On Kyle Steed’s FAQ page, there’s a question he responds to about what advice he would give to someone just starting out in the creative field and his opinion is one that I’ve kinda been living by for the past 2 years:
Get out there and meet people. There is nothing more important than meeting people and building relationships.
On that note, this has been the very reason I’ve made sure to attend Bushwick Open Studio every summer. It’s a long-weekend event which really strives to give every working artist in Bushwick, regardless of their level of experience or success in the art world, an equal opportunity to show their work to a wider public. I don’t usually have an agenda as to which studio I’ll attend. My approach is more haphazard as I circulate between workspaces and yet despite all that, I still tend to be fortunate in walking away from the event every year with at least 1 person who I have a connection with and this year it was with Lily Qian, a Brooklyn based Fashion & Advertising Illustrator.
Traditional analogue techniques have always meant a lot to her of which she takes inspiration from and continuously experiments with different materials to see what happy accidents occurs. One of those happy surprises in her illustrations was this Camera Obsession Series which she had on display during Bushwick Open Studio 2015.
As a avid photographer, of course I found myself naturally gravitating towards the pieces. In fact, I recall asking specifically if she had any postcards, prints or posters available for purchase which she didn’t at the moment but I felt as though my high interest in her work as well as the countless other visitors to her studio, might have pushed her in granting me the opportunity to visit her a few weeks later at her studio to document her working on a few more illustrations for her series.
If was absolutely beautiful to see her illustrate. As her hands moved over the Bristol paper, it was almost as if her mind were directing it without her. The hand shifted instinctively to the right spot, rendering a new picture of one of the many vintage cameras in front of her and which she had collected throughout the years as a regular flew market goer.
In addition to her work, we talked a bit about life, travel and just the whole aspect about being an artist. Being an artist is not easy. From the exterior, it may seem like the people who’s work and commitment to their craft which we admire have everything figured out but in reality they’re kinda figuring stuff out as they go along as we are. The difference is that not many people talk about it. Not many people are willing to uncover their vulnerabilities because there’s this assumption that if you’re successful in what you do you must be perfect all the time.
As Lewis Howes stated on a recent podcast episode, “greatness is not about being perfect. It’s about being yourself” and so I deeply appreciate Lily not only for allowing me once again into her beautiful studio which she by the way shares with 2 other amazing photographers (Sharon Radisch & James Chororos) but for sharing her wisdom as someone who’s doing what she loves for a living even though what she does now is technically her second career.