We had the good fortune of connecting with Sharry Lai and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sharry, why did you pursue a creative career?
I grew up in a strict household. There was a lot of policing of behavior and time. I had many expectations to meet. To release me from that pressure, I turned to drawing. Whenever I draw, time melts away and for that moment I feel as if I possess whatever I had been drawing. If it was Sailormoon, I was able to embody her in the image the way I saw fit. If it was a pair of shoes, I could get the fit to feel just right. If it was a woman weeping, I’d feel the deep sorrow and could leave it on that page. I continued to pursue this career in illustration because I realized that when some people see my work, they receive the relief, strength, or pause and breath that I needed when creating the pieces. I illustrate sentimental imagery that is often informed by my Asian American life. I really love drawing women breaking the myth of the model minority by painting subtle expressions of emotions and dress. I want to find a way to empathize with each story and use that as an expression of the story. I work in pencil, colour pencil, watercolor, gouache and digital. I enjoy the challenge of integrating the client’s needs and intentions with my illustrations. Suspending a moment and letting the viewer lean in and look for the rest of the story is always my intention. I intend to pursue this throughout my whole life. I feel like I can process/escape the world, my world, and allow others to process through my illustrations.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My skill is something that I’m always working on. I believe in being humble and continuing to hone your skills. I am most proud of my commitment to building and strengthening my mental health. That long and daily practice has made more and more room to focus on my work and frees me to be an empathetic artist and instructor. I’m able to have a clearer mind and am more motivated to dive into displaying even more story through my work. I appreciate clarity and elegant solutions and I look to create images and provide a little of that in each piece. Many days I felt like I was climbing a muddy hill, but the more I struggled, the more I wanted to keep fighting and to keep going. I learned what being self-compassionate meant, then I struggled to practice it to this day. I learned that figuring out a sustainable practice meant a lot of self-forgiveness and discipline. I also learned to look for help, to ask for help, to humble my ego and adjust my expectations of myself. I have to fight perfectionism every day, but that muscle is bigger and helps me push out my work more. Valuing myself as I am where I am is so important that I have lost work, sabotaged myself, and devalued my worth when I didn’t. I would like to share my work with people who need a little reminder to take a breath, a little smile, or a small memorial. I want them to be able to find and receive self-compassion and/or strength when they witness my work. I want my work to be a part of anyone’s life who is looking for themself, caring for themself, or simply wanting a little bit of peace and beauty for themself.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
For a trip in Southern California, there would be a never-ending trip to good eats around fun shops in great weather. Initially, as they touchdown exhausted upon arrival, we’d drop through In-n-out and get a quick burger. After resting up, we’d venture to get some great coffee named Arcadia in Taza. We’d venture to Old town Pasadena and walk around and have lunch at Osawa. We could relax at the Norton Simon Museum before having a great dinner at All’aqua. Full and tired, we’d drive across the Colorado Bridge, under the stars, in Pasadena. The next day we’d have a fun tourist day where we’d eat at Urth Cafe. Walking around on Melrose we’d walk the length and then venture to Hollywood blvd. We’d have lunch at Joan’s on Third. Relaxing in from of Lacma, we lounge on the grass and rest up to walk the rest of Sunset. We’d have a snack at Pink’s Hot Dogs. Talk late into the night over Korean BBQ and maybe even some Karaoke or dancing in Ktown. We’d have a late start and have DimSum in Arcadia. We’d get fantastic Taiwanese pastries with Milk tea Boba. We’d bring all these snacks to the beach and read and scamper around. Walking around Main st and Montana St. in Santa Monica. We’d end the day with dinner at Pa Ord in Thai Town. Wrapping up the weekend, we’d have a venture to Four Seas in Hacienda Heights for a Taiwanese breakfast. We’d drive down to Orange County and walk around and hike Crystal Cove. We’d have curry and strawberry croissants at Cream Pan then walk around The lab and The camp. We’d end the day with dinner at Brodard’s and shaved iced dessert at Meatfresh. The next day before we leave, we’d get mochi doughnuts and breakfast at Jagerhaus. We’d get coffee at Reborn Coffee. I’d take them to Mitsuwa for lunch and have them stock up on snacks and treats. We’d take a relaxing walk around Platform in Culver City. We’d visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Then having dinner at Necco and then ice cream at Saffron Rose. I’d love to have visited a diner opened late in Little Tokyo, All the museum in Los Angeles, All the small eats in Orange County. All the walks along the beaches and trips to the mountains. Drive-in movies and all the parks, especially Griffith observatory. Concerts and Rallies. The variety in Southern California makes it the best place on Earth.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to express my deep gratitude to my friends and family who offered support and help in ways that without, I would truly not be here. George, Mihca, Joe, Huong, Alice, Doris, Go, Sher Ling, Ashlyn, Da Young, Michael, Alison, Christine. Thank you. I read and re-read so much from Brene Brown’s work. She has brought about a challenge that I want to meet over and over again. Without all my students, I wouldn’t have received the motivation nor the clarity that I have. I am so grateful to my students. And in the words of Snoop “Last but not least, I wanna thank me, I wanna thank me for believin’ in me, I wanna thank me for doing all this hard work.”