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Art & Life with Kelly Lu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Lu.

Kelly, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’m an Asian-American who was born and raised in the South my whole life. I didn’t have a great childhood and moved place to place often so I could never have close friends and also went through a lot of bullying as a kid because I was usually the only Asian and naturally had a shy personality with a fear of everyone and everything. I always loved drawing though, I didn’t have to communicate with anyone and if someone happened to see and compliment me, it was one of the few times I felt accepted. Fast forward to college, I stopped trying to assimilate and fully accepted myself as someone who actually feels more comfortable being an outsider than not. This helped with my art a lot and allowed me to be more free and expressive and I really found my voice then. Once I had a solo show at the newest modern art gallery that opened nearby during my last month of college, I felt like I had done too much too fast and was quickly burning out. After that, I stopped doing any art for two years and moved to Japan. Now, I’m doing art full-time as a freelancer between Tokyo and LA. There were a few bumps and lots of sacrifices and existential crises, but I think 15 years old me would be very proud of who I am now.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I create a lot of drawings digitally these days, usually based on my feelings, events that happened to me, or just inspiration from a movie/book/comic. I usually draw portraits of girls using myself as reference sometimes, but they are who I wish I could be. Strong, heroic, dark, unapologetic to show their true nature whether it’s good or bad. I don’t like to draw conventionally pretty, happy girls because I feel like you can see that type of depiction everywhere. I like to keep my works open to interpretation and hope girls can find some strength in seeing women in unconventional roles.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
Don’t force yourself to be a starving artist. I personally don’t think that mindset is realistic, and you need to be healthy to make art because, in the long run, it can wreck your body if you don’t take care of it properly. If you need to get a day job that’s not art, don’t feel shame in that. My mentor who graduated with an art degree at Yale worked at a factory with long hours and painted at night and is now a successful artist, so his story really motivated me. I was a teacher for two years before I decided to really pursue art professionally, it was a difficult leap to make, but if you can’t see yourself being happy doing something else then don’t give up because there will always be a way.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I have an online shop, that I make merch for. Right now, since I’m working full-time and also going back to school again for VFX it’s hard for me to look around for potential shows, but definitely, in the future, I’d like to have one.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kelly Lu

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