Hutong Everydayness

Illustration

The Artist Whose Picturesque Watercolors Capture Nostalgic Depictions Of Beijing Life – Liuba Draws

On Saturday, March 17, Beijing-based artist Liuba Draws had an exhibition opening of her recent work in the cozy wine cellar La Cava de Laoma in Shanghai. The vibrant watercolors of Luiba’s artwork paint a picturesque portrait of everyday life in Beijing. In this series, titled Hutong Everydayness, Liuba takes her viewers on an urban ride through the streets of China’s capital.

Liuba Vladimirova, who was born in Irkutsk, Russia, has had a longstanding love for illustration ever since she was a child, drawing and doodling on any blank surface she could get her hands on. But as the pragmatisms of life creep up on all of us, she pursued a different, more practical path, studying International Trade and Chinese language.

After completing her master’s in Shenyang, she found a job in Beijing related to her studies where she worked for the subsequent five years. During this time, she began drawing again as an outlet to unwind from a job devoid of her passion. As her work began to pick up popularity on social media, she eventually left her job and started her company Liuba Draws and became a full-time illustrator.

Liuba is a self-taught artist who adamantly believes that the key to good art is practice. Having never formally studied illustration, she explained that her style developed over the years with steady, hand-to-paper practice. She said, “Personally, I don’t think it’s solely about talent. Anyone can draw. If you really want something you’re passionate about, you can do it if you work hard towards it. It’s all about practice.”

Liuba Draws divides its time between making original products like postcards, coloring books, key chains and magnets with her illustrations, to holding art workshops in Beijing, to making commissioned-based artwork. Check out her online store to purchase her original items and support local artists.

Liuba told CNCREATE that she gets a myriad of different requests. She recalled one specific commission that asked her to draw a “big bear holding a small salad” and gave no other explanation. Bemused by the request, she asked the client what the drawing was for to give her a better sense of where to take the sketch.

“I wasn’t sure what she wanted,” she explained. “Did she want a real bear or a cartoonish bear? I asked her what it was for, I thought maybe a restaurant until she said it would be a gift for her husband, which sounded like such a bizarre gift. But after exchanging a few emails, she eventually explained that her husband’s Chinese name, when translated into English meant ‘strong bear’, and hers translated to ‘little salad’. After her clarification, I found it quite romantic.”

True to its romantic nature, Liuba’s work poises between the real-life scenes of modern China and warm almost nostalgic depictions of Chinese traditions like eating bing tang hu lu 冰糖葫芦 a traditional Chinese sweet food, or a grandfather and grandson setting off firecrackers in hutongs during Spring Festival, which is a tradition that has existed for thousands of years. However, in recent years, because of the air pollution, it’s been prohibited, making it a tradition that only exists in our memories.

“Whenever I draw, I always think of the people who will look at my art,” Liuba tells me. “I want them to look at my art and feel positive emotions. Perhaps maybe some nice memories that might emerge from seeing my work because its something they’ve lived or seen before. I always want to evoke positive emotions in people.”

One thought on “Hutong Everydayness

  • Absolutely love these illustrations. When I’m outside China these street scenes are hard to explain about the locals here. I keep a travel journal too and these images capture the everyday people and street life in China, in particular Beijing, so well.

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