I AM AN ARTIST FEATURE | SUSAN CHIANG

As part of launch week of my new I Am An Artist Print + Project, I am introducing you to some of my favorite artists and how their print reflects their journeys and who they are. Today is the very first artist feature and I am so excited to share my friend and talented artist Susan’s work and words with you below!

SUSANCHIANG.COM | @SUSANCHIANG

I always knew I was “artistic”, but I never thought of myself as an artist until recently. Even though I had been creating things from a young age, it always felt like an “extracurricular” and never something that would become anything. I went to college undeclared and spent my first semester taking classes like Econ 101 and Comp Sci 101 thinking I would major in business or computer science. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon architecture, where I discovered I would get to take ART classes mixed in with technical classes that I KNEW I had found my major. It was like having the best of both worlds! Architecture school really challenged my creativity, thought process, and problem-solving skills in the best way. I was ALL in.

So many people who follow this path love architecture school but when they enter the corporate world, they quickly realize it’s not at all what they had signed up for. I think I was an exception. I was lucky enough to find a wonderful mentor and begin working in the design sector of the field. I worked in the architecture field for 13 years getting the opportunity to be a part of designing spaces like schools, hospitals, libraries, and creative start-up offices. I even became a licensed architect early on in my career.

Still, I never thought of myself as an artist. I was an architect. And even though I was creating…it never felt like art.

During the time I was working, I had stopped any sort of creative habit. No drawing, no painting…nothing. It wasn’t until I picked up calligraphy (for my wedding) and then watercolors after I quit my corporate job due to health reasons…that I reunited with art and eventually began to see myself as an artist.

The biggest shift? That what I was creating was for myself and not for anyone else. The second biggest shift? It didn’t have to be ‘buildable’. I could do whatever I wanted and it didn’t have to follow any rules except for my own.

In this piece, I wanted to revisit the part of architecture school that I remember feeling the most like art. And that was when I first learned how to draft and render site plans. They were beautiful to me – a whole other way of seeing the world. This is a nod to one of the earliest architecture projects I designed in college, where I first learned how to create a site plan.

It represents the combination of two parts of me as an artist: the technical ‘architect’ side and the nontechnical ‘artist’ side. The pencil lines show my appreciation of technical drawings and creating with intent. The watercolor shows my love of learning to ‘let go’ and creating with intuition.

Being an artist feels like an ever-changing journey. We are informed by our past and will continue to be informed by each day we live. And each time we make something, it’s a mark of who we are in that moment as an artist. 

Does this resonate with you? Has it taken you awhile to feel like you were creating art? Are there many sides of you that show up in the work you make?

I love the last line in Susan’s story. It is ever-changing and each mark represents who who are in that place and time as an artist.

You can learn more about Susan by visiting her website, SusanChiang.com, her YouTube Channel, or on Instagram @susanchiang_. (If you are interested in watercolors, she has an awesome membership as well as a free monthly challenge!)

Thank you Susan for being the first person I shared this idea with and for all of your encouragement and support throughout the years! I appreciate you taking the time to be a part of this–I love connecting your story to the lines, shapes, and colors in your piece. Each element has so much meaning.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s artist feature! If you feel a connection to nature, I think you’ll especially enjoy this artist and her work. Have a wonderful rest of your day and talk to you then!

PS: Fun fact, Susan and I met on the internet! Through Instagram to be exact, when we both started dabbling in calligraphy. We realized we clicked, had a lot in common, and lived only 15 minutes apart in real life! We’ve been both business buds and friends ever since :)

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IT’S LAUNCH DAY! I AM AN ARTIST

It’s launch day! I am so excited to share with you the I Am An Artist Print + Project! It’s an interactive letterpress print for you to add your own special touch to it! It’s a way for you to create, share your process and journey, and a reminder that you are an artist and to embrace that! You can learn all about it by clicking here. As part of the launch, I am sharing with you my finished print and story, along with work and words by some of my favorite artists! I can’t wait for you to see what everyone has done and read their stories! In the meantime, here’s mine :)

Earlier this year, I shared my very first collection of paintings. When I sat down to type the launch email, these words appeared on my screen:

For as long as I could remember, from the time I could hold something in my hand and make a mark with it, I wanted to be an artist. And for almost as long, I didn’t feel like I could call myself that. I studied fashion design so that makes me a designer, not an artist. I create brush lettering so that makes me a letterer, right? I also let other people’s misconceptions affect me–of being a “starving artist”, that art isn’t a “real” job, etc. Then at some point I realized, why am I believing these things that aren’t true? And why can’t I call myself an artist–when I’ve been an artist my entire life?

It’s actually not at all what I expected to say! In that moment, these words of how I have felt for so long just appeared on the screen! I don’t know if I’ve ever put it all together or ever really shared with anyone.

Those words made me think about why some things were so easy to say (“I am a brush letterer” “I am a dog mom” “I am the biggest Backstreet Boys fan”) and this was so hard. The phrase seemed to be tied to so many things–insecurity in many forms, imposter syndrome, scarcity, beliefs I’ve picked up over the years.

It reminded of the power that words have, in the stories we tell ourselves and maybe more importantly what we don’t tell ourselves, and in what we believe to be true of ourselves.

It’s so funny because from a young age, I wanted to be an artist but as I grew up, I made so many decisions that went against that. And for a big chunk of my life, pretty much from my late 20s to now, I felt lost and many times discouraged, like I just couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be doing. But it was right in front of my face this whole time! I was just too busy looking everywhere else and unconsciously fighting it. Luckily, all paths ended up leading me back and helped me find my way.

From crayons on the wall to fashion sketches in pencil to brush pens and lettering to acrylic paint on canvas to the mediums and creations in my future, it feels like my journey to becoming and being an artist has come full circle.
It has taken me almost 36 years to say the words, “I am an artist.” Today I turn 37 and as I head into the next year and chapter of my life, I want to remember to embrace those words because it’s who I was always meant to be.

Watch a short process video here.

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