Lucy Chen: Triple Threat

Visual artist, musical artist, and martial artist, Lucy does nothing halfhearted. Her first love, painting, has placed her front and center at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo art competition, winning Best of Show and Reserve Grand Champion, and breaking rodeo records at auction.

Interviewed by Sara G. Stephens

HM: At what age did you first become interested in art?

LC: I have been interested in art since elementary school. At the time, I was mostly interested in drawing cartoon characters, but as I started to learn oil painting in middle school, I became more interested in realistic and impressionistic art styles.

HFM: How much time a day do you spend painting?

LC: I am enrolled in art at my high school, which guarantees me at least 50 minutes to paint every school day. Last year, when preparing a portfolio for AP Studio Art, I would spend up to eight hours a week outside of school painting.

HFM: Do you have other hobbies?

LC: Besides art, I enjoy playing piano. I love classical and jazz music and have been playing the piano since I was six. I am also currently a brown belt in karate.

HFM: In 2014 you entered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo art competition and were chosen as the Overall Reserve Grand Champion. This win landed you a spot in the annual art auction, where your work was auctioned for $196,000, a world record. How did this make you feel?

LC: I was extremely shocked and ecstatic to be named Reserve Grand Champion that year. In junior high, my artwork was never chosen to advance past the district level, so winning Best of Show and Reserve Grand Champion in the high school division was something I would have never dared to imagine. However, I worked extremely hard on that piece of artwork, putting in around 50 hours, so this taught me that hard work truly pays off.

HFM: You also won a spot in the Western Art Academy, an intensive four-week art workshop in Kerrville, Texas. Was it difficult to make the decision to give up a month of your summer and time away from family? Was it worth it?

LC: I did attend Western Art Academy in the summer of 2014. Making the decision to go was easy; I was excited to learn from professional artists and meet other students who share my interests. It was my first time staying away from home for so long, but I think it was worth it to experience being independent and living like a college student. During my stay, I learned many valuable lessons about painting and got to try sculpting for the first time. Not only that, but I also made many friends whom I still stay in touch with.

HFM: Last spring you entered another painting in the HLSR, “The Entertainer,” a portrait of Flame, the rodeo clown. Why were you inspired to paint this particular subject?

LC: Flame has been a volunteer at the Rodeo for 18 years, and he has been present at every art auction that I participated in. He would stand with the artists in the chute before they went on stage to auction and give us an encouraging pep talk each time. I wanted to paint a portrait of Flame not only to thank him, but also to thank all the other volunteers who devote themselves to making the Rodeo an amazing experience for everyone. The picture that I based my painting off of was also very striking; the pose, expression, and colors immediately caught my eye and inspired me to paint it.

HFM: You won Reserve Grand Champion with this painting and broke another record for highest auction amount, $220,000. Who bought the painting, and did he/she comment on why it appealed to them?

LC: My painting was bought by the following group of buyers: Somerville family, Tom & Mimi Dompier family, Mary & Ken Hucherson family, and Jennifer & Joe Van Matre family. They have been top buyers at the HLSR school art auction since the year 2000. [The Houston Chronicle reported that the painting would hang in the Van Matre family living room.]

HFM: Your success at the HLSR has brought you some prize money, too. What do you do with your winnings?

LC: I have been saving most of my winnings from the HLSR to help pay for college. I have also donated some of my winnings to my school art department and Science Olympiad team.

HFM: Who has been the biggest influence in your life, personally and artistically?

LC: The biggest influence in my life is my brother. Although he is ten years older than me, he is the one who introduced me to the video games and cartoon shows that inspired me to start drawing. His vast knowledge of math and science impressed me and sparked my own interest in the subjects. Currently, he is a software developer at Amazon.

HFM: How have your parents supported your art?

LC: My parents have always been my biggest fans. They have invested so much time and money into providing me with art lessons and supplies, and I would not be where I am now without their support. Even when I was busy with my schoolwork, they would encourage me to continue painting and doing what I love.

HFM: What advice do you have for other young artists?

LC: My number one word of advice is overused, but true: practice. The more that you create, the more that you will improve, both technically and creatively. I encourage young artists to practice drawing or painting from life, whether it is portraits, gesture drawings, still lifes, or landscapes. This is a great method to improve one’s observational skills and rendering techniques. I also think it is important to explore different art styles and find artists that you like—you never know where you might find inspiration!

HFM: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

LC: In five years, I see myself as a college graduate with a degree in computer science. Math and science have always been my favorite subjects in school, and with a degree in computer science, I have the freedom to apply those passions to art by studying graphics and visualization. Of course, I also plan to continue creating art; I hope that in five years I will have improved and developed my own art style.