We had the good fortune of connecting with Vicki Liu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vicki, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk – Is a motivator. If things don’t work out, you still learn. Its necessary. I like sometimes not knowing what will happen with a piece. Success is something that has many faces. To me, if through taking risks I am pushing myself and my work as an artist, this is success. I find when I’m in a creative slump or not feeling inspired, just going into my studio, sitting down and just starting the process of creating without a specific intention really helps.
I tend to get quite distracted looking at social media, looking at all of the work other artists are doing and it paralyzes me sometimes…I want to create, I’m looking for motivation and what happens in return…is I demotivate myself by allowing myself to fall into the comparison game. Not so much comparing my work, but comparing myself as far as where I feel I should be at this point and time in my life as an artist. Why haven’t I done more shows? should I have an online class? a patreon account? am I posting enough work on Instagram? etc. But, in the end there is inherent risk in not creating, and that in the end is what drives me to keep working despite the concerns.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Where to begin?
I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. Since the first day in kindergarten when I mixed red and white paint, and got pink..I was forever in love with the magic of art. I have a BFA in Painting and Drawing with a Minor in Art History. Many people assume that because you went to college for art, that is what made you an artist. I couldn’t disagree more. Going to college for art was more about networking and the opportunities you had to further your focus on the areas you wanted to explore in your medium.
Where did I really grow? This is a rather simple answer, by being consistent in creating work. Allowing myself to fail, to experiment with a vast array of mediums, to work alongside artists I admire and visit art museums and galleries wherever I travel to absorb and learn whatever I could. I’ve had the creative spark for as long as I remember and while my work has changed over the years, as well as my focus areas (In college I focused on cityscapes in pastel)..one thing remains the same. The need and desire to create. When I don’t, I actually get quite anxious…like I have this energy I need to get out through creating a new piece of art.
All of us are shaped by the challenges we face in life and our work is inherently influenced by them. For me, one of the greatest challenges that I had to battle was the result of a pituitary tumor that caused me years and years of migraines, infertility and depression. Anyone of these things would be an obstacle to overcome on not just a physical but emotional level. The tumor had apparently been slowly growing for over a decade, and was only found once I started losing my vision. It got to a point that it was so large that is was pressing on my optic nerve for my right eye. I was starting to lose my ability to focus on my art, details were harder and harder to work on. I thought it was just “hormones” as my doctors for years had told me, but when I went to an eye doctor…they saw some concerning signs that lead to me getting an MRI, revealing a tumor on my brainstem the size of a lemon. This tumor had gotten to the point that it had nowhere to go, and started bleeding within itself, causing what I thought were “massive migraines”, but they were actually bleeds. It was debilitating pain…..
Once diagnosed, I was on the fast track for surgery (Summer of 2019) and after a 7 1/2 hour operation, I successfully had the entirety of the tumor removed. I feel very blessed (that is putting it lightly) and through the healing process, I had moments of introspection that I sadly feel only happen when we are faced with trials and the very real possibility that our lives could be lost or forever changed if something were to go wrong.
My faith grew, my connection to those around me grew, my appreciation for having another chance and life without pain was abounding. This inevitably influenced me in my art, focus and work.
Back to today, to who I am as an artist and how this blankets the work that I do. Given I was never able to have children, I’ve always been surrounded by pets. I’ve always been an animal lover, nature admirer and appreciator of the gorgeous, delicate, irreplaceable world we live in. So in those days of pain and uncertainty, my dogs were a constant source of love and emotional support. They were there, laying on my stomach when I felt sick, unable to move from the pain. They were there to make me smile when I started the day with blinding headaches. I always treasured that consistency, and they inspired me to paint pet portraits. I started by painting them, then my friends pets, and then through reference and word of mouth…commissions started coming in. I heard so many stories that were similar to mine…from others who were going through struggles and how their pets were that shining light in the darkness. That connection deeply resonated and created an invisible tie for all of us that just “knew” that gift that it is to be a pet parent.
I find deep meaning in my work, I don’t feel like I need to create anything other than work that inspires and means something to me and those who entrust me to create a piece for them. That connection right there is what drives me to keep growing as an artist, to keep sharing that passion. There is room for all art, all subjects. To be a small part in the community of artists who have been able to contribute to the vast library of art that has been made since our stories began as human beings is an absolute honor. My little niche, just happens to be pet/nature inspired pieces.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Where I live, just outside of Madison Wisconsin, I am blessed with valley views that shine with splendor as the seasons come and go. Whether it be a hike on the ice age trail or kayaking on the Wisconsin River, nature is celebrated and so very appreciated around here.
If I were to pick a few of my favorite local places to check out, they would be:
Art: Chazen Museum of Art – As part of UW Madison, this is a free art museum that has AMAZING visiting artists in residency, exhibitions and permanent collection (works by some favorites of mine: Tom Uttech & Beth Cavener).
Unique Shops: The Good Day Shop – This charming shop is on Monroe street and features handmade goods from artists and small business owners, focusing on socially and environmentally responsible goods. A must see!
Hatch Art House – This is an absolutely inspiring and charming gallery, filled with local artist work and unique pieces that can only be found here. A rare gem of a place that celebrates artists in such a special way, displaying works in all mediums and has affordable art for everyone!
Eats: Red Sushi is my absolute favorite local restaurant, with the best darn sushi you’ll find in the midwest. I stand behind that 100%. The atmosphere is gorgeous, great drinks, food and location downtown is the icing on the already splendid treat that is this restaurant.
Drinks: I’m an old fashioned loving girl, so of course “The Old Fashioned” on the square in downtown Madison is my go-to for my favorite drink. They have a “Door County Cherry” Old Fashioned that will make very cell in your beind dance. Who wouldn’t want that?
Botanical Garden: Olbrich. This is always one of the most highly recommended places to visit on any locals list around here. A free botanical garden that is just, its a slice of heaven here on earth. Gorgeous outside gardens, beautiful biomes indoors and an AMAZING Orchid Show held once a year, where I just…I just spend my whole pay check in that one weekend.
Art Destination: Mineral Point. A short drive from Madison, this little city is FILLED with galleries and studios galore. Whether you’re into pottery, glass, paintings, fiber arts…there is something here for everyone. This charming downtown was settled by Cornish immigrants and you can see their influence in the limestone mills and buildings that fill the streets of this town. Its such a special place that I always recommend people visit while they are in the area.
Frank Lloyd Wright: There are many buildings built by this architectural master in Madison, as well as homes built by his apprentices spread around the city. You can easily spend a day driving around the city, visiting Monona Terrace, or the Unitarian Meeting House by Wright, to the residential homes he designed. As an appreciator of his Prairie Style homes its a treat to have such a rich history here locally, to appreciate.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my amazing family. My late uncle Bob who took me to art museums as a child and really opened my eyes to the world of creating, asking questions, and convincing me I was capable of doing anything I set my heart and mind to. My husband Steven who is my biggest cheerleader. When I’m doubting myself, or feeling uninspired he is always in my corner motivating me to keep going. Having that support really does push me to keep growing and developing as an artist and I am so very grateful for that. My mom is always a source of strength and inspiration for me and my nieces Mikaela and Brie…they are amazing artists and their spark and awe of the world help me see the world constantly in a new and inspiring light.