I paint vibrant uplifting compositions of California flora and fauna because I am inspired by the beauty of the ordinary that is often overlooked in nature. My works evoke a sense of intimacy and childlike wonder through magical compositions featuring low vantage points and close-up detail. This interplay between the foreground elements and background images or patterns allows me to weave themes of resilience and adaptation into the story of each painting.
Wildflowers are one of my favorite storytelling elements; they represent hope and tenacity in the face of challenges. Thriving in diverse conditions through droughts and wildfires – they are survivors. California’s stately oaks introduce a theme of quiet strength and perseverance. “Grandmother Oaks” are hundreds of years old and become important landmarks to give a sense of time and place. Hummingbirds and pollinators bring life and movement to the composition as well as conveying symbiosis and harmony.
My paintings begin to take shape in my mind, before I set foot in my studio. Nature is my “incubator” for new ideas as I gather photos during hikes through California’s parks and open spaces. In many cases, a story emerges from a scene or an encounter that I experience while hiking. At other times, a story emerges as I research the plants and wildflowers that I discover. Once the narrative is established, I make small sketches in pencil and watercolor using my photographic references to introduce and arrange elements, focusing on line, shape, form, color, and space to develop my composition.
I start with large brushes and broad strokes to apply a color wash underpainting to the canvas to develop depth and tonal value. Next, the narrative elements are introduced onto the canvas. A sense of movement, depth and fluidity is imparted through layers of vertical lines of varying lengths and intensity. The composition is further developed and refined until the vision in my mind is realized. Ultimately, I hope to draw the viewer into the narrative of my work, so their life experience becomes part of the story.
Lucy Liew is a Malaysian-American artist whose paintings have been described as a “rich tapestry of color” a reference to her colorful, multi-layered painting style and the interplay between organic curvilinear elements and foreground representational images. Her artwork is characterized by a vivid color palette, rich cultural iconography, and captivating symbolism. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibits both nationally and internationally and can be found in both public and private collections around the world.
Lucy’s paintings draw upon her personal experiences and identity as a woman of Chinese-Melanau descent growing up in Malaysia. Lucy’s father, a photojournalist and ethnographer, encouraged her to draw as a child and inspired her penchant for lighting and compositional skills. Lucy also traveled with her father, visiting and researching various ethnic groups on the island of Borneo to observe their way of life. As they traveled inland rivers through the deep forest canopy, Lucy was able to witness the customs, rituals and harmony of the indigenous cultures. With these images indelibly printed in her mind, Lucy developed a language of her own by using indigenous symbolism and botanical motifs as metaphors to express emotions, relationships and experiences with the concept that all things in nature are interconnected.
In her senior year of high school, she studied under Master Lam Siong Onn and further developed her drawing and watercolor painting skills. Lucy went on to study at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, but it wasn’t until Lucy traveled to Europe that she discovered her true passion to pursue art as a career. She 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, she experienced the ornate colors, spirals and swirls of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. In Munich, she was enthralled by the colors, shapes and composition of Wassily Kandinsky’s work.
After graduation from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Lucy was awarded a prestigious Commonwealth Foundation fellowship to study textile design in England. Upon her return to Malaysia, she started her own studio, where her art soon caught the attention of oil giant Petronas Corporation as well as a growing base of private collectors. Lucy’s work was also added to the permanent collection of the National Art Gallery in Malaysia.
Lucy eventually immigrated to the U.S. to pursue her art career and further develop her own artistic style. One of the changes Lucy made after her arrival was to start exploring with acrylics; often diluting the paints and using them like watercolors or applying a lighter base to build up layers of translucent colors. She began employing a wide range of brush strokes; from sweeping washes of background color, to bold swirls and luminous tendrils and finishing with fine illustrative details. Viewers are invited on a magical journey through lush compositions that are a fusion of the real and the fantastic. Since establishing herself in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lucy has been actively participating in Silicon Valley Open Studios, and her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions. In addition to receiving several awards and recognitions, she was also awarded a branch library project by the City of San Jose.
Although Lucy has been living and working in the U.S. for almost two decades, she is still connected with the rainforests of her childhood through her support of organizations protecting the rainforest habitat of the rhinoceros hornbill and other endangered species. These organizations are working to establish networks of protected areas as well as promoting productive forests, and other sustainable land uses that maintain the biodiversity and natural resources for the prosperity of the animals and people who rely on them.
Lucy currently resides in Santa Rosa and is part of the vibrant Fulton Crossing artist community in Fulton.
Get in Touch
If you want to book an appointment, find out more about a painting, or just get in touch, please contact me here and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!