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Tradition / Video

Beijing in a brush-stroke: a look at Liuba Draws’ Beijing-based art

By Greg Monk

May 17

Meet Liuba Vladimirova, a Beijing-based Russian artist who portrays her vision of the city in her watercolor artwork. Read on to find out about what drives and inspires Liuba to create her art.

Meet Liuba Vladimirova, a Beijing-based Russian artist who portrays her vision of the city in her watercolor artwork. Read on to find out about what drives and inspires Liuba to create her art.

Liuba Vladimirova, otherwise known as “Liuba Draws,” is a Russian artist working in Beijing. She has lived in the city for seven years, and has been painting it for four. She uses watercolor to depict a quirky, almost fairytale-like version of Beijing, filled with every day details of life in the city that has made her work popular both with Chinese people and foreign residents.

Her own style has developed from her meticulous attention to detail, both physical and cultural, “it is obvious that my life in Beijing and the people in the city have a big influence on my work.” states the artist. “I try to document the Beijing that we live in now.”. Putting brush to paper and capturing the sights and feelings of the city is what drives her to create more art, which she does in a distinctive naïve style that was born from her love for artists such as Carson Ellis, Phoebe Wahl and Aitch.

Though she has always been a keen hobby-artist, Liuba first started her brand while also working a full time job a year and a half ago, working on her evenings and weekends to create the Liuba Draws brand. At first she didn’t consider the possibility of painting as a full time career, “Wanting it is just not enough. You have to develop your skills, punching hours to reach that magical 10,000. You have to gather work experience and be able to grasp what it is you really want to do.” she said. After two years of punching in her hours, increasing her painting skills and defining her style, Liuba finally felt confident enough to take the plunge and take Liuba Draws on full time.

The length of time it takes for a painting to make its way from an idea to a finished product can vary wildly. “When I start drawing it always starts with an idea. An idea is the hardest part because sometimes it could just take a few hours, but in other times it could maybe take me a year or more.” explained Liuba. Once she has an idea she’d like to move forward with, the next step is finding out how to commit it to paper, “I always make notes on my phone. I have a thousand notes and every now and then I go through them. When the idea becomes clear enough and I’m happy with it, I make a few very simple sketches to help myself get a better image of the idea and make tough decisions regarding composition.  This is followed by the final pencil sketch, inking it and finishing by using watercolor.”

A typical scene in Beijing’s hutongs. [Liuba Draws for China.org.cn]
The most defining thing about Liuba’s art is that it has been made to elicit an emotional response from its viewers, drawing on common occurrences in the older parts of Beijing such as chestnuts being roasted on the back of a tricycle, or old residents of the hutongs congregating outside. To the city’s foreign residents, these are reminders of the quirks of Beijing that set it apart from their home cities, whereas for locals they are reminders of a time gone by, “Chinese people, surprisingly to me, [have] told me time after time that it reminds them of their childhood.”

Despite the nostalgic effects that Liuba’s art has on its viewers, Liuba is not stuck in Beijing’s past. Her portrayals of the city are contemporary, often merging the traditional architecture of Beijing’s hutongs and landmarks with its modern skyscrapers.

Beijing’s most well known architecture, both old and new. [Liuba Draws for China.org.cn]
Now with three years experience as a full-time artist under her belt, Liuba is planning to branch out, “I am working on a book about Beijing that will show people Beijing from a perspective of a person who lived here,“ she says. As well as her illustrations, the book will offer tips, anecdotes and insights into Beijing through the eyes of a long term foreign resident.

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