Dosa, can you briefly describe your background in art?
I started as a freelance graphic designer. I did jobs for Nike, Coke, Cartoon Network ; I was the second runner-up in a citywide graphic design competition held in New York. From there I got into art and sold ideas rather than art. I felt selling ideas was more effective and honestly it was more of an introspective thing.
My first piece was a black rabbit humping a white rabbit. It was a cutesy perspective, but meant to be about inter-racial relationships. As an Asian growing up and having lived in the south; I got both sides and perspectives. I intermingle with white and black social groups so I see it all in addition to my own cultural perspective.
Were you formally trained or self-taught?
As a painter, I was self-taught. As a graphic designer, I studied digital media at UGA and also studied at the Art Institute of Atlanta for a year before I dropped out.
Where did you attend high school? Did they have a good arts program?
I went to Roswell High School. Did they have a good arts program there – no, not at all. It was very lackluster. Most public schools have a terrible art system.
My teacher knew I was generally talented, but never pushed me too far. In general, the youth have lots of content, but it’s not always visually appealing, their skills have to be honed. Now it almost seems as if comics or video games are the teachers of art culture to many young kids.
Were the music and arts programs well received at your school? How were they perceived amongst other academic and extracurricular programs?
To be blunt, it wasn’t a cool thing necessarily.There was no art club or artistic extracurricular activities. I can’t speak for what it’s like in high schools now, I’m 34. But it’s sad that arts programs were not and are not being pushed harder. It’s sad because we’re so connected to the web now and things are becoming very visual. Kids are coming into art schools now and they have no formal training or background.
As a culture, we respond to visual things. For instance, look at the Ed Hardy stuff and the whole skulls and feathers trend on tee shirts and other articles of clothing. That skulls and feather thing is being crafted by very talented artists. These are talented people whose doodles have evolved into master doodles and that’s it. That is the epitome of American art right now.
For the most part, if you don’t give a kid a running start and show them there’s a future in art, something else besides skulls and feathers, that’s what they’ll do. It’s kind of bleak actually.
Did you excel in your courses?
I was pretty good at my graphic design courses. Yeah, I was pretty studious and stayed on top of my game when I was in art school.
How important is it for artists to receive formal training?
I can’t speak for everyone. Some people are super talented and will make it regardless of their schooling. But I really think you should know and understand technique and the artistic process from a more formal standpoint.
Technique is just giving you a better weapon, a bigger and better gun. We’ve got lots of content in America, but no technique. It has to be married to the technique in order to make an intense statement. Like there’s a disparity between American art schools and art schools abroad.
For instance, you can look at what’s going on in China right now and what’s happening in their art schools. Their content matches technique and when this happens you get masterpieces. These Chinese artists are blending the formal techniques they’ve acquired in school with their own unique content to create very visual narratives. America has the content, but no formal technique.
Look at graffiti for example. Kids do graffiti because there’s no other outlet. If I was a kid and knew there was no lucrative future in art, I’d tag everything. Graffiti comes from zero arts education in school, but it’s turned into its own culture and identity. However, we have to realize that arose out of a lack of training and a desire to visually express one’s self.
What do you feel arts education can bring to students/aspiring artists?
I personally think that colors and doing things through a visual medium is actually one of the most concrete things. We already use visuals to teach abstract concepts. Like when we teach simple math, 2+2=4, the teacher may use apples or some other fruit to illustrate the concept to the class. We need kids fleshing out their creative ideas and learning to trust their gut instincts.
You see kids expressing themselves through art because it’s the only way to show what’s inside of them. There’s always the classic example of a child coming from a broken home or they’ve been molested and they portray through their art. You can see it in their pictures.
Art is not like music, I feel visual art is even more open to interpretation and subjectivity. It’s a part of being human, our culture, what defines us. Ultimately, everything we do is to tell a story. Visuals are a narrative of our culture and society. It’s much more than a picture.
Do you feel our local and state governments have taken an effective stance on increasing money for arts education?
I have no idea. There was a time when Tri-Cities had a magnet school in Atlanta. Outkast actually went there and that’s how they linked up. You can tell from how artistic and confident Big Boi and especially Andre 3000 are. I do think that an environment like that contributes heavily to a person’s creativity and confidence.
Cultures are remembered for the art they produce. We have very little to nothing of that right now. If we’re defined by consumerism, we’re being predictable robots and that’s not good. I still feel there is lots of talent and potential though. Let the creative and artistic kids grow. You have some of these kids failing math and science, but they’re painting Mona Lisas on their desks. That shouldn’t be rewarded?