We had the good fortune of connecting with Chai “ChaiBee” Appling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chai “ChaiBee”, we’d love to hear more about your end-goal, professionally.
Ideally, I would like to make a living purely based on the creation of my own characters, and telling their stories. It’s a rare and lucky opportunity that not many artists get to pursue full-time. Currently, I am privileged to say that I’ve been able to get by through commission work and freelance and that alone brings me great joy. But one day, I hope that I’ll have the honor of sharing my creations with the world and not have to worry about making ends meet.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am most proud of indulging in my creative desires as I see fit. I worked really hard in early college to get to a comfortable place where I could do so, so no struggles could inhibit my drive to create. That in itself is a privilege, and I am very grateful to be where I am, especially with the state of the world. I often spend my days figuring out how to do what I love as an artist and make a living from it. Experimenting with social media, making videos, new interactive artworks, reaching out to colleagues and mentors for ideas, collaborating with friends, it is all part of my creative process. As I have invested my time in more avenues, I am able to make enough to live off of it. It took a long time to build up, as well as some minimum wage jobs to keep me afloat. I’m sure there will come a time where I will have to make ends meet, but I always find a way to stay positive with my art. In terms of what sets me apart as an artist, I find that my artwork has a distinct tie to me as a person, while also taking on a personality of its own. Many of my characters were born from emotion or feeling, which then grew to become an entire fictional being, living it’s own life and carrying out it’s own story. My most popular character, Miss Witch, came to be from my childhood fear of Halloween. If anyone knows me today, they know that Halloween is my favorite holiday, but it wasn’t always like that. As a child, I had a lot of fear and anxiety regarding death, macabre themes, and anything horror. Through my experiences though, I discovered that there is a lot of fun in being scared with people you trust, and many aspects of facing your fears that make you brave. Miss Witch embodies the idea that no matter how young you are, you can face your fears head-on, and conquer them with a bright smile. Not to mention, Halloween can be fun, cheerful and cute just as it can be spooky and scary. If you’re interested in reading about Miss Witch and her story, please check out my comic: https://gumroad.com/chaibee#BHlcvo In terms of my other artwork, they always convey a feeling. No matter how static or dynamic the art appears, it resonates with a mood we can relate with and understand. If a picture is worth a thousand words, my artwork is a soliloquy. My growth as an artist continues to surprise me, I never know what’s coming or what I’m capable of! I hope that you will follow me on my journey to see what I do next.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I feel as though I’ve been through every nook and cranny of San Diego, it is my home and I’ve explored a lot of it! One of my favorite spots (that I need to visit more often) is Devil’s Dozen in downtown. I absolutely love doughnuts and this place has got some good ones. They often sell out quickly in the morning, so be sure to get there asap to snag a sinister snack. If you want the best poke you’ve ever had in your entire life, please, please visit The Market At HFS. They are a fish distributor, but also sell bowls of poke with all the fixings. It doesn’t get fresher than that. I’ve visited this location several times and go out of my way to eat here. If you’re more of a ramen person, you gotta go to Nishiki ramen. Being an anime fan, I often took trips to Book-Off to search for rare anime figures or Vocaloid CD’s and had lunch at Nishiki. It’s especially delicious in the fall and wintertime. My favorite is the classic Nishiki ramen, with a dash of chili powder. In terms of a night out on the town, some of my favorite drinking spots are Raised by Wolves and The Grass Skirt. One has dark speakeasy vibes with a mysterious flair, while the other is a luau that transports you to the green islands of Hawaii. Either is just as fun, with lots of extras to enjoy! Overall, all of San Diego is beautiful. Whether you venture inland to places like Old Poway Park or decide to take a stroll in La Jolla or Del Mar, it’s all home. I’ve since relocated for work, but anytime I visit, I’m sure to make a stop at least one of these eateries while I’m in town.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As an artist, I am constantly inspired by my surroundings. I have to thank my best friends, Rowan, Jackie, and Sao for always pursing their ventures, and fighting for what they want. We are young twenty-somethings with big dreams, without the resources to achieve those dreams. But by supporting each other, we have the spirit and drive to try. While we aren’t sure what the future holds, we are blessed to be running into the unknown hand in hand. I also thank my parents for their support and appreciation. I worked hard to earn their support and prove that a career as an artist is possible. My mother and father lift me up, and are proud of me. I also can’t forget my sister, but she’s always been my pillar of support, my greatest friend. And lastly, I think my therapist and psychatrist deserve recognition. All my life I’ve struggled with severe anxiety and moderate depression, with no resources to resolve my mental illness. As an adult, I took the steps to take care of myself, and they guided me into a much more stable lifestyle. I feel capable, less stressed, more focused, with just as much emotional passion to put forth in my artwork.