Painting passions: the artistic journey of russet sounthala


Azriel Togle-Wilson

Russet Sounthala is a freshman at Kalani High School.

Azriel Togle-Wilson, Profile

Russet Sounthala (9) started drawing in 5th grade and realized his passion for it during quarantine. Now, Sounthala is lacing his room with art designs, with his very own stamps and clothing. 

“I’ve been realizing just how much you could do with art,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m limited with my options with art, then I realize, no! I can do whatever I put my mind to. I think that’s a really freeing thought.”

Sounthala has started learning about carving his own stamps and designing his own clothes. He paints doodles on his bag with fabric paint, plans to paint his cabinets and walls, has created stickers for his drawers, and is even starting to look into tattoo and graffiti designing.

“It all feels so great when I talk about it!” Sounthala said. “Art is just so cool and you can do so much with it.” 

When he first started getting into art, comparison was a huge obstacle for him, getting in between him and his passion. 

“I had a really bad problem with comparing myself to others.” he said “I used to have this friend who was super passionate for art and would always seem so happy to do it and I’d always feel so disconnected because I didn’t feel that way about art.”

This is a very common feeling with artists and anyone trying to begin something new. Sounthala had difficulty looking for inspiration and seeing other art styles made him feel “inferior” and like he would never improve.

“I had to realize that people see art differently and process things differently,” he explained.

Not only did this process create a passion for art, but he also learned life lessons about improvement.

“I do feel like it was worth it and made me a stronger person,” he said.

With this, Sounthala has been able to branch out into so many different fields. 

“Art takes time and practice, so don’t get mad at yourself if you don’t get it perfect on the first try,” he said. I don’t believe art can be ‘perfect’ but that’s what makes it so great.” 

Even with all his improvement and the new opportunities he’d found through art, the obstacles have not stopped.

“The idea that art will never be ‘perfect’ is both a freeing but draining thought at the same time,” he said.

Sounthala has had to face the difficulties of creative burnout while trying to improve his art as well.

To him, art burnout is an overwhelming feeling of drained creativity, leaving him constantly tired and stressed. It’s a state of perplexity, glued to this idea that no matter how hard he tries to push himself into art, he will never enjoy it anymore.

This feeling doesn’t just pertain to art either, Sounthala explains that this overall burnout is just about something you may personally enjoy, which to him, is art.

Sounthala usually tries to combat this creative exhaustion by drawing more, and continuously trying to improve.

A recent art piece done by Sounthala for a ninth grade ELA book report project.
(Russet Sounthala)

“At that point, it feels like more of a job than a fun hobby I’m passionate about,” Sounthala explained.

His burnout is usually caused by overworking himself, compelled to keep going until he creates something he’s proud of. However, when he overworks himself, he never feels satisfied anyway.

Usually, he just draws for fun or to pass the time, but this breakdown captures him in a “toxic cycle” more worried about the outcome of his drawings instead of enjoying the process.

“There’s just this giant sense of dread, needing to improve my art every time I draw,” he stated.

Sounthala has had an art block for a long seven months.

“I’ll be drawing for days on end then, then when I’ll try to stop because I know it’s unhealthy, I’ll take like 2 months,” he says. “Then when I revisit it again, thinking I got out of the art block, it just gets worse.”

With all the obstacles he has faced, his efforts, attempts, and journey are all the more impressive to look back upon.

Friends of Sounthala, such as Mio Sutherland and Cici Kim, appreciate and look up to him as they all feed off each other’s creativity and artwork together.

“Mio is always telling me how they think I’m such a creative person who can express themselves through art so easily, and it might seem selfish, but it really replenishes my motivation for art,” Sounthala explained.

On some of Sounthala’s worst days, Kim and Sutherland help pick him back up.

“Russet’s art has always been so inspiring, and as someone who draws and does art as well, it’s really cool to see his improvement along with my own,” Kim stated.

Sounthala still enjoys drawing, even with the challenges that come with it.

“Every so often, I’ll just hang out at his house, and we can just enjoy each other’s drawings,” Sutherland described. “I find his new endeavors with carving stamps and painting clothes so amazing. I have even thought about trying that stuff out myself as well!” 

Sounthala is forever improving, and with the right care, his passion for this hobby will stay forever as something to “enjoy the process” about every day. 

“Without art, I don’t think I would be half the person I am today,” Sounthala said.