Editorial Piece on the Princeton Mom Op-Ed

I love editorial illustrations. I love the intense thought process, its relevance to our times, and the humanistic quality of the visuals that lends itself so well to interesting thoughts and ideas. Here’s one I have been working on about the Princeton mom would urged young women at Princeton to get married before leaving college:


Gold and Bronze Acrylic on Black Canvas

In case you haven’t been following the media, a Princeton alumna and mom wrote a letter telling women that the, “cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.” This sparked a feminist knee-jerk reaction, but I questioned it because– well, I felt it was more interesting than that. It not only reduces the aim of higher education to a commodity and women to a prize, but it touched upon an elitist sentiment that no one ever wants to talk about. Now, personally, I consider this woman to be the Princeton equivalent of the sorority girl of the sorority girl rant, but there’s definitely an ounce of bitter truth worth thinking about.

Anyway, to sum up the media shit storm about the Princeton mom: some blasted her for bringing us back to the dark ages, others commended her for telling the truth. Others, like Ross Douthat, pointed out that she was simply a “traitor to her class.

This resonated with me the most. After working at an “elite” place like Google, I saw first-hand how those fortunate enough to attend Ivy League schools had an implicit knowledge of their social standings. That’s not to say that they didn’t deserve it–they worked hard. Most of the people I’ve met were truly talented, highly intelligent and self-aware people, but it was really the first time I felt like all the talk I’ve heard about “legacy” and “the elite class” I studied in college had a lot of truth to it.

It also got me thinking that, as uncouth and unpopular as it may be, maybe the Asian parent’s mentality of pushing their kids to the top schools was on to something. Maybe they actually recognized it as the lever to gain access to a higher class. I’ve heard this before, “go to Harvard so you can be rich” but I thought: This is America, those rules don’t apply. I thought about how, growing up in an immigrant family where English was not the first language, we didn’t use SAT words like “latent” or “acumen,” in everyday vernacular, and how, we really had no “in” (no aunts, uncles, parent’s friends) to help us understand how our educational system worked. That’s not to say that only minorities had the shorter end of the stick, but that’s just the only experience I have.

That said, it made me understand how difficult it is to transcend classes as an “outsider.” It made me appreciate the minority groups out there that helped empower others in the same situation, and I grew a greater respect for those who are able to succeed, look back, and offer their wisdom. It took me a while to find those who quietly worked in the background so I can have the opportunities I have, and I hope to do the same.

I guess that’s why I’ve been so appreciative of the work that the Asian American Women’s Artist Association (AAWAA) and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) do, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the show opening next Thursday, May 2nd. Apologies for the shameless plug, but the 3:00am stream of consciousness somehow brought me here. Thanks for listening. Oh, and come to the show. ūüôā

On Beauty

I’ve never considered myself a late bloomer, but lately I’ve started to acknowledge that I am. As I’m learning to see and comprehend new techniques and ideas, I’m continually being humbled by what I still don’t know. I guess that’s what makes the process interesting.¬†


My latest piece attempts to combine various elements of ideas I’ve been mulling over in my brain: the concept of Beauty and Image as a commodity, its falsity, and the punishment women give themselves and others while trying to attain it. The magazine articles I collaged into the background came from just ONE Glamour magazine–just one magazine gave me everything I needed in this piece, including articles like “Don’t get a nose job, get glasses,” or “What men think of your shoes,” and ads like, “Hope in a Jar.”¬†

It wasn’t surprising, but I was surprised—so much of what we grew up and still see just wants to sell us on the unattainable. It’s all there in the background, the white noise that we learn to tune out but still remains. Some women tell me that feminism is irrelevant now, but between the conversations around current events occurring in Steubenville, in India, and even the backlash against Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, I think there is still much to be discussed. Feel free to disagree.¬†



Too Big to Jail

Since¬†http://cindyshih.posterous.com/ is shutting down for good at the end of April, I guess I should start posting everything here. Not sure why I didn’t before, but so it goes…

Cool Story. So, I was feeling a bit under the weather on Monday when I finished up my latest illustration piece on an article from The Nation titled, “Why Don’t White Collar Criminals Get Equal Time?” By William Greider. ¬†When I don’t feel quite finished yet, I sometimes post to Instagram first- which led to THE MOST AMAZING THING: Lil Wayne the Rapper liking my post!!


Honestly, I think the whole thing is quite hilarious- considering it’s probably one of his many publicists managing his instagram account, but just in case- I told him to contact me if he ever wanted me to do an album cover for him. The offer still stands, Lil Wayne! (E-M-A-I-L-M-E)


But here’s the finished product, which I added to a mock-up of the layout of the article, just to make it look all professional-like. The piece is supposed to be a bit vague but interesting enough to make someone want to read the otherwise boring article. I purposefully chose green on an off-white background to imitate the look and feel of money, and used imagery from the dollar bill along with the invisible hands of Capitalism framing and protecting those within it. The text reads in Latin, “Quoque Magnus Ad Carcerem” a translation of “Too Big To Jail.”

Editorial Tribute to Aaron Swartz (11.8.1986 ??? 1.11.2013)

Ink and Graphite on Illustration Board (15″x 20″)


For those of you who aren’t familiar with Aaron Swartz, he pioneered the RSS feed at age 14, started Infogami (which later became Reddit.com) at age 18, and almost singlehandedly stopped the passing of the SOPA/PIPA bill in Congress last year. He dedicated his life to giving equal access to information, and was quoted in his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto saying,¬†“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.

I would also add that information is money, which is why it isn’t a surprise to me that in 2011, a federal¬†grand jury¬†indictment charged Swartz with wire and computer fraud for downloading large amounts of data from JSTOR, MIT’s digital repository of achives and he faced up to 35 years in prison. That’s more time that rapists and murderers get for what to me, sounds like checking out too many library books at one time. About a month ago, he was found dead in his Broolyn apartment, at age 26.¬†

I think it’s safe to say Aaron Swartz was a boy genius; a serious free-thinker who used his prodigious talents toward something he believed in– at the risk of some serious consequences. I’m not sure why his suicide struck a nerve with me. Maybe it’s the fact that I worked for Google, maybe it’s because I feel like he was an artist too, of a different stripe– or maybe it’s that I’ve always been a bit suspicious of how our society handles shy, brainy, inconvenient idealists like him. But I think it’s clear that given his trajectory, he could have accomplished a lot more for our world if we had given him a chance. But I guess the sad truth is that he didn’t really have a chance, at least not in our society. His death reminded me of this quote by journalist and author, Mignon McLaughlin:

Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.”

Rest in Peace, Aaron Swartz.

Almost the New Year!

I know it’s already 2013, but I never quite feel like it’s the New Year until the Lunar one. I’m going to blame it on being Chinese, but secretly I know it’s because I always need a month or so to really let the New Year sink in. So it goes.

Anyway, as I already presented to my Facebook friends, I found my illustration pieces up at City College. I basically just walked up to class the first week, and there they were! Seeing your own artwork is a bit like hearing your own voice on a recording, or seeing yourself on video. It’s WEIRD. There’s a sense of pride of course, but it’s abstracted, and you mainly feel a little naked because what seems SO familiar to you is just sitting out there, plainly. It’s a strange feeling, really. Anyway, here they are, stacked up against so many other pieces I really admired from the advanced class:


(Which pieces are mine? Top left, “Alice in Wonderland,” Right toward the bottom: “Hybrid Creature,” and Bottom Right: Moriana, Imaginary World.” You can see them all in my¬†http://cindyshih.posterous.com/ blog. It’s weird to think that a few years ago, I would have never taken an illustration class because I thought I was a terrible illustrator. I also felt that way about watercolor, which is now one of my favorite mediums. In any case, I’m proud of myself for joining the advanced ranks in the class show as a beginner student. Also, I had 3 pieces out of 17 pieces in the show! Go me! Ha. These are the little wins you can have as an artist, that you have to remember for the 99% of the time when you think you’re terrible and unworthy of being called an artist.

Another new development while I ramp up to lunar year, 2013 was my decision to go on a plant-based diet. Now, this one came as a complete surprise to even me. I’ve always shunned the idea of vegetarianism. They always seemed so angry, so cultish, so snobby– at least the ones who did it for their own personal reasons. Vegans were even worse. They were all of the above, plus they hated fun.

But then, as I was sitting in class one day, it just hit me. I knew pigs were every bit as intelligent, affectionate, and adorable as my dog, and in another world we’d be in absolute outrage over the slaughter over pigs as we are of the neglect and abuse of puppies. As cliche as it sounds, I absolutely consider Barley as my friend and a member of my family. Knowing how animals are handled and treated in current food production system, could I really justify my support?


Here’s a picture that my cousin Henry Lien posted, that might have put me over the edge. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand our place in the food chain, the need and desire to eat animals as part of a healthy ecosystem, but I also understand that our current food production infrastructure is really– to put in mild terms, gloriously fucked up. Think of all the environmental, health, and moral conflicts we have, just so we can get some grease in the pan. Meat is great and all, but maybe not worth it. I decided to give this vegetarian thing a try.

Here’s the first thing I discovered: I feel amazing. Right away. I’m not kidding, I felt like my body was begging for me to make this decision. I have more energy, feel a lot more alert. I didn’t even drink coffee yesterday, and then I went on a huge hike. That *never* happens. It’s almost been a week, and it really isn’t that hard. I mainly just have to have some trail mix around, some fresh fruits and veggies to make myself a quick snack. Which is awesome anyway. I get these fresh oranges from my CSA box every week (it’s orange season), and they’re fucking fantastic. I’m lucky that SF offers some great produce options, and Carlos and I always love brainstorming what to make for dinner– so that hasn’t changed. When I go out, I just order the thing that doesn’t have meat in it. Maybe it’s being in SF, but those options are generally pretty damn good.

On weekends, when I’m out with friends, I’ll eat seafood or birds. But this weekend, I didn’t even have the desire to. I was feeling so great that I didn’t want to ruin it. And I really do feel pretty damn good, and my clothes are already fitting better too. Frankly, I’m shocked that I’d even consider doing this, but my body seems to be saying, “DUH, why haven’t you done this sooner?” If you ever had an inclination to try it, I offer you this: give it a shot for a week. I’ll share some recipes with you. We can start a support group. Also, why the hell not?

1.25.12 – Donald Contemplates.

Oil on Canvas, 20″ x 24″


Had to do a still life as a diagnostic first assignment. Decided to have fun with it.