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    • CiCi Liu's art work "Where’s Waldo, Really?" which won the 2020 Scholastic Judges Award.

Artist of the Issue: Cici Liu

Anand Choudhary '22 Assistant Arts Editor
Cici Liu ’20 has dabbled in all types of art since her first year at Hopkins.
From traditional media, such as pencil, to less traditional approaches like digital art, her current favorite, Liu has tried it all. 

Liu has always been interested in the arts, but her passion for art was ignited at Hopkins. “I remember my seventh-grade English class with Mrs. [Donna] Fasano - we were reading 'The Secret Garden,' and we had an artistic project where we would create our very own Mary and hide symbols in the character.” Liu continued, “Mrs. Fasano was so supportive and loving with my creation and created new projects for me to express myself - she has always been a big fan of my art since the very start. She made me realize that art wasn’t just a project, but something I truly loved and needed to be myself. She encouraged me to pursue it, and I did.”  Since then, Liu has completed almost every studio art course on the Fine Arts track. 

Liu’s “favorite pieces are probably [her] illustrations, including the Hopkins Alumni invitations and the illustration for the Hopkins Magazine accompanying Dr. Bynum’s letter. I loved the freedom I had with those projects, as well as being able to produce something so meaningful for the school as a whole,” she said. Liu also loves focusing on people in her art:“I like exploring the relationships people have with each other through faces and interactions portrayed in my pieces.”

For the past several years, Liu has been in charge of designing many of the shirts for Hopkins events, including Homecoming and Field Day. She gave some insight on the process: “I work really well with deadlines. When I’m given a theme or told certain elements I should incorporate, I can come up with a draft of what the design can look like. I then send the drafts and ask for advice - whether it needs alteration, etc, and then I proceed or edit.” Liu’s work doesn’t come easily to her, however. She finds herself “working in shifts of an hour,” while the design takes around five hours to make (not including time for brainstorming). For Liu, specific directions help with her inspiration, as it allows her to “incorporate all the elements into one comprehensive design in my style. I used Procreate on my iPad as well as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to design the shirts. I usually combine the different apps and combine the features they offer.”

It took time and guidance for Liu to find her niche in the arts at Hopkins.  Liu remarked, “I think one of the biggest challenges for me was to actually embrace my love for art, since Hopkins is really a STEM-focused school. I felt like I was kind of boxed into...STEM, and for a while made myself very STEM-oriented. I didn’t completely embrace the artsiness (which is actually really prevalent when you look for it) since I felt like I wasn’t surrounded by a lot of people with similar aspirations.” 

English teacher Ian Melchinger and Math teacher Michael Van Leesten helped her overcome these trepidations. Liu said, “Mr. Van Leesten and Mr. Mel have always been supportive as amazing mentors— whenever I had a hard time in school academically or personally, I knew they were always there to talk to me. They make me comfortable sharing my thoughts and opinions, and they are my best friends. They always make time for me, and it makes my experience as an artist and Hopkins student so special.” She continued,  “Mr. Van Leesten has been with me since the 7th grade, so he was really able to see me grow as a person— he saw all my ups and downs through the years— and he taught me many lessons that I will carry on with me forever.  He always offers me insightful advice on whatever I need, and I know he truly cares about his students. Mr. Mel is an amazing, passionate, driven person to talk to about art— or anything— he is so knowledgeable about everything and has been through the whole art career path, all the ups and downs. He is honest with me, and he never sugarcoats anything— that’s what makes me love him. I do not censor myself with Mr. Mel— something about him makes talking to him so easy. He knows every struggle I had in art, and is able to help me overcome them with advice from personal anecdotes and experiences. Having someone like Mr. Mel makes art never lonely, and he is able to brighten up anyone’s day. People like them make my Hopkins experience whole and a lot happier.” 

Liu has always looked up to the artists of her generation, but could never compare them to those around her in the Hopkins community. She finds that those surrounding her in the Hopkins community have made a more personal impact on her than any influencers of her generation. Liu hopes “to take Mr. [Peter] Ziou’s appreciation for beauty and art in everything along with Ms. [Jackie] Labelle’s constant happiness and love with me forever. They influenced me a lot and helped me choose my path as an artist-- they guided me through Hop. I can never describe in words how thankful I am to have them.” 

While reflecting on her time as an artist at Hopkins, Liu thinks one of the biggest lessons she’s learned is to look past what other people are doing and focus on what she enjoys. “Everybody is supportive, and nobody is judgmental if you’re truly happy,” she says. For a while, Liu was so focused on what many people consider the typical Hopkins experience– all work and no time for creativity or fun– that she didn’t realize how miserable she was. “Once I made the observation,” she said, “everything changed. It doesn’t take a place to be happy, but it takes what you do– and it is one of the biggest lessons I will take away with me.”

Liu plans to pursue her love and interest in the arts in college and will be double majoring in computer science and visual arts. She plans on combining her interests in both subjects, “similar to [Math and Comupter Science teacher] Dr. [Dan]Gries!”

To anyone who wants to try their hand at the arts, she says, “DO NOT BE AFRAID! If you look for it, you will find what you are looking for. The best thing about Hopkins is the resources and support you will get from the faculty, so don’t be worried to reach out to them. They are truly the best and will be there for you whenever you need it, especially the Arts Faculty! They are amazing, and will always be there for any of your projects, even if they’re ridiculous (been there, done that).”
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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
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