The short answer is three Chinese characters. The long answer gets a little bit more into my story.
I am not Chinese, but I spent 8 years of my adult life living in China. While there I learned the language (Mandarin), made lots of friends, and learned a great deal about the arts and culture of the country and the different people groups that live there.
China is a diverse land, much more so than what we often see in movies and tv in America. There are different languages, different people groups, different customs, religions, and cultures within this large nation. The geography and climate are also full of variety, and life differs greatly between urban megacities and rural villages. Living and traveling there after finishing my art degree at university had a significant impact on me. It was a challenging, and often a humbling, experience to live outside of the culture and language I grew up. But I also got to experience a lot of amazing things, and my interactions with people and culture in China changed me in many ways.
I connected with artists while there and made lots of art myself. I had the joy of participating in art exhibits, traveling with Chinese artists, painting and photographing different areas of the land, and visiting artist’s studios. I learned a lot about Chinese and Asian art including different techniques and perspectives. I visited lots of museums and soaked as much of the visuals and stories in as possible. This was different than just visiting a museum while on vacation. I was living there; I was submersed in the culture and everyday life of China, and I could draw connections between the two. The art and artists helped me more deeply understand the place I was living in.
One of the things I learned from a Chinese artist, a calligrapher friend, was how calligraphers sign their art. Carved name stamps are common in China and often used to make things official or to function like signatures. This friend shared that along with their name stamp artists would add a stamp that was a combination of three other identifiers: a character for where they were from, one for where they are living now, and a word describing what type of art or style they work in.
My friend’s stamp included a character for where his family was from, one for where he was currently living and working, and then two that described the butterfly-style calligraphy that he does. Besides making amazingly beautiful calligraphy in the rare butterfly style, my friend was also a skilled carver of stamps. He made a stamp for me to use on my art that included these 4 Chinese characters:
青 “qing” for where I was living in China at the time
美 “mei” for America where my family and I are from
当代 “dang dai” for contemporary, my art style
(On the stamp, the characters look different because they are an older version of these modern characters.)
From Stamp to Logo
My art journey was deeply influenced by my time and relationships in China and my ideas and dreams for an art business were born there. The stamp – a treasured reminder of a special time with my friend – became a starting point for creating a name for my business.
One of the beautiful things about Chinese characters, which is different from letters in alphabet-based languages like English, is that the same character can carry multiple meanings and be a part of many different words. I was fascinated by all the meanings a character could carry and all the ways they could change shape over time. 青 (the character for where I was living) can mean blue or indigo and, if you dive deep into the possible connections, it can lead you to the word unaccustomed. 美 (the character for America) can mean beautiful. And so, from these two characters I came up with the phrase unaccustomed beauty which very much sums up why I make art.
You see, I make art to discover and reveal beauty in unaccustomed places, the spaces, and experiences in life where we think there is nothing beautiful. I make art to challenge others and myself to really look, to see differently, to expand our horizons – which is something I experienced during my time living overseas in another culture. So, the business name Unaccustomed Beauty Contemporary Art was born, and the stamp became my logo with indigo and blue as the colors. After leaving China, it didn’t make a lot of sense to have a logo with Chinese characters. It was more fitting when I assumed the business would be based out of China. But things change and the business didn’t start to truly take form until I was living back in the U.S.
Something new was needed.
The New Logo
The challenge then became what should my new logo be? My recent paintings have explored an overlapping technique with words to create an abstract, colorful image. The stamp still feels like a meaningful part of my art story, so I took the characters and used my overlap technique to create the new logo. I expanded my colors beyond the blue and indigo to include oranges as well (which happen to be my favorite color combo and a significant part of the landscape in Utah). Because I am not technically inclined and pull my hair out when it comes to computers and graphic arts, I created my logo by painting it into existence! Then my graphic arts-gifted friend, and marketing professional, Maggie Hoffman turned the image into a digital logo.
The Onward Journey
We all pick up different things as we journey through life, influenced by various people, places, cultures, and experiences. Creating the new logo has helped me process more of my past influences and to also reshape those influences (and expectations) in preparation for my future. Leaving my life overseas and moving back to my passport country was a process unto itself, but now a new chapter is starting for me. Changing logos matches that transition and holds the door open to something new. I’m very pleased with how it turned out and the way it makes me feel refreshed and ready to step forward with the business, taking things to the next level and excited to see what the future holds.
(Cross-cultural Artist and Business Owner)