Embrace the Unexpected Developments, NYC-based Illustrator Linda Liu

Linda Liu is a hungry illustrator with a taste for tactile textures, saucy shapes, and palatable palettes. She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design and is currently working as a designer and freelance illustrator in NYC, where she simultaneously marvels at the New York bagel and misses the Los Angeles taco.

I Invented the Gender Reveal Party, Watercolor & Digital, 2020

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Linda, an illustrator. People tell me they like my art because I make mundane things and ideas look magical, which is probably because I lead a very boring life, so I get very invested in mundane things. When I draw a scene of a person cleaning a mirror, or a row of potted plants, or a rotten apple, I want viewers to also think about the self-reflection of cleaning a mirror, or experience the competitive growth of those plants, or over-identify with that apple.  

Smart TVs for Dummies, Digital, 2019

What brings you to illustration? Is there a theme you are currently addressing?

I’ve always enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of drawing. What’s the best way to portray visual elements in order to communicate an idea to an audience? Illustration is essentially the solution to that question. I think of my current style as my personal shortcut to creating solutions. I used to have a much more work-intensive, render-heavy process, but the pace of my thoughts far outstripped the pace of my workflow. My own style became an inefficient way to articulate concepts, so I started experimenting in an attempt to find the fastest, easiest route to creating pieces that said everything I wanted them to. At some point I hit upon a new process that was comfortable for me. And later this process started yielding pieces that looked good and made sense. So I guess that’s the theme throughout my work—finding a way to tell viewers something in a voice that’s comfortable for us both.  

Panacea, Watercolor & Digital, 2018

You’ve been very active during the past few years. What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far?

When I look back on the past few years, it’s not so much the milestones that excite me, but rather the baby steps—things I didn’t expect would get me far. Three years ago I took a watercolor class for the first time, and now watercolor is what my art is known for. One year ago I picked up a tablet pen for the first time, and now it’s become a big part of my process. I think it’s an expectations thing. You expect and anticipate achievements like earning a degree or getting published, but often that experience doesn’t change your life the way you fantasize it would. In contrast, picking up and working on a new skill or technique might lead to unexpected developments in your life. You might not even realize how you’re evolving, because we get used to things once they become habits. But when you do notice that change, it can be surprising how far you’ve come. And that’s an exciting discovery to make. 

Strength in Diversity, Watercolor & Digital, 2019
Comparing Growth, Watercolor & Digital, 2018
Seeking Clarity, Watercolor & Digital, 2019

What does “community” mean to you?

People with shared experiences and shared identities. Like a family, a community doesn’t always consist of people you get along with most or even people you agree with most. To me, it’s the people that you grow up and grow with, that you call out and call upon, that you support and are supported by, that make a community.

Magic Girl Transformation, Digital, 2020

What do you find the most challenging about pursuing art?

Being the right person at the right time. I’d always thought my career as an artist would follow a domino path—landing certain gigs and driving the resulting momentum into a series of more opportunities. But it hasn’t actually worked like that! Opportunities have been far more scattered; a job here and there, even at my most proactive. I think the challenge of pursuing art is trying to follow the path others have taken to success and finding that oftentimes, your trajectory is not something you can control. 

Infant Mortality, Watercolor & Digital, 2019

What are you working on right now?

The usual—finding a way to work and make work that feels comfortable. 

A Hope for Healing, Watercolor & Digital, 2020
The Pied Piper, Watercolor & Digital, 2019

text & photo courtesy of Linda Liu

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