Wednesday, March 8, 2017

100 Faces

When I was approached by Alicia Chen to participate in her 100 Faces project, I was so flattered by her request and immediately impressed with her work. Alicia is an extremely talented local artist who specializes in illustrations. The purpose of her project is to discover the diversity in Toronto, especially groups staying within their bubbles. She is building a portfolio for this project that will be comprised of illustrations of 100 faces, with stories of the subject to go along with each one.

Given the nature of the project, and Alicia's artistic talent, I really wanted to know how she came up with the idea and what her background was in art. When I asked her what inspired her to start 100 Faces, and what she has learned so far on this journey, here is what she said:

"Are you lost? Why are you feeling lost?

I wanted to be an artist at age 6, was lost, and still want to be an artist but my parents are from working class, far away in Taiwan. I wasn't sure if I could still make it. This is how I started this 100faces project - after moving to Toronto and after spending nearly all my savings in New York on art classes and daily expenses. After I said goodbye to the 'good girl me' who tried to make everyone happy but herself by distancing my dreams from overworking myself as an early childhood educator.

I started a new life here with little money and a part time job in the arts so I could see the art industry more closely. From both living in NY and Toronto, I’ve learned that ‘American Dreams’ maybe only exists in the good old days. Most artists have family’s economic support or a strong network. Nevertheless, I met some great teachers in New York and was motivated to continue practicing art and paint out ideas that had developed in my mind for many years; but my oil technique wasn’t good enough for that. I became frustrated with the situation that both my economic and artistic outlook were not looking positive and I missed my families whom I hadn't seen for 3 years in Taiwan. I applied for my immigration here, since the environment is more friendly for people in the arts. 

In order not to fall into despair, I picked myself up by starting to make drawings of people I met. Drawing is very low cost and it allowed me to interview all kinds of people, because I wanted to know if other people were also feeling lost. If so, how did they pick themselves up? Drawing is a meditation for me. In doing so I feel nothing and stop thinking about my past and future. Everyday I have a goal to finish and to post a drawing to my Instagram. This leaves less time for worrying and overthinking. Luckily, this account has gathered many like-minded people who have formed a supportive group, so I’m not feeling as lonely in a new city. 

I’ve also made good friends and have even met my wonderful match boyfriend while doing this project. I've become happier for their support and care and knowing the stories of my drawings have inspired and warmed some people’s hearts. I met wonderful people and my other half for doing something authentic coming out of my soul. I got out of the situation of feeling lost and hope to inspired others. I wanted to discuss and examine the bubbles in Toronto and to meet more people from all walks of life, especially the unsung ones. If you need to be heard, let me know."

-Alicia Chen

For my piece, she wanted me to share my a little bit about my background, and some struggles or fears I have dealt with in my life. I was more than willing to open up with her for the purpose of the project, and loved the idea of sharing some deeply personal information in such a creative way. It felt really good to share stories that could potentially help other girls cope with struggles similar to the ones I had growing up.

Throughout the whole process, Alicia was so accommodating, sending me beautiful pictures like the ones above to update me on the progress of my piece. The finish product is pictured below, and I am still blown away by her skills.

In honour of International Women's Day, Alicia has partnered with Banglez Jewelry. Alicia's illustrations were used to adorn their new collection of earrings, with each pair in the collection named after one of the six girls who inspired them. 10% of the purchase will be donated to a local organisation called Rexdale Women's Centre.

All images for this post were graciously provided by the artist, Alicia Chen. To view the rest of her project, visit her Instagram account: @100faces
To contact Alicia, e-mail:

Happy International Women's Day to all the amazing women in my life!

With love,


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