The Pressure to Create

I feel the happiest when I have a project that I’m continuously working on and I feel the most accomplished when what I’ve completed has had an impact on someone else as well as my personal growth. I’ve been lucky enough to have had creative opportunities through connections and people who have recognized the value in my work. And I’m incredibly thankful to have grown from these experiences. These projects are done during my free time and I find myself devoting full-energy into its completion. That’s how I know I’m passionate about the things that I do.

Between projects though, I sometimes struggle with pushing myself to produce new work, build new skills, or just to maintain productivity. I felt the most pressure from art classes in high school and college when students were required to produce a certain amount of artwork without any given requirements. For some, it’s really easy to create a new sketchbook entry everyday while others pick up a pencil and struggle with blank pages staring back at them (this is me). Sometimes, I’m in the mindset of always wanting to produce finished, shareable work that I stop myself from even starting something if I know it won’t go anywhere. I forget that ideas may start small and develop beautifully over time.

It’s not easy to be continuously inspired, but it is easy to continuously appreciate. I’m the type of person to come across a hand-drawn chalk sign on the side of the street and stop just to stare at it for a bit, not necessarily to read its content (unless it involves a deal on food), but to look at the way that it was drawn and to pick up hints as to how I could recreate my own. And then I would take a picture and add it to a folder on my phone of random signs, patterns, and designs that have struck a chord in my heart in some way.

Scroll through your Instagram feed, Pinterest, or whatever your favorite platform is, and soak up as much as you want. Expose yourself to everything you can and open your mind to learning new things. Ease the pressure to produce and let that motivation grow naturally on its own.

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Just Be Your Own Idol

I recently finished reading the book #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. I definitely developed a new girl crush and found a new source of inspiration for kicking ass at life. There were so many mini-lessons that I took away – from the mantra, money looks better in your back than on your feet to helpful tips on what not to do when writing cover letters.

It made me confront little things that I was doing or thinking that was unnecessary to a healthy and happy mindset. The quote above was probably the most relatable. Sophia Amoruso became as successful as she is now in the least traditional way you would think of, and she maintains her success as well as NastyGal’s, by continuing to push for her uniqueness as a woman.

I don’t think I’m the only one that get’s easily caught up with what others are doing with their lives. It’s so easy nowadays to scroll through Instagram, see what we perceive as ‘perfect lives’ from others’ posts, and feel like you’re missing out on something. The Fear of Missing Out – it’s real. There are times where I’ve stalked lifestyle bloggers, designers, and mutual friends with this sort of obsessive quality, thinking that if I do this or that, I could be a little more like them. Then I think, why am I wasting my time doing this?

When it comes to artists that I’ve admired, I’ve been pretty heavy-handed in taking elements from their work to influence my own. It took me a while to understand  that it’s one thing to be ‘inspired’ by someone and it’s another to straight up copy, thinking that you’re only trying to emulate them. The line is hard to draw when it comes to originality. Imitation is not the highest form of flattery.

I’m still trying to strengthen my own skills and become a person that I’m proud of, but I’m definitely focusing my energy on myself. Nowadays, I spend time looking at other work to get a sense of how they do things or discover new ways of thinking to help develop my own ideas (and I have  a lot of those). There are so many young creatives out there that I find so cool and I admire endlessly. I want to use their careers as motivation to strengthen and empower my own, as well as others.

Love Art Sushi

Date Completed: October 2016

Love Art Sushi is a restaurant with locations in Storrs, CT and Boston serving healthy build-your-own sushi bowls, salads, tea, and other small bites. Under the same management (Ron & Jess), they rebranded themselves from their previously run H.A. Cafe, with an entirely new menu and look. As part of their renovations, they painted an entire wall with chalkboard paint as a canvas for the ‘Art’ in their namesake. I had the wonderful opportunity to fill that wall as their first featured artist.

These are some sketches that I originally had in mind for the wall. They’re done in my own lettering style and I incorporated a fish, which was an element that Jess wanted. After consulting with them though, they wanted me to stick to their own font, Bentham, so that their branding would be consistent.

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Sticker design with the Bentham font done by my friend Will
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Their official letterhead

Jess and Ron also wanted an element of interaction between customers and the artwork. Kelsey Montague has a beautiful campaign titled #WhatLiftsYou that spread through social media. Her work invites people to insert themselves in the artwork to take photos.

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Mural on Kenmare St. in SoHo, NYC (2015)

So I had to find a way to incorporate that within the Love Art Sushi theme. The wall was big though, so there was plenty of room to be creative. I ended up using the fins of beta fish as inspiration for the “wings”.

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The entire piece took a total of about 20 hours to complete. I started at the beginning of the week and I went in around 9/10 each night and would stay for a couple of hours. On the last night that I had to work on it, I stayed until 5 in the morning (not good for my health, but I happen to work well under pressure).

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Most of it came about as I went along with it. The only things that I had set on paper were the placement of the fish, and their logo set in the center. The circular orb was an addition on the spot, as my way of delineating space for the type. The fins that formed itself into the wing-like structure came about within the last couple hours of me working on the piece. I was panicking at that point, because I didn’t have a clear idea of how I was going to complete it.

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And this is the final design! It was lightly sprayed with a fixative to set the chalk in place, so it wouldn’t smudge too much if people happened to rub against the wall when taking photos. But Ron and Jess hope to have new artwork done in the future.

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This was by far the largest piece of work I’ve ever done and I hope I have more opportunities to work with chalk in the future. It also makes me really happy to see people taking photos with the work! The amazing team at Love Art Sushi also graciously fed me with their delicious food while I worked with them. Definitely go grab some if you ever get the chance to visit!

 

Mga Balikbayan

The Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue, Inc. (FIND, Inc.) is a non-profit organization that connects Filipino American student organizations all over the east coast. Every semester, they host conferences at different schools across the districts with different themes reaching cultural empowerment, professional development, and community building. I had the opportunity to represent District II (UConn) as a National Director for a semester and a half. Before that, I was the graphic design chair and documentations co-chair for the fall dialogue of 2015.

I originally submitted another design (completed half-heartedly) that wasn’t approved because it wasn’t unique enough to the theme of the conference itself. I didn’t really think about the message of the title itself and settled for just a map of the Philippines with the title and info on the banner in a font that I thought looked nice. In my mind, this simply stated that 1)this is a conference and 2)it’s related to being Filipino (job done). But of course, that wasn’t enough.

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This was my first experience with branding, and not to mention, my first time actually designing graphics (thank you for trusting me with this, FIND). I took the shortcut to create something that would simply look nice without considering its intended thematic direction. The motivating message behind ‘Mga Balikbayan’ was a sort of homecoming, through which delegates were able to connect to their cultural roots to understand how they can impact their own communities. A balikbayan box is a universally recognized term amongst the Filipino and Filipino American community as a care package filled with toys, clothes, electronics and other goods that are difficult to obtain in the Philippines. It also symbolizes the patriotism and devotion that Filipinos have for their mother country. So, in a literal sense, the balikbayan boxes had to be shipped over on airplanes, as well as those returning to their country. The plane was the image I decided to run with.

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The ‘A’ of Balikbayan was the plane that I later digitized

In making the original design, I didn’t make any preliminary sketches and started layouts straight in Illustrator, which was bad because I had no direction of what I wanted or where I was going. So this time around, I made some quick sketches and decided to return to what I was most familiar with – hand lettering. I drew all the letters in ink except for the ‘A’ in Balikbayan, which I created a plane for digitally.

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This was the general flyer that I came up with for the event. This design was also used to print on shirts for the planning board, national board, and volunteers involved with the event.

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I had fun creating the event banner, which was used for the Facebook event page as well as cover photos for those promoting the event. It’s a plane ticket to be used as entry for the conference.

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This was one version of the name tags that were printed and worn with lanyards for the day of conference. Different colors were used to differentiate national board, planning board, documentations crew, volunteers, workshop moderators, and general delegates.

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Only photo I have of myself from the event

I sadly didn’t take any photos other than the one above taken by my friend Christian (who I met through FIND!). It’s ironic that I was documentations co-chair and I forgot to document myself… I was too busy running around trying to help run the event (there were more than 700 people who attended!) and making sure things run smoothly. I invested so much into this event because I loved the team behind it and the message we were trying to spread. This was also the first time in the twenty-something years of FIND, Inc. that UConn was able to host, which was a big deal. What made this experience really special though was the chance for me to push my limits and create more than I thought I was able to. I learned how to turn my hand-lettered drawings into digital designs, and I’ve used that in so many other projects since then. This is still my favorite project to date and I am forever grateful for having helped with this conference.

Creative Ideas: Served Daily

Date Completed: March 2016

This chalkboard wall was painted for a previous student who drew simple, but beautiful line drawings almost every week. After the student graduated, one of her drawings remained but the wall had been untouched for over a year. One of my good friends pushed me to take the opportunity to create something on a large scale – this was definitely the largest work that I completed at the time, and my first work in a public space! After meeting with the department head and getting the okay, I was good to go.

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I started working around 10PM on a Sunday night, hoping to be in an empty building. Of course, dedicated art students are always there at weird hours. I also didn’t want to be caught by anyone erasing the previous artwork, since it had been there for so long and everyone had loved it (I didn’t want to be known as that girl that took it away). I ended up staying past 3 in the morning to finish it.

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My friend and I really admire Lauren Hom’s work, who’s art style was my inspiration for this piece. She’s done a number of beautiful chalk pieces that communicate ideas really well. I also love the transient nature of chalk – it can be erased, can always be reworked, and not to mention, cheap!

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Me (5’1″) for scale

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This photo was sent to me by the Department Head, showing the finished project in view while a painting class is in session. It gave the area a renewed vibrancy and a motivational message about the talented students we have at the School of Fine Arts. Now, the chalkboard wall is used for other student projects, continually being used to express new ideas.