Kristen Liu-Wong

October 15, 2018

Born and raised in San Francisco, Kristen Liu-Wong left home at the tender age of 17 for Brooklyn to attend Pratt Institute where she would major in Illustration. Since graduating in 2013, she has shown extensively in numerous galleries on the East and West coasts and some places in between and beyond. She now lives and works in Los Angeles. Kristen’s work blends everyday occurrences from her life with abstracted nightmares and crude humor. Trained as an illustrator, she tries to tell a story with every piece she makes, developing a personal and slightly sinister narrative within each painting. Using candy colors, heavy patterning, and tight compositions, the work draws inspiration from American folk art, the cartoons she watched as a kid, Shunga, and her appreciation for architecture. She is always striving to make work that is highly personal but altered enough to allow individual interpretations to be applied to every story she paints.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Kristen Liu-Wong and I’m a painter and illustrator from San Francisco who now lives and works in Los Angeles.

What is it like living and working in Los Angeles?

It’s been really amazing- I’ve been able to meet and work with some incredible artists and companies and I feel so grateful that I’ve had the opportunities I have had so far! The unrelenting good weather is nice (although I do miss autumn, especially now in October) but I’ve been having a great time since I moved here three years ago. All of the plant life and architecture have been really inspirational too.

What is influencing your work right now?

Well right now, amongst other projects, I’m working on a series for a show that will be centered around the idea of transformation (i.e. animals into people or people into animals)- I immediately thought of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology and ancient Greek art so I’m incredibly excited to explore this epic again!

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?

I recently released my first book with VonZos! And I’m about to release a limited edition pop up print with Poposition Press! I have a three-person show that I’m preparing for in February of 2019 in Madrid which I’m extremely excited about and I also have a two person show with Jillian Evelyn at Corey Helford Gallery planned for September of 2019. And in between those larger shows I will be participating in some group shows and working on illustration jobs.

Your style flows so seamlessly through different mediums, which is your favorite to work in?

I love painting especially since I feel like I can do the most and really challenge myself with that particular medium (I work in acrylic and acrylic gouache on cradled wood panel). I do however have a soft spot for drawing! I love really getting into the line work and since I started out drawing (for awhile, as a teen I was obsessed with Albrecht Durer) I always feel a bit looser and freer with a drawing.

What is your process like? Is it research based or more intuitive?

I do a fair amount of research. I look at a lot of other artists and I’m inspired by books I read, or paintings or films I see! I usually try to give myself a day to get inspired by something so I can then get an idea for a sketch which I’ll quickly thumbnail. Next I gesso my wood panel and I begin the final drawing on tracing paper. Once the final drawing is complete, I transfer it onto the panel and begin painting!

I love the hand painted vintage pieces you did for Adidas– when you get a commission or do a collaboration how do you balance giving the client what they want while maintaining your creative license and style?

It can definitely be a difficult balance with some clients but ultimately at this point in my career, I recognize that while it is important to stick to my scruples and trust my instincts since that’s the reason why I was approached, it is also my job as an illustrator to make the client happy so finding that balance can occasionally be difficult. There are a few things that I won’t give in to (the style in which I work is one of those things – if you’re approaching me for a job then don’t expect a hyperrealistic oil painting or an Ab-Ex masterpiece) but one of the best things about illustration (and one of the reasons why I majored in it) is because you need to be able to compromise and problem-solve. Gallery work is for doing what you want- illustration and commission jobs can sometimes be that but they’re also one of the more “practical” aspects of my job and they teach you important skills that can be applied to your personal work.

Your imagery reminds me of the aesthetics of the internet and being in my room on tumblr growing up, would you say you’re inspired by the internet or drawing on it in some way?

Yes, I think it’s inevitable that I’m influenced in some way by the internet since I’m 27 and living in a post modern world! I actually got into tumblr and instagram a little later than a lot of my peers since I’m pretty bad with technology, but I love the aesthetics of video games and computer graphics even if I suck at them.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be?

That’s hard to say because I haven’t had the chance to visit all the places I want to in the world! Of the places I’m familiar with my favorite place to be would either to be cocooned in my bed with snacks and a good tv show or there’s this one little park in SF by my old house that looks out on the entire city and is lush and quiet and wonderful.

What’s your current studio or workspace like? 

I live in a studio apartment and I work off of a $75 floor model desk! One of the reasons I work  so small is because I don’t have a lot of room- I can’t wait until the day when I can have a separate space for my studio!