From Psychology to Art, NYC-based Illustrator Lia Liao

Lia Liao is currently working as a freelance illustrator in NYC. She was educated as a psychologist until 2020 when she decided to become an illustrator and made it her career nowadays. Being a huge fan of films and literature, she constantly feels translations between different languages can make bias toward the original meaning. Languages can be tricky, so she chooses illustration to express feelings and emotions. By using her psychological knowledge, she grows a style that is rational and logical, but at the same time emotional.

Entangled, Digital, 2021

Thank you for joining us, Lia. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I currently base in New York and work as a freelance illustrator, being educated as a psychologist and recognize myself as a lifetime fan of films and literature. I didn’t start drawing until college, it was a hobby at first, to record my feelings towards movies and novels I love, later developed into my own way to express myself after I finished my graduate degree at MICA and SCAD. I pursue more meaning than visually fancy in illustrations, for me, art is my tool to learn the emotion and inners of people and the world.

Klara and The Sun, Digital, 2021

What brings you to art? What ideas are you exploring in your practice?

I would say the unreliability of languages and words lead me to art where I can communicate silently without misunderstandings. Text can be interpreted into different meanings in different contexts for different people. In my work, I want to deliver my sincerest feelings which I tend not to share with people in real life. In my work, I tend to explore a way to connect people with still images, using compositions, metaphors and color to deliver a certain emotion, hopefully can be received by audiences.

Klara and The Sun, Digital, 2021

Do you have a mentor that influenced your practice?

I Would say Tomer Hanuka, he has made many amazing illustrations for movies which enlightened me that what I treated as a hobby at that time can actually be made into a career. Although there are so many great illustrators who inspired me style-wise, Tomer Hanuka is still the most unique one for me.

Hide, Digital, 2020
Start The Fire, Digital, 2020

What does “community” mean to you? Has your local community inspired you as a creative?

In my opinion, a “community” shares a certain level of similarity which can be delivered through artworks and other forms of creation. It is an invisible bond which can be detected unconsciously. I personally feel no sense of belonging to every group I’ve been involved in geographically, but I do feel connected in the illustrators’ community where people use images to stand for themselves. Individuality does inspire me to be confident in who I really am.

Do you have any advice that you would offer to others?

Don’t be afraid to try, that would be my first advice. What I learn from my experience is no matter how far you are now from the world of art, there’s always a way towards it. And that path can define the uniqueness of your style.

A to Z, Digital, 2020
For Portland Monthly Magazine, Digital, 2021

text & photo courtesy of Lia Liao

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