Name / Artist Name: My name is Nkauj Vang, and my artist name is Gaoshua.
What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other?
What are you working on currently? Or what kinds of projects have you done in the past?
Currently, I’m working on my Hmong-inspired ONE Playing Cards Kickstarter campaign, which will end on July 31. I’m very grateful that enough money was raised to get the cards printed. So now, I’m preparing for things to get the cards printed and delivered to people.
In the past, I’ve made a Hmong-inspired coloring book, some stickers, comics, and a few art prints.
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?
I’ve always loved drawing. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I spent many summer breaks drawing every day with my siblings. Art has always been a part of my life.
But art isn’t my full-time job. During the day, I work in communications for the state of Minnesota. At night and during the weekends, I work on my art.
I had many challenges along the way like having parents who were not into the idea of me studying art, not knowing what to do with my art skills, not knowing where art fits in my life after college, overcoming self-doubt, lack of motivation, how to earn consistent income with art, and time management. There are probably more that I can’t think of right now.
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?
No, I didn’t study art in college. My parents weren’t fans of me studying art, so I studied communications instead. That actually worked out pretty well because it helped me become a better writer.
I did draw comics for a daily student newspaper in college during my last two years, and that kept the artist in me going. I still remember the joy and excitement I felt when they accepted my work!
After college, it was harder to work on my art because I couldn’t find a place or a purpose for it. It did help having siblings and friends who were artists around me to help me stick with it though.
How do you balance art with work and life? How do you make time for art?
I do make time for art, especially when it’s for projects. It’s almost like a second job. I do most of it on my lunch breaks, after work, or during the weekends. Sometimes, I take vacation just to work on my art.
That’s not always the case though.
I try to incorporate it into daily things that I do too. I could be doodling or sketching on a notepad before a meeting, looking at other artists’ work on Instagram while waiting in line, looking through comic books on a quiet evening, or looking at the colors at sunset when taking a walk. These little things can spark an idea.
What are ways you find work or generate income as an artist?
I haven’t done a lot of paid work, and my artist income is sporadic. Right now, I have an Etsy shop where I sell my pieces and promote them on social media. I also have a long-term project I’m working on. It’s going to be a web comic, so I hope that’ll generate some income.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I get ideas from a variety of places or sources. I get them from friends, music, TV, film, being outdoors, my own experiences, or seeing work by other artists. Sometimes, ideas come when I learn something new. For example, when I discovered Webtoon, I started to think about how I can use it to tell my stories.
What kinds of tools do you use to make your work or what is your typical artistic process like?
I used to do a lot of traditional work, but nowadays, it’s mostly digital. Most of my sketching is still done using paper and pencil. A lot of my work are done on paper first and then transferred over to a digital format. For traditional work, I like using pencil and pen. For digital work, I mostly use Photoshop.
Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring?
Hayao Miyazaki, Jim Lee, Artgerm, Jen Bartel, Siya Oum, Morgan Davidson, and Yaongyi.
Do you have any favorite books, apps, movies, resources, or art tools that you recommend?
I recommend following artists whose work is similar to yours or does work you’re interested in. They may share content that will help you improve or give you an idea of the kind of work being done in the space you’re interested in.
My favorite place to get artwork printed is Giclee Today (gicleetoday.com). Catprint is also pretty good (catprint.com).
Is there anybody you would like to collaborate or work with? Could be a person, another artist, or company.
I don’t have anyone specific in mind, but I’m open to collaboration.
Is there any advice you would like to give to young artists or people just starting out?
Take time to draw what you like or draw what makes you happy, whether it be a personal project or a paid one. Working on something you love will bring out your best work. It’s going to keep you interested and help you improve. You’re going to feel good about it, and people will notice.
Don’t try to please everyone. Not everyone will like your work, and that’s perfectly fine.
What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)?
Publish a web comic or graphic novel and have it become a movie or TV series!
What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work?