Sometimes we get so caught up in chasing our passions that we forget to let them come to us. Like many children, Natalie Woo loved drawing books, coloring, and folding origami. She took her love for art even further and studied graphic design in college. However, a series of major basketball injuries (she played competitively in college) discouraged her from pursuing art.

It wasn’t until four years ago that Woo started drawing again. “The first icon I created was Sunni, a simple yellow sun intended to bring some smiles. He has a mischievous, yet jovial face. I remember being so excited that I shared it with all of my friends, specifically my friend Arthur who worked at a mental facility. He eventually shared Sunni with a patient. The woman was depressed and suicidal, and Arthur shared this with her in hopes of brightening her day. Turns out, she kept Sunni by her side, and in times of darkness, he was there with her to make her smile,” Woo recalls.

Today, this woman is working with a group in Hawaii doing a marine work-study. “I realized at that moment that my art was meant to empower and heal,” Woo affirms.

If you’re not familiar with Woo’s work, you’ll find watercolor canvases filled with ancient Asian art influences and come to life in modern everyday objects. From a painterly flower-printed mahjong piece and Chinese takeout box to the regal and elaborately detailed Summer Palace in China, Woo draws from ancient Asian painting techniques.

“I’m Chinese American, and I’ve always wanted to honor the connection to my Asian heritage. Exploring Asian art and culture allows me to appreciate beauty from a historical standpoint. What inspires me most from Asian art and culture is understanding the dedication, resourcefulness, and craftsmanship involved in creating a sculpture, building a fortress, or painting. I want to learn how to channel that feeling into the modern world through my artwork while helping Asian Americans like myself relate to our culture.” Woo says.

In fact, Asian art and culture has influenced Woo’s work so much that many of her paintings and drawings stem from her travels in Asia. When it comes to designing for a client, Woo says she usually asks them to tell her what’s most important to them. It can be simple things like a car, necklace, or gift to something more abstract like friendship, happiness, and love.

“I remember drawing bridal portrait gifts for my friends and focused on themes of friendship. They shed tears of happiness when they opened it and I could sense the joy. IT was a humbling feeling to be able to give like that.” She says sentimentally.

When she’s not designing or painting, Woo works full-time as a program manager at Google. To view or purchase Woo’s work, click here, and to view her custom Mochi illustration, visit our online store.

Illustration & Photo Credit: Courtesy of Natalie Woo

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