Gary Yong: I'm an Asian New Zealander who grew up in the city of Auckland. While I was studying Graphics Design, I started curating exhibitions and learning from a community of artists by bringing them together. During that time, I got more serious in learning the spray painting medium and ventured into the world of street art and mural work. I co-founded an Art Collective with a small group of friends called Cut Collective, we built the business for over 5 years. My time was dedicated to the company before moving out to Dubai. New Zealand is the country that shaped me as an artist as I am still further developing my career in Dubai now.
One project at a time, keep challenging myself. I've developed my career through problem solving and navigation within the realm of creativity. Realistically, being a full-time artist is not about working on only the fun part which is painting. To get to the fun part, you need to be able to develop other skills such as communication and organization. It is also a constant negotiation and learning about compromisation to be sustainable as a commercial artist. Artistically speaking, I have spent many years obtaining and perfecting different mediums, styles and techniques to cater to a very diverse range of projects as they emerge. For me, it's about constantly changing and evolving to meet the brief. Through working this way commercially, I can also feed new knowledge into my personal work. Most of all, you have to really love the work you do to go further.
I'm in the process of moving so I will set up a new space. For the last few months, I have converted the lounge in my apartment into an art studio. I've managed to make it work. I'm using non-toxic paint when painting indoors and I use some spray paint on my balcony. I also have a separate office area to do my sketching and computer work.
I did some personal work that I've been putting off because of commercial projects. Had some time to plan and think about what kind of work I wanted to create, spent time on a bunch of sketches, experimented with new techniques and concepts on some paintings. Topping up my skill set with a new medium such as Airbrushing. Apart from art-making, I got into learning how to write a screenplay and got creative with cooking.
I get a lot of referrals, mostly from previous clients, etc...I believe doing the best you can to deliver each project and keep a healthy professional relationship with your clients for future opportunities. Send out follow up emails, updating potential clients with a new portfolio of work from time to time. Use your social media platform as a portfolio and keep engaging with the public and your friends. Keep my mind open for possible collaboration with other art forms, step outside my comfort zone for new adventures.
The field I've been mostly working in is commissioned site-specific mural work. Through these projects over the years, I guess I have an audience that knows and follows my work. I do get requests to create customized artwork for some of these collectors. I am currently in the process to produce some smaller pieces and build a collection of artwork. Once I have a body of work, I will think of ways to exhibit them and hopefully attract some more collectors in the future.
Keep an open mind to constantly be inspired by other art forms. Stay hungry, work hard, and create your own style and techniques or many different versions of it. Be flexible to evolve and change but work on it to perfect each technique. Once you have set your standard, recognize and stick up for your worth. Be confident, straightforward, and honest when it comes to any kind of business dealings in the creative industry.
Please don't do free work in exchange for any kind of exposure. The first group of people in an industry that gets requests for unpaid work are usually artists. We need to stop this from normalizing, it is about knowing your worth and recognizing all the years and hard work you've put in to become a working artist, stand up for that or the whole creative industry can be affected. Being an artist should be a profession that is encouraged not to be thought of as an insignificant career.
In times of darkness, the role of an artist and creativity is more important than ever.