From PEPY Scholars to International Artists: Meet Chhunly and Chantuo
PEPY endeavors to be an organization that helps rural Cambodian youth achieve all of their future career goals and plans. We do this by not only providing foundational skills training in ICT, English, and soft skills, but also by connecting youth with relevant professionals and leaders that help them establish a network.
In general, we have built up a great system for youth to find success in many fields like accounting, teaching, development, and hospitality. However, when youth want to work in career fields where there are no degree programs yet, we have to think outside of the box! Students that want to pursue music or art are connected to local partners like the Music for Everyone School and attend networking events at places like Mirage so that they can learn from those in the industry.
Chhunly and Chantuo have demonstrated exceptional talent in their field, so the PEPY team has taken every opportunity possible to promote their work. In December 2019, PEPY held our ‘Our Story’ event with an art showcase and performance stage in partnership with Genevieve’s Fair Trade Village and the Music for Everyone School. We were proud to share their work and hoped it would help them develop a client list. In the event, Chantuo sold her bags that she designed and Chhunly attracted the interest of international buyers, even selling one of his original works.
Since then, we have been able to find mentors and leaders in the art field who helped us learn new ways their work could be promoted. We launched an initiative to support our Scholarship for Higher Education project called Cards with Care. Chantuo and Chhunly gave PEPY permission to use several of their pieces that we developed into cards. Now their cards are being sold and promoted in two stores in the United States, Twice Told Tales, in Rhode Island, and through Jess Scutella’s tattoo shop, in Pennsylvania! The profits go toward supplies as well as supporting art initiatives for future scholars.
Chantuo and Chhunly both have so much to offer the art world with their distinctly different styles. We wanted you to get the opportunity to learn a bit more about them, their work, and their future plans.
PEPY’s ‘Our Story’ Event was the first time Chhunly ever showed anyone his paintings. At the time, he was a much more accomplishing floral wedding decorator and felt shy about his work. Chhunly is completely self-taught and started by just drawing and painting what was around him. He found he preferred painting over drawing very early on because he loved how painting allowed him to match his colors with the environment around him. Chhunly says, “painting, in my experience, does not have to be clear or detailed like a drawing.” He loves painting because he can focus on capturing a feeling or moment to put life into his art over focusing on a technique.
Nowadays, Chhunly has become focused on capturing life and culture through acrylic and oil paintings. In general, he prefers acrylic, but likes to paint waterfalls and flowers using oil painting with a knife. He aims to use his art to show Cambodian people’s lifestyles and now wants to expand his work to representing cultures and feelings in different countries, starting with European styles.
COVID-19 has caused Chhunly to lose many work opportunities since there are no longer wedding events going on. He finds occasional funerals to decorate but has had to face many challenges over the last couple of years. Painting has been his emotional outlet to maintain positive mental health during this time. Upon hearing that his work is being seen and sold in other countries and that he is being promoted abroad, Chhunly felt very excited. He felt that only experts could be featured and enjoyed in other places. Now, he believes that anyone, even someone like him, can paint to a global standard and be showcased around the world.
Going forward, Chhunly hopes to keep painting and show his art in more countries and work his way up to an art exhibition. PEPY plans to support Chhunly in developing an online platform as well as helping put together an exhibition in the United States and even Cambodia.
Interested in Chhunly’s work?
At the moment, Chhunly is working on building a portfolio for people to view his work. If you are interested to learn more about his work, he would encourage you to reach out to the PEPY team at email@example.com and we would be happy to help. You can share art concepts or pictures you would like by emailing him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chantuo, professionally known as Chan2, is an aspiring fashion designer who has overcome a lot of adversity in her life. Today, she is a member of the G4G artist collective initiated by PEPY scholar and Chantuo admirer Makara. Makara encourages Chantuo to create art and helps her build up a customer base. Chantuo works on drawings in her free time on Saturdays and Sundays, and after the collective sells the art, the profits are donated to Angkor Children’s Hospital and to rural schools.
Professionally, Chantuo has worked in design support at Pactics, a mask and glove production company, since 2020. She prints and creates designs utilizing Adobe Illustrator and Ecosoft printing software. In addition, she is training in sewing to increase her skills as a clothing designer and has begun to train herself on digital art. You can check out some of her digital work on her new page here.
While she is an accomplished artist today, her journey started at the age of 7. Chantuo began to draw for enjoyment by trying to recreate what she saw in nature, especially flowers in her village. Her grandfather always encouraged her to draw and would ask her to make a bird for him. He believed in her and by high school she wanted to focus on art as a future career.
Her focus on fashion and bright colors in her art comes from the bird that her grandfather would have her draw as a child. The bird represented freedom to Chantuo and she believes that a person and their art should have freedom of expression. Her drawings and sketches soon became focused on clothing and pop art with bright colors to celebrate individuality. Knowing that her art and fashion concepts are being viewed in other countries makes her feel so happy and makes her want to work on it more and more. She also hopes to be able to hold her own fashion show!
Within two years, Chantuo plans to graduate from university and move to Phnom Penh or Thailand to find a program focused on fashion design. We are so thrilled to continue to support Chantuo’s bright future!
Interested in Chantuo’s work?
You can of course get in touch with PEPY and we are happy to connect you! Otherwise, Chantuo is available by email at email@example.com. If you are in Cambodia and want to support the G4G collective you can reach them here.
We are so excited to see what both of these artists will accomplish in the future and continue to support them on their journey!