Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Tu.
Laura, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Come, slip into my shoes and walk with me! As I write this, my heart is wide open, just like the red custom heart tattooed on my left forearm for everyone to see. Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m an open book. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know me better and learned how to love myself first because I never did before. This is my story, my love story, and passion for the work I do. I hope you get to know me better here because I have so much to give and share!
According to comedian Iliza Shlesinger, I’m an #eldermillennia, the oldest of the millennials. As an early 80’s baby, I was born in good ‘o Chinatown, Los Angeles and was raised in Lincoln Heights next door. My parents migrated here in 1981 from Vietnam and worked hard every day to take care of the family financially, never lovingly as most first-generation Asian-American families do. Culturally, it’s shown in a different way and that’s thru food, clothes, and shelter. No hugs! Being the youngest of five children, I only learned how to speak English, so communication with my parents has always been difficult and still is to this day. I am full Chinese (I didn’t learn this until I was 22 years old. What! I do not speak Chinese and no one told me!) and that’s why I’m a full ball of confusion! I think it’s funny, I’ll be at a family event listening to conversations in English, Vietnamese and Cantonese all in one sentence and I understand it. At the same time, it’s kind of sad that I can’t speak my own language 🙁 but I’ve managed this far. Are you still walking with me?
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
Everything I create comes from an emotional place, line by line, pixel by pixel. I put a lot of heart into my work and with a fine arts mindset, I have to remember as a graphic designer, I am a service-based business. I solve visual problems for my clients. It’s a very thin line presenting what I think works best for my client and their particular needs and creating what I feel looks good. You have to separate your emotions from your designs because it’s not a painting in a gallery where you, the artist, decide what’s the meaning of your work. In graphic design, there’s already a message and a meaning that you help others convey visually and thoughtfully without the feelings if that makes any sense at all. That was definitely hard for me when I first started designing.
Officially, I am a formally trained Graphic Designer! Woohoo, I finished college, Mom! Unofficially, in my mind, I am a self-taught illustrator, a wall painter, a photo-loving taker, a sign-maker & on the regular, I fantasize about being a tattooer! Oh, how I dream. However, in reality, for the last 3 years, I’ve been a full-time in-house Graphic Designer for a door and cabinet hardware company. It’s great! I have a good time and have an awesome team but at the end of the day (literally) I always find myself chasing the entrepreneurial dream. That’s why I’ve also continued to freelance every night and on weekends. My schedule is still crazy, I feel. I was sure after college, I had paid my dues and the insane life would stop but I’m telling you, it doesn’t! It’s the same but slower paced… almost too slow. I’ve had many odd jobs in the making of Laura, the artist.
I’ve sold cell phones at mall kiosks, stocked shoes on shelves like Al Bundy, serve popcorn at the movie theatre, counted hundreds and hundreds of dollars at an ATM bank cash vault and greeted customers at Walgreens to a name a few of the odd jobs. I even became a tattoo apprentice in a tattoo shop for nine months which I almost quit graphic design for. YES, I almost did!!! But I didn’t. It’s almost ridiculous how many different things I’ve tried but I had to do what I had to do to take care of myself. I also feel very lucky that I had the options to try different things without restraints. There were no rules from my parents to be a doctor or lawyer, the only non-verbal rule I realized is that they wanted me to be happy no matter what I pursued. Happiness, in my opinion, is the same in every language. When I started my Graphic Design journey in college, I would never have imagined how far I’ve come or believed all the people I’ve encountered. And this is only the beginning!
Alright, keep walking, this way! On a day to day basis at my full-time job, I manage website updates, create email marketing campaigns and put together assets for product launches with my team. At night to feed my fine arts subjective heart, I take on all kind of things: custom logos, social media graphics, t-shirt designs, real estate brochures, wedding invitation, and the occasional hand-painted wall mural. In 2007, My first design job was at a print & sign shop. I was three months into my graphic design major and I landed my first design gig. I was ecstatic and I fell in love with print media! That turned into a 5-year run, I learn everything about large format inkjet printing & mounting, laser prints & bookbinding, vinyl graphics & car wraps and a little bit of laser cutting since the owner was an architect. I found myself interning for Design Director Steven Banks at Los Angeles Magazine, working side-by-side with the incredible dual, Michael Stinson and Rachel Elnar at their award-winning design firm, Ramp Creative and landed my first post-college Graphic Design position assisting Willard Ford at Flagship Agency, a brand management company. I was definitely on cloud-9.
Today, I am forever grateful for everything I have and all that I’ve accomplished. I’m in a much better place now financially and emotionally than in my past and I have my four siblings, and my close friends to thank for being a constant support unconditionally, no matter how many times I change my mind or career. Thanks to my loving boyfriend, Andrew who is so understanding and patience with my career goals. And lastly, thank you to my mother and father, for leaving their homeland and taking a freakin’ boat over 17,000 nautical miles from south-east Asia with little education and only a little money in their pockets to give our family a better life. One day I will find the courage to tell them in their own language. My infinite goal is to change my family tree and that is why I will never give up. Never. My story may not be unique to all but I hope those who enjoyed reading it will find hope and be inspired to walk, not run into the path to their dream career(s), as many as their heart desires.
How can artists connect with other artists?
Los Angeles is the perfect place to network! There are so many people with so many talents. I currently attend and am the Photography Lead for a monthly gathering for Type lovers and enthusiast, called TypeThursday. There’re snacks, beverages, design critiques, and networking. The next one will be on Thursday, August 23rd, 6pm-9pm at General Assembly in DTLA. It’s free to attend for anyone over 21 years of age but you must sign up! Come say hello! I am also a supporting member of AIGA, the professional association for design, and have met like-minded individuals. It’s also a great space to network with other artists.
TypeThursday 8/23/18 signup here: https://www.typethursday.org/los-angeles.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
You can support and follow me online @lauratu.art on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Society6, Behance, and Dribbble. Would love to hear from anyone who has read my story and would like to talk about art or design!
NEW to Dribbble: https://dribbble.com/LauraTu
- Website: www.lauratu.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lauratu.art/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauratu.artist/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/lauratuart
- Other: www.linkedin.com/in/lauratuart
Mara & David’s Wedding:
-Nidia Dias, Poster frame background
-Vothy Chim, Photographer