Los Angeles artist Tony Hong is perhaps just a bit too modest when it comes to his art.
In this short film profile by director Christopher Ahn and producer Steve So of 5ive Story Walkup, Hong describes himself as a "career doodler" and "line maker," never as the fine artist that he is.
Perhaps it's because he's resisted his talents for so long. As a student at UCLA, Hong majored in psychology and never pursued art in a serious way during college. Over the phone, Hong told the Huffington Post that he chose psychology for the "anonymity" of a 400-person lecture hall. "I just sat in the back and doodled... I wasn't motivated in college."
In the film, Hong reveals that if it weren't for his friends, he might have never become the artist he is today. One Christmas, he received a sketchbook as a present from a secret Santa and started taking his drawing more seriously. "I never would have bought a sketchbook on my own," he admitted in the film, and now he always has one by his side.
After he graduated in 2000, he spent the rest of his twenties drifting. Hong worked part-time at his old work-study job at the UCLA library for the benefits and then would take his art supplies to the food court for daily drawing sessions after his shift. "I felt stupid and selfish," Hong admitted, "because I wasn't committing to a job or a career while all my other friends were going to jobs or professional schools."
The aimlessness is all in the past now. While he never got an art degree, he's now a high school arts teacher at a small school in Downtown Los Angeles and working on new pieces the rest of the time. In 2010, Hong was featured in a solo show in San Francisco, and his designs have also appeared on products that sell in Target and Apple stores.
The artist's favorite subjects are objects found in nature, like trees, flowers, butterflies, feathers and birds. "There's no judgment when you see something organic," he says in the short film. "You don't judge a tree."
Hong's video profile is the first in a series on creative types that Ahn and So are filming together. In a phone call to the Huffington Post, Ahn said that he started the series because, "if you want to be a banker, you know what to do. But there aren't really any set paths to becoming a fine artist or a musician, and we just wanted to document that."
Ahn's path to filmmaking mirrors Hong's journey. Born and bred in La Canada, California, Ahn started out in finance before moving to New York to pursue a creative career. Good luck to both of them!
The film was directed by Christopher Ahn and produced by Steve So, with music by St. Eve.
Mother's Reach by Tony Hong
After my father passed away, my mother said she couldn't imagine living on her own. For months she would stay at the side of my father's gravesite. Only to leave when the cemetary closed, she would come back the next morning. Suburns and bug bites weren't enough to keep her away. Despite the lingering pain and subsequent fear, my mother grew to learn that she could go on. She would call me with triumph in her voice explaining how she went to the DMV and Social Security OFfice all on her own. On one trip to visit her, I noticed a lone tree along the highway that reminded me of her. It was in early spring and there was a tree that was just beginning to sprout. I t was a new season, and despite the cold winter days, that tree and my mother still blossomed.