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!
INTERVIEW WITH ESIE CHENG
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.
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!