Nothing comes easy, but this young Toronto artist sure makes it seem so. Colin Asuncion, 22, has demonstrated that through his simple passion and a lot of hard work, he can use his hobby towards greater causes while juggling a normal student lifestyle.
Vidafine: Tell us about your experience with your art and how it led to where you are now.
Colin: I really don’t have any formal training so my first experience with creating art formally was in elementary school when we would have art classes every Friday. I really looked forward to Fridays. Since then I have been painting on my own and experimenting with different types of techniques in an effort to teach myself how to be an artist and how to be a painter.
My first art show was a little more of a party in my backyard and I just started out doing watercolour on paper. I did a whole bunch of paintings and I stuck them up on my deck in my backyard and had a couple friends over to look at them and eat some food my mom made. It was really juvenile but it was my first real art show even though it wasn’t public. Even though it was small it started my interested in having events centered on my artwork. From then on the shows in my house got bigger and more people came out to them. From then I started charging admissions to benefit various charities. That just seemed like the next logical step with my events. I figured if I could raise money and awareness for causes by doing what I was already doing… why not?
Vidafine: You’ve mentioned that you were personally connected with some of the causes you donated to. Walk us through your experiences as you decided that dedicating your shows to various charities was the right thing to do.
Colin: The reason why I chose the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) in 2005 was academically fuelled because I had done a project in grade eight. Because I knew a lot about that cause, I decided to choose a charity that promoted and funded AIDS research and it was important to me to choose a Canadian charity.
I chose the Myelin Project of Canada because my cousin Carl Viola suffered from ALD. Our family had just lost Carl that year in 2006. I chose to benefit the Myelin Project as a way to commemorate his life. From then on I thought it would be more emotionally fulfilling to choose charities I had personal connections to via the people in my life. So a year after, which was 2007, I hosted a show that benefited Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). I chose that charity because of my sister, Marie, who suffers from psychosis. She has been a patient of CAMH for a long time and now she is a spokesperson for that hospital. I thought it was a very logical step to choose that charity to support – I supported them for two art shows in 2007 and 2008.
This year my show is benefiting Doctors Without Borders (MSF). I don’t necessarily have a personal connection with Doctors Without Borders but I am a political science student and I have learned a lot about the organization and what they do. I really admire their commitment to humanitarian work even in the most dangerous of times and settings. I think it’s just a really commendable cause especially at a time when we have catastrophe after catastrophe in our international community.
Choosing charities that were closer to my life was my way of getting more, emotionally, out of my fundraising. It was heartening knowing that there were faces to the causes I have supported and those faces were familiar to me.
Vidafine: I think that you have not only raised money for charitable causes but you have also raised awareness too. Is this something that is important to you as you choose the charities?
Colin: Definitely. A lot of charities receive a lot of funding through donations and mine may be just a drop in the bucket for a certain charity but I think raising awareness is just as important as raising funds. It gets people thinking and gets people mindful about different situations around the world and the different hardships that people have to endure in their lives.
Vidafine: What you do may be labelled as “charity work” by some. Is it work?
Colin: It is work because it is a tedious process to produce the artwork that I do. It’s work that I really enjoy and it’s work that is also a hobby. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t love doing it.
Vidafine: You juggle school, work, extra-curriculars and maintain the “typical” student lifestyle. What is your advice for those of us that want to make a difference?
Colin: You really have to decide for yourself what is important to you and what exactly is worth your time and prioritize accordingly. I may really enjoy going to the mall and buying shoes or shirts but there are other activities in my life that are more fulfilling.
You really have to look practically at how much time you have and what you’re already doing with that time. If there are ways for you to use your time to get more fulfillment out of your activities, then that should definitely be reason for you to get involved in charity work or cause awareness.
Vidafine: What are your top 3 tips for our readers to get involved?
1) Find a cause or an issue that you feel passionate about. Whatever that cause may be, if you feel passionate about it, the work will come that much more easily.
2) Find something that you love doing. Try to find a way for that enjoyable activity to be used to raises funds or awareness for your chosen cause. Painting is something I enjoy doing and my art shows are a way for me to channel my enjoyment of painting into a productive endeavour that is meaningful to my community and communities abroad.
3) Find support from people you know. Create partnerships with likeminded individuals that can contribute something to your project. Having a support system is important in any area in life especially in philanthropy.
Vidafine: Were there a lot of sacrifices?
Colin: Yes, but they are worth it. I could spend my free evenings going out partying or shopping but in the end the payoff of my time-sacrifices is huge. My charity work and my artistic endeavours give me so much happiness during the process and once they are complete.
Vidafine: This year you mentioned to me that your artwork is themed around the idea of memory being a large part of forming one’s identity. How did you come across this concept?
Colin: I went to an art exhibit at the AGO. It was two years ago and there was an artist name Jack Chambers. He’s one of my favourite Canadian artists. His work was part of an exhibit about memory. After seeing his work and the work of other artists in the exhibit I really started thinking about the worth of our memories and the role they play in our day to day lives. I thought to myself, if all the memories in my head were to be drawn out or written out for everyone to see, that illustration or that text would really tell a lot about my life, my personality, the feelings I have, and the sensory experiences that are dear to my heart. I conjured up the idea that memories are really a part of identity as human beings because they can tell so much about how we have lived our lives and how we approach the world around us.
Vidafine: Why do you use your life as inspirations for your art?
***This is Colin’s first solo show being held at the Hart House. It is also his first time using images from vintage family photos and text in his pieces.
Colin: I use my life as inspirations for my work because it injects a real personal connection to an inanimate object. By taking my life experiences and using them as inspiration for my paintings I feel like I’m creating something that has a lot of heart. For an artist, if you have a real connection to the work that you’re producing, it gives your art vitality and heart. Viewers aren’t blind to that.
Vidafine: Is this a factor that has become part of why your art shows are a success?
Colin: It is definitely a part of that because when I do create work that I am emotionally connected to, it’s my way of wearing my heart on my sleeve with that specific canvas. I think viewers respond really well to that because they are getting a glimpse into my being. It just goes back to the basic human enjoyment of making connections with another human being.
Visit Colin Asuncion’s art show – Colin Asuncion Art 2010 – on Saturday, August 28 from 2-5 p.m. at the Hart House. Entrance is $5 and this year’s entrance fees will be donated to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) which was chosen because of “the organization’s intense commitment to international aid even in the most dangerous of settings.”
Colin Asuncion is a prime example how anyone, any age, and any income can dedicate some time here and there, a couple bucks now and then to help out in the larger picture. Thanks Colin – for the sneak-peak and for showing us that a little really can go a long way.