Michael Huynh is an emerging artist from Calgary, Alberta. He graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Studies with a Studio Concentration. He currently lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he continues his practice and career.
Huynh grew up with an unending appetite for art. Even as a child he would fill sketchbooks and canvases. However, his parents urged him to become a doctor like many other Asian-Canadian families. He consequently enrolled in the University of Calgary Bioscience degree stream.
“My time at the University of Calgary has always been rewarding. But originally I intended to pursue a career in the medical field. All throughout my high school years I enjoyed art but I still considered it a hobby. It wasn’t until my high school year award ceremony that I won an award in art. The thing was I never really won awards in math, science or any of the other subjects.”
It was this thought that sowed the seeds of reflection within Huynh. In his first post-secondary year, he grappled with this conflict. On one hand, he wanted to fulfill his parent’s pride and on the other, his passion for a talent he had.
“I realized it wasn’t for me. I decided to pursue a career in the visual arts. I changed my degree to Fine Arts and applied for the Studio Concentration program, which is now called the Honours program.”
For Huynh, he regards it as the best decision he could ever make.
“The University has such a great diversity of people. I didn’t just get to meet artists. I got to meet a whole community of individuals from academics, scientists, to others of diverse and varying backgrounds. It is a place of many disciplines.”
In fact, Huynh’s art is similarly multidisciplinary.
“I ended up still taking a semester in bioscience and I don’t regret that at all. My art is about ecology and animals. The touch of science that I learned has allowed me to push my work forward and incorporate conceptual depth to it.”
You can’t make art in a vacuum and Huynh took that motto to heart.
“I started the Art House Union in 2012. It’s basically an art club but I think the term undersells it a little. I saw that a lot of people liked art but did not have the outlet to express it, whether because of material, tools, or a space to practice. I wanted to provide that and allow people to come together not only to create but to share their experiences and backgrounds. 80% of our members were from outside the Art Department. There were also a variety of cultural backgrounds as well from people who grew up working on the farm to immigrants, who were the first in their family to attend university. I have since retired from my position as president as I believe it should be run by students for students. Though I hear the club is still going strong with continued participation in exhibitions and fundraising.”
“The most memorable part of being an artist is when you sell your first artwork. Everyone wants to be an artist but that first sale is when the dream becomes reality. Just the fact that someone appreciates what you do, enough to spend money on it is unfathomable at times. It shows that we as artists are part of something more interconnected.”
Graduation opened the doors of opportunity even further.
“After graduating, I decided to move to Vancouver. I had a great network in Calgary and I met a great many people as well. But I felt something was lacking. I had a crisis of motivation and wondered why I was making art. I needed something to push me forward. Coming to Vancouver was just that.”
“Being disconnected from everything that was familiar allowed me room to grow and become more independent. For me it was important to find a stable creative career. Coming out of school, I had all this creative knowledge but no way to use it. I am currently a graphic designer and marketing coordinator for Blu Bathworks. I am responsible for lookbooks, branding, etc.”
Nonetheless, Huynh stresses that it is not easy to make a career in art.
“To be successful as an artist you need to continue to learn. During my job search, I always stressed the importance of my education from colour theory to composition. You can’t expect things to come to you. Even now I spend time working on my own website, my own visual brand and identity. It bleeds into my work and vice versa. Graduating from post-secondary meant leaving behind not only my home and personal space but studio space to create in as well. Finding creative inspiration was a daily struggle but after visiting galleries andother artists. I realized that the most important part of art is to focus on yourself and to be creative not just for a career but because it’s you.”