Artist Name: Coua Lee
What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other?
What kinds of projects you have done in the past?
I’ve performed for several organizations and churches and have vended with different art events. The production of my work does not necessary run with project deadlines or a coordination of plans. Instead, the flow of my work is inspired by where my artistic spirit leads me, whether that means painting nature, humanity, history, social justice, or the Hmong people. The most recent artistic adventure I took on is painting spirit animals. During that experience, I learned about how to portray each animal in a way that expresses the innate wildness in human nature.
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 first learned of sand art in 2010 in my art history class. I was so amazed at the way something as simple as sand, light, and music could captivate the mind and soul. I thought it was just extraordinarily beautiful. I told myself that I was going to be a sand artist, so I began painting in my laundry room with dirt, a Tupperware lid and a broken lamp. With no instructor other than Youtube videos, I started my sand art journey and slowly gathered appropriate materials. In 2015, I received the McKnight Next Step Fund and launched my sand art business and began marketing my work.
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 don’t have any professional art education besides 2 or 3 college classes during my undergraduate in English. Many people ask me if I draw before I start my sand art and the answer is no. My skills in drawing and painting are poor but my sand art skills are advance, which I find interesting. Perhaps the single answer is that I was born to be a sand artist.
How do you balance art with work and life? How do you make time for art?
Balance between work/life and art can be a demanding challenge. There are times when I am so occupied with personal responsibilities that I cannot have a space to practice my art. However, each year I make it a goal to implement sand art into all aspects of my daily life, such as observing the creative inspirations in my environment or improving my website or finalizing my product inventory. Each moment in my personal life can be used for my sand art.
Do you think making money from your art is important to you? Do you make money from your art? If so, how?
Absolutely. Artists are hard workers that deserves to be paid for their creations. Since I do not have the luxury of running my business full-time, sand art is a hobby that I do my best to share. My profit and clientele are not as impressive as I hope it would be.
I believe that one day my work will be well-known and appreciated but that will take time, sacrifice and plenty of effort. Until then, I would like to work on my entrepreneur and artistic skills.
Where do you get your ideas from?
My artistic spirit leads me to paint ideas that I am passionate about such as civil rights, femininity, nature, spirituality, etc. The inspiration behind my work is watercolor or digital art. The amount of emotion and creativity in these genres gets my creative juices running. Sometimes my inspiration will require further research to understand the topic, such as researching the look, habitat and behavior of animals that I paint.
What kinds of tools do you use to make your work or what is your typical artistic process like?
Sand art requires fine sand, a light box and painting tools such as small brushes, mechanic pencils, and occasionally a comb for patterns. I do not draw or sketch before I paint. Sometimes I will create a compilation of pictures to reference to when I do sand art. More than often, I just go with the flow.
The most important aspect of sand art is the story telling. The coordination of music, dancing sand and the contrast of light and darkness makes the story come alive and engages the viewer. It moves the audience to feel the emotions, reflect on the history, and aspire hope for the future.
Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring?
I started painting to the work of Ilana Yahav, Kseniya Simonova and Joe Castillo. These are famous sand artists that really helped me to build my foundational skills with the sand medium. I hope to meet them one day.
Is there any advice you would like to give to young artists or people just starting out?
Keep moving forward. Being an artist is extremely challenging but it can be rewarding. To become an established artist, you must be persevering, diligent and confident. You must not fear failure or taking risks. The world will always need artists like you.
Is there anybody you would like to collaborate or work with? Could be a person, another artist, or company.
I hope to perform at schools and organizations to share the beauty of sand art. Teaching art is extremely important to me because I want to nurture young artists to paint their own stories in the future. It can be a part of their journey to discover their identity as an artist. I hope to preserve the legacy of sand art in these young learners.
What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)?
In addition to teaching sand art, my goal is to go back to school for clinical therapy and use my art for healing one day. I love to help others take care of themselves and find hope in their personal recovery. I believe that sand art can become a powerful agent of therapeutic-emotional expressionism that can help people heal.
What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work?