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This art activity by Olivia Joyce is built around 8-year-old Li Lingfei's Artist's Portfolio, published in Stone Soup’s March 2018 issue. Use the link to open the portfolio in a separate window and look closely at the images as you read Olivia's responses to Lingfei's work, and think about her drawing activity ideas.

Stone Soup publishes many intriguing and entertaining submissions of poetry, short stories, and book reviews. While the writing is often incredible, the artwork Stone Soup publishes is especially fascinating to me. I love seeing how artists express themselves and take on specific styles in their art. The work of the artist Li Lingfei, age 8, stood out to me in particular for its style and imagination.

Li Lingfei’s portfolio was published in Stone Soup’s March 2018 issue. It included watercolor paintings of entire worlds that she had imagined, as well as a construction of a house in the shape of a cat. This piece, titled “Cat House,” caught my attention first because of its unique geometrical design and patterns. Lingfei mentions that “Cat House” is inspired by a famous building in Spain, called Casa Batllo. Some artists might feel concern about using other art for inspiration, but I find that this is one of the best ways to create something new and unique! “Cat House” and Casa Batllo might bear some similarities (Casa Batllo’s roof resembles a dragon, and “Cat House” resembles a cat), but their look and style is markedly different from one another.

As I looked more closely at all of Lingfei’s work, I saw that the bright indigo and yellow color scheme appeared in her paintings in addition to “Cat House.” The similar colors provide a thread that connects all of her work together, making it feel more united and whole. When I examined each of Lingfei’s paintings individually, I saw that they told stories and included images of multiple people and creatures. Even now, each time I look at one of her paintings, I observe something new. For example, in “My Chinese Dream,” I noticed the most obvious images of two planets and a rocket first, but the second time I looked at it I noticed the Octopus King waving from the corner, and the yellow mist that surrounds each planet. In this way, Lingfei’s artwork is dynamic, providing depth and leaving room for many interpretations.

It is clear to me that Lingfei let her imagination guide her when creating these works, which I felt was essential to creating something interesting and beautiful. My favorite of her paintings is “Sky City.” It shows a city inside a jellyfish, floating in space. Aliens or people fly in a squid spaceship outside of the city, and within the bubble, hamburger hovercrafts and ice cream rockets zoom around mushroom- and jar-shaped buildings. The more I look at this painting, the more curious I become about it. Can the city move across the galaxy, or is it more like a planet with an orbit? Is the mushroom building really a mushroom, or just shaped like one in the way “Cat House” is shaped like a house? Would people be happier if they lived in “Sky City,” or on Earth? I think that it is important for art to raise questions and spark curiosity, and Li Lingfei’s artwork did exactly that.

As a response to Lingfei’s work, I’d like to ask our readers to try, in a single image, to create a world as complex and detailed as Lingfei has created in each of her images. To do so, you should plan ahead. You might begin by writing out a brief description of the place you’re imagining—and then drawing it. Or maybe you just want to tell your mom or your dog about what you’re planning to draw. Either way, have a plan in mind so that you make sure to have room for everything you want to include in your drawing! Once you’re ready to begin, remember to use the full range of colors and to fill up the entire page—and then submit to Stone Soup! We can’t wait to see your masterpieces!

Author Bio: Olivia’s favorite books are the Harry Potter series, which she has loved since elementary school, but she also loves The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and anything written by Sharon Creech. She is in her third year at UC Santa Cruz where she studies literature and writes poems and stories. At schoo,l you might catch her eating too many chocolate croissants or sprinting to catch the bus.

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