Multimedia Artist Joshua Li: The Road Taken

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Here in the Philippines, Chinoys are almost always expected to be involved in the business industry. This is mostly the case for typical Chinoy families. But for artist and creator Joshua Li, he would eventually discover that he would want to take a different path from what is usually expected of Chinoys.

“[…] Growing up in a Chinoy household, like many Chinoy families out there, ours is also business oriented. So my mom runs a lighting company while my dad runs a hardware store. So even when we were young, we were already exposed to business.”

When he was little, Li would be taken by his parents to their office to do simple business tasks such as calculating the revenue, profit, and costs. While he remembered having fun acting as a businessman, Li admitted to not really understanding what he was doing at the time but still enjoyed doing it nevertheless.

While not pressured by his parents, Li managed to do quite well in his academic studies by getting good grades and winning competitions. As a result, Li’s mom nudged him to try to tap into his creative side. 

“I learned how to sing. I learned how to play the guitar, the drums, the piano, etc. And at one point I was also learning digital media. And that entails Photoshop, video editing, and even animation.” 

As a kid, Li wanted to be a lot of things— but the one thing that had a special place in his heart was to become a painter. However, he did not see himself doing this for a long time and gave up on the idea.

“[…]  Every summer I would go to a place in Quezon City called My Little Art Place, and that’s where I first learned how to paint. And I remember that experience being so fun, enjoyable, and almost therapeutic because that’s… that was the time where I could really express myself, my emotions, my personality into this white and blank canvas, which was somewhat like my own world that I had control of.”

At one point, Li also considered becoming an architect because of a game called Minecraft that lets players build anything from houses to castles using resources found in the game. After reaching high school, it was at this point that Li started to realize that he wanted to do a different thing that is somewhat close to what an architect does but is different altogether— he had to take a Design and Tech class where the basic fundamentals of why and how are certain products are designed specifically in a way that is feasible, comfortable, and efficient. 

Li realized his love for designing products for consumption and asked his mom to search for the career path best for this type of interest. He ended up going to Savannah College of Arts and Design in the United States to pursue Industrial Design.

When asked about his thought process in designing a product, Li would always consider if the product can be made realistically: “I often consider whether or not— Is my design feasible? […] Can it be made with today’s technology? Can it be manufactured, mass-produced [on] a large scale? And more importantly, is it affordable?”

As an artist, Li would sometimes experience being in an art slump, or what most people would call an “artist’s block.” To counter this, Li would do two things: First, he would take a step back and do other things like walking outside or playing video games. Second, he would do nothing. While it sounds counter-intuitive, Li says that sometimes, the best idea comes to him when he’s not thinking of anything. 

In addition to his major course, Li is also taking up a minor in Film and Television. Li mentions that as a Chinoy, running a business is technically in his blood, and he will still help out in their family business. However, he does not want to limit himself to a singular space where he would just be involved in the business industry— and that’s why he majored in a different field that he is passionate about and took a minor course that sparks his curiosity. 

“I have more than one passion, more than just industrial design. I’m also very passionate about film and television, and thus that’s why I’m also minoring in that. So I guess it’s just about deciding which one’s which passions or interests or hobbies that you’re willing to prioritize first or pursue first and then saving the rest for later.”

Li has some advice for people who are in a phase where they are confused about which career path to take: “If you don’t know who or what you want to become, […] my mom always tells me life is a continuous learning experience. So every day, you might learn something new and you’ll never know. Maybe you’ll learn something today, tomorrow, a month’s time from now, or even a year, that would suddenly spark a new passion for you— just like how I learned design and tech and how it inspired me to become an industrial designer.”


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