TEDxUCLA 2018: Waves

It’s not about the sugar: art and self-discovery


About Krystle

Krystle specializes in creating hyper-realistic artwork as well as video, website and Photoshop content. Artistic and creative content has been commissioned by marketing companies, families, political figures, as well as professionals in the music and movie industry. In the past Krystle has worked with MTV, The Jacksons, Jamiu Abiola, Kevin Hart, West Elm and many others.


Hello. This is a bag of sugar. Sugar is awesome.

You can put it in your food and it makes everything taste sweet. Sweet food is great, right? But it can also be something else. Sugar can also be an art medium.

To me, it’s something that can be laid on a painted black canvas. It’s the white in a monochrome art piece. Now that may sound weird. Actually, that probably does sound weird.

Usually when I tell people I create artwork out of sugar they say, “Sugar? What do you mean sugar?” Well, I mean table sugar. “Really? You can do that?” Well, yeah. And then they sort of nod their head and say, “I still have no idea what you’re talking about.”

This is my first sugar piece. It’s Zoe Saldana. I had never seen or heard of anyone working with sugar in this way before, but I had an idea to try something different, so I did. Up until this point I had been creating and selling my ballpoint pen artwork to people and companies in the entertainment industry. Before that I worked in the corporate world for a number of years but ended up quitting with no safety net because I desperately wanted to find something to be passionate about. You might call it a quarter-life crisis. With all of that new free time, I rediscovered a childhood passion: drawing. And then a new one: sugar.

I had an idea to try something different, so I did. What can you do with an idea? You can move little granules of sugar around on a painted black canvas until it’s Zoe Saldana’s face, or a lion, or a bee, or a motorcycle, or a wave.

I’ve been asked so many times, “Why did you decide to start working with sugar? What makes sugar so special?” Well, it’s not about the sugar.

As we grow older, one of the first things that we stop using is our creativity. It’s harder to be a creative person when responsibilities start to develop in life. When you’re sitting behind a desk for eight or more hours a day, when you can’t seem to find the time, when you’re negatively judged and just give up before you’ve really had the chance to try. Adulthood can turn a creativity or a passion into a hobby and then into something you used to do.

So, what makes sugar so special? It’s not about the sugar. It’s not about what form your creativity takes. It’s the fact that you do it and enjoy it. It’s about coming up with an idea and trying it. It’s about putting yourself out there. It’s about seeing what is possible and what you can do. It’s about finding the time. And it’s about doing something.

What if doing something like moving little granules of sugar around on a painted black canvas could change the world? It may not, but it could.

Your own kind of creativity or passion can change and develop you. It’s about not letting adulthood or opinions get in the way of you.

I want to leave everyone with a quote that I think of when I’m trying something new. It’s by Winston Churchill. “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Thank you.