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KRISTEN LIU-WONG: BEGINNINGS

I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. My mom and my grandmother raised my older sister and I. My mom was an elementary art school teacher and my grandmother was a kindergarten teacher. It was really cool being raised in San Francisco, just because you have so much going on. I always felt like [I was] very culturally enriched, because there [were] so many different communities. There were so many great museums, and my mom always signed us up for summer reading. So that really helped foster a love of reading for both my sister and I. So yeah, I think I grew up in a very art and literature friendly household.

Photographic portrait of painter and illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong shot against a pink backdrop, holding a peony stem.

Emanuel Hahn

The first drawing I ever made, I remember I was about three and I drew some fish at a fish food BBQ. And my mom saved the drawing. That was the first thing that I remember ever making. In high school, I used to have a sticker company where I would also try and sell prints on the street with my best friend, so I feel like I've kind of been hustling for a while.

Photographic portrait of painter and illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong standing against a pink backdrop, surrounded by peonies.

Emanuel Hahn

I [went] to art school in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute, and I was majoring in illustration. One of our professors every year invited his students to design a MetroCard. And so I was in that MetroCard show, because he put all his students’ work in it. And from that show, I was offered a really small show somewhere. And I tried my best on that. And so from that I got invited to do more small group shows here and there. Actually, in the beginning of my career I was getting more luck with galleries than with art directors. Once my garage gallery career started picking up, that's when my illustration career started actually taking off.

Photographic portrait of painter and illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong standing against a pink backdrop with falling peonies captured in action around her body.

Emanuel Hahn

When I graduated, I asked every professor I knew if they knew any artists who wanted to hire an assistant. So one of my professors got me a job working at a printmaking shop where we made Chuck Close prints, so I was carving tiny stamps. I did that for two years after graduation as my real job, and I would paint at nights and on the weekends. I just tried to get my work out there to Tumblr. I was applying to lots of blogs and submitting stuff and hoping that people would just see my work. And then every time I did get an opportunity, I would just try as hard as I could. Even if it was for a three day pop up, I would still paint a mural that would take me a week, just putting in everything I had so that hopefully, someone would see it when they visited the show. And [that] would lead to more stuff; not everything leads to something, but some things lead to something. So there was enough of that for me to get a career going.

Photographic portrait of painter and illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong standing against a pink backdrop holding a peony stem.

Emanuel Hahn

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