drawing of Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service.

My constant frustrations and eagerness to push myself further and faster are my double edged swords. It drives me and motivates me but it also hinders me. At the moment I'm really into using art markers and pens. I can quickly sketch out something and then color it in with my Copics. I feel like it gives me the instant gratification that I can not necessarily get from oils.

Evolving as an artist is an uncomfortable feeling. It is so natural to be complacent but trying something so different and foreign can be a great thing. I noticed how my skills had improved when I made myself paint my first cityscape. It opened up a whole new focus for me and enhanced my views on perspectives. 

My latest rendition of a Sailor Moon character.

I've always loved anime and cartoons. I've envied anybody who can easily draw in that style and create their own characters. Ever since I can remember, I would try to draw Sailor Moon and fall flat on my face. I would try to mimic the ways that manga artists would draw their characters but it felt so foreign to me with the huge eyes and pupils and weirdly shaped heads. It still is a struggle today but I ended up improving after many tries.

From the training I do have, it has been more of a traditional one. I would focus on photo realism and be disappointed that my drawings and paintings weren't exactly what I saw before me. I feel like my art style leans between realism and cartoonish, I'm still figuring out a name for that. I have to remind myself to this very day that my style is what makes my art special. As mentioned in my bio, I aim to make my paintings or drawings to look real and surreal at the same time. My problem was that I didn't see the beauty of that but now I do. 

My husband, our dog and me in the style of Pixar's Up.

The masters weren't great in the beginning of their careers and had to explore their niches as well. It's not like Monet got up and created his iconic paintings right away. I'm still in the stages of finding what I identify with that makes me who I am. I'm not even sure if I will ever have a place in the art world and inspire a movement. But for the moment, I'm taking a step at a time and learning new things. 

Sort of movie review - The Little Prince

This blog post is going to be a bit more personal. It is no secret that I struggled with my new career choice. I've explained in past blog posts how it took awhile to proclaim my status as an Artist. Everyday I am in a constant internal struggle with my brain and heart. I have to convince myself that this ambiguous path ahead of me is worth it and what I really want. I've been so ingrained in certain expectations of adulthood and the sacrifices that come with it. This is where the movie the Little Prince comes in.

Promotional poster for The Little Prince on Netflix.

I've had this movie in my Netflix queue for awhile now. I finally opened it up and started to watch the movie. In past blog posts, I've talked about my admiration for Antoine de Saint-Exupery's beautiful book with its illustrations. The movie version didn't disappoint. The movie is like a story within a story where the main characters live parallel lives to those of Saint-Exupery's tale. It first presents this rigid society where everyone is expected to adhere to certain rules and be "essential". Communities are mapped out in perfect right angles and everyone has a claim to their own square box of land. Houses are all shades of gray and white. The population runs like a finely tuned marching band. In perfect synchronicity, adults proceed with their jobs and lives. Children are expected to mirror the strict routines of their parents to ultimately succeed in their society, thus continuing the circle of life. This is where I felt that I could relate. 

As mentioned in past posts, I've grown up with a rigid belief that you have to sacrifice a lot of your desires to become a successful adult. Life was scheduled into stages and I had to follow these in sequential order. In my case the ultimate goal was to become a successful businesswoman who somehow maintained a lifestyle in Manhattan and eventually got married with kids. In this world there were "rules" on how to behave and dress, pretty much pigeonholing my individuality. Of course as a C.P.A. the stereotype of a nerdy individual who is constantly sitting at a desk and crunching numbers had come from aspects of real life. The first few years of full time work as an accountant, I drank the cool-aid. I thought that it made sense to work crazy hours and be constantly stressed. I thought, eventually I will get to the point where I could call my own shots. Alas, I realized that world was not for me. The world I was living in felt like that gray society in the film. I constantly got up in the morning, got ready for work, did what was expected and came home feeling unfulfilled and dejected. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and that it was normal to feel this way. I was living in a world of facades rather than something genuine.

Back to the movie...It introduces the weird old man in the quirky house next door. His house is a stark contrast to the grays and whites in its neighborhood consisting of an array of colors. This man is the Aviator and he lives by nobody's rules. He is constantly chasing his dreams and holding on to his childlike sense of wonderment. He literally has a beat up airplane in his backyard that he's been trying to repair and ultimately fly again. This old man introduces the main character, the little girl, how to embrace the colors of life. He tells her the story of the Little Prince and how he left his home asteroid to discover life and ultimately himself. The Little Prince is constantly questioning the rationale behind the behaviors of adult characters. One character simply wanted attention and applause for being the best albeit he was the only person on his planet. Another wanted to count all the stars to then further buy more stars to count. Simply put it by Saint-Exupery, "No one is ever satisfied where he is....Only the children know what they’re looking for". 

The little girl character has been molded her entire life to adhere to this rigid society. Her mother is a prime example of someone who buys into these ideals and wants it for her own child. Following these respective steps would then lead them to success, whatever that was. Like the little girl, I felt the same pressures to assimilate to these societal expectations. I was pushed into the straight and narrow path. Naturally I am a very curious person, but curiosity wasn't essential as an Accountant. Eventually I found my own Aviator per se. After a lot of self reflection I decided to embrace what made me happy. I've tried to see the world through a child's eyes and remember fondly the times I was allowed to be creative and experience things at my own pace.

Being an Artist is maddening and exhilarating at the same time. My brain is constantly working to express myself more and create something that evokes feelings and my individuality. I have periods of time where I feel pressured to produce but nothing comes out. The film literally had a big bad boss character who took all the stars in the sky and kept them in a large snow globe like container. He mentions how looking at the stars made lazy men become idle. In his world, looking around you and beyond is not productive but I disagree. As an Artist I sit and think. I walk and think. I look around and wonder. The symbolism of containing these stars really hit me. Most of my life, I was restraining myself. I didn't let myself pursue what I loved to do. Once the little girl in the movie cracks the container and lets the stars out, you see the immediate effect on the gray and gloomy population. They stand and admire the stars instead of going through their monotonous routine. The world and even the universe has been expanded and it reawakens their curiosity and wonderment. 

"The Little Dog Prince", inspired by the book.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it gave me hope for my future. I ended up going through some boxes of old photos and greeting cards. Seeing the look of joy on my face within these pictures and reading the words of my treasured friends inspired me. It inspired me to try to see things as if it was the first time. It also taught me to embrace my past and learn from it, the good bad and the ugly. The animation of the film was a beautiful thing even though I focused mainly on the symbolism of the movie. I would definitely recommend giving the Little Prince movie a looksy and hopefully you would be as moved as I am. 

LA Adventure part 1 - Venice Beach

Public Art Walls in Venice Beach.

My husband and I took a few days to visit SoCal, specifically LA. I was particularly excited about visiting Venice Beach. What I didn’t expect was the neighborhood’s commitment to art. The ever so famous Venice Beach boardwalk even has a dedicated section of public walls where graffiti artists are free to express themselves. Graffiti on these walls were considered illegal until the early 2000s where now if you have a permit, you can display your art. 

Arnold at his finest

Just walking around this eclectic neighborhood is a joy for an artist. Commissioned artists create masterpieces on building walls. Each one unique in their own right and expressing the message by its creator. We found an appropriate homage to the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, near the iconic muscle beach.  

Walking up a few blocks to the very trendy and hipster Abbot Kinney Boulevard, we admired a different style of artistic expression. Rather than graffiti on each building, it was obvious that the neighborhood was carefully curated. Restaurants, galleries and stores are designed to the tee. I think I saw the most use of reclaimed wood and succulents in my life! Coffee shops with their outdoor patios have beautiful murals in the backdrop while young people sip their drinks and chat. Even whole storefronts are painted with an array of colors that aim to entice its audience to come in and see what it holds inside. Local artists are represented inside and out; through prints of their artwork, hand carved wood bowls or hand cut wall engravings.  

Beautiful stucco exterior of this house

Small cottages are scattered within the commercial street. Each one has its own personality. I especially loved the texture and patterns on the stucco of this beautiful blue house. 

The vibes in Venice Beach were those of enjoying life and your beautiful surroundings. Appreciating simple and well made foods, housewares and activities seemed to be the modus operandi of the inhabitants of this neighborhood. I have included more beautiful pieces of art from our Venice Beach excursion below. I hope you all can find inspiration from these local artists as much as I have!