Meet Sonny Yiu ‘25 (CCS Art)
Second-year CCS Art student reflects on her time at the College
To showcase some of the radically curious members of the CCS community, we interviewed Sonny Yiu ‘25 (CCS Art). Sonny’s painting featuring the CCS building is now displayed on the CCS homepage.
College of Creative Studies (CCS): How did you hear about CCS and what motivated you to apply?
Sonny Yiu (SY): I first heard of CCS through my mother when I was applying to colleges. To be honest, I was very confused during the application process, so I had initially thought that the portfolio I submitted to the CCS portal was to apply to the regular Arts program at UCSB. It was not until after I received the acceptance email that I realized CCS was a separate college! After digging around to find out more about this college, I was excited by how special it sounded with its unique small undergraduate class. In the end, it seemed like CCS would be the perfect opportunity to get more serious about my desire to be an artist.
CCS: How did you become interested in your discipline?
SY: Art has always been a favorite activity of mine like many kids, and I am grateful to my parents for buying me art supplies and allowing me to take lessons during elementary school. Looking back, I recognize how lucky I am to have parents that support me and my passion for art, and for building my confidence by always complimenting my work. It was not until my freshman year of high school that I realized art was something I could stick with. I credit a lot of this to my freshman year high school art teacher for encouraging me to continue taking art classes, because at the time I thought art was a fun hobby with no realistic potential of being a career. By the time college application time rolled around, I was really serious about art and I knew this was what I wanted to study in college.
“Now that I am a second year student at CCS, I can confidently say that I don't think there was any better place for me to attend school than here.”
CCS: Are there any moments or experiences at CCS that stand out to you? Would you share one or two?
SY: I remember being very nervous for my first class at CCS. It was a colloquium course with all the other first year CCS art majors, and we were asked to share a presentation of our past artworks to the class over Zoom. Sharing my art has always been a scary thing because I really care what people think about my work, so I was really scared when it came time for me to present. Once I finished, I was surprised with so many wonderfully kind comments from my peers. At that moment I read all their comments, all my nerves went away and I was just super happy. I knew that these are the people I want to be surrounded with when making art and that CCS was the place for me!
CCS: Your painting of the CCS building is very unique and captures the character of the College. What was the inspiration behind the painting? Does the CCS building have a particular meaning for you?
SY: Usually, the first thing people say when they see it is, “the building is curved!” and that is exactly right! The main reason behind this was the fact that I wanted to fit the whole frontside of the building on a small wood panel, which was when I was reminded of a fisheye perspective painting my sister showed me by artist Rackstraw Downes. While my painting is not using this same perspective, I feel like the simplified rounded shape lends itself well to how the building feels like another world that exists within the campus. I always look forward to going to my studio or classes there because it's such a comfortable and friendly environment. Looking back at the painting, I think it captures the charm and warmth I see and feel when I am in its presence. Character design has been a career I have been interested in for a while, so I am super happy many people see the character of the college in my painting! While I do paint to get a good likeness of my subjects, I am more involved by how I can relay its personality. I will manipulate and exaggerate the form, lighting, and colors to embody this particular object or person in a single frame. I love to be bold with color and depict objects in an imaginative and fun way, which I think this painting is a good example of.
“I am grateful that being an art major in CCS redefines art to be just as significant as other scholarships in the STEM fields by allowing so much flexibility in what classes I take at UCSB. With this in mind, I get to attend classes everyday with the intent of contributing to my artistic growth.”
CCS: What insights or advice would you have wanted as a prospective student?
SY: The one thing I wish I did going into CCS was to let go of the judgment and take advantage of the freedom to explore. When I first started, I wanted to stick with painting what I was already comfortable with. I was pretty set in my ways of what I wanted to make and what I was already good at. For example, I knew one small illustration in gouache would take a few weeks to complete, so I planned on doing this practice for my future independent projects. I think this had a lot to do with me thinking that I should make art to impress myself and other people. However, as I progressed through the quarters, I started to be more experimental with the ways I worked; rather than spending half a quarter on one painting, I tried drawing one character with markers in under five minutes for a few weeks. This opened the door to so many new possibilities of art making, where I ultimately let go of worrying about what others thought and to instead keep trying new things. Also, my professors are a big reason why I push myself to keep experimenting. What is so great about CCS is that you get to work so closely with the faculty, who are very encouraging and thoughtful when discussing your work with you.
CCS: What are you looking forward to next?
SY: I am most excited to keep making as much art as possible. At CCS, I get to make art without feeling like my time should be occupied elsewhere. Throughout high school I always felt like art was a second priority to all my schoolwork for STEM classes. Unfortunately, I've noticed that art is not seen as a serious practice by a lot of people. For example, whenever people find out my major is art, their response is very underwhelmed because they think it is a fun and easy major, which is just not true. I am grateful that being an art major in CCS redefines art to be just as significant as other scholarships in the STEM fields by allowing so much flexibility in what classes I take at UCSB. With this in mind, I get to attend classes everyday with the intent of contributing to my artistic growth.
“What is so great about CCS is that you get to work so closely with the faculty, who are very encouraging and thoughtful when discussing your work with you.”
CCS: Is there anything else you would like to share with the CCS community?
Now that I am a second year student at CCS, I can confidently say that I don't think there was any better place for me to attend school than here. It checks all the boxes on what I was looking for in a school and more. I have met so many kind and talented students here that I am so lucky to work with, and my professors are truly exceptional at making me feel supported.