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YOUR PRESENCE MATTERS.
SMC Alum meets with First Lady Michelle Obama by invitation from The White House Historical Society
By: Jamie Solis
Andrew Hem is a great example of a Santa Monica College Alumnus who went on to accomplish many impressive achievements. Coming to SMC from Santa Monica High School class of ‘99, Andrew earned an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts after realizing that focusing on his passions would help him attain the success he’s always dreamed of. This summer, Andrew was one of five chosen artists out of the whole country to be honored by The White House Historical Society for his captivating paintings.
Andrew first came to SMC without a clear intention of what he wanted to pursue. With a background in street art, he decided to take his very first art class, which was figure drawing. After receiving direction and support from numerous SMC professors, including Professor Marc Trujillo, Andrew explains why he decided to focus his education on fine art, “It was an easy transition for me. Before that I only did graffiti, and I mainly did lettering. As soon as I made that transition, it was easy for me to change to figure drawing because of the shapes and cylinders—graffiti is all about shapes and cylinders.” Andrew is very grateful to Professor Trujillo, as well as many other SMC professors that were dedicated to encouraging him to get better at his craft.
The drawing classes Andrew took at SMC helped him reach the level of professionalism he is at now, because it gave him the strong drawing background that was necessary to strengthen his painting. After earning his AA degree, Andrew transferred to study at Art Center in Pasadena. He now considers himself a figure painter, with a focus on stylized figures. Receiving support and guidance at SMC helped Andrew work towards many prestigious endeavors, which include landing a visit to The White House, and traveling around the country giving speeches to art students.
The opportunity to go to the White House was so unreal, he initially disregarded the invite email he received from the society as a scam. Once his friend called The White House and confirmed the event honoring him was in fact legitimate, he jumped at the opportunity to attend.
While receiving his honor at The White House, Andrew met some of his idols, which solidified how far he’d come in the art world. Not only did he get to shake hands with Michelle Obama, Andrew was in shock when he saw his idol of the art world stepping out of a taxi cab, and walking towards the line he was standing in. Andrew has looked up to artist Barry McGee since he began practicing art when he was a young teenager. Being able to meet and talk with his all-time hero, and at The White House of all places, was an amazing encounter for him. He described it as the best experience in his art career so far. Since his recognition, he hasn’t stopped traveling, and has continued to be invited to give lectures nationwide.
Although Andrew is self-described as shy and not very talkative, he has been giving lectures at art schools across America. His first lecture was at Otis College of Art and Design, where he spoke in front of approximately 400 people. Not only did he give a speech, he also painted a demo that was projected on a big screen. It was a challenge he had to overcome, because he was worried if his painting was good enough, and unsure if he’d be able to keep the crowd entertained for four hours—he didn’t want the crowd to fall asleep watching paint dry. He’s grateful for the speech class he took at SMC, because it still helps him in situations like this today. Remembering the basics like making eye contact with everybody and to constantly practice his speech are pointers he has never forgotten as he continues to lecture across the country.
Since graduating from SMC, Andrew has been asked to paint many large murals, including one on the eBay building in downtown Los Angeles. He plans to continue painting everyday and working hard to improve his techniques. He knows that it’s a struggle being an artist, whether you’re a rapper, photographer or in any other field, because you’re constantly trying to innovate and reinvent yourself. He wants to do something amazing and live beyond the expectation that he’s already set. Andrew will continue to paint more murals, because it’s something he really enjoys. Overall, there’s nothing he wants more than to become a master in his field.
When Andrew is not pursuing his life as a figure painter indoors and outdoors, he enjoys spending the little free time that he has riding his scooter, watching movies and hanging out with his girlfriend. While he says his hobbies aren’t too impressive, being invited to meet with Michelle Obama at The White House is pretty monumental.
For more on Hem's work, go to the source: www.andrewhem.com
College President Dr. Chui L. Tsang meets with Hem and talks about potential mural painting onsite at SMC.
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