Artist for New York Times, Pixar inspires art students

Victo Ngai, a Los-Angeles-based artist who grew up in Hong Kong, spoke Monday to students about overcoming obstacles in an art career.

Award-winning artist Victo Ngai shared her personal art journey with students, faculty and guests at Monday evening’s "Artist Talk" sponsored by Mississippi State University’s Department of Art.

During the lecture, Ngai showcased work she has done for brands like Apple, American Express and The New Yorker. Her lecture began with details from her childhood in Hong Kong. As she described her childhood, she shared early drawings from her childhood and shared how they correlated with her environment and her experiences.

Ngai described her immigration from China to Hong Kong, due to British colonization in this era. She said growing up in an unfamiliar place as the only child brought about a great deal of loneliness. As a child, drawing became a way for Ngai to create a community and wish upon imaginary ideas.

“I was able to wish for anything in the world in my illustrations,” Ngai said.

As she grew older, Ngai realized she needed to consider what she would do for the rest of her life. Then, drawing was only a hobby, and she knew drawing and illustrating would not be a pleasing career in the Asian culture. 

“Art was a train-wrecking future, according to the Asian culture,” Ngai said.

As a result, Ngai said she moved to the U.S. to begin her college and professional career. As she began to develop her skills at Yale University and beyond, Ngai said she learned to pursue her passion. She encouraged young artists in the audience to do the same.

“Make sure you still love it in 10-20 years,” Ngai said.

Ngai also described her concepts of illustrations and how she arranges them throughout the illustration process. Her expertise and professional experience were met with applause from the audience. While at MSU, Ngai will also critique various works by fine arts and graphic design students in the Art Department. 

Ronni Brashear, a senior art major, said she appreciated Ngai’s advice on brand-building and perseverance. Brashear said the idea of a “starving artist” can be discouraging sometimes and many feel as if they cannot make a decent living from creating. Brashear said all of these ideas were debunked by Ngai’s lecture and she is now hopeful for the future.

“Having a contemporary, emerging artist who is well-established come speak is definitely reassuring and inspiring,” Brashear said.

Ming Hong, a member of the Art Department's exhibition committee, said Ngai’s presence was a highlight sought out by committee members. As a professor of foundations in designs in the Art Department, Hong said Ngai’s critiques and lecture grant the students exposure to influential artists. Hong said these criticisms will allow students to receive a new perspective on their work. 

“Ngai’s advice will reiterate what the instructor says about the work and will offer students new ways of thinking and working,” Hong said. 

Hong said Ngai’s lecture and critiques are sure to enhance learning opportunities for students in the Art Department. 

“We really think she’s a fantastic role model for students the Art Department,” Ngai said.

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