Angela Sung


The Arts: Artistic {Re}treats

Solo Gallery Show & Warrior Friends

Angela Sung, founder of Warrior Painters, also works as a visual development artist for Dreamworks. Angela and her team mentor artists seeking to join the entertainment industry. She teaches painting one-on-one, and paints regularly in the large plein air community she is responsible for bringing together, back when she started pursuing this initiative a decade ago. Most recently, Angela has held a solo art show at a small local gallery.

You currently have an art show at the Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, work as an artist in the entertainment industry, and you run the Warrior Painters plein air painting group. That’s a lot to take on! Where do you get your support from, in order to keep doing what you do, especially during a pandemic?

Angela: I get a lot of support from my friends and family! Preparing for the show was tiring when I only had 2 to 3 hours after work to paint, but I’m very happy with the turnout. I’m extremely grateful that my family, friends and colleagues went through loads of trouble to support my gallery opening either in-person or online. For Warrior Painters, we are a very collaborative community and all the core members who started this group with me continue to contribute and lead our growth during this tough time, including Michelle Lin, Kayleigh Ma, Larry Quach, Steve Eat, and many others!

We began to use Discord for Warrior Painters when quarantine began, and it has been helping the group stay active. We’ve met a lot of new people there, and some of them became very essential to the group’s operation, like Linden Li and Kim Nguyen! We rotate and sign on to Discord to hang out with artists on a daily basis. We also give advice to “green” artists who are new and want to break into the entertainment industry. Kayleigh and Michelle also started the Warrior Painters Podcast to share knowledge and stories of our group members and beyond. I’ve never felt like I ran this by myself. It’s everyone’s group; and everyone is contributing to it one way or the other. Warrior Painters now has a branch in San Francisco and Linden started a branch in Toronto. It’s interesting to see the plein air mentality is starting to spread throughout the world.

Zine: How did you meet Kayleigh and Michelle?

Angela: Kayleigh is my wife. She came to America for school and we met through a friend. Kayleigh has been the biggest support to me emotionally and in all aspects of my life. I couldn’t have achieved so much without her. I feel like she’s a big part of where I am today. She put in so much effort for me and sacrificed a lot. She came up with the idea of doing a podcast because she was interested in helping people. We have an episode about artists combatting depression, and we actually brought in a family physician to talk about it. We have episodes about how people got their first jobs, how they have advanced their careers and such. It’s only been a few months but I feel like this podcast has already been helping a lot of artists.

I met Michelle in the early [weekend] paint sessions in 2016, when I just came back from Shanghai. I went to Shanghai for a job, but the pollution was so bad to my body that I was forced to stay at home all the time and got cabin fever. I decided then, ‘once I get back to America, I don’t care what happens, I’m going to paint every weekend!’ Nobody showed up at the beginning. Then, one day Michelle came. She and her boyfriend Vaughan Ling came to almost every session and that’s how we became very good friends and started to build the group together. We also teach a class together. I think of her as an awesome partner I can always depend on.

Zine: What are some challenges (or advantages) you may have encountered from a commercial standpoint, specific to being a female artist/organizer, that you want to share with others who might be experiencing something similar?

Angela: I haven’t encountered any real challenges. If anything, I think we’ve made female artists feel more comfortable to join our events and ask us questions. Kayleigh runs our Warrior Painter Instagram, and according to the follower data, we have a ratio of 70% female to 30% male audience. But I would say in general, we are a very diverse group. I have, however, encountered things at work that make me feel like being a female can be difficult. Sometimes, when I say things in a certain way, people think I’m being bossy or mean. But if a male coworker says it the same way I do, it’s completely fine – I find that frustrating.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that girls tend to have a lot less self-esteem than guys, and I feel because of that, they are not able to advance further in their careers, compared with their male peers. I tell a lot of my female friends that it’s very important to ask for a raise or a promotion when the time comes. A helpful tip is that you should always ask yourself: ‘Would someone who is not as qualified as you but has a cocky attitude turn down a great opportunity?’ Most likely they would not – so, why should you even hesitate?

Zine: How have you adapted the way you present yourself to stay true to who you are as a person, and interact authentically with your audience?

Angela: I’ve had experiences where artists I looked up to didn’t react to me in a way that would make a person feel nice. That was when I was younger. I didn’t like that experience, but I’m thankful for that, because now, when people reach out to me, I think back to when I was [in their position], and I know what not to do. I believe in always being kind to people. That’s really who I am, I want to help people, and I want to interact with my audience like that [with kindness]. I don’t want to put up a [barrier] of, ‘I’m too busy to respond to you.’ Even though my schedule is very packed, and it usually takes me a long time to respond, I always get back to people, no matter how many messages I have. That’s how I adapted – by experiencing something bad, so that I could become the person I want to be. As an artist, it’s difficult enough to overcome internal struggles. You feel like you suck, you feel like you can’t get better, you feel like you’re always going to be a bad artist. That internal struggle is already so hard, and if someone else puts you down, it’ll make you feel like you can’t continue anymore. Overcoming that myself, has helped me become the way I am with others.

 Zine: What changes brought about by the pandemic do you want to keep in your lifestyle? What changes are causing an inconvenience/hardship that you are anxious to move past?

Angela: To be honest, my life hasn’t changed much because I usually stay at home after work – and I have work over the weekend as well. The only difference is that I don’t need to commute to the studio so I have more time to do personal work. There haven’t been any big changes in my schedule. I still paint after work, cook, eat, walk the dogs, and work out a few times a week. Working out at home doesn’t bother me too much. I do think one of the things that really changed for me that made me really anxious is that I can’t travel. I don’t even mean going abroad, just going to a campsite to disconnect for a bit. These past few months have been chaotic, and it’s kind of hard to avoid the news. I just wish I could camp at a place with no cell reception – just nature. You sleep at 8 you wake up at 6. I feel like I need to mentally recharge through that type of activity.

Zine: Is camping completely out of the question right now?

Angela: I trust myself, but maybe not others right now. My mom sometimes comes out to visit me, and I would never want to get her sick.

Zine: How have you dispelled any preconceived notions about you that were not how you wanted to be seen?

Angela: My wife used to work in marketing, so she’s given me good advice on how to approach my social media and my “brand image”. Being an artist, sometimes you just want to get good and think that people will recognize your work one day. You may even think self-promotion is a bit shameful. But in this crazy world that is full of information and distractions, if you want to succeed, or if you want to create some value in society, you need to show your art, you need to let people see it. Kayleigh helped me a lot coming to this realization I also think it’s important to be honest about yourself, and in my case – everyone knows I am a big lesbian!

In addition to gallery shows, a day job, and Warrior Painters, Angela also offers group tutoring in classes like “Background Design” that can be found directly on her website.

Workshops and the zine are organized by Slow + Sustain through the volunteer efforts of our contributors. Funding comes from both the contributors and the public.

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