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China Z. Hamilton 20 January 2008

China Z. Hamilton

Artist & world traveler turned advertising student

I grew up living in Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Mexico) for the first part of my life, and Europe for my teen years (Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Spain) and more recently the Caribbean (US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Jamaica).

I couldn’t feel more blessed by my upbringing and thankful to my crazy parents for giving me this amazing insight to our world, our people, our cultures. I homeschooled myself on-and-off throughout the years, and taught myself to draw, to write, to create, to direct & to lead. I am the oldest of five children, and so had plenty of siblings to share with, play with, and boss around a little. :)

When I was fifteen, my parents decided to buy a 90 foot steel navy ship from the 1960′s. The ship was docked in Denmark, so we moved the entire family to Svendborg, DK – including 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 guinea pigs and 2 rats. Did I mention that we’re crazy? We all lived aboard the boat, in a ship yard, off a dock – first in Denmark & then in Poland. After many, many cold, grey months (and bottles of Vodka) in Poland – we decided to abandon ship and move to Spain.

I was about 16 when I decided that I would actually like to graduate from a regular high school instead of just homeschooling myself, so I left my family in Spain and moved back to the states – to Ashland, Oregon.

I lived there on my own, and finished my junior and senior year of high school. I was involved in Theatre, Choir, and Speech & Debate. I was almost undefeated in Debate, and won a couple of regional championships. This success led to an invitation to the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. in 2001 – where I did have the opportunity to visit the twin towers, about 2 months before the tragedy. I also had the privilege of singing at Carnegie Hall with my high school Chamber Choir. We sang Mozart’s Requiem, and it was beautiful.

Fast forward a year or two, and I had convinced my family to leave the cold of Sweden (where they currently were) for the Caribbean! We moved to St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands where some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are.

Broke and living in a tent, on St. John – I decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of going to college – and I chose Portland because many friends from Ashland had migrated here. But before I left, plans changed, I met and fell in love with a Jamaican – we got married, and moved together to Jamaica. We filed papers to try and get him a visa so that we could move to Portland together. I am going to cut this story short, because it was painful – but the U.S. would not (and still will not) give him a visa. I was told I could either live with him in Jamaica, or live without him in the States – and I had to make the difficult decision; that my education came first. So I left Jamaica, and found my new love: Portland.

What are you up to?

I am currently a senior at The Art Institute of Portland – working towards my BFA in Advertising. I also run my own small freelance graphic design & advertising operation ( and was recently elected as President of our student-run ad agency BrashCreative. We do pro-bono work for local businesses as a way to build our portfolios while still in school.

I am also getting to know Portland’s professional arena so that I might have a better idea of where my talents will fit in after I graduate.

What are you into?

I’m an island girl & a Latin girl at heart – I love to dance! Reggae, dancehall, reggaeton, blues….music makes me happier than anything else in the world. I am also an artist, and I love to draw people. Recently I was able to do both of things I love at once – at the Northwest Reggae Festival I was hired to be a sort of performance artist, we had our own little stage next to the main stage, and we painted during the live performances…wow, that was so much fun.

What do you like most about Portland?

I love that Portland is like a tropical rainforest, just a little colder. It stays green all year long, that’s amazing. And while people complain about all the rain, I feel like this place is blessed with rain – it is so fertile, so alive. There are places like the hikes along Multnomah Falls or out by Germantown Rd. near St. Johns that are magical. That bright green moss that covers the trees – I love it! It inspires me, I want to go out there and just sit down and paint it. Even though I am used to some beautiful Caribbean beaches, I am also a river baby – going out to spend the day swimming in the river along HWY 6 heading towards the coast, is my favorite summer activity.

I also have to mention that the people here in Oregon are some of the friendliest people in the world – and I should know.

Is there a positive future in Advertising?

I believe that we are currently experiencing a revolution in the industry that is going to change drastically how things are done. There are so many new mediums & new ways to get people’s attention. I want to produce advertising that goes beyond its negative stigma – it will be advertising as an art form. What really interests me is guerilla marketing, getting out on the streets and doing things in the community that will gain you a loyal audience – this is as opposed to just printing something and hoping that people will see it. I believe that even now there is a lack of true creativity when it comes to promoting a business or product.

How did you decide that you wanted to go into Advertising?

This is a tough one. I just love to do so many things – and am inspired easily. My grandfather was a famous author, Donald Hamilton, and when I was around him, I felt like I could write. My uncle is an artist, and when I spent time with him as a child, I was suddenly producing these amazing charcoal portraits. I would watch a movie and the next thing I was doing was writing up a play, casting other kids, making their costumes, doing their makeup and directing a production that we would put on for our parents. I love to sing, and had the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall with my high school Chamber Choir. I was an undefeated Speech & Debate student for a while, and almost went into International Politics.

I looked at each of these talents, and saw a way that I could mix my artistic tendencies with my persuasive character, my knowledge of people & cultures, my directing skills, and even a way to change the world – through Advertising. A lofty goal, yes, but those are the kind of goals that I like the best.


Email, Website, LinkedIn

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