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A Talk With Lydia Liu on Being an Art Student at FSU

“Putting yourself out there more, and staying true to yourself and your values and what represents you as an artist, that’s what you should produce.” Meet Lydia Liu, a second-year student at Florida State University, who is an up-and-coming artist in Tallahassee. Passionate about her craft, Lydia, who is working toward a major in Studio Art with a minor in Textiles and Apparel Entrepreneurship, aspires to express her thoughts through her art. 

Ever since she was young, Lydia has always enjoyed drawing. She tells me that in elementary school, she used to stay inside during recess and just draw. During middle school, she took drawing lessons. As a high schooler, this activity only became a greater area of focus, and what began as a past time for her became her life’s passion. 

She loves the art community at FSU and admires every teacher she has had until now. She takes their advice to heart as she has learned so much from each one of them. To her, her art history teachers have especially exposed her to a life-changing perspective that has shaped her for life. To this, she adds, “The art history teachers I’ve had… have opened my view on the definition of art and how it can impact others.” Alluding to how she is now more appreciative of why art was the way it was in each era, and the great effect it has had and continues to have on society.  

However, it was not always easy for her. She tells me that there were various instances were some discouraged her from pursuing her dreams and would be judgmental of her choice based on the stereotype of the starving artist. In addition, she also explained that the stereotype of a young Asian going into a career in a high-paying field also affected her initial thoughts of pursuing art as a career, as she felt that this was a standard she had to meet. Still, she persevered and was determined to pursue her dreams. 

Little girl with a pink shirt sitting down with a red bottle on a yellow table and chips in her hand. Photo by Lydia Liu

First, she got involved with the art community in Tallahassee by attending the “First Friday” events at Railroad Square Art Park, where on each first Friday of the month, there is a gathering of local artists where their art is showcased in exhibitions, and one can get involved with the art industry firsthand. Lydia has also gone on to intern at Master Craftsman Studio, where she worked with a variety of new materials to her, such as wood, metal and glass, from where she says she learned a lot as well. Additionally, she also was an art mentor to students at Augusta Raa Middle School, where she taught them about different styles and prospects of art. 

When the coronavirus pandemic became prevalent, her life as an artist was tremendously affected, given that now everything she does has to be online, including classes and the exposition of her art, which is a burden. She prefers the more pleasant experience of being in person and talking with and learning from her peers. 

Currently, Lydia has a very defined interest in design. Thus in the future, she’d like to take her degree and go into the textile industry, and perhaps, later on, pursue a master’s degree in Textiles and Apparel Entrepreneurship. She sees herself writing a children’s book, a project she has had in mind for some time now, and goes on to explain that while most people look “for a stable job because they want the finances to keep up with their lifestyle, I just want a stable job [that will allow me] to pursue my passion while also having financial security.” 

Colorful painting of Breonna Taylor with royal blue background. Photo by Lydia Liu

When I asked about her favorite artwork, she specifically highlighted a portrait that she painted of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was killed in March of this year by three police officers in Louisville, Kentucky. She painted the portrait for  621 Gallery, which is currently holding a virtual exhibition space, for which she painted three ink drawings focused on ethnicity and race. In regards to the months of social unrest following events such as the death of Taylor, she said that while the situation is very unfortunate, it is important that “these issues were brought up, because now that more people are aware, we as a community, can work together to solve them.” She explained that if her piece is sold, the proceeds will go toward a non-profit organization. 

“As an artist, I think my work reflects myself and how I think art should be. The meaning of your art can be a personal message or a bigger message like pollution, so you can make something out of recycled materials. You always want to represent how you feel through your art.” And that is exactly what she does. Her hope of reflecting her interpretation of things through her art has turned into a reality that we can see in her artwork. Many qualify as remarkable her ability to bring life to a blank piece of paper. Today, as a successful rising young artist in Tallahassee, Lydia has a message to young artists, “people who are thinking about being art majors should take the initiative and become so, they shouldn’t be discouraged because the only thing holding you back is yourself. And that’s how it was for me.” A lesson that has not only applied to her artwork, but to her personal life as well. 

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