This Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we asked five teachers from the Skillshare community to identify a word of personal significance from their culture and create new artwork based on that word. We invite you to experience these powerful introspections in our month-long series and celebrate these creatives by learning more about their respective backgrounds.

Discover how a word, a memory, a tradition can manifest into something uniquely meaningful for each individual — and maybe even spark your own idea along the way.

Meet Ohn Mar Win

Top Teacher Ohn Mar Win is a UK-based illustrator and surface designer who has produced 25 Skillshare classes to date. That fact is not surprising when you get to know this prolific creative. Ohn Mar is used to wearing many hats: stay-at-home mom, entrepreneur, activist, teacher, and full-time artist.

Over 20 years ago, Ohn Mar started her illustration career as an in-house designer creating greetings cards and stationery. Today, due to persistence and an unmistakable style, she is a highly sought-after illustrator known for her textural food illustrations which have appeared in cookbooks under publishers like Kyle Books, Barnes and Noble, Quarto Publishing, and The Sunday Times Magazine. Never far from her work is a commitment to shining a light on her Burmese heritage and aiding the people of Myanmar. Read on to discover Ohn Mar’s story of perseverance, the role of art in Burmese culture, and how we can all speak up in the name of justice.

What word did you choose to share with the Skillshare community?

My word is ‘all’ in Burmese pronounced ‘aarrlone.’

Can you define ‘aarrlone’ for us and tell us why it holds meaning for you?

In the Burmese language, ‘aarrlone’ is used in the context of a gathering of people, whether an extended family (as we all have lots of aunties), a community, or any large group who have come together for a special purpose. Often these gatherings are a chance to catch up with old friends, accompanied with much laughter, and always lots of home-cooked food.

Describe your final artwork for us. What does this illustration represent?

All these couples in traditional costumes represent just some of the many ethnic groups that make up Myanmar, as it has land borders with India, China, Thailand, Laos. The main ethnic groups living in the seven ethnic states of Burma are the Karen, Shan, Mon, Chin, Kachin, Rakhine, and Kayah, although there are over 130 groups. Just recently after the military coup, many ethnic groups are now united and taking a stand against the brutal military dictatorship. This illustration shows [how] if we can all join together as brothers and sisters we can be a stronger and more fearless force to be reckoned with. Even I’m a mixture of Mon, Kachin, Chinese, as well as, Bamar.

This piece is totally a personal passion project which I talked about in my last Skillshare class, Transition Into Illustration: Breaking Into The Industry. Passion projects are very niche and based on ideas that interest you on a personal level, not what you think will attract clients. Often, I feel a special spark of energy will show through, and the illustration will carry a certain freshness and positive vibe.

How has your heritage influenced your creative process and style?

Art has always been an integral part of the culture of Myanmar and historically important. Mediums like blacksmithing, lacquerware, painting, and woodcarving have survived war, insurrection, revolution, and the long passage of time to persevere. Those are the keywords: perseverance and resilience.

These characteristics have been key to my success as an artist and I trace that back to the many strong women from both sides my family who would be running creative businesses, like weaving or goldsmith, and looking after their family trying to find solutions and ways forward.

What are ways our community can celebrate the creative contributions of API makers and artists this month and beyond?

API creatives have so much to offer. Explore the vast and diverse landscape of API cultures and histories. Read books, listen to music and podcasts, watch movies, and admire artwork by API creators. Support artists financially by buying a print, commissioning some work, or buying them a cup of coffee! 

Since February 1st, Myanmar has been in the midst of a brutal military coup. Since then, over 700 people have been killed, over 3,000 arrested and thousands more beaten, wounded or abused, including women and children. People’s access to information and the Internet have been significantly curtailed. 

While the junta fights with bullets and weapons, artists in Myanmar have been fighting back with art since day one. The three-finger salute in particular has become a symbol of unity, defiance, and hope – not only in Myanmar but across the milk tea nations from Thailand to Hong Kong to Taiwan.

Raise Three Fingers is a resistance movement calling for artists and allies around the world to create their version of a three-finger salute to shed light on the situation in Myanmar. I have been creating a three-finger salute every day since the coup to maintain awareness of the dire situation in Burma.

Artists and creatives in Myanmar continue to be arrested for simply making art and speaking out against the coup and many are now in hiding. It’s more important now than ever for the international community to raise three fingers in solidarity with Myanmar artists.

I invite Skillshare’s creative community to join me in contributing to a global canvas of three-finger salute art to keep Myanmar’s fight for democracy, freedom, and human rights going strong.

To join the global salute:

  • CREATE the three-finger salute in your preferred medium.
  • SHARE on your social media and tag @Raise3Fingers with the hashtags #ThreeFingers #FightWithArt #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar
  • INVITE and TAG three other artists to join you.
  • UPLOAD to threefingers.org.

Join Ohn Mar in Class!

Transition Into Illustration: Breaking Into The Industry


About the author

Evan Neuhoff (he/they) is a non-binary Filipino-American writer living in Houston, Texas. Evan writes at the intersection of gender and racial identity, generational trauma, and the queer experience.