When Kaitlynn Le decided to major in interior design at ASU, it was originally a compromise: a way to be creative, but in an “acceptable” way that could be approved by Asian parents.

Now, interior design has become one of her many, many passions. But whether it’s pursuing fashion through culture clubs or combining her love of baking with painting, Le’s found that these seemingly different, unrelated facets of her life keep blending together with her creative endeavors, and so far she’s liking the process.

Although she doesn’t know where it’ll lead, Le’s taking a stand by taking it easy. Despite the high-stakes expectations that loom over creatives (like money, family, and everything that comes with posting your work online), her relaxed yet intentional approach to her own art shows that it should always be driven by passion—not pressure.

INTERIOR MOTIVES

“I’ve always been a pretty crafty, hands-on, imaginative person since I was young,” Le said. “I was good at a bunch of subjects in school, but art was just a really good way to express myself.”

Kaitlynn Le, seated, smiling at camera surrounded by her artwork and art supplies
Kaitlynn Le for TARO Magazine. Photo: Miggy Fajardo

Le says that the love of art as a subject in school led to where she is now, and as she has to deal with “adult” responsibilities, she tries to find ways to incorporate art in her life as much as she can.

“Art isn’t as widely accepted in the Asian American community, so I always did it on the side and never prioritized it,” Le said. “I feel like now I’ve gotten to a decent balance in terms of interior design versus more art-related things.”

Le actually didn’t consider interior design as part of her art life until she began studying it in college.

“At first, I chose interior design as my major because I knew fine arts wasn’t an option for me,” Le said.

“Maybe because my parents would say, ‘Don’t be an artist. They don’t make money, don’t be one of those people,’ So design to me at first was like—there’s still creative work, but it’s more technical and probably a better opportunity to get a job.”

Unlike most Asian kids who chose an “I’ll settle for this” major though, Le ended up loving the major after her freshman year.

“In terms of design intention, your main goal is to make people feel comfortable and make spaces feel, like, lived in and welcoming, and I’ve really come to enjoy that,” she said.

Le says that the mentality behind interior designing is what intrigued her more.

“You can make things so personal too,” Le said. “In residential design, like houses, you’re designing something that people are going to live in for the rest of their lives. Why would you make it look like everyone else’s?”

A WAY VIA VSA

Studying wasn’t the only way Le discovered new creative passions in college. While interning for ASU’s Vietnamese Student Association, VSA, she became a graphic designer for the board and had a lot of freedom to try out new ideas.

“IN RESIDENTIAL DESIGN, LIKE HOUSES, YOU’RE DESIGNING SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO LIVE IN FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. WHY WOULD YOU MAKE IT LOOK LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’S?”

“We were always throwing around ideas and saying like ‘Oh we have potential to make X and Y, and hoodies’ and stuff like that. Fashion is something I’ve been interested in too, so merch design was a new thing I got to explore,” Le said.

Kaitlynn in pink long sleeve and pants ensemble absolutely serving cunt, like she is really giving it
Kaitlynn Le for TARO Magazine. Photo: Miggy Fajardo

Le says she uses her graphic design skills in her interior design projects, as well as when she experiments with multimedia collages.

“Some of my first projects in interior design showcase that, because it was more of like a free, open-ended kind of project, so that’s what I geared towards,” Le said.

CASUAL, NOT CUTTHROAT

Even though Le chose Interior Design as her “compromise” major and ended up falling in love with it, that doesn’t mean she’s giving herself an ultimatum and choosing between her career or hobbies. In fact, she thinks focusing on making income through her art right now would take away from her passion.

“I’m in no rush to do that at the moment,” she said. “For my purpose right now in terms of art, its more so creating for creation’s sake and because I want to. Not because someone is forcing me or I’m feeling pressure from an outside source.”

Interior design will remain Le’s career path, but she wants to find a way to incorporate everything she does into her work at some point.

“In the current direction I’m going, it kinda seems like blending is possible,” Le said. “Like not going straight into a design firm, but something more abstract like set design or 3D art.”

Le says she doesn’t let the likes or followers on her art posts get to her. It’s more so the feedback she gets from others that truly gets her gears turning on whether the piece was designed well or not.

Le describes her personal art style in three themes: nostalgia, childhood inspiration and embracing your inner child.

“I’ve acknowledged that a lot of people might overlook the intentions and think ‘Oh you’re just drawing cute stuff, you’re just drawing frogs,’ but for me, I know what I’m doing,” Le said.

“As long as I’m able to express it to my audience, and my work does happen to cater to people who enjoy those themes, then it works out.”

Le says that it’s a balance on how and who you choose to take criticism from. She says that her initial confidence boost to post her work online was because of positive feedback she got from friends and family that she trusted.

“FOR MY PURPOSE RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF ART, ITS MORE SO CREATING FOR CREATION’S SAKE AND BECAUSE I WANT TO. NOT BECAUSE SOMEONE IS FORCING ME OR I’M FEELING PRESSURE FROM AN OUTSIDE SOURCE.”

“In the case of me believing in myself, I also feel like that starts with believing in others,” she said. “I’ll just take their words at face value and I thought ‘Hm, I should start believing in myself before I believe the other bigger things people say about it.”

Le pointed out an assignment she had to do in Spring 2020, where she had to use elements from an old design project and rework it into a new concept.

“I ended up using my eye shadow palettes as chalk on black paper, and using the spaceship concept from my previous assignment, I turned it into a galaxy, outer space kind of thing,” she said. “During studio critiques, the professors pointed out how much they loved it, and that was the most positive feedback I’ve ever gotten on a project. It was good approval for me to keep going in that direction.”

Kaitlynn Le seated at table with dishes full of makeup and paint supplies. She is smiling, holding a paint brush and nail polish.
Kaitlynn Le for TARO Magazine. Photo: Miggy Fajardo

Le said she posts her work for fun and to show her progress, not because she’s expecting people to critique her work like in an art gallery.

“I think in a way, that kind of encourages people to continue,” she said. “It’s different from inspiration. It’s more casual. Other people are doing it, they’re trying to improve themselves, and therefore they should keep sharing it. That’s what I enjoy as well; sharing other people’s work and artistry as well.”

ART VS APPEARANCE

Although Le loves sharing her work online, she wants to create more of a separation between her artwork posts and her personal posts. She launched her art account in April to try and keep the two worlds from bleeding into each other.

Kaitlynn, sitting on ground, surrounded by colorful makeup and art supplies
Kaitlynn Le for TARO Magazine. Photo: Miggy Fajardo

“I think it’s kind of obvious on my (personal) Instagram account that I kind of, I guess, used my physical appearance and personal life and stuff as sort of a crutch for my more professional art,” Le said.

I mentioned that a lot of artists do that and sometimes it’s necessary to promote your work, to which she replied, “Oh yeah. I think it’s necessary, like it’s not a bad thing. But I think for me I was leaning too much into it, and thinking things like ‘Well if people don’t like me for my art they’ll like me for my face’ and those kinda surface level things.”

Le’s confidence comes from being completely 100% focused on the art itself, not on the ability to promote it.

another risk

“I’ve been trying to be more confident in my art as a standalone, not just by using myself or other things to get attention for it,” Le said.

Confidence is the first step. Le said she wants to get to a point where she’s cocky about her work for herself.

“I am pretty content with my mindset now, it’s just a matter of showing it more openly and not allowing myself to be too critical,” Le said. “It all goes back to creating and doing all this because I want to, not because I am obligated to.”

Kaitlynn Le in pink long sleeve and flowy pants candidly walking
Kaitlynn Le for TARO Magazine. Photo: Miggy Fajardo

IN THIS ARTICLE

kaitlynn le

Portrait of Rithwik staring off into the distance.

words by

RITHWIK KALALE

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