Humans of Harker: Learning the universe through color and dimension

Pascal Han finds their place in the world through stories


Sarah Mohammed

“All the stories present, in a way, different views of the world. And to some extent, they’re all true. They’re all just looking at different parts of life and the world. I think for most of my life, [reading stories] has been a way to explore the world and explore things that I otherwise would never know about,” Pascal Han (12) said.

Holding a sharpened charcoal pencil in their loose fist that rests on a clean piece of paper, Pascal Han (12) stares into the distance, lips pursed, as they begin to outline in their mind a sketch of fan art, eyes tracing their surroundings as they imagine the shadows and edges and details of what will become their latest piece of artwork. 

“A lot of the time, drawing feels like trying to sculpt a big clump of dry sand, to replicate what I see in my head. And it doesn’t help but what I see in my head is actually pretty vague… a lot of the time I don’t actually know how to draw the things that I want to draw,” Pascal said. “I’m too busy to look up references. If I get sudden inspiration for something it’s hard to get something down before it fades.”

Even though connecting their mind to paper is not easy, Pascal perseveres, creating pieces without looking at references and trying to do justice to the ideas of artwork that have taken shape in their mind. Through art, Pascal has adopted a unique perspective on their art because they take the depth of their thoughts with them. Because of this, Pascal is able to review their own artwork with more multidimensionality. 

“When I am drawing, it’s easy for me to see the shortcomings, but when other people see my work, they are like, ‘Wow, this is so good’ — there is this gap between my perception of [my art] and other people’s,” Pascal said. “People don’t know about or see those ideas [I have for my art]. It’s easy to forget that. Other people see my drawings for what I put down instead of what it could be or what I wanted it to be.”

In this way, Pascal uses art as a means of developing the complexity of their thoughts and pushes themself to fulfill what their own imagination has come up with, rather than what other people perceive the piece to be. 

Audrey Liu (12), Pascal’s friend since third grade, is amazed by Pascal’s devotion to their craft, and the way they have not only been steadfast in their creating process, but also been able to showcase their talents to the world. 

“Seeing them be so dedicated to the things they love doing is inspiring to me. And it’s fascinating to see them share [what they love] with the people around them,” Audrey said. 

Pascal has been creating artwork since they were learning to write as a toddler — their artistic eye is something that has taken them through almost their whole life. Pascal’s interest in documenting an aspect of a story or an image that has resided in their mind through art has also manifested itself in their enjoyment of gaming. Pascal also started gaming when they were very young by being exposed to Super Smash Brothers through a family friend, and they have continued gaming throughout high school. 

“What follows me to games is mostly the visuals, either the story or if there’s some mechanic to it,” Pascal said. 

Pascal’s love for documenting and consuming ideas in different mediums connects to their love of storytelling. 

“Stories have been a big part of my life and sort of my go to for maintaining sanity when I don’t necessarily have regular social contact. There are tons of different stories and they can be uplifting or funny or heartwarming or grim and full of despair,” Pascal said. 

Pascal’s love for stories goes beyond pure enjoyment; similar to art and gaming, they have a unique perspective that they carry when they are reading stories, one which is broad and imaginative like their art itself, one that is reflective of the nature of the universe and their personal position in it. When they read stories, they are thinking about not only the characters and themes and messages in the world of the story but also the universe itself as we see it as humans. 

“All the stories present, in a way, different views of the world. And to some extent, they’re all true. They’re all just looking at different parts of life and the world,” Pascal said.  “I think for most of my life, [reading stories] has been a way to explore the world and explore [things] that I otherwise would never know about.”

Throughout their exploration of their hobbies, Pascal has maintained kindness, strength, and humility. Their adviser and upper school history and social science teacher Roxana Pianko has cherished watching them grow in this way. 

“I would encourage Pascal to continue to see their own strength because they have so many things of value, they have a good heart and they care. And I think seeing those as strengths, as positives will help them when the challenges come along,” Pianko said. 

With regards to storytelling, art and gaming, Pascal feels that what makes it worth it is the way they can escape various boundaries and meet with others who have similar experiences and perspectives. 

“There’s an opportunity to connect with other people who like the same thing and to feel less alone in that regard,” Pascal said. 

Audrey has been able to connect with Pascal, for both of them have been involved in art, specifically choral and instrumental music. She appreciates Pascal’s kindness as a friend. 

“They’re a really supportive person who is a really good listener and also gives really good advice,” Audrey said. 

Art, gaming and storytelling have all contributed to the way in which Pascal is able to see the world and process what is happening around them. Through art, they can take hold of their ideas and aim to reach the bounds of their imagination, while gaming helps them understand different subsets of stories and universes in which they can exist over the course of each game. Different frameworks of the world presented in different stories appeals to Pascal, also allowing them to understand the world in a deeper way. 

“If there’s one thing I know to be true it’s that the world can be many things all at once that might seem contradictory, if only because of the sheer scale of everything. There’s a lot of horrible things happening in the world. But there’s also a lot of good things in the world,” Pascal said. 

The careful eye that Pascal brings while perceiving the world around them and creating art has helped them in their search for selfhood. 

“Pascal is a very deep thinker, a careful art maker, and a person of many interests,” upper school visual arts teacher Josh Martinez, who taught Pascal in AP Studio Art and Photography classes, said. “Pascal [is] being, every day, more and more themselves and becoming who they feel like they want to be and gaining strength in that.”