Laid off during the pandemic, this Cambridge-born artist is creating nostalgic illustrations for a new generation

·4 min read

David Huynh was a dissatisfied banker before turning to the world of whimsical digital art.

The Kitchener-based artist, who grew up in Cambridge, took a bet on himself when he was laid off during the pandemic, and decided to pursue the love of art that he had first nurtured in high school.

Huynh creates colourful, cartoon illustrations often steeped in pop culture references and nostalgia. In the following Q&A with Cambridge Times, Huynh talks about how '90s pop culture inspires his artwork, how issues of homelessness and art converge, and how it pays off to step outside of your comfort zone.

TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU FIRST GOT INTERESTED IN DIGITAL ART?

David: I've always been a really big fan of art. It was a big hobby of mine growing up. That changed in high school when I became more focused on going to school and playing sports. It wasn't actually until I got laid off during the pandemic about two years ago that I picked up drawing again. Once my employee insurance ran out, I thought now that I have a little bit more savings I’ll pursue art again and see if I can make any money off of it. That brought me to where I am now, two years later.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?

David: Inspiration can come from anywhere. My artwork is obviously a lot of cartoon work, and with that comes nostalgia. I was born at the end of the '90s, in 1996. That's something that I've kind of gravitated toward. So whenever there's like a trend online, whether that's a dance or a song or whatever it is, I try to create my artworks around those current trends so that I engage a newer audience. But then also I have that nostalgic factor of people who are born in the '90s or some even later in the '80s, and it can bring everyone together.

POP CULTURE PLAYS A BIG ROLE IN YOUR ART, WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON POP CULTURE DURING OUR CURRENT TIMES?

David: I think pop culture as a whole is easy to gravitate toward, and it's really easy to connect with because everyone's watched some kind of cartoon, whether you’re younger or in your adult years. I think as a whole, especially during the holidays right now, everyone can kind of relate to those cartoons and pop culture as a whole is something that's really easily identifiable.

YOU’VE CREATED A LOT OF ART OUT OF BRAND SYMBOLS. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A COMMERCIAL ARTIST OR SOMEONE WHO CREATES ART BASED ON PURE EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION?

David: I think in the beginning it was commercial. When I was in university I picked up design, and I focused mainly on logos and brands. I noticed it was a lot harder to get clients, because for someone to invest all their money into someone who is still in university, it was really hard to convince them that I'm going to change your brand. My fans were really liking that connection of a commercial logo, but taking a daydream fantasy creative mind toward it. From then on, I continued to have that connection with people. I think having that nostalgia factor in my work is a way to have that emotional connection with people, which I really like.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR TINY HOMES PROJECT IN LOS ANGELES, WHERE YOU PAINTED ILLUSTRATIONS ON TINY HOMES ON SKID ROW. WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO TAKE ON THAT PROJECT?

David: It was a really great project. That project was very big for me as an artist and just emotionally as well, because growing up in Cambridge and in the K.W. area, homelessness is a big issue. Skid Row in Los Angeles is one of the higher areas of homelessness. Growing up, I did charity work around the issue of homelessness where I could, but in my adult years I would ask myself the question of what can I do that’s larger? So, this was a stepping stone for people to see that I’m part of a really big project. People reached out to say we should do something like this in the Kitchener area, so it was really nice for people to see me doing that.

To view or purchase David Huynh's art head to his Instagram at www.instagram.com/davidhuynh__/.

Genelle Levy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times

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