Everyone’s journey is a unique inscription through time and isn’t a path that can be retraced or duplicated. How We Got Here is a series of concise recollections of personal journeys as told by talented creative individuals with different backgrounds, careers, and interests who share their struggles and motivations to explain how they reached this point in their lives.
In our next story, we leave the continental United States to speak with none other than Jasper Wong. We speak with the Honolulu-based artist and founder of contemporary street art festival POW! WOW! on his early inspirations and the moves he made to build his career as an independent artist.
— 37, Honolulu —
8 a.m. on the dot I was in front of the television set, eyes wide, imagination ready.
Mushroom-like houses in a forest clearing. Mutated-creature infested sewers of New York City. The Stone Age town of Bedrock. Planet Vegeta in Universe 7. Every Saturday morning growing up, I got to escape Hawai’i and explore the worlds of The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Flintstones, Dragon Ball, and many more.
There were entire fabricated multiverses and timelines where my parents weren’t arguing and my father didn’t abandon us, leaving my mom to raise me and my two younger brothers.
Whenever my family life became tumultuous, I turned to watching cartoons, reading comics, and doing lots of drawing to find stability and to distract myself from anxiety-inducing situations. I found fantasy worlds that were more appealing than the real world and started creating my own made-up worlds as I envisioned them.
As a kid attending a subpar public high school, there wasn’t any guidance for my next steps. I was told that going into graphic design was the way to make a career in art.
My high school counsellor gave me a list of schools with supposedly strong graphic design programs and I went to one of them—only to be asked as a freshman to help teach senior design classes. So I put together a portfolio and transferred to the California College of the Arts.
At CCA, I wasn’t allowed to draw in the Graphic Design program, so I switched to Illustration. In the Illustration program, my professors didn’t think I’d ever be a commercial success and told me illustration and design annuals would never publish my work.
So I submitted my drawings in pink and pastels of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan as little girls and got published.
“Whenever my family life became tumultuous, I turned to watching cartoons, reading comics, and doing lots of drawing to find stability and to distract myself from anxiety-inducing situations. I found fantasy worlds that were more appealing than the real world and started creating my own made-up worlds as I envisioned them.”
“As a young person, dreaming about other worlds and wanting to transform my reality into the life I saw for myself, gatekeepers tried to restrict me. Now, having worked hard enough to possess the keys to a few gates, I always ask myself how I am supporting others in passing through, making their imagined worlds real.”