I left home when I was 18. I’ve worked in insurance, retail, painted houses, you name it. Whatever needed to be done to get by, I did
I grew up in Arizona and eventually moved out to Fremont, California. In Arizona, I had studied to be a portrait painter. I wanted to paint portraits of senators, congressmen, and presidents. There’s a career in that line of work, but it’s a niche one that requires abundant technical training. I punched a clock at an insurance firm by day and painted by night, making time to study on weekends.
In 2015, I found myself in France, where I met the person who would go on to become my romantic partner. In 2016 I moved to Fremont to be with my romantic partner. In 2018, my son was born. I wanted to provide my kid with a good, stable life. That meant having a career. Fine art wasn’t going to cut it. I then met a great painter and ArtCenter alum named Warren Chang. We struck up a friendship. I ended up working as Warren’s assistant for about a year. Warren is the reason I got into commercial illustration.
Shortly before I left Monterey for good, I recall sitting in Warren’s studio. It was raining outside. We were sitting in Warren’s hand-crafted studio space, his books and paintings surrounding us on all sides. He was perusing work I had done for a show at the Monterey Arts Council, where I had received a grant. He bluntly told me that my work wasn’t good. This is the last thing you want to hear after you’ve finally landed a show!
At that point, I had been making money as a fine artist for eight years, having a day job, painting at night, and trying to make sense of it all. Warren told me that artists build a career and then refine their talents over time. I’d always done the opposite. I had the talent, but not the career I wanted. Warren encouraged me to plunge headfirst into illustration. I could do fine art on the side, right?
Lo and behold, I found myself at ArtCenter. Within the first five minutes of being there for the very first time, I was chasing my son around, making sure he didn’t bump into any of the grad work on display! I had a decade’s worth of knowledge and experience under my belt, and no idea how to utilize it. ArtCenter provided the entryway.
Illustration is the College’s biggest career track, with 700 students ultimately competing for the same jobs. It’s a rather isolated field of study, where sharing notes and criticism with peers can be difficult. Yearning for community led to the next phase of my trajectory: Student Government.
I served in ArtCenter Student government for 2 years, my last role was Vice President. My day involved meeting with people from the Marketing Department to meeting with the President of ArtCenter and beyond, conversing with students and faculty, attempting to gauge their perspectives. My job was to amplify and advocate for the voices of fellow students. I have to be a good listener. I listen to students, faculty, security, and the cleaning crew. They’re all a part of the ArtCenter family.
Ideally, next year’s leadership in student government will continue to build upon ArtCenter’s healthy infrastructure of community engagement. As a leader, I see the value of communicating and networking in an environment that is often conducive to seclusion. Collaboration is one of the elements that leads to personal and professional growth. You could make a friend at ArtCenter who could give you a job in 10 years, or who, better yet, could end up being your best pal for the next 50. You'll never find out if you fail to engage.
Here's an unsolicited recommendation for any ArtCenter student who happens to be reading this: Consider Student Government as a part of your education. Fine art taught me how to draw and paint commercially. Student Government taught me how to lead and listen. And knowing how to lead starts with listening.
Current Student, 23 Illustration
Vice President of Student Government, ArtCenter College of Design
Visual Development artist, Visual Science Studios