We had the good fortune of connecting with Josh Sunga and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Josh, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
I really like this question. It’s so important for artists to have it answered before it comes up. When I was younger, I knew I was going to be an artist, but it wasn’t really in thought. I was able to grow into the idea until eventually any sense of giving up offended my own conscious. Being an artist becomes the way you think and see and there’s an undeniable urge to express it. It’s not something easily given up. That said, everyone has heard of the artist’s plight. Whether it be in ages past, your public school or the world after, creativity (in its nature) finds it hard to fit in (or survive). And O the drama of it! All doubt, rationalizations, fear and insecurities cripple the joy of making art- and that’s before the struggle of even trying begins! So giving up seems understandable. But beyond just art, we give up on things we’ve lost hope for. Therefore I believe whether to keep going or to give up is in what we place our hopes in. For artists, the lot of us strive to hone our craft. Sometimes we place our hopes in becoming the most proficient, the most creative or the most successful. A lot of artists suffer either art block or burnout when our priorities get mixed up; some just keep going despite it and lose the simple reasons they started. So if you feel like giving up- give up whatever it is that keeps you from doing what you don’t want to give up! The expectation of being good enough is a good start. There are long waiting periods where it may seem like you can’t improve and that discourages us. Or it may be we don’t get the response to our work we would like. It’s really a matter of faith to see it through. Comparing ourselves to others is easy to do these days, and it could weigh us down without us even knowing it. But art is so much more than a set of skills and talents! Sometimes, it’s as simple as being lazy whereas other overwork. Fear and worry that we’re not going to make it slowly condemn us to fail by taking the joy out of our work. All these things weary us to the point of giving up if we don’t have the good reasons to do what we do. I hope that someday through art, my life will point to what matters and affect those around me for the better. What’s wonderful about it is figuring out how exactly that’s going to happen, and the privilege of being an artist is being able to do it in such an unusual way. So let the thought of giving up only reaffirm the good things to strive for and clarify your priorities!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In the visual sense I like finding cool things that look a little odd. A range of ‘weird and over the top’ exists in my head that looks plain compared to things that are normal but just a little off. I like seeing things I relate to but I enjoy a few seconds of wonder. This is in the back of my mind while I draw. Suddenly, there’s a strange that isn’t too off putting and a story not too far off. I enjoy having my artistic preferences- every artist should wield it and hold it dearly! Beyond the aesthetic, I draw to seek new ideas. I love sketching because it’s a physical thought process (seriously- a different way to think!) and it’s awesome to just wonder about things on the page. It’s funny, I’ve realized I’m at my best when I’m not really the one doing anything. There’s a lot of struggle and striving for artists to capture creativity and crank out ‘what’s new’ with it. But the imagination is a lofty thing and demands respect! When I’m searching for what the imagination might have for me, then it’s possible the ideas surprise me in turn. When this happens, I can only wonder where these thoughts come from and that gets me excited to draw. When I feel that I have to come up with something impressive, the obligation usually shows up. I’m slowly learning art is a mirror: If you are confident- your lines will show it. If you enjoy exploring, your pages will be full of new thoughts. If you are one for mastery, you’re sketches will become works of art in itself. In my secret-mastermind-artist brain (every artist has one) I imagine my ideas will compound and grow and take form in story. I look forward to expressing the things I’ve learned over time. My drawings are small and silly, so I think them perfect vessels to pour out raw emotion and deep meanings into. I’m glad I feel this way because a younger self was opposed to the whole “express yourself through art” thing. I didn’t see how wanting to draw cool stuff would represent me. Now I really take joy in the fact that as I live and grow my art will just the same.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There is a little tea shop in San Gabriel that is my go to. (I’ve been developing my taste when it comes to the best boba around and am now an expert.) It’s called CHICHA San Chen and I am their number one customer. I’ve tasted milk teas all along the west coast and this place is simply a cut above the rest. I always order a black tea with cream and konjac jelly 🙂 There is also a great noodle place called Mian next door to complement your drink. It is overhyped now but anyone who enjoys good quality tea can thank me later. Garfield Park in South Pasadena is a good choice for any park goers. I usually settle down with my aforementioned tea to draw there. If you enjoy biking- the roads nearby are lined with trees and it’s a pleasant ride. Old Town Pasadena is also a few minutes out if you want a little more city action. There’s a cafe off of the main road called Art and Science which has a nice tucked away feel within the city. There’s also a good boba selection here and lots of shops and alleyways to explore. But I’ll leave the rest of that up to you! 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?
First and foremost I’m thankful to God. The artist life is a long struggle but I’m slowly learning to seek joy and peace through it with a little faith. I’m grateful for my family and friends for keeping me company through it all, and my teachers who taught me more than just art. To get into the specifics, I’d like to give a shoutout to the whole art crew back from the good ole art school days: Tayler, Gary, Knight, Bill, Tony, Dom, Slade, Aaron, David, Mike, Michael, Hyun Bin, Rei, Luce, Sam, Ethan and Scott! I learned so much from and with you guys and it was so much fun. I look forward to the next time we can all sketchparty and seeing what is in store for all of us. Y’all are going to kill it.