"I don't know how else to explain the process other than letting myself go, allowing myself that space and time to explore, to allow my voice to be heard, to allow myself to just be, to just do."
INTRO: I stumbled across LOSTBOY's work on Instagram and immediately fell in love with their line work and meaningful captions. The meticulously beautiful drawings are made even more interesting by the thought behind them. LOSTBOY fearlessly explores topics like identity and connection, while centering everything with line work and distinct mark-making. We coordinated a Sunday evening Google Chat across time zones and discussed everything from movie theater popcorn to societal perceptions of gender. Below is a transcript of our conversation, very lightly edited for length and clarity.
Mar 8, 8:07 PM EST / 5:07 PST
LOSTBOY: lets see... does this work? :)
Stephanie: I haven't used this new version of gchat yet!
L: haha neither have i
S: I won't keep you long! How about we start with the basics. How long have you been in Los Angeles?
L: I'm originally from los angeles and have been traveling/living elsewhere (portland, oakland) since my early 20s for quite some time. I've been back home since September of 2014.
S: Very cool. Any preference between LA and Portland?
L: I definitely prefer LA for a few reasons a) more diverse b) my family is here c) i get seasonal depression so i'm pretty damn happy in LA d) portland has horrible mexican food...
(i still love portland but there's no competition in my book!)
S: All good reasons. I can imagine the consistently sunny weather is nice.
L: minus the smog, yep.
S: Ha - we have a lot of that in Atlanta, too.
How much does your environment affect your work?
L: I think it effects everything about my work. For instance, I was working with people with developmental disabilities for 3 years in Oakland. CA and in that time, I didn't have that much time to myself in terms of my art so I drew constantly in my sketchbook during lunch hours and breaks. Now that I'm in LA, unemployed but focusing more on selling my art, I have my own studio schedule and that type of stability and flexibility allows me to expand my work (bigger pieces, etc).
S: That's really exciting that you're pursuing art full time right now. Was your job in Oakland art-related?
L: Not too much beyond facilitating some art time for therapy and entertaining clients by drawing Michael Jackson! I mostly took them around the community and integrating them in different social situations and experiences.
S: That sounds like really interesting work. I can imagine you impacted a lot of people.
L: They impacted me just as equally if not more.
S: I'm sure. That's really cool.
Are you involved in any artistic / creative communities in LA?
L: Since I just moved back I'm starting to dip my feet into it. I heard of the Academy of Handmade having some cool workshops/meet ups in Los Angeles that I plan to check out and I'm even vending at next month's Jackalope Art and Craft Fair in Pasadena. I hope to connect with more artistic folks there.
S: Awesome. There's so much cool art happening in California!
L: Yeah, I'm super excited to get into it all!
S: What other types of jobs have you had in the past?
L: I definitely identify as a jack of all trades. I've had jobs as random as: a ride operator at disneyland, a gelato maker, a student study librarian, a children's museum story teller/art teacher, and a store receiver for a well known clothing company... I mean, that's quite a resume, I know. hahaha
S: That's so great!
L: oh! and a movie theater employee. I was pro at mixing up butter and popcorn ratio.
S: Haha that's a major skill in my book. Movie theater popcorn is one of my favorite things.
L: It's all about layers!!! Layer butter 3 times within the popcorn bag, shake it up each time you pour a layer, and you got a perfect experience.
S: That is extremely beneficial knowledge.
Now that you're pursuing art full time, how to you stay motivated / inspired / encouraged?
L: One of the ways that I stay motivated is somewhat of a regiment already in place. I started drawing everyday, for mostly therapy reasons, a few years ago and that started my daily practice. Currently I'm pursuing a drawing a day for a year (#365yokoonoillustratedtweets) where I pay homage to one of my art idols, Yoko Ono. Her twitter tweets are magic and I just felt like this year was the year I pursue one of my dream projects. I get a lot of encouragement too from the Instagram community. as cheesy as that sounds. Since I post daily, I have gotten to know and grow with those who have been following me and vice versa. I also have a plethora of supporting friends who are just absolutely brilliant artists and feel so blessed to have them in my life.
S: Amazing. I've really enjoyed your 365 project!
L: Aw! Thanks! I'm glad, I'm thoroughly enjoying it as well!
S: What are your studio / workspace necessities?
L: 1. Coffee. 2. Something in the background like a documentary I've seen over and over again... That way I'm still intrigued but not getting distracted. 3. A clean desk. I constantly clean my space, almost daily. 4. And of course I've got to have some paper and pens around! In a neat stack is preferable.
S: Awesome. Any favorite documentaries / background media?
L: "Cutie And The Boxer", "Exit Through The Gift Shop", and re-runs of art 21 and project runway.
S: Very cool. That's a nice variety!
Do you have any favorite places to work outside of your studio?
L: Yeah, absolutely. I actually make it a point to do this at least once a week cause often times I go for days without interacting with the public. There's this cute and quite busy coffee shop in Old Town Pasadena. Copa Vida, that I frequently visit. It's just busy enough that I get my "people fix" and quiet enough that most people won't bother me. Usually I'll have headphones on if I'm drawing in public. But I also like to read magazines and just exist outside. Of course with iced coffee I can do just about anything.
S: Nice. That sounds like the perfect shop.
And I like your perspective of "existing outside." I can relate to that one.
L: Yeah, us artists can get consumed pretty damn easily in our comfortable work studio space and not even leave for a breathe of fresh air. It's got it's pros and cons...
S: Definitely. I think balance is good.
Could you take me through your process from beginning a piece to finishing a piece?
L: Well it definitely depends on the project. For example, I'm prompted with a quote for my Yoko Ono project. Other than that work, I would say my process is an extension of my first solo show, CORE, in Oakland last year. I started a series of work really showing the public, and even myself, the millions of layers that make up who I am, as a Queer First Generation Korean American. I start off those drawings from that series doodling. That very act of just mark making makes a huge difference in the process. I use organic lines, shapes, visceral feelings that remind me of landscapes, rivers, seas, rocks, veins, wrinkles, air, love, etc. I usually feel out what type of material to use. Lately, I've been drawn to found paper that I've saved over the years for no reason other than simply loving the act of collecting. I don't know how else to explain the process other than letting myself go, allowing myself that space and time to explore, to allow my voice to be heard, to allow myself to just be, to just do. I usually stop, take a break, walk my dog or take a nap, and come back to it. It's pretty exhausting to get consumed, especially when my line work can get somewhat obsessive. It's almost as if it's not done till it's filled to the brim.
S: Love that.
I remember seeing an Instagram post where you mentioned just starting with the desire to make your hand move.
L: I truly feel like our hands are the extensions of our hearts! One of the reasons why I have a tattoo of an open hand, I wanted to always remind myself to be open hearted.
S: Well said.
It sounds like you explore identity in really profound ways. Can you tell me more about that?
L: Absolutely! So my identity is the core of everything I do. The reasons why it's so important is because it's not as normative as one may think. People assume I'm just a dude because of my art name "LOSTBOY." And by dude I mean, a biological man. I'm not. I identify as genderqueer. What that means to me is that I believe our society has made everything a binary that actually causes more harm than not... I blur those lines. I have characteristics that are both masculine and feminine, why conform to just one gender. Gender is an expression, an outlet for what's inside. That has nothing to do with what body parts you have. LOSTBOY is a means for me to explore every type of adventure, regardless of gender. Hope that kind of made sense...
This is a small snippet of a huge conversation piece, I'm sure but I just wanted to state it as simply as possible.
S: Amazing. That is such a nice, succinct and impactful way of putting it.
Your website lists: affirmation, line work and connection at the top. Can you elaborate on those words and how you came to them?
L: Absolutely! Let's see... I've always been drawn to positive sayings. I was the kid that collected all my fortune telling slips and read all the chicken soup for the soul books. But not until I moved to the bay area did I hear the term "Affirmation." I realized that was all I was drawn to. I also realized that in a deeper way, I didn't feel like I was affirmed enough as a kid being so different and weird, that I feel like unconsciously, I wanted to make sure others would feel affirmation after seeing my work, so that we wouldn't feel so alone. I made lines constantly as a kid too. I even got this award in high school for stippling this portrait of two pigs from a calendar I had. I was keen on expressing imagery through line making, story telling, showing depth and movement, etc. And connection is a word that I caught onto every hearing Brene Brown's TEDxTalk from "The Power of Vulnerability." She has this quote from there that I have engrained into my everyday life. "Connection is why we're here".
S: So neat and interesting. I love that TEDx talk.
L: truly one of my favorites!
S: How do you feel about labels like "art" and "artist?" Do you have any personal definitions?
L: I use this quote a lot to exemplify how I feel but I'll use it again! "Art is doing" -Ruth Asawa. I truly believe that. Now, that is as broad in definition as it can be but that's how I feel. I believe if there was intention and thought put behind it, it is art. As far as an artist, I know so many different people who are artistic but don't know how to pick up a paintbrush. I generally hate labels because I think it can be super restricting. I'm a true believer in self identifying and respecting that person's craft as they see fit. So I guess I would say an artist is also someone who does and says they are an artist!
S: Very cool.
And I completely agree. I prefer really broad definitions of art. It's everywhere!
L: Look at baristas!!!
S: Yes! I'm at a coffee shop now! Home away from home. 😃
Only a couple of questions left - I know I've already taken a lot of your time!
L: no worries! I've been drawing this whole time. haha
S: So speaking of that - why do you make art? What is the biggest pull for you?
L: It's absolutely a way for me to take care of myself. It sounds weird to put it that way but I've recently gone on anti depressants, almost 2 years ago, and making art was a way for me to record my daily discovers. For a while, I thought I would go crazy if I didn't document what was happening. Now that I've regulated into my medication, my side effects are less severe but I almost thought I wouldn't make it without art. I believe in art therapy because that's still the reason why I draw everyday. I have to.
discoveries while having these weird side effects daily***
S: I completely believe in art therapy.
I also think it's incredibly brave to share your work and process with the world in the way that you do.
L: It all goes back to "connection is why we're here"... If i can connect with that one queer in that asian household or the one who's afraid to tell people that they're on meds for whatever reasons, it was all worth being open and vulnerable to the public.
S: I think that's incredible. And like you said before, the idea of feeling less alone. That's so important.
Only 2 more questions, I promise!
Is there a type of media that you would like to experiment with in the future? Visual or non-visual.
L: I have a secret... I've always wanted to be a part of a stop motion music video... Directors like Michel Gondry and Adria Petty really impacted my perception of how music videos can be elevated. I'm also a drop out of Cal Arts. I went there for one year for character animation but realized I was too broke to go there... I even animated a quick film but definitely want to incorporate my style now with music and collaboration in video art making in the near future, I hope!
S: Love that.
I really enjoy cross-disciplinary projects like combining drawing / painting / etc. with digital media.
Lastly. Any exciting adventures / projects / travels on the horizon?
L: Yes! So actually I found out not too long ago that Yayoi Kusama and Yoko Ono will both have coinciding exhibits in New York in late May. I'm planning a trip, as we speak, with my favorite traveling buddy (my mother!) and I am beyond excited to head to NY in early June! As far as new projects, I'm also collaborating with my mother. She's a seamstress and a poet. We're making tote bags together and starting this new collaboration between a mother and their kid... who knows what other things will come about it? Tote bags will be premiered in late April!
S: Wow. So much cool stuff. I can't wait to see what comes of those adventures!
And for that video project!
L: :) me too!!!!
S: Well, I could talk to you for hours, but I think this gives me a lot to get started writing!
L: hahha yeah, it was such a pleasure to talk with you!
also check my instagram today, ill be posting the drawing i did while on this interview!
S: Thank you for being so awesome! I can't wait to start writing.
L: awesome! thanks again for thinking of me!
Mar 8, 9:49 PM EST / 6:49 PM PST
The drawing from our conversation: