Artist Name: Champa Lo
What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other?
A graphic designer who likes to dabble in illustrations.
What kinds of work do you currently do or what kinds of projects have you done in the past?
Currently I’m a contract visual designer at Google and part-time teaching graphic design at Shillington (https://www.shillingtoneducation.com/us/). In the past I’ve done graphic design for J.Crew, Michael Kors, Pepsi and New York Times Cooking.
Could you talk about how you got into art or doing what you do today? What’s your story? What made you want to pursue this path? Were there any challenges you had along the way?
My dad is a very creative/artistic person, so you can say I’ve always been surrounded by art. However, my parents were like many other immigrant parents, who hoped for all us children to go to school in accounting or medicine. I never pursued art in school and it was only in my senior year of high school that I found my love for art. My school had a senior class (it was required to take to graduate) that required you to research a career path, find a mentor in that career and then formally present your findings. I ended up mentoring with a graphic designer and even though I had no idea what graphic design was at the time, I instantly fell in love. I became passionate about the craft and knew this was everything I wanted in a career. My biggest challenge was revealing this new passion to my parents and I would be going to college for art. I was terrified to tell them and I was kind of right to be. As expected, they didn’t take the news well and we argued consistently even as I enrolled myself into the art department at the University of Colorado-Denver. Every week (for years) they insisted on me switching to accounting, which was ironic as math was/is my worst subject. What kept me going was understanding that I was fortunate enough to have found my true passion at 18 years old. I knew being an artist would be hard work, but I was ready for the challenge. I am grateful to my parents and I understood their worries, but I couldn’t let them dictate this decision I felt so strongly about. I never thought my parents would accept my career in art, but a year after graduating I told them I was moving to New York City and they were surprisingly supportive.
Did you attended art school or majored/minored in Art or Design in college? If so, what were your experiences with it and did you think it helped you become a better artist? If you did not attended college or attended but did not majored in anything art-related, what helped pushed you to pursue art or improve your craft?
I went to a university for my BFA instead of a traditional art school as art school is much more expensive. However, it was one of the best decisions. My program was small which allowed students to develop a strong relationship with the professors. My professors were the most amazing human beings and they quickly turned to mentors with whom I could easily open up with. My college experience is what encouraged me to become a part-time teacher at Shillington.
How do you balance art with work and life? How do you make time for art?
As a full time graphic designer, making time for personal art was definitely a big challenge as you’re pretty burnt out by the end of day. However, I knew that in order for me to be a great graphic designer, I needed to continue learning and honing my skills. I joined SkillShare a couple of years ago and it really opened up my art. I found excitement in learning how to hand letter, which led me to going back to honing my traditional art skills like drawing and painting. I recently joined a monthly art supply subscription box called, SketchBox (https://getsketchbox.com/). I love what they send me because it lets me use and learn new materials and techniques that I could eventually bring into my graphic design. I make time every day to sketch something simple and then on the weekends I spend time actually trying something new.
What kinds of tools do you use to make your work or what is your typical artistic process like?
Process is so important for designers because if you don’t have a strong process, you won’t have a strong outcome in your designs. I start with a brief to help me understand clients goals and expectations. I then conduct a thorough research to help inform my designs. Lastly is the process of ideation, creation and iteration.
Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring?
I love finding fellow Hmong artists because there are too few of us and I wish that changes some day. Usually other Hmong artists have the same pushbacks I experienced from my parents and it inspires me to know that I wasn’t the only one fighting to pursue our passion in art.
Is there any advice you would like to give to young artists or people just starting out?
Keep going! If what you love is art, don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t. Don’t be afraid to ask/talk to other artists and try to get out of your bubble. Also, remember to always hone your skills, keep learning and keep exploring/experimenting.
What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)?
For my senior thesis in college, I designed and illustrated a children’s Hmong book and it’s been something on my bucket list to complete. I loved what I created as a young designer, but I now want a refreshed and more polished book that I can be proud of to share with Hmong children. It’s so important for me to communicate to them that they’re not alone and they should be proud to be Hmong.
Are there any current projects that you’re working on or in the near future that you want to tell us about?
My children’s Hmong book has been a project I’ve been slowly finishing. Every now and then I’ll get requests from Hmong teachers asking if my book is for sale, but it’s not finished yet. I would like to take a moment here to give a shout out to these amazing teachers. I will someday finish and I will not forget you!
What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work?
(I just started this instagram account, so there’s not much content yet!)