Behind wackies

IT’S ALL ABOUT ME: When I was a child, I wanted to be a goat. I remember climbing up on a drawer and smearing myself with Vaseline and baby powder. I guess that was my way of exploring the world around me — something that seemed to stick with me all through my life till now.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to witness life’s opposites. The bustling of the city’s hectic demands contrasting the simple peace of the art I taught as a teenager is just one example of this. All my life, I have strived to explore this dichotomy and I have done so through my art. Unfortunately, this has not always come easy. From the dark to the grimy and the unmentionable, I have had to probe the world that surrounds me through a slightly dismal lens.

After a particularly lurid youth in Hong Kong, where I learned to channel my aggravations into art, I moved to New York to attend the Parsons School of Design, eventually leaving the university to move to San Francisco.

For me, art is one of the greatest modes of self-expression. Whenever I have very strong emotions, which tends to happen more often than not, I choose to show them through my art — particularly with the colors and textures I use.

In my earlier paintings, I used a lot of dark colors and tones, showing my state of mind at the time. My latest collection WACK! is a vibrant exploration of life’s synergy and a love letter to my childhood in Hong Kong. Although I’ve had clouded moments in my past, I desire to bring brightness into the world with my art while inspiring thought-provoking conversations. My art is an appreciation of uniqueness that seeks to make any viewer feel its vulnerability.

IT’S ALL WACK!: Growing up in Hong Kong, I would express joy and excitement with the word ‘wack’. Symbolizing moments of brightness, ‘wack’ seemed an appropriate measure of delight, at the time. Eventually, I moved to New York and found the word to have a completely different meaning in the United States. My latest collection, WACK! seeks to explore that dynamic.

As an adult, and having lived in different continents and cultures, I have started to gain an understanding of the symbiotic relationship between all of my experiences. As a third-culture kid, it can be easy to feel misplaced when it comes to identity and cultural belonging. This collection examines this in an ode to my childhood.

The collection seeks to show where I come from and how I hold on to the values from my adolescence. The vibrancy of the palette contends with the distorted shapes in the paintings — a subtle nod to the constant clash between my cultivated experiences and my cultural heritage. Most importantly, the collection shows how all of my journeys, while they have not all been homogeneous, work to form one cohesive entity.

Just as I learned the different connotations the word ‘wack’ had in America versus its use for elated expression in Hong Kong, I hope WACK! shows the contradictions, as well as the synergy, of my life across cultures.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PROCESS: No piece of art can come to be without inspiration. Finding this is always the beginning of any piece of work I create. Most of the time, the inspiration comes from people, memories, or photos. Since moving into the digital art space, I have relied on the Procreate software to translate my work to a media format.

The journey from a blank canvas to art is one that goes through disorder before reaching the orderly. I start with a background that expresses my emotions at the time. Often this comes out in bright, curvy motions. Next comes creating the figure in the painting. I tend to do this by blocking out the shape of the person with overlapping colors and forms.

Going in to fine-tune the lines of the figure is probably the most precise portion of this process. While this aspect of the finished piece might seem relaxed and free-flowing, it requires a lot of details that make the painting what it is. Making the choice to highlight a specific region of the figure instead of another says a lot about the character. Completing the composition portion involves multiple runs of tweaking the figure, background, or something equally important.

The final portion of the painting I work on is the face. Personally, I believe you can tell a lot from a person’s face, particularly the eyes. I typically start with the nose as it guides the direction of how the facial features are going to come about. I then work on some other features (the ears, mouth, etc) before getting started on the eye. This tends to be the most detailed facial feature of the piece. I go in using the brush or pen tool to fine-tune the eye to detail and give it some personality. Then the software runs through and generates the piece into completed combinations and layers. Spending an ample amount of time on and pouring enough emotion into the eye is what makes this the most realistic, photo-like portion of my pieces.



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Camille Chiang

I am a Hong Kong artist now residing in the US. After years of contemporary art experience through physical and digital mediums, I founded WACK!