Serendipity in Beijing

A scene displayed in the illustrated memoir Liuba Draws Beijing, featuring hiking.

When I was in the third grade, my mother suggested I attend after-school activities at an art school. The schedule would have me join three two-hour sessions per week. Later in life, when I faced choosing a major in higher education, the idea of attending art school popped up again. I was unable to find a local option in that field but the possibility of going abroad to experience a different culture and language did attract me, and eventually I opted to attend a local university offering an exchange program on Chinese Language and International Trade.

After studying for two years, I came to China to study at Liaoning University in Shenyang. I also found the chance to travel to other parts of China and fell in love with the capital city of Beijing. I truly loved its mix of old traditional hutong (alleyway) areas and the super modern and trendy areas, which generates interesting vibes.

After graduation, I moved to Beijing and found a job that had everything to do with my major, but not with art. While working, I felt something was missing. During my free time, I gave in to my creative needs and began to paint more and more. The more I painted, the more joy I received. I painted obsessively.

A scene displayed in the illustrated memoir Liuba Draws Beijing, featuring candied fruit snack Tanghulu.

Around 2013, I started receiving positive reactions from people on social media and at events, which gave me the confidence to keep going. I started to apply for events such as art markets, fairs, and the like everywhere in Beijing. Beijing and its people have a lot to offer in terms of opportunities like that. More and more people are becoming fans of illustration and affordable art, creating events in this direction.

In December 2014, I created my first Beijing-themed painting. By then, I had been living in Beijing for around three years. I better understood the city and had grown fond of it. I love discovering the food, hutongs, architecture, and the people and all the hustle and bustle of this vivid city. Beijing offers everything ranging from historical landmarks to ultra-trendy cafés, restaurants, and contemporary art museums.

A scene displayed in the illustrated memoir Liuba Draws Beijing, featuring Chaoyang Park.

I decided to express my admiration and love through art. And thus, in 2015, I created my very first “Beijing Calendar” in which every month is accompanied by a painting depicting a Beijing scene. Since then, I have been creating a new calendar every year with paintings inspired by my life in Beijing.

In 2017, I was invited to participate in an event at the Beijing International Book Fair. Chinese illustrator Xiong Liang and I were given the textual content of a picture book and asked to pair it with our illustrations to present Chinese and foreign perspectives on the same text. There, editor Wang Li from China Intercontinental Press approached me with the idea to create a book about my perspective on Beijing using my illustrations. This is how I started working on my book Liuba Draws Beijing.

A scene displayed in the illustrated memoir Liuba Draws Beijing, featuring the Drum & Bell Tower Square.

Publishing this book has been a big milestone of my career. Everything I’ve seen, felt, learned, and experienced in Beijing culminated in it. If someone had told me I would live in Beijing as a full-time illustrator and publish an illustrated collection about Beijing 15 years ago, I would have undoubtedly laughed in disbelief. I don’t think anyone would recommend studying international trade with the goal of publishing an illustrated book about Beijing. Sometimes life leads to the ultimate goal through a labyrinth in which we don’t always see what lies ahead. The path is twisting, always leading to the most unexpected yet rewarding circumstances. This is also how I found serendipity in Beijing.

The author is an independent Russian illustrator and founder of the brand “Liuba Draws” based in Beijing.

An artistic display of the cover of Liuba Draws Beijing, published by China Intercontinental Press in November 2022.

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