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NOVA Graphic Design Student Talks About Inspiration in Art and Winning National Cherry Blossom Festival Competition

Cherry blossom artwork

Woojung Lee, originally from South Korea, has lived in the U.S. for four years and is a current graphic design major at NOVA.

As many know, the National Cherry Blossom Festival hosted an annual competition for artists to submit their work, and each artist took different interpretations in painting the blossoms. Lee was one of the winners of the competition for her work called, ‘2021: Hoping 2021 Is Like the Sunrise.’

As reported in ‘The National News, Lee said, “2020 was the hardest year for everyone. I couldn’t do anything, had to stay home because of Covid. That made me really frustrated and depressed ... but I started to notice the sunrise more. And it was a reminder that the sun will rise. [My design says] the sun will rise; just keep going; there will be a new day.”

The president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Diana Mayhew echoed Lee’s statement about hope saying, ‘the blossoms themselves give this sense of hope, renewal, new beginnings. I think it’s why so many people come to see them. They bring people joy. They give them that moment to really remember all of the positive things in the world.’

Here, we got to sit down (virtually) with Lee and ask her about her inspiration.

How would you describe your artistic methods?

My work is usually inspired by nature all around me. Since I don’t drive, I usually take the bus, or I walk everywhere. Not driving has been a huge inspiration for me because I can get inspired easily by what I see and hear; like sunlight peering into bus windows, shadows of shaking trees, and the sound of the wind. I like to be inspired by color from nature, and I like to inspire people with my color palette.

Though, I think it is kind of early to call myself an artist because I am still learning how to be an artist. 

What was your inspiration for your piece that was featured ‘National News’?

During the year 2020, I was trying to be more productive than ever before, but it was quite hard for me to get inspired or get ideas to create something due to all the devastation that the pandemic brings. The only inspiration I could get was from looking outside through my window. One day, I was up until the sun rose and was thinking, ‘this is hope because no matter what happens, the sun will rise every day, nothing can stop the sun from rising.’ The same goes for hope.

What brought you to NOVA?

I knew I was interested in art, but I was not sure what major I should pursue. I saw that NOVA offers a variety of art programs, so I decided to go to NOVA to find out what type of art major I should pursue. Choosing NOVA was a great choice, and I've found what I want to do and have learned so much.  

What are some thoughts about your classmates at NOVA?

I have gotten inspired by my classmates in terms of skill and how they process their ideas. Also, as an international student, I believe it is really important to learn different perspectives of culture, and through my classmates, I learned different perspectives on how to look at the world.

What are some thoughts about the faculty members here at NOVA?

Two professors really helped me toward the path to becoming a great artist.

Professor Michael Dowley has been the biggest help to shape what kind of artist and art I want to do. If I did not meet him, I wouldn’t have been able to draw or paint. He encourages any kind of art from students and gives valuable advice.

Although it was a required class for my major, professor Carol Quade’s communication class has helped me a lot to improve my communication skills. People may think, why should communication skills be important for art? However, it is quite important for an artist to explain their art. I used to not be good at explaining my artwork or putting my thoughts together. Through taking her class, it has become a lot better.

I am glad I met my classmates who are inspirational, but I am truly grateful I met these two professors at NOVA.

What do you want to accomplish as an artist?

My dream as an artist is to work as a creative director while inspiring others as well. Also, I want to teach children who do not have access to proper education. What Picasso said has been my belief, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I want to help them to remain as an artist, and to not give up because of financial hardship.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?

There are great professors and programs here at NOVA that will help guide you in what you want to accomplish. If you already know what major you want to be in, then that is great! Enjoy campus life with classmates, learn as much as you can and don’t miss the opportunities that the school gives you.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.