Sunday, May 2, 2021

The First King: A Children’s Book by My Linh Mac

This is a guest blog post written by My Linh Mac. To pitch Artists on the Lam, contact us here.

People from all over the world, especially Asian communities, are still suffering as Covid blows its first-year candle. As an artist and a member of the Chicago art community, I believe there is no better time than now to share inspiring Asian artist stories. I want to be a part of the celebration for cultural inclusion and share a slice of life of Chicago’s Southeast Asian artists, much like Raya and the Last Dragon, the most recent Disney Princess film.

My Linh Mac (Millie), a Vietnamese artist based in Chicago, recently released her children’s illustration book about the origins of her country called The First King. My Linh is a SLAYSIAN artist with an exceptional multidisciplinary experience as a painter, graphic designer, art educator, and emerging artistic entrepreneur. She’s a true colorist when it comes to her dynamic and vibrant abstract paintings, and she’s made a name for herself through her remarkable ability to create art in one medium that seems to have been produced in another. Mac’s paintings range from mystical to abstract to figurative to industrial, but her multimedia and graphic design work is strictly commercial with high-end visual effects. With her “full package” skillset and innovative mind, My Linh’s presence extends beyond Chicago cultures, as she has exhibited her work in over 8 countries and served on the jury of several global/international artistic awards. The Creative Communication Award (C2A) in Los Angeles, the Brightness Illustration Award in Iran, the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Award, and the Leonardo Da Vinci Award in Italy are just a few examples.

The First King is based on the story of “Con Rong Chau Tien,” one of Vietnam’s most well-known fairy tales and folktales about the country’s magical origins. My Linh wants to express and pass on her heritage pride to other multi-racial children as an educator and artist who embraces cultural diversity. The book’s unlimited e-copies and hard copies are currently available on Amazon Kindle and currently a part of the Urban Legends: From Playground Lore To Cultural Norms exhibition at Columbia College of Chicago’s Library.

What inspired you to start this project?

Many causes, the most important of which is that I haven't been home in Vietnam in 6 years to pursue education and art making in the States, and the pandemic has exacerbated my homesickness. We never know what will happen next, and because art brings out the best in me, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to reconnect with my roots while also pushing myself into new territories in children's book publishing.

The other reason is because of the current racial discrimination toward the Asian communities. Asian artists deserve to be in the spotlight, not as victims but as inspirations for the community. Even though I haven’t lived in Asia since 2009, I still embrace my root cultural value of “it’s not about what you do because of circumstances of hardship, but more about what you do despite the circumstances of hardship.” We, as Asians in general and Vietnamese in particular, are proud of our hard work and compassion for one another, and these great qualities, rather than outdated stereotypes, should be the common perception of Asians. I’ve always felt fortunate to be born with a gift of creativity because there are so many things (like those values above) that can be expressed simply by the use of words.

Instead of specializing in one field, you basically specialize in everything. Do you consider one medium to be your true calling?

I still return to basics with drawing and painting, which is where it all began for me. Only when I’m messing around with the colorful paste with palette knives and totally at ease with making mistakes and fully feel like myself. Recently, painting has been more of a self-discovery/communicative tool for me than an expressive medium for interacting with others. It’s the opposite with other creative mediums that I work with. For example, when it comes to design, it’s not so much about what I want as it is about what the client wants, so knowing his or her style preferences allows me to learn more about their personalities and backgrounds.

How do you find balance among all your roles?

It hasn’t been easy by any means. From the “tip of the iceberg,” it seems that I am a multi-tasking specialist or a crazy planner, but from the “under the water portion of the iceberg,” it isn’t that complicated. Goal alignment is the key, and I’m a sucker for the phrase “hit two birds with one stone.” When I’m working on a company’s branding, for example, I take the time to learn about the company’s history, as well as behind-the-scenes information such as obstacles to conquer, goals/mission, and core value, among other things. This allows me to gain not only business experience but also a better understanding of my design assignment in order to bring out the best of it. I have learned the hard way not to try to do all at once and exhaust myself. “Less is more” isn’t just a style concept; it also applies in real life.

How has your Vietnamese background influenced your art?

I’m not biologically bi-racial or tri-racial, but since I moved to Singapore at the age of 13, then to South-Australia in my late teens, and finally to the United States in my early twenties, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cultural factors that have influenced my works throughout the years. One thing is certain: The First King isn’t the first initiative dedicated to honoring my Vietnamese heritage.

In addition to The First King, is there anything else we can look forward to from you?

Children book number 2 is coming soon. I’m also considering starting a company/business that focuses on cultural bridging, education, art, and entertainment. I can’t say anything more than that, but I’m hoping that all of the hard work I’ve put in so far will be rewarded in the near future.

Read more about My Linh here, and view more about The First King here.

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