Shoua Yang

Shoua Yang
©Shoua Yang

Artist Name: Shoua Yang 

What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other? 

I considered myself a full-time printmaker, who specialize in woodblock printing. 

What kinds of work do you currently do and/or what kinds of projects have you worked on in the past? 

In the recent years, I have made a variety of works. I’ve commissioned a large 2’x3’ woodcut for the JMKAC (John Michael Kohler Art Center) summer steam rolling event in Sheboygan, WI. I worked with a group of artists from Australia and the Twin Cities, spray painting a mural in downtown St. Paul, MN. I commissioned a t-shirt design for a TEDx event held at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I have also led numerous printmaking workshops for schools and museums. At the moment, I have some work showing with the Sib Pauv Zog exhibition at the Hennepin County Gallery in Minneapolis, MN. I am currently working on a body of work for my personal portfolio, and on a new sets of t-shirt designs for 2019. 

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? 

For as long as I can remember, I have been doing art my whole life. As a child, I remember my grade school teachers telling my parents that I can draw better than I can write my name. My artistic skill has always been my greatest asset. 

Growing up in the east coast I was fortunate enough to take art lessons as early as the age of six at the Fitchburg Art Museum. When I entered middle school, I was accepted to the Museum Partnership School, a school for the artistic and gifted for two years before moving to the Midwest. 

My whole life, I’ve dreamt of a career relating to art. Regardless if it was teaching or designing. Like many first-generation students expressing the idea of becoming an artist was never easy, especially to my parents. It was a constant battle and justification relating to the question of how I can be financially stable as an artist? Other than the community serving as a challenge, I also face the challenge of having absolutely no knowledge of where to start. How do I become an artist? What are the steps? However, I met my break and found most of my answers when I entered college. 

Did you attended art school or majored/minored in Art or Design in college? If so, what were your experiences with it and would you recommend it? If you did not attended college or did not majored in anything art-related, what advice would you give to those who are in a similar situation and want to pursue art or improve their craft? 

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in the Fall of 2015 with a Bachelor in Studio Art, concentration in Printmaking. UW-Stout was an incredible experience. It was at UW-Stout where I discovered and fell in love with printmaking. It’s where I met my professor/mentor Joseph Velasquez, who introduced me to relief printing. If I had not gone to UW-Stout I don’t think I would have become the artist that I am today. 

I highly recommend one to attend an institution with a strong art or design program. The opportunity will grant young artist to develop professional relationships or create mentorship with art professors. This will also enable students to become a part of the art communities to further their resources. I strongly recommend UW-Stout for anyone who wants to pursue an art or design career. 

Some people don’t realize that many artists have day jobs in addition to their art career. Do you have a day-job or do you do art full-time? How do you balance art with work and life? How do you find time to work on art? 

I am now a full-time artist, but when I had a job regardless if it was part-time or fulltime, I felt that it was always a challenge to make time for art. I made it a priority and disciplined myself to drop everything outside of work to continue working on my art. I believe what also helped me a lot was having a space and a community to constantly engage in conversations about art. Also having access to a personal space to create, is an essential part to becoming a productive artist. 

Often times people associate artists with the “starving artist” mentality, even though we know this is not always true. How do you make money from your work? 

As a full-time artist my source of income varies. I get paid for leading printmaking workshops for school and community programs. I vend at art fairs and festivals in the summer and fall. I also commission personal work from time to time and take on small projects. 

Where do you get your ideas from? 

Majority of my inspirations comes from my Hmong heritage. Most of my concepts are developed from conversations with Hmong elders about their experience in Laos before the Vietnam War. Some are developed from Hmong folklores, mythologies and articles relating to the Hmong community. Sometimes I pulled ideas from my childhood in the 90s, such as “Hmong slang” or heroes that I may have grown up with. 

What kinds of tools do you use to make your work? What is your typical artistic process like? 

Every print that I ever pulled starts with a drawing. When I draft up a piece, I typically just use an HB pencil or a light blue color pencil. Once I am content with my rough draft, I will go over it with fine point sharpie markers. When the design is finish, I would transfer it on to an MDF (medium density fiber) board and begin the carving process. I carve the design using a variety of gouges. After several hours of carving the woodcut is complete. I would then apply ink onto the surface of the woodcut using a brayer. Once ink is applied completely, I set the pressure on my etching press. Then lay a sheet of paper on top of the inked woodcut and send them both through the press. After applying pressure, I would peel off the paper revealing the successful print. 

Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring? 

Yes, there is a few artists that I follow and look to for inspiration. The first is Thomas Shahan, who is a photographer and printmaker. Although he does not currently do printmaking, I still look to his past work for inspiration from time to time. The second are Valerie Lueth and Paul Roden from Tugboat PrintShop. These two artistic duos from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are just amazing when it comes to multi-blocks and color relief prints. The third would be Vam Moua from Muaj Tiag Clothing co. Even though he’s not a printmaker, his work incorporates a lot from the Hmong heritage and is still a huge inspiration to me. 

What advice would you give to young artists or people just starting out? 

These are some advices I would give to young artists. 

First and for most, you want to find yourself a mentor. Someone with experience as an artist who you can learn from and who is willing to teach you the ups and downs of the art world. 

Second, build or be a part of an art community. The community does not have to be in the same practice as you, however make sure it is the right community for you. You want to be part of a community that you can grow with, one that is honest, critical and supportive. A community is essential because it is a support base where you can engage in critical dialogues about art. 

And, be honest with yourself why you are making art. The road as an artist is rough and at time can be lonely. It’s going to be a constant battle, but regardless you will rely on your passion and why you want to be an artist in the first place. 

Who would you like to work with or work for, if anybody? Could be a person, another artist, or company. 

There isn’t anyone I would like to work for at the moment. However, I always enjoy working with another artist on collaboration pieces. So, if any artist out there would like to collaborate with Ceev Tseg Press, please feel free to message me at Ceev Tseg Press on Facebook or email me at yajsh2012@gmail.com, I would be more than happy collaborate with you on a team project. 

What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)? 

My dream project is to host my own Steam Rolling Event. I want to share the wonderful experience of witnessing a stream roller print a giant woodcut with the public. If I were ever given the opportunity to direct and host an event such as this, it would be a dream come true. 

What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work? 

The best way to reach me is at by email at yajsh2012@gmail.com or message me on social media at my Facebook page Ceev Tseg Press.

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