For San Francisco-based Fongwei Liu, the creative process is an intuitive response to the people, places, and things around him. He is equally at home painting still lifes, landscapes, and figurative works. “When something touches me, a picture takes shape in my mind and forms an idea or concept, and then I experiment with various techniques to visualize the idea,” he explains.
Despite Liu’s versatility, it’s the human figure that holds the keenest interest for him. Liu says he finds the figure the most challenging, and for him it is the best subject matter to express emotions. His figurative work is also attracting attention from galleries and show organizers. Last year he received Southwest Art’s Award of Excellence at the annual Great American Figurative Show at Waterhouse Gallery for his evocative painting of a young woman working on a charcoal sketch. The moody piece captured a serene moment of concentration and showcased Liu’s narrative style along with his expressionistic brushwork.
Liu earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in China, but after he moved to the United States in 1999, he pursued a career in software engineering. He resumed his art education in 2007 at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, earning a master’s degree in fine art. Today he is on the graduate-school faculty and teaches portrait painting.
For Liu the decision to leave software engineering behind was difficult because it was lucrative, but looking back he has no regrets. “I believe that a good artist can influence our world for the better,” he says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in May 2012.