We had the good fortune of connecting with Haley Jiang and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Haley, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“Cages or wings, which do you prefer? Ask the birds Fear or love, baby? Don’t say the answer
Actions speak louder than words.”

-“Tick,Tick… Boom!” by Jonathan Larson

I watched “Rent” two years ago during my last semester at art college; at that moment, it made me reflect on why I should keep making art. It wasn’t until after I watched the movie adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s rock monologue “Tick, Tick…Boom!” directed by Lin Manuel Miranda, that I finally learned more about him. His role as an artist, activist, and storyteller, and how he inspired countless people.

As an illustrator fresh out of school and trying to break into the industry, I also have this fear of whether this path that I have chosen for myself will lead to anywhere, or whether my passion and love for making art is going to last long enough to fight all the external and internal forces that are trying to keep me from moving forward. I see the same struggle in Jonathan Larson from his songs. People from all walks of life can relate to his work because he writes and sings about the world and about everyday struggles. What connects and draws audiences in is his understanding of the fear and vulnerability we all have.

The quote is about self-doubt and conflict, but also about hope and courage; let the action speak for itself. The only way that we will find the answers to the questions we have for life and for the world is to start doing something even if it is out of fear.

I think of Jonathan Larson and the impact of his work. The fact that he kept going and picked up his pen and continued creating despite failure and criticisms reassures me to keep creating. I like to think one day I can be a part of something inspiring that makes an impact on someone’s life. It reminds me of the power of art and story so that I can grasp my love and fear for this path I have chosen and make the best out of it.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Color is the most exciting part for me when I draw. Each color has its own personality, and my job is to give them a role so they can play perfectly in my visual story. To me, drawing and painting are like magic. It is full of surprises, fun, and joy; I’d like my work to give off the same vibe. I draw inspiration from daily life and cast my little spell to make it magical. As a junior in this industry, it is very daunting just to think about what next? There isn’t any set path that I can follow as my professors used to tell us nobody gets there the same way, so we even have to be creative and come up with our own guide to success. Then it is trial, error, and repeat. It takes time. “Keep making good art and hope for the best” is what I tell myself on those bad days when I feel like the world is falling apart. I believe that everyone has once been moved and healed by a piece of artwork in their life. It could be a movie or a book, a quote, a song, a photo, a piece of handmade craft, etc. The stories behind these works are what touched someone’s soul. It is difficult to achieve, but it is going to be worth the pain because of its power to make a change. That is why I think it is important to be able to send a hopeful message through my non-verbal expression as my way to communicate and contribute to the world.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favourite spots are located in Old Town Pasadena. I spent most of my free time exploring the area when I was going to school there. My favourite boba place out of all: Jin Tea Shop, has the best tea base I have ever tasted. I also love Amara Café’ & Restaurant’s iced cacao latte because I love dark chocolate and its rich and creamy texture. Their orange juice is also refreshing if you are not a fan of thick and heavy drinks. Sites wise, Norton Simon Museum has a great collection of works to explore and discover. The museum also houses a little garden and would be a perfect place to spend an afternoon. The last must-visit stop on this tour would be my college, ArtCenter College of Design, and this vibrant gallery of student works. Let us not forget our beloved deer family residing on our beautiful Hillside campus.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The Cargo Project

This is a group of people, inspired by a piece of art, gathered together to help and spread this piece of art so it can reach more souls. Here is this piece of art:


You enter life a ship laden with meaning, purpose and gifts
sent to be delivered to a hungry world.
And as much as the world needs your cargo,
you need to give it away.
Everything depends on this.

But the world forgets its needs,
and you forget your mission,
and the ancestral maps used to guide you
have become faded scrawls on the parchment of dead Pharaohs.
The cargo weighs you heavy the longer it is held
and spoilage becomes a risk.
The ship sputters from port to port and at each you ask:
“Is this the way?”
But the way cannot be found without knowing the cargo,
and the cargo cannot be known without recognizing there is a way,
and it is simply this:
You have gifts.
The world needs your gifts.
You must deliver them.

The world may not know it is starving,
but the hungry know,
and they will find you
when you discover your cargo
and start to give it away.

– by Greg Kimura

When I was 5, I fell in love with drawing. When I was 7, I decided that I wanted to pursue my future in it. I’ve always believed that everyone is born with a purpose, but I was never successful in making a connection between my passion (or maybe I can call it a talent), in art with that purpose. This poem gave me an answer. I’ve always had a more conflicted relationship with this “friend” of mine. For a while, I thought it was more like a curse because it made me different and less approachable, and I never asked for that. I am a Buddhist and being compassionate and helping others has always been something that I felt should be part of my purpose. But there is a voice of constant doubt whispering in my ears and asking me if I have anything to give back to the world. I felt like I was the one who needed help because I was not smart, not bright, and shiny and bubbly. The 17-year-old me asked myself “what am I supposed to do with pictures I doodled at 10:48pm because I don’t want to study for the physics quiz tomorrow?” All I have is this passion. Yes, I get compliments from that, yet it still seems worthless. But no. For all these years, I have had my gift all along. I never realized that when I felt so grateful after finishing a great movie or learned something from a book that it was once someone’s passion, but they’ve managed to turn it into a tool to build a better world. This poem, Cargo, is one of them. Reading it and reading the stories about those who were reached by Kimura’s gift gave me that “click” moment. Everything makes sense now.

So, thanks to the people who brought this poem to me, backing me up when my insecurity tries to stop me from polishing my gift. Thanks to this community of people, now I can have the confidence to show others their cargo that has been there for them all the time, collecting dust, waiting, eager to be found and delivered. Now, about to turn 23, I work as a full-time illustrator and part-time worker at Bodhi Meditation, where I work with another group of people who also cares about people and tries to heal the wounds of the scars that the world left them, physically and mentally. I am trying to open up, trying to improve, trying to figure out a way to deliver my cargo and write my stories in shapes and colors, and fill it with hope because as Kimura puts it “but the hungry know/and they will find you.”

Website: http://haleyjiang.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/haley_jiang_/

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