Artist Spotlight: Esie Cheng

For our second Artist Spotlight, BAPAC got in touch with local artist, Esie Cheng, a MICA grad who works primarily with fine tip ink pens and acrylic paints. You can check out their stuff at the Spring Punk Rock Flea Market in Philadelphia (May 11th and 12th), and the Sowebo Arts and Music Festival in Baltimore (May 26th).

And of course, there is always online -

Read on for the interview!




Esie Cheng is an artist based in Baltimore, Maryland. They graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2013 and currently work as a Project Manager, Painting Instructor, and Freelance Artist. Esie draws, paints, designs, and drinks a lot of tea.

Artist Statement

I create surreal illustrations using fine tip ink pens and acrylic paint. My art often displays realistically rendered subjects and incorporates abstract and stylized elements. I like to involve emotionally provocative themes and sometimes striking imagery. I want my work to be a window into the imaginary and dreamy, and sometimes the frightful. I hope that my work acts as a solace for people who, like me, find beauty in what is somber.


How would you characterize your artwork? What prompts you to create?

My art is usually very surreal and tends to combine imagery that is realistically rendered with abstract and stylized elements. A lot of my drive to create art comes from a desire to express my feelings and thoughts about the world. Creating art can be very cathartic, it can sometimes also be very frustrating. It certainly mirrors my mentality. I hope that sharing what I create with the world influences people in a positive way.

At BAPAC, we all identify strongly in some way with an artistic profession, be it in the performing, visual, music arts, etc. Many of our conversations have centered on how our ethnic identity and American racial politics have affected ourselves or influenced our art. Could you tell us a bit about your ethnic background and how that identity has affected you?

Growing up Taiwanese-American I have always felt that there was a large divide between my expected role as an Asian female-bodied individual and the person that I am. That divide has certainty lent itself to a lot of discourse and added weight on my mental health. I value my heritage and my identity and I hope that one day we will live in a world where the box that people often place around an individual’s expected identity is not so confined.

I realize that you identify as agender/androgyne/non-binary. Can you tell us if and how this has influenced you as an artist?

My gender identity has certainly influenced my artistic process. I struggle with erratic gender dysphoria which causes a lot of frustrations and stress and has often driven me to create art as a way of relief. Making art acts as the hot towel that you would lay atop a person’s head when they are suffering from a migraine. It is comforting.

When you create artwork, is it with intent to send a message? If so, how important is it that the audience understands that message?

I create art to express my feelings and certainly hope that viewers take something from what they see in it as well. Whether the message that they take aligns with the feeling I was trying to convey is not very important to me, as long as my work does speak to people. Making art can be therapeutic, and I hope viewers have a similar experience in viewing my work.

Do you have a preferred tool or media? What do you like about it/what drew you to it?

I love drawing with fine tip ink pens. I find the crispness in the line quality very pleasing. The perfectionist in me has a field day when creating detailed work with them.

What is your favorite part of your artistic process?

My favorite part of painting and drawing is the sketch phase. The beginning phases of developing a piece is so exciting. There’s so much potential and energy. It’s almost like the beginning of a new relationship. It’s infatuating!

What are you currently working on? Anything upcoming you’d like to hype?

Currently I’m working on art, merch, and new shirt designs to sell at the Spring Punk Rock Flea Market in Philadelphia (May 11th and 12th), and the Sowebo Arts and Music Festival in Baltimore (May 26th). I’m also working on a slew of new paintings. I’m looking for venues to display my work in public spaces in the near future.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us and our readers?

Find your passion, develop your skill, and make your art!

Artist Spotlight: Timpla

UPDATE 3/7/19: Timpla will be launching their new Filipino cookbook/anthology at the end of the month! If you’re in the NYC area on March 31st, check it out!

Web page:

The Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective is excited to introduce this new series in 2019. Our Artist Spotlight will introduce to our audience AAPI artists within community whose work shares incredible stories, has impacted their communities, and endeavors to affect change in their societies.

To kick off our inaugural Artist Spotlight, we present: Timpla!

We first met Kristina & Katrina Villavicencio, the artists behind Timpla, at Baltimore’s Charm City Night Market in September 2018. Heavily influenced by their Filipino heritage, they create bold and modern artwork with strong links to the past.

For more artwork, here’s where you can check them out -
Facebook page:

Learn more about Timpla and their work below.

Interview with Timpla


Timpla began in 2015 as a monthly supper club featuring fine-dining expression of Filipino cuisine. The supper club had no more than ten guests per event, who sat around a tiny dining table in an old row house in Petworth. With limited resources but a fire to express our love for Filipino food and culture, Timpla gained much more exposure that we could have ever imagined. We grew to be featured in food-related media articles, pop-ups throughout the city, and became a contributor for a published cookbook on Filipino cuisine.

Our exposure to the power of telling our story through an artistic outlet pushed us to continue expressing ourselves past food — to include visual works and short stories. In 2018, we re-branded Timpla to be more art-centric and focused on immigration, defining family, indigenous history, and contemporary culture.


Artist Statement

In the summer of 2005, we went to the Philippines for a three-month vacation. Before the trip ended, Lola pulled us aside and gave some important advice to keep in mind as we returned to our American lives: “Family is the most important thing. Never forget your ties to the Philippines and your culture.” That was the last advice we received from Lola. One month later, they discovered an aneurysm. Several weeks later, she was brought to surgery. Days later, she was listening to us from heaven.

We still remember those words and her voice like it was yesterday. We didn’t know at the time—but surely she did—that this advice was the most important lesson we would need to fully understand who we are and embrace where we came from.

Timpla is both an homage to our Filipino culture and Filipino-American upbringing; and an exploration of self-discovery through creativity.



On your Facebook page, Timpla is classified as a “Food and Beverage Company” but you also make art. Can you tell us more about your supper club series? How does that connect to the artwork you make?

We started off as a monthly supper club creating modern interpretations of Filipino cuisine. Katrina and I focused on the marketing, social media, event organization, and FOH (front-of-house service) for each event. Our other two teammates, Paolo and Aniceto, were chefs who created the menu, purchased ingredients, handled the food prep, and BOH (back-of-house service) for each event.

Each supper club featured a 5-course tasting menu that allowed the chefs to creatively express their study of food, culinary techniques, and unique seasonal ingredients. As they dabbled in the food portion, Katrina and I focused on designing the guest experience: the interior design and ambiance of the space, hosting and entertaining, and presenting the menu in a way that educated the guests on Filipino culture and our upbringing. Outside of the monthly supper clubs, we began writing stories about our love of food, our childhood, and created art that was based on all of it.

The success of the supper club enabled our chef partners to obtain dream jobs in the culinary field, which meant they no longer had time to pursue the supper club with us—what with their 12 hour shifts and 6-7 day work schedules. As a result, Katrina and I began to brainstorm new ways to stay creative and continue our mission of exploring Fil-Am culture past food. The solution was to focus on artwork and writing stories. If it wasn’t for the supper club and all that we learned in those two years, we would have never realized that people were as thirsty as we were to absorb immigrant stories and experiences. The artwork we create today would have never come to fruition.

Tell us about your background – are you immigrants, second generation, biracial? Does that impact your artwork? How so?

We are immigrants. We came here at the age of five and became citizens when we were 15. It does absolutely impact our artwork because we focus on Filipino culture and our immigrant upbringing. Growing up, our family raised us in a traditionally Filipino setting, while we learned how “to be American” through school, media, and friends. We dealt with an identity crisis of never being “Filipino enough” or “American enough.” Therefore, our artwork enables us to explore our multicultural upbringing and be proud of what it means to be an immigrant.

What do you hope to accomplish through Timpla?

We want to learn and preserve the beauty of Philippine culture while pushing the boundaries for immigrants in the US. We want to be the voice for people who are too often underrepresented, and we hope our stories will teach others why immigrants are essential to the American experience.

We want to continue creating original and unique work that inspires us, allows us to push boundaries, and enables infinite learning and exposure to the beauty of Philippine culture. In the long term, we hope the work we do today will foster bigger opportunities to become writers, artists, and advocates for immigration and cultural empathy.

As visual artists, do you have a favorite tool? (I.e. for digital artists, what software do you use? For traditional media, do you have a favorite brand/pen/marker/etc?)

As mixed- and multi-media artists, our tools are more content-based than tool-based. Books that we often reference when making artwork are:

Filipino Tattoos Ancient to Modern, by Lane Wilcken

An Introduction to Baybayin, by Kristian Kabuay

Additionally, we interview family members and friends about their journey of coming to America, and closely follow immigrant issues to write our reactions to them.

Are you working on any new projects right now? Can you tell us about them?

We are currently working on a book launch event in NYC for The New Filipino Kitchen on Saturday, March 30. We will send you the Eventbrite page and details once they’re finalized :)

How does your artwork incorporate Filipino culture? How does it incorporate American culture?

Our artwork focuses on aspects of Filipino culture, including indigenous symbols and tribal tattooing, baybayin (indigenous written language), contemporary environmental issues, and beautiful Philippine landscapes. On the other hand, our stories focus on our Fil-Am upbringing and assimilation into American culture, and our thoughts on immigrant issues.