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About Traditional Art / Professional Clara LieuFemale/United States Recent Activity
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Clara Lieu
Artist | Professional | Traditional Art
United States
I am a professor, writer, and visual artist. I write an advice column for visual artists called "Ask the Art Professor" which is featured in the Huffington Post. I currently teach in the Illlustration department at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the past I have taught in RISD Foundation Studies, the RISD Printmaking department, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, at Wellesley College, and at the Lesley University College of Art and Design. For four years I was the Director of the Jewett Gallery.

My studio practice explores isolation and mental illness through drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. I have exhibited my work at the International Print Center New York, Bromfield Gallery, the Danforth Museum of Art, the Currier Museum of Art, the RISD Museum of Art, and the Davis Museum and Cultural Center. I have received grants from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and the Puffin Foundation.


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Artists are frequently identified with a specific style, it's what distinguishes them from the crowd. However, the path to finding your own artistic style may not be what you think it is! Read more:…


by Clara Lieu

Last week I did a reference photo session with a new model.  Up until this point, I had only been working with Sheila, an artist model at RISD who has been a good friend for many years.

I really enjoy working with artist models, there’s an intimacy that occurs with your models that is unique. In general, when I work with models, I never tell them exactly how to pose. I’ll provide some basic ideas about what I want them to do, but I don’t give specifics about how to pose their figure. When I was in graduate school, I had this professor who was really obnoxious about demanding that the model pose precisely the way he wanted.  He would tell the model exactly how to orient or position pretty much every part of her body, and the result was always a really stiff pose that looked fake and awkward.


With these drawings, I decided that I would give the models no direction at all.  Instead, I ask the model to stand and I talk to them during the photo shoot.  I want to capture the individual personalities of each model I work with, and it’s incredibly how completely different the experience is with each person.

What was striking about this new model was her extraordinary range of facial expressions. As she talked, I was amazed that she would jump from a perky smile to a haggard, anguished look.  She told me all kinds of stories about her life during the photo session, and it was fascinating to watch her face change as her stories covered a wide range of emotions


As I poured through the over 600 reference photos I shot, I was intrigued by the gigantic range of expressions.  What was engaging as well, was watching how the skin in her face pulled and stretched according to her facial expression.  The folds of skin were extremely dramatic, and I couldn’t wait to dig into some new drawings.

I shoot continuously during these photo sessions, so there is literally only half a second between most of the photos.  I found 2 consecutive photos that couldn’t have been more different.  The first photo was a very harrowing expression, which seemed tragic and pained.  The next photo was a warm, joyful smile. The way she could swing from one extreme emotion to the opposite side of the spectrum so quickly was really engaging to watch.


I had this idea that I would work with these two photos, and layer them on top of the other to demonstrate the way she inhabited two such opposite emotions in such a short span of time. This drawing (below) is the first phase.  I’ll create the second drawing, and then create a few thumbnail sketches so I can figure out how to get the two drawings to interact through the layering and tearing of the paper.


Related Articles
A Burst of Artistic Inspiration for the First Time in 2 Years
Anticipating a New Drawing Project
Drawing Again After a Two Year Drought
Drawing Experiments
Teaching Through My Artwork
Drawing Experiments:  Layered Drawings
The Tug of Thumbnail Sketches

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Add a Comment:
lyubitshka6 Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2016
Hello there, I know how it feels like putting your heart out to the crowds, whether its in painting or writing, and when I show my poems that I express myself in them, and try to explain the pain, I really wish I influence someone out there, because everyone is human and everyone experiences different types of emotions, and you, you defiantly influenced me and your art makes me feel mixed emotions that I cant explain, perhaps I should write a fucking poem about it, cuz your art is just poetic and absolutely beautiful. Some artists draw or paint people or objects that they make it look like a photograph instead of a drawing, and they're good at it but its so damn dull. And that's not the point of art, art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, and anyone who truly understands that knows exactly what art is. Honestly, you disturb me with those pieces of art, you make me feel so many things that my heart starts beating so fast, you might think im exaggerating but its the damn truth, lots of love.
Enigmapsyche Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
ArtofJefferyHebert Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Good Morning Prof. Lieu. I wanted to take a moment and tell you, your journals are a great insight and I enjoy reading them. I look forward to your posts.
claralieu Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for reading!
clalepa Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2015  Professional Photographer
Thanks for fav 

I have extended my gallery on FB and I would be very glad if you visit me. Here you have!

Thanks and regards from Spain,

LisaWB Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2015
I am so drawn to your work, particularly the falling series. When I read your profile, I understand just why it draws me. It is so powerful and evocative and it tells the story of inner demons that I can FEEL with my very depth. These are such profound works. 
claralieu Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
jghgrh Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Wow,stunning work,keep at It.
SandraPelly Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Your work touched me greatly.   It left me   speechless and stunned and at same time I felt as if someone finally understands. I  hope you have defeated your demons because I am still figuring mine.  Seeing your work gave me extra push to  sort myself out  and express myself more.   Thank you. 
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