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Commentary: Drawing up determination for a career in art

Jeannie. Doan

When I’m bored, I just start doodling on anything I can get my hands on. The things that I draw are pretty random. I let my mind go, and it just spills my imagination on paper. Sometimes the characters I draw are original. Other times they’re characters from my favorite anime, a Japanese term for cartoons.

I became interested in drawing when I was introduced to video games. I started drawing some of the characters in these games. Some of the designs were simple like Kirby, who’s a cute pink ball with stubby arms, red, round feet, and oval-shaped eyes. Others were a bit complex for me to draw like the blue, scaly dragon in Goemon, an action game. But, it was really fun to make them come to life on paper. Art was all I had in mind. By the time I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to be an illustrator.

Sailor Moon is one of my favorite characters. She’s a fourteen year-old girl who fights in a sailor suit. In some of my favorite anime, the women are heroes, and I like that.

When I was in middle school, I started playing this virtual online world called TinierMe, where you dress your characters, trade for items, play games, and make friends. I took commissions and requests to make art for the players. When I did this, I learned how to cooperate and negotiate with strangers and friends. They got the art, and I got the items. It made me truly believe I could make a living with art. But there are some people who don’t think the same way.

My mom came from Vietnam in 1991. Some of the adults on her side of the family think that artists have tougher lives because they make little money. They think that I should study the sciences. Even my mom was hesitant at first.

“I think being an artist is just something like a 'nghềtaytrái'. In other words, a second-hand job. But as for the main job, I want my children to learn to be a nurse, a doctor. I want them to practice a technique that allows them to earn money faster and easier,” my mom says.

I asked her what her dream job was and if she ever achieved it.

“My dream job was a teacher who teaches young children ranging from three, four, five years old. People here call that a ‘preschool teacher’. I worked as one for seven years when I was in Vietnam,” my mom answered. “My job right now is a nail technician. I have done this for about twenty years. Even now, I'm stilling doing this job.”

Her priorities changed after she moved to the U.S, where language was a serious barrier, and after she had me and my brother. She had to give up her dreams of being a teacher. Instead, she’s spending all of her energy trying to make me and my  brother happy. That includes being supportive of our dreams.

“But now, I think I'll just let my children choose what job that they want rather than force them to do something they don't want to do.”

I know my relatives worry about me, but I can’t imagine living my life doing something I’m not passionate about. The road may be tough later on, but I’m willing to take it if it means I could spend my entire life just drawing.

Jeannie Doan is a student reporter with KALW.