Art is essential; it’s something so important to me. I don’t always have the words to describe how much I need it and how many other youth or just people in general have to use it. It’s not something that youth just use to play around with, it’s a literal outlet for expression and an extension of oneself. I’ve always been surrounded by so many inspiring artists who are young just like me and are constantly trying new things and creating beautiful and inspiring pieces. Profiling artists of color, especially, was really important to me, which is why the artists featured in this profile are Asia Banyaga, a junior at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, and Paula Oum, a freshman at Cal State Long Beach. I wanted to know the personal and technical things about the way art interests into their life and what it means to them. Although I draw and paint as well, my primary focus right now is photojournalism, so getting this information feels fresh and something I’m definitely going to hold onto. Hopefully you can too! I’m really happy I got to dive into the minds of these artists. I’m excited to share what they had to say.
What would you like to accomplish as an artist?
Asia: Well, I want to be an art director. Basically, art directors are in charge of coordinating all the artistic elements of a project, whether a production of a movie or the marketing campaign of a brand. It’s a difficult position to get in the art industry, but I’m hoping by developing my skill set, pursuing my education in college and gaining more experience in the work field, I may be able to reach this goal.
Paula: I feel like this is a very easy-yet-difficult question to answer. The obvious answer is, of course, to make a name for myself and become well known. Being able to have the money and time to create my own game and a clothing line has been something I’m currently planning to do later in the future. Although I feel like one of my biggest goals as an artist is to become an inspiration to other upcoming artists, I want to be the artist who inspires others to draw and create. I want people to be like “I want to be like her,” and I don’t mean that in a narcissistic way. Growing up, there were so many artists that I looked up to, and they have inspired me and motivated me to want to be at the skill level that they were at.
What are some of the issues you have faced as an artist of color? If you haven’t personally faced any issues, what’s your perspective on this, do you notice any barriers artists of color have to get through?
Asia: I personally haven’t faced any issues being an artist of color, but I feel like there are some restrictions on society’s acceptance of art made by people of color. A lot of times people’s creativity is influenced by their culture and upbringing, and you can see that in their art. Sometimes I see a common art style done on social media by a white artist that many classify as “aesthetic.” In my opinion, this art style can get boring. I think that people of color have a lot to offer to the art community and bring a lot of unique and novel ideas to the table that go against tradition. But I think society is not open minded enough as a whole to accept these ideas that go against the “aesthetic” societal norm.
Paula: I don’t think I really faced any issues being an artist of color except for stereotypical comments about what my job could have been, such as a med student or lawyer, since I am Asian American. Getting a job as an artist and making money as an artist has always been a difficult job in itself, but what I’ve learned is that it’s harder to get an art career as a person of color and especially as a female of color. But then again, this can be said about any other job as well.
What’s your definition of “good art”?
Asia: Good art is anything that comes from the heart. Even if someone is simply drawing an apple, having to sit down and concentrate on what an apple is, how it’s shaped, what shadows it produces, what colors mixed together on paper make the right color … and so on … is a commitment. And as a genuine artist, no one is forcing you to produce anything. That is a choice that you make that I believe is derived from the heart. So in my opinion, all art is good art as long as whoever created it was loyal to their commitment. It shows.
What’s something that motivates you to create art?
Paula: When I encounter new artists, especially online, it makes me want to draw and reach the level that they are at now. Just the idea of being able to create the art that I want to make and actually have the concepts meet the executions is also another motivator. I can not get better if I don’t try. My friends who also make art are another motivator. Although my art and their art are not something I can compare my worth or progress to, seeing them create new art and posting it gives me the sense of “Hey wait up, don’t leave me behind,” and it pushes me to make more art as well. It’s good to have a rival because they push you to always think of new ideas and seek improvement.
Do you think there’s certain techniques or rules someone should follow to be considered a “real” artist?
Asia: I’ve taken several art classes and I’ve been taught the elements and principles of art and design and I feel like knowing that stuff is helpful to anyone trying to learn the basics and be a good artist. But if you want to be a GREAT artist, you have to take everything that you’ve learned and forget about it. Thinking too much about technique will actually take away from your art. When I’m about to start a project, I first gather all my materials — picking out all the colors I think I might need. I don’t know exactly what colors I’ll need but I feel that with past experiences, I know what works for me and how I mix my colors. It’s different for everyone. Then once I have my materials, I have this system where I like to build up color and values by starting off light and applying more pressure after each layer. You have to eyeball it. You can follow the same steps to draw the same thing over and over again, but I assure you that each attempt will look different every time. My number one tip is to just go with the flow and do whatever looks right to you.
Paula: There are no techniques or rules to be considered to be a “real” artist. Anyone can be an artist just as long as you are creating something. There’s no criteria to meet, or skill level to be met either.
Who are some of the people, or films etc that have inspired you visually and why?
Asia: There are two main sources of inspiration that I have, and the first one would have to be James Cameron’s film, “Avatar.” This is my all time favorite movie, and I feel all its elements are so realistic and captivating. This movie inspired me to want to enter the entertainment industry and work on similar productions that make artistic concepts a “reality.” My second source would have to be Diego Fazio, a self-taught, hyper-realistic graphite artist. He inspires me because he is able to produce photo-like art with just graphite. I started out drawing with just No. 2 pencils that I found lying around my house or at school, and I also taught myself for the most part. I guess he just inspires me because he gives me hope in what my artistic abilities may be able to become.
Paula: There are so many to list, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Anime and manga has definitely influenced me visually a lot, especially since I still continue to draw in a style similar to the two. To me, I found it so much more different than American cartoons and much more visually appealing, especially. Shows such as Kill La Kill, Devilman Crybaby and Mob Psycho had very interesting and dynamic animations despite the fact that I had prefer the art style of older shows such as Inuyasha, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Dragon Ball. But that’s the great thing about anime: you can enjoy the animation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you like the art style. Films from Studio Ghibli and Disney have always been another inspiration. There was this fantasy aesthetic that I could never get enough of; the simple designs of the characters to the intricate, well-thought background designs as well as the colors were what defined my life and how I viewed the world. Especially with Studio Ghibli, there were many scenes that were just simple everyday life, the little moments throughout your day that really resonated with me like, “Wow, art really is everywhere,” and that you can grab inspiration from just simply putting on your shoes to a beautiful sunset. Another inspiration are also video games especially role-playing games; I really enjoy the worlds built in so many games and traveling and visiting towns that I can only achieve through a console. Another inspiration are my friends. Even though it sounds creepy, I do love looking at my friends; their smiles, their outfits, and even just the way they hold themselves is just all so different, much more different than myself, and I think the contrast between me and my friends is just so inspiring. We are all different people and even though there are 7 billion people on this planet, we all still hold our own little nuances that makes us special.
Are there things you ever feel uneasy about when you’re creating?
Asia: When I’m creating sometimes I feel my art isn’t going to come out the way I planned, and that when others see it they’ll think it looks weird. I know I sound hypocritical to say that I care about what others think, but in all honesty, what artist doesn’t? Most of the time I can make adjustments to fix my mishaps and shape my art to fit my vision, but sometimes I can’t because I don’t know what I can do to make it any better without ruining it. When this happens I just walk away and go to sleep and when I see it in the morning, it somehow looks perfect. So yes, I feel uneasy sometimes but it has never been severe enough to keep me from creating. If anything, it motivates me to keep improving.
Paula: Always. I always get anxious that what I am creating will never live up to the concepts and ideas that I have created in my head. I get scared that maybe my idea wasn’t as great as I had thought it was when I put on paper. There’s this expectation that I set upon myself and if I don’t live up to it, I know I will be extremely disappointed in myself. Especially when I work on traditional art, I get especially anxious because I think it has to be perfect because unlike digital art, I feel as if I can not undo what I have done.
Do you have any advice for people, especially youth, in terms of creative risk-taking and confidence in their work?
Asia: Honestly I think everyone should be free to do what they want. You will face criticism and you’ll be insecure at times. I’m not gonna lie and say that’s never going to happen because it does. It happens to everyone, including myself, and professional artists. I can assure you that I wouldn’t be the artist I am if I had not tried new things and felt confident enough in my own work. Try new things. Be different. With society’s emphasis on STEM subjects, the world is being stripped of its artistic and creative influences. I feel that anyone with an artistic eye should embrace their gift. The world needs people like you.
Paula: Never let any art you create hold you back, whether it is something you didn’t particularly like or something you extremely like. You don’t want to feel like you can never do better than a certain piece of art you ever made but also don’t want to be scared to ever make art ever again. If you want to make something, do it, no matter how dumb your idea may be. Even if it doesn’t come out good, it is better than keeping them in your head because the fear of always making good art will always hold you back. Never determine the worth of your art by comparing yourself to other people or how many people like your art or even the follower count on an art social media account you may have. I think when you take the time to just look at your own art and appreciate it for what it is and embrace what you created, only then you can start to build confidence about your own works of art. I think a lot of art tends to shine more brightly — no matter how simple or detailed it may be — when it is made by people who take pride in their work and are happy with what they created.