Not all people are lucky enough to be able to follow their passions in life. Nevertheless, our passions are there for a reason. They keep us motivated and serve as our driving force to be the best version of ourselves.
Take it from Chinoy artist Dione Kong, who persistently pursued drawing and illustration and now sees her dreams coming to life in children’s books, comics and animation.
Kong’s love for art did not happen overnight. It started when she was growing up and her dad would let her watch a lot of Chinese horror, fantasy and action films on TV. Aside from entertainment, it was their father’s creative way of teaching them how to speak and understand Mandarin.
As a child watching these films, Kong grew fascinated by their stories and how they depict Chinese culture. “I was very fascinated by the stories and the thrill that I felt while watching Jiangshi- the Chinese zombie with a paper on its forehead.There were also a lot of action dramas that they let us watch like the famous story of Mulan and the great military advisor, Zhu Ge Liang,” she shared.
At school, Kong would frequently visit the library and her favorite spot there would be: the children’s books section! She would read about Chinese fables and folklore and devour the brightly colored pictures and captivating illustrations in the pages, which would soon inspire her to create her own.
“I love animated TV shows, films, and stories that go beyond reality and imagination. For me, these kinds of stories inspired me to see the beauty of creation and imagination. This passion evolved to how I became an illustrator for children’s books, comics and animation,” Kong shared.
Pursuing her passion
Contrary to the stereotypical Chinoy parents that would normally push their children to a career in business, Kong was lucky that her parents were supportive of her choice to pursue the artistic field.
“I’m fortunate enough that I have supportive parents who believe that I should pursue the things that I love doing and something I’m passionate about because it will not be hard to find motivation in work and I wouldn’t give up that easily,” Kong shared.
When she landed an artistic scholarship in college, her parents were extremely happy and proud of her achievement.
Being a Chinoy creative of today
Remembering grade school Kong sifting through children’s books in libraries, admiring their artworks and drawings while now as a full-fledged artist herself, it is Kong’s own work that is currently admired by children in the library.
Drawing her dreams to life, Kong is now illustrating for some of the biggest children’s books publishing houses in the country. Among her illustrated books include:
- “Shelly’s Show and Tell”, Published by Scholastic Asia, written by Liza Charlesworth, 2019
- “Kazumph!” Published by A Tree in Bani, written by Danny Obillo, 2021
- I Am Change in Climate Change, a collaboration with Ang INK and CANVAS, written by Dr. Alyssa M Peleo-Alampay, PHD, 2021
- “My Ghost, Where’d You Go?”, Adarna House, 2022
Her client roster includes big names and companies, including Adarna House, A Tree in Bani, GMA Network, Mantle Magazine, and even Yasmin Ortiga, an assistant professor of sociology at Singapore Management University (SMU).
She has also created numerous digital art pieces, mostly under the genre of slice of life. “Sometimes I try to tell a simple story that gives a nostalgic feeling and sometimes, just to convey an emotion,” she shared.
Being a modern Chinoy and fusing the values of her Chinoy roots with the modern world allowed Kong to reach her passions and fulfill her dreams today. She keeps herself grounded with the learnings she has as a Chinoy but at the same time, actively goes out of her comfort zone in pursuit of what she truly wants to do.
“It’s great to familiarize yourself and be comfortable in your current ideas but going beyond is like a new adventure,” she shared.
Bravely venturing into unknown territory, Kong went beyond her capabilities by adapting to the evolution of art. “I always think I can only draw for children’s books and create 2d animation but as the time progresses, I’ve learned other parts of the process like storyboarding, concept art and even 3d animation. I’ve discovered more ways to tell stories and I really enjoy that,” she said.
Through her work, Kong hopes to encourage people to appreciate books and films created by individuals out of their passion and years of hard work. “Even though these art forms look like they only serve as ‘entertainment,’ these are also important to preserve stories from different time periods,” she shared.
More importantly, she continues to practice her passion for drawing and illustrating with the vision in mind of promoting Filipino culture and representation that is beyond herself– a true Chinoy creative indeed!