An art student draws on her memories, her emotions to create surreal landscapes and portraits


Fiona Hsu’s work is a visual autobiography – navigate both in its unconscious and conscious realities.

the second-year art student said she uses the freedom of her craft – from oil painting to fine art photography – to find your voice. Using art as a mode of self-expression, Hsu said she channels memories such as music recitals and figure skating performances that define her life story. Hsu is currently venturing into digital art in her free time in quarantine, and she hopes her audiences can connect with her pieces on a personal level.

“I don’t want to directly put a scene in my art so that people see it at first glance and know what’s going on,” Hsu said. “I want them to watch it and then be able to relate it to themselves.”

Hsu said his personal connection to art began at a very young age, when his mother suggested that he make paper dolls rather than buy plastic ones. Although she didn’t take an art class as a child, Hsu said she was able to teach herself basic drawing skills through YouTube tutorials. Learning from other artists’ work on sites like Pinterest and Instagram also helped Hsu solidify her skills as she eventually developed into Photoshop, oil painting. and fine art photography.

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Regardless of the medium, Hsu said her favorite method of dealing with her emotions is built-in symbolism. in his job. After suffering a figure skating accident in middle school that left her in a wheelchair for a year, Hsu said she created a series of oil paintings titled “Garden of Injury” which detailed her mental journey. and physical towards healing. The 12 paintings progress in order, starting with a girl lying on the ground surrounded by birds and ending with the girl sewing a bird on her back.

“During this period of my life,… I was trying to heal physically and also to heal emotionally and mentally,” Hsu said. “Being stuck in a wheelchair, there was nothing I could do. … I was sort of comparing myself to a wounded bird.

After suffering a figure skating accident, Hsu created a series of twelve paintings that used symbolism to tell of his recovery. (Courtesy of Fiona Hsu)

Years after the injury, Hsu still uses the central themes of symbolism in his current work, said Victor Estrada, professor of painting in the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA. He said that Hsu investigated aspects of his life in his paintings which are metaphorically larger than the pictures themselves. In particular, Estrada declared her final project for her class – a self-portrait of 5 feet by 7 feet – moved away from a traditional or Renaissance style of painting for a more abstract style.

“She was able to go beyond just painting something from observation and start developing ideas that could be encompassed by notions of surrealism,” Estrada said.

(David Rimer / Daily Bruin)
When given a blank canvas, Hsu said that she creates her pieces without strictly following the intended outlines. (David Rimer / Daily Bruin)

The artistic movement of surrealism is characterized by a subconscious creationism, which intends to free the thoughts buried in the mind. Hsu’s plays are often a reflection of the subconscious, said her friend Margaryta Tumashyk, who modeled for some of Hsu’s fine art photography pieces. Tumashyk said Hsu’s open-minded approach to his creative process results in dramatic pieces that reflect his whimsical style.

“(Hsu) uses dark colors, high contrast, and crisp lines in his work, and uses Photoshop to complement the piece,” Tumashyk said. “The works mainly convey a dreamlike state because she is mainly inspired by her dreams. “

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Currently, Hsu has said that she is working towards mastering digital art – a medium she has tried before but never had time to pursue until now. She said her interest in 3D animation and fantasy movies – where landscapes are designed from the imagination of the creator rather than modeled on reality – encouraged her to enroll in online art classes in digital design.

As she began to familiarize herself with digital art, Hsu took inspiration from her favorite novel “Jane Eyre” and said that she was using Blender computer graphics software to design a play for one of the characters. from the novel, Bertha Mason. In the book, the character is locked in an attic by her husband due to his erratic and violent behavior, which Hsu said she tries to convey through the musty vibe of the room.

“There is little light, the plates are on the floor, the room is a mess – blankets, napkins everywhere and so on,” Hsu said. “The atmosphere is hazy,… you can see the dust. “

(Courtesy of Fiona Hsu)
Hsu uses computer graphics software to digitally render an image of Bertha Mason’s bedroom, a character from her favorite novel “Jane Eyre”. (Courtesy of Fiona Hsu)

Although digital art is relatively new to Hsu, she said her training in oil painting and photography was extremely helpful during the learning process. His knowledge of artistic concepts such as perspective came in handy when using shading blocks to construct landscapes, while his familiarity with heavy Photoshop manipulations made navigating the digital realm easier.

Ultimately, Hsu said that she hopes to be able to impart her knowledge in these different mediums by teaching art to children later in her career. Art is far more meaningful than just learning to draw, she said, because it also encompasses life skills such as problem solving. Beyond that, Hsu said she wanted to teach children that art should not be put aside as a simple hobby, but rather as a significant pursuit.

“I really want to teach kids that art is really useful and it’s not just a hobby,” Hsu said. “That’s the idea that I grew up listening to, ‘Oh, it’s just a hobby’, but it’s (more than that.)”


Kayleen C. Rice