We had the good fortune of connecting with Sophia Kiuchi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sophia, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
Maintaining a healthy relationship between work and play has always been a struggle point for me, and it’s been especially amplified in my college experience. My journey at ArtCenter is akin to jumping out of a boat into a vast open ocean. Although I felt much adrenaline and excitement to explore a new world, I found myself full of panic as soon as I broke the surface of the water. Not to be dramatic, but the first few terms in school were a living hell. The heavy workload, sleepless nights, and my amateur time management skills took quite a toll on my body, psyche, and unfortunately, my creativity. I experienced a burnout period that left me incredibly unconfident as an artist. Yes, it is ironic that an art school left me feeling creatively unsatisfied, but of course, I am only speaking on my personal experience. In retrospect, this burnout was in large part due to allowing my work to consume me. I viewed the open sea—this new environment—as a place of doom that I had to relinquish every ounce of my energy and livelihood to. I was flailing my arms to stay afloat and was ultimately getting nowhere. It took me time to realize that it’s all about mindset—the ocean is only a scary place if you allow yourself to believe that. Sure, there may be a few hellish storms here and there, but it is just as much a source of great beauty that’s constantly teeming with life. As a student, it’s easy to let your life be dictated by your education, but having a life outside of the classroom is just as important to fuel your creativity, and most importantly, to preserve your overall health. Although I’m still far from where I want to be with my work-life balance, I’ve learned to set certain parameters around my practice, and how that can set you up to lead a sustainable lifestyle.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Although I’m still far from where I want to be in my professional career, I’d like to think that I’ve developed my creative voice quite thoroughly over the past year, and that’s something I’m really proud of. Lately, I’ve been having a lot of fun with creating detailed and textural images, often finding ways to employ both digital and analog methods. These images can range from album covers, posters, portraits, zines, and comics that cover a breadth of different concepts; sometimes they revolve around my personal life, sometimes they revolve around the stories of other people’s lives, sometimes they are larger than life (*intrigue*). But regardless of the concept, I do my best to stay true to myself. I channel a lot of energy and emotion into everything I create, and that’s something I hope people can feel when they look at my work, even if it’s in their own unique way. I emphasize the importance of maintaining personal integrity because I used to be very social media conscious in the past, which resulted in creating work that I thought would garner the most attention, vs. creating honest work that I felt a connection to. I think this is something a lot of artists can empathize with nowadays, especially with platforms like Instagram and TikTok thriving in full force. There is so much content and talent out there that it’s easy to start comparing yourself to others and slip into the mindset of what could attain the most likes and comments. An important lesson I’ve learned since creating accounts for my art is to simply use the platform as a candid portfolio. I believe that it’s important to not let trends and analytics get in the way of developing your creative voice. Sure, there are tactics and trends you can follow to gain more exposure, but it will be more difficult to form long-lasting relationships and uncover meaningful opportunities that way—and I’m speaking from personal experience. I understand how silly this may all sound in the grand scheme of things, but using social media as a form of publicity has become elemental to the modern-day artist experience; it’s important to remember that the frustrations that come with these challenges are valid, but it should also serve as a reminder to protect your mental well-being.
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?
Oh, to go back to the days before the viral pandemic! I have actually been meaning to take a friend around Pasadena since coming out here for school. There are loads of beautiful green spaces, like the Huntington Gardens and the Eaton Canyon Hiking Trail, so we would definitely have to dedicate a day just for that. We could then grab a hearty meal at a place like Sage Vegan Bistro and a slice of pie from the iconic Pie Hole for dessert. It could also be fun to make some rounds around Old Town Pasadena—the strip has a variety of different stores ranging from Urban Outfitters to Target to even an Apple Store. There are also a ton of cafes and ice cream shops that can conveniently serve as resting spots. Some of my personal favorites are Copa Vida, Salt & Straw, and the Art + Science Cafe. We could also go to the Pasadena City Hall since it’s within walking distance. It’s usually a high-traffic area for tourists, but the grand structures and Spanish-style courthouses are worth seeing and could make for a peaceful afternoon stroll. We would probably also visit an art museum since Pasadena is home to the great Norton Simon. It’s not a large museum, but it would be a nice change of pace from the rest of the days. The last place I would recommend is the Rose Bowl Flea Market! It’s only held on the second Sunday of every month, but it’s a wonderful treasure-hunting experience everyone needs to experience.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to give a massive shoutout to my family, friends—namely Sarah, Sakshi, and Elinda—and the people who have come across my work on the internet and decided to come along for the ride. The support these people give me helps keep my head in the game. I love and appreciate you all so much.
All images by Sophia Kiuchi