Today we’d like to introduce you to Lucy Liew.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in Malaysia on the island of Borneo surrounded by beautiful tropical flora and fauna. I learned to appreciate plants and flowers from helping my mother in her garden. We grew orchids, hibiscus and bonsai. The plants thrived under her care and attention, and I was struck by the mutual benefit of this human-plant interaction.
My father was an avid photographer and photojournalist. He encouraged me to draw as a child and helped me develop my lighting and compositional skills. We also traveled together into the rainforest, visiting various indigenous ethnic groups to observe and capture their way of life in photographs. As we traveled inland rivers through the deep forest canopy, I was able to witness firsthand the beauty and harmony of nature. These experiences led me to develop an artistic language using the interplay of environmental and botanical motifs as metaphors to express human emotions, relationships and experiences in my compositions.
I went on to study at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, but it wasn’t until I traveled to Europe and experienced the amazing museums and art that I decided to pursue art as a career. I was struck with the scale and vast expanses of color in Monet’s water lilies in his home at Giverny. At the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome, I was enthralled by the ornate colors, spirals and swirls of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. In Munich, I was captivated by the colors, shapes and composition of Wassily Kandinsky’s work.
I moved to California in 1996, where I continued to develop my artistic style. Since establishing myself in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have been regularly participating in community open studio events and exhibitions. After many years as a professional artist at the Alameda Art Works in San Jose, I relocated to Sonoma County in 2016 where my work is in the permanent collection of several area hospitals.
Tell us about your art and the inspiration behind it.
I’ve always admired botanical illustrations and the symbolic traditions of vanitas paintings. I was intrigued that flowers, insects and objects could be used to express themes of life and death. I was inspired by the amazing floral details that Maria Sibylla Merian and Rachel Ruysch were able to capture in their mastery of still life paintings. But it was the beautiful boldness, scale and sense of life that Georgia O’Keefe brought to her modern botanical compositions that most strongly inspired my artwork.
Shortly after moving to Sonoma County, we were struck with a series of devastating wildfires in 2017, 2019 and 2020. These events led me to learn about fire ecology through the Pepperwood Preserve organization in Santa Rosa. This experience led me to develop my current series of artwork featuring themes of resilience, perseverance, and community in compositions featuring California wildflowers along with other flora and fauna.
My latest work features a large coastal poppy from a low vantage point. It was a windy day at the Point Reyes national seashore which caused the petals to ‘dance’ as I knelt down to study the flower in detail. I don’t know if the salt spray or soils are factors, but most of the Point Reyes poppies are a luscious butter yellow with a splash of gold in the center. I captured these details in my painting “Coastal Aurum”, which is derived from the latin word for “gold”.
Any news you want us to know about?
In the summer of 2023, I painted my first large-scale mural featuring colorful California poppies in a French bistro in Santa Rosa. It was a rewarding experience to challenge myself with something new by taking on a mural project. I wanted to produce something elegant, yet playful at the same time.
I must have struck the right balance as the mural has been very well-received! You can read more about my process on my website: My First Mural Project — Pascaline French Bistro and Patisserie (lucyliewart.com). My original paintings and giclee reproductions can be found on my website at www.lucyliewart.com.
- Website: www.lucyliewart.com
- Instagram : @lucyliewfineart