Embracing Struggle w/YuJun

I recently interviewed YuJun about art and creativity.  I was interested to know what made her into the artist she is today. Here's what she had to say:

Why is art important to you?

Art helps me to be more perceptive in my daily life.  For example, when I see clouds I don't just see clouds. I see all the different shades of color inside.  Colors, lights, and angles can all influence our mood and impression of things. Art developed my sense of beauty. It helps me to see the beauty of my surroundings.

When did you realize you had artistic talent?

Since I was a child. My dad was an artistic person, he used to do paintings a lot when he was young. I was inspired by him. Making weird stuff and drawing was a daily thing during my childhood.

YuJun with an illustrations from her new book 'What Color?'

YuJun with an illustrations from her new book 'What Color?'

What does it take to become a great artist?

I believe that it's about life experiences and unique thoughts. You could draw a realistic and beautiful painting, but it might be boring and meaningless.  The key is to make art that is interesting, meaningful and allows audiences to connect with it. Everyone can be trained to have great skills. An artist has to be creative, perceptive and sensitive. If somebody lacks life experience, how can they create good work?

So what life experiences turned you into an artist?

Well like I said, I had been doing art since a child, so by the time I got to college I was pretty skilled at it, but my work was boring.  There was nothing special about it.  After my father passed I was hit with the realization that I had been missing out many things in life.  I was focusing superficial things that don't matter.  I decided to change my priorities and use my art as a way to figure out who I am and connect with my soul. 

If I wanted to start drawing tomorrow, what would you tell me to do?

Why do you think about doing it tomorrow?  Why not now?  Prepare a pencil and paper. Just draw anything that you see or think about. If you don't know what to draw then go walking around outside and find something. That's it! Don't be surprised that the first step is so simple.

Remember, don't judge yourself too badly if you can't draw very well. I couldn't walk when I was a baby. Being able to draw realistically is NOT everything.  The biggest step is just starting.

What if I can't afford art school and have nobody to teach me, how can I learn to draw?

Many good artists also haven't been trained in art school. There are many resources online.  You can use YouTube and artists' websites. Before going to an art school, I bought some books about basic skills and learned from there. Also, you can find some short term courses and workshops offered by an art studio, consider that if you have a small budget.

How do I know whether my work sucks or not? What's the key to getting better?

You can compare your work to others and ask for advice from people you trust.  The only way you will get better is practice practice practice. 

What do you do when you are feeling lost or insecure about your work?

I just stop and find something relaxing to do.  If I'm in a bad mood I know I'll end up ruining my work.  Perhaps I can get inspiration while doing something else.

To see more from YuJun, follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

There's a few key points YuJun touched on that I'd like to elaborate on...

She said that art is a journey of soul discovery. That reminded me of a quote:

"...the universe created a part of itself, to study itself, and that this part in studying itself finds the rest of the universe in its own natural inner realities."  - John C. Lilly

I like to think of myself as my own universe (pretentious, in theory, but if you consider all the millions of living cells and organisms in the human body it's not much of a stretch). Therefore if you buy this quote, you see the obvious parallel here.  We are created for purpose of creating. By creating we find ourselves and what we're made of.     

In addition to creating, I think we're also here to struggle.  Or better yet, I think we are here so we can struggle to create.  

However, we live in a society where nearly everything is provided for us. As long as we run our 9-5 treadmill, we can basically spend the rest of our lives numbing ourselves with Netflix and sugar.  Then people wonder why a significant portion of Americans are obese, hooked on pills, and depressed. 

I listen to The Joe Rogan Experience a lot.  He often talks about the importance of struggle:

The essence of the clip is this:

"For some people out there that aren't feeling good, if you just struggled more you get over that struggle and then you feel better."

For me, art is the ultimate struggle.  Here's why:

  1. It doesn't pay.  
  2. It's insanely competitive.  
  3. It takes extreme amounts of time, dedication, and skill.  
  4. You're never finished or good enough. 

But like I said, it doesn't have to be art.  Struggling to create something can mean starting a business, inventing a product, or perfecting a skill, or any number of things.

It is in this struggle that we find purpose.  

Some may argue, "But what about happiness?"  I think happiness is a stupid pursuit.  Besides, happiness it's completely relative, and usually only comes after struggle anyway.  Think about the times you were the most happy?  It was likely right after you went through something difficult.

So if you find yourself unsatisfied in your life, I urge you to take on something difficult.  Find something you suck at and embrace the pain and hardship that will ensue.  

If you are a fan of what YuJun does and want to start drawing, here's something to help you get started: