May 27, 2014
Exploring the streets of Oakland, Christina Song has found rhythm, inspiration, and even a surprise furry friend. A paper-cut illustrator by trade, she says low-key Oakland gives her the space to focus on her own projects and she loves living in “one of the most up-and-coming creative cities in the country.”
I moved to Oakland directly from Brooklyn in September 2012, mainly to be with my fiancé after doing long distance for over two years. While I was living in Los Angeles and New York, we would visit each other back and forth. Every single time I came to the Bay Area, the urban charm and natural beauty inspired me and I quickly developed a soft spot for the area. Having visited several times before moving, there weren’t any drastic expectations or too many questions. Instead, I wanted to just focus on my experience no matter what the situation. Living in a new city is always an adventure, and this appeals to me.
My first impression of Oakland was that it is very low key. Although it wasn’t as flashy or structurally impressive as Manhattan, I noticed in the nuances there was something deeper– like character. Also, there’s nothing like a brilliant sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge. I realized this place was my home when I found two things: rhythm and contentment. Living in Oakland allows me to make deep grooves throughout the city: going to local farmers markets, checking out galleries/museums, and exploring its nature. These routines give me rhythm. And then it was the consistent combination of work and love that I get here: producing a lot of work, enjoying the city with my fiancé, friends, and family that brought me contentment.
I have been illustrating for magazines, newspapers and book publishers ever since college. Since then, I got to work with some great clients and create numerous projects. In Manhattan, I also worked as an in-house designer, but soon realized I wanted more of my time to be dedicated to my own projects. At this point, the transition to Oakland felt very natural and being here has brought me more focus and less distractions. I feel very fortunate to do the work I do.
There are so many things I love about living in Oakland. I love all the great restaurants, shops, the creative and diverse community, collaborations with local artists, and leisurely walks around my neighborhood. I have favorite places for all occasions, but I find myself returning to Temescal Alley regularly. The horse-stable-turned-local shops are fantastic, but being able to see working studio spaces inside the shops make it an inspiring visit each time. When I was in art school, I got most excited by the teachers who gave demonstrations because that is how I learn. It helps cultivate my growth as an artist. So I can really appreciate watching other creatives in their environment. It’s also been great meeting some of the shop owners at Temescal Alley. Currently, I have some of my artwork for sale at a lovely shop called Walrus. Also, come July, Walrus will be hosting a solo show featuring my work.
Fun fact: my fiancé and I were walking around Temescal Alley when we spotted a furry, white rabbit. Sparked by curiosity, we went to pet and feed him. It’s not every day you see a rabbit roaming the streets of Oakland at night by itself. Weighing our options, we decided the best thing to do was to catch him and look for his rightful owner. After screening the neighborhood, Craigslist, and the local veterinary hospital, our conscience was clear: I had a new pet rabbit! Ranger has been my faithful bunny companion in my home office for over a year. Temescal Alley has been a place of opportunities and memories for me. It’s been nothing short of special.
I also have so many resources, inspirations, and relationships in Oakland that keep me growing as an artist. Despite mainly being a paper-cut illustrator, I’ve felt compelled to explore different mediums like photography, sculpting, and watercolor out of sheer joy. I’ve also exercised my creative muscles by practicing techniques that are outside of comfort zone like calligraphy and ceramics.
I enjoy taking long walks around the city because it opens my eyes to see more. It’s on these walks that I notice the subtleties of the landscape; things I can’t see if I drove around everywhere. I also love that I can hop onto the BART train and, within minutes, be in San Francisco. What I appreciate most about the Bay Area is that I have so many places I can escape to. After binging on the sights of the city, I get to return to the comforts of my home and incorporate it all into my artwork.
The work that I have here has been inspiring in and of itself, like when I get to teach art regularly to students at a local middle school. Teaching students reminds me that doing illustration work is really a dream job–I get to have gallery shows and even run an online shop from home.