Vancouver artist Anita Ho has a vivid imagination. So, she let her creativity loose when designing a dragon for a piece she calls Rising. It caught the attention of organizers of The Lantern City exhibitions, which celebrate Lunar New Year in Vancouver.
“According to the Asian Lunar New Year calendar, it’s the Year of the Dragon soon,” Anita tells Pancouver over Zoom. “So, that was the focal point of the image.”
The Lantern City exhibitions have the theme “Born to Be Free”. As Anita reflected on this phrase, she thought about how it applies to her life. Anita was born in Vancouver and she views Canada as a “relatively free country compared to other countries”.
“Born to Be Free meant for me to follow your passions and dreams freely,” she says.
Anita quips that being an artist is not normally among the top 100 career opportunities that people in Asian households pursue. But in Canada, she felt sufficiently free to do this.
“The symbol of the dragon represents strength—inner strength as well,” Anita points out. “So, I liked the idea of having the dragon representing people who are struggling to attain whatever their idea of freedom is.”
Rising will be featured at The Lantern City exhibition Forever Young at Granville Island from February 9 to 26. It will be at Ocean Artworks alongside other lanterns with designs by artists Tajliya Jamal, Sara Khan, Seeroro, and Weiwei Xu, and Studio 101/Eastside Arts Society.
Anita conveys struggle for freedom
“Returning to Granville Island, the Forever Young lantern series captures the joy of our inner child,” The Lantern City exhibition states on its website. “With bright colours that re-inspire our imaginations, a sense of the magical and the whimsical, these artists show us the sky’s the limit.”
Anita’s design shows a dragon emerging from the water and rising vertically toward the sky. She illustrated several smaller dragons in the background around the larger creature.
“I wanted to convey that you’re not alone in your struggle and your chase for freedom,” Anita says. “There are people who are still struggling and people out there who haven’t attained it.”
For the artist, showing Rising at Granville Island is a full-circle moment. Anita has been drawing ever since childhood. Moreover, she completed the four-year undergraduate program in illustration at the former Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus on Granville Island.
Even though she took only one animation course, she landed a job as a video-game artist.
“I really enjoy the fact that my childhood passion became pretty much my career now.”
Lunar New Year memories
She’s thrilled to have her art displayed during Lunar New Year, which has always been a big event in her family.
“When I was a kid, we’d meet up at my grandparents’ place on my mom’s side,” Anita recalls. “We would all come together—uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews. And my grandma and one of my aunts would cook up a feast.”
The grown-ups handed out red-pocket envelopes with money to the young ones. Now, as adults, Anita and her relatives get together for a big lunch.
In her day job, Anita designs images for Codename Entertainment’s Dungeons & Dragons game, Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms. She has also done a great deal of freelance work. That included illustrating two children’s books, Please Don’t Go in the Dryer! and Sophella’s Birthday Wish.
“I’m very fortunate to do art as my full-time career and also do some very cool art projects on the side,” Anita says.
To learn more about lantern exhibitions at Granville Island, Jack Poole Plaza, šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énk Square, and the Pendulum Gallery, visit The Lantern City website. Anita lists more of her projects on her website. Follow Anita on Instagram @anitartlet.