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Pooler Magazine

Making an Artistic Statement

Making an artistic statement
Quiet New Hamstead junior speaks loudly through her artwork
By: Stephen Prudhomme | Photos By: Michelle Holloway 
When she was 4 years old, Mi-Lynn Mok entered coloring contests put on by The Renaissance Theater in Mansfield, Ohio, and usually placed first or second among her fellow junior Picassos, a number of whom were 6 years old. Thirteen years later, Mok has graduated from coloring to sketching and painting and still displays precocious talent. Quiet and shy, the New Hampstead High junior uses art as a medium to communicate her thoughts and feelings and also as an escape from a sometimes troubled home life. Mok lives in Pooler with her mother, Josette, and 11–year-old sister, Haylee, who is adopted and has a number of behavioral issues that have escalated into violent confrontations and threats of physical harm. Mok describes her sister as “very aggressive.” These incidents have caused Mok to develop PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) to go along with her Crohn’s Disease. The stress, her mother noted, really aggravates her condition. When things get too bad, Mok seeks an escape with her art, sequestering herself in her room and frequently working on her latest endeavor for hours at a time. “Art’s an outlet for her,” her mother said. “It helps take the stress out.” Mok said it’s a coping mechanism for her. Mok said art came easily to her when she was growing up. Her inspiration was her father, who is an artist. “We would paint together,” Mok said. “It was a bonding thing.” Mok continued to sketch and paint while living in Ohio. She especially enjoyed doing portraits, using mainly photos as her “models.” Mok noted that it takes her anywhere from one to four days to complete a portrait.  “I do a lot of portraits,” noted Mok, who employs colored pencils or oil paints after "gridding" the outline in pencil. “I’m good at making them look realistic.” Given her Asian heritage on her father's side, Mok said she incorporates vestiges of that culture in her artwork. This includes paper collage, primarily used to add dimension, and indigenous Asian plants.  Those plants are on display in Mok's favorite piece, featuring an Asian girl who is a friend of hers. "That was her ah-ha moment," her mother said. "She realized she had a knack for using colored pencils to make her art realistic."
Mok took some art classes when she got to high school in Ohio. Given her love and talent for art, Mok started checking into colleges in her home state. “There weren’t that many options in Ohio,” she said. Going outside the state, she came upon the Savannah College of Art and Design, considered by many to be one of the top art schools in the country. Last June, Mok and her mother and sister left Ohio and moved to Pooler. Her mother, a retired teacher, un-retired and is teaching second grade at Hardeeville Elementary School in South Carolina. Mok quickly caught the attention of  art teacher John Hoyman at New Hampstead and is taking an advanced placement (AP) class.
Hoyman, chairman of the Fine Arts Department, said Mok came to New Hampstead with purpose and a drive and is motivated to do her best work and strives for excellence in her artistic craft. He added that she has an eye for design and excels in craftsmanship, skills that would serve her well in the field of art.
"I see her as a future artist, illustrator or designer," Hoyman said. "Mi-Lynn wants to take advantage of what Savannah College of Art and Design has to offer, kicking off her studies in the Art Star program this summer and building her portfolio.  She is currently enrolled in New Hampstead’s Advanced Placement Studio Arts course, which will allow her to get possible additional college credit.  She is currently creating a body of work relating to her culture and identity." Mok, in turn, said Hoyman is her second biggest supporter, after her mother, and credits him with helping her develop as an artist. In another 18 months or so, Mok wants to take the next step in her art education by heading some dozen miles southeast of Pooler. “My dream is to go to SCAD,” Mok said. “My ultimate goal is to find a decent, consistent job. That could be doing animation work for Disney, illustrating a book... perhaps children’s books.”
Mok's artistic talent has caught the eye of one SCAD professor, Ashley Waldvogel (Foundations), who served as a juror in the annual exhibition for high school level artwork from five different schools in Congressional District 1. Her piece, Identity Crisis, which she created with dots to form a face, was among the 27 artworks submitted by 25 different artists and is on display at the Armstrong Campus Gallery of Fine Art.
Gallery director Raymond Gaddy, an assistant professor of Painting at the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University, said Waldvogel noted that Mok's work was highly creative. "She remarked it was very different from much of the other works in the exhibition," he said.
Mok’s mother spotted her daughter’s talent early on.
“Even when she was little, she had control of a pencil and crayons,” Josette said. “You don’t see that at that age. She’s pretty much self-taught. Going to SCAD would be a good way to increase her skills.” Josette said she recognizes the high cost of tuition at SCAD and is looking at scholarships and getting a possible discount through connections Hoyman has at the school. In the meantime, she’ll encourage her daughter’s artistic endeavors and marvel at the end result. “She gives so much detail - such as a wrinkle on a face,” Josette said. “It really looks like a photo when she’s done.” Mok uses her art to “speak” to people. “I’m a very quiet person,” she said. “Through art, I’m able to connect to people and visually express myself. I've dedicated my life to art."