Sol Heo uses their gender and Asian heritage to inspire their art



Senior Sol Heo started to commission their artwork to pay off their cat’s medical bills. Their inspiration comes from being nonbinary and Asian American.

Your pet needs medical attention, and you need to raise money. What do you do?

When senior Sol Heo’s cat became ill and needed medical attention, Heo commissioned their art to pay the bills. Heo has been making art for as long as they can remember, and they often incorporate aspects of their identity in their art. Heo said their inspiration comes from being non-binary and Asian American.

Even though Heo’s cat is better now, they continue to sell their art. Heo said one of the reasons they make art for others is because they enjoy seeing people’s reactions.

“I like drawing for other people. I like seeing the expression that they make when they first see my paintings, and I really enjoy the process too,” Heo said.

Heo usually gets painting commissions, and they let people request mostly anything, but with some guidelines like size and type of paint. According to Heo, commissions take two to three weeks to make.

When Heo first opened up commissions, senior Amber Mickelson bought one to support Heo’s cat, and said she was impressed with the outcome.

“They delivered with a really great drawing. I wasn’t even expecting how incredible it was. They drew a space princess with a bunch of constellations and I believe they actually looked up constellations and recreated them,” Mickelson said. “The dedication meant a lot to me.”

Visual Arts teacher Donna Sartanowicz has had Heo for three art classes. Sartanowicz said she has noticed a maturity in the way Heo approaches art.

“I think they have a lot of courage in the way that they mine their own experience and thinking, and then respond to the challenges of the assignments in a way that is very rooted in personal experience which is not always easy for high school students to do,” Sartanowicz said.

According to Sartanowicz, quarantine has allowed Heo to spend more time working on their art, which has worked well for Heo because they are self-motivated.

“Sol has not missed a beat in this. The work they are producing is phenomenal and I think that something about the isolation has enabled them to focus more on their own experience,” Sartanowicz said. “They poured all of that energy and all that thinking into their work, and it’s really amazing leaps and bounds technically and conceptually in the work.”

The growth in Heo’s art is evident to not only their art teachers, but also to senior and friend, Era Laho. Laho said she can see Heo’s journey in their art and she is proud of how far Heo has come.

“I’ll see a lot of reflection on cultural differences between their American and Korean background, and of course their Korean culture. That’s really a beautiful thing to see,” Laho said. “There’s also a lot of reflection on their own struggles and challenges.”

Laho has also gotten several commissions from Heo and she said she has kept them all. She said she is happy that more people are able to appreciate Heo’s art through commissions.

“It’s wonderful to see that they are branching out and working with more people and letting their talents be shown,” Laho said.

Nevertheless, Heo is constantly looking for ways to better their artwork.

“I don’t have to say to them: ‘I think you should do a little more work on this, or I think you should rethink this. You could refine this a little bit more.’ They are already doing that for themselves,” Sartanowicz said. “Our conversations are much more artist to artist than they are teacher to student.”

Sartanowicz has witnessed Heo’s work change over the years, and she said she looks forward to seeing where they take their art.

“I have great admiration for them,” Sartanowicz said. “They have a great deal of potential and I really hope that I get to see where they go next because it’s really exciting to watch this start to unfold.”

If you’re interested in purchasing a commission from Heo, the prices range from 7-20 dollars. You can contact them at [email protected] and check out their instagram @h_solace12