radical art/work: meet artist-illustrator-author Robert Liu-Trujillo

Hi again, friends. This week I am SO excited to introduce you one of the radical artist-activists who first inspired me to create this art/work series. (Shhh, he doesn't know that.) 

But it's true.

When I first discovered the art of Robert Liu-Trujillo, I thought to myself: Well, shit, everyone needs to see this. And it's not just because he's from Oakland, or because he's also the father of a son. But because there is a heart and a soul for social justice and storytelling in everything he does.

Last week we talked about the stories we tell our children, and how important it is to curate those stories consciously, with an eye toward justice and authenticity. The more I stumble across mediocre (daresay crappy) children's books in the course of raiding the library with my preschool-age son, the more I deeply appreciate the work Rob does.

We were at church at Harvard Memorial last Sunday morning. With a three-year-old, usually church services are a breathless hour spent silently praying my kid won't jabber too loudly or clatter Legos too enthusiastically or leave a trail of crackers across the pew. (Usually we fail on all counts). 

We were listening to the sermon when Rev. Walton mentioned Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a flash of delight, Duke looked up at me from his headless Batman figurine and gasped. His face lit up and he whispered: "Mama! Martin Luther King, Jr!!" He recognized the name from the Brad Meltzer children's book about MLK we've been reading at home.

My heart f**king leaped. What a moment.

I thought to myself: Holy shit. He really is getting something out of all this. Thank you, God. It matters.

The stories we tell our children are everything. Their ability to see themselves in those stories? Even more important. So check out the work of Robert Liu-Trujillo. Buy his books for the little ones in your life. Give him a follow on Instagram. He is doing such powerful radical art/work.

Deep bows to you, Rob. Thanks for teaching me yoga. 

Name: Robert Liu-Trujillo

What's your medium? 
Art. Mostly watercolor for books and freelance illustration. When I paint on a wall I use acrylic or aerosol. And I also use digital (Photoshop/iPad) for clients or mocking up mural designs.

What's your latest project? 
I'm working on a graphic novel, art for a trans filmmaker, something for Hack the Hood, and some awards for a yoga instructor.

Who's your target audience? 
In general, I try to reach anyone who is interested in ethnic studies and social justice. More specifically, when I'm working on books I'm aiming for parents, librarians, book sellers, and literacy advocates. For murals or big public art, I'm trying to reach teens, kids, and young adults the most.

Three key words that shape your art/work: 
Story; not sure about other words though.

Who or what introduced you to this medium? 
I have been drawing since I was a kid. I began to do it for myself to keep boredom away. Then I fell in love with various art forms over time. I have learned from public schools, community colleges, private colleges, etc. But most of my training has come from my friends and just studying.

Where do you live and how does your home town/region affect your art work? 
I live in Oakland, California. And I have made a lot of work with this region of California as a backdrop or inspiration. I live in a city that is on the cutting edge of many things in music, art, social justice, and tech, so it all seeps into my thinking and my work.

Public or private school education? 
Both personally. But if I could, I would make the best education available to all kids and have it be a public institution where they don't have to pay anything.

Do you have any kind of spiritual practice? What does it look like? 
I meditate briefly twice a week every week. I stretch (some yoga poses). Many times the type of art I'm creating is a meditative practice as well.

Three books that changed your life: 
Parable of the Sower
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Furqan's First Flat Top

Three artists you admire: 
Octavia Butler
Mode 2
DJ Harrison

Three causes you're passionate about: 
Ethnic Studies: I would like to make art that facilitates students in the US specifically to learn about all the people whose stories have been left out over the centuries of US history. 

Diverse stories in children's books: To me it is paramount that children at the earliest age see reflections of themselves in storytelling. 

Sustainability: In the quest for social justice I believe it is important to maintain self-care while fighting the good fight.

Three teachers who taught you something important: 
My son: rediscovery. 
My wife: love exists. 
Parents: critical thinking.

Virginia Woolf famously said a woman writer needs a room of her own. What do you need to create your art? Any non-negotiables? 
I need to eat, sleep well, have lots of love, family, and the freedom to practice. Through these things and practice I usually make something I'm proud of.

One thing that pisses you off: 
Mean people. 

Shittiest job you've ever had: 
Working at a copy shop. It was not fun.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self? 
Have all the fun you want, start asking smart and dumb questions of the people you admire. And do you — don't care what anyone else thinks.

Secret pop culture crush: 
Cardi B

Biggest challenge of your art/work?  
Not going in too many weird directions. It all makes sense to me, but sometimes I feel like I lose people's understanding.

In five years, what does your art/work look like? 
Making quality children's books that tell normal everyday life stories of children of color. Murals that speak to kids, teens, and young adults. Not pandering to funders and adults over 40. A new skill or hobby that I don't know how to do.

Website and social media links where we can follow you and learn more about your art/work?
Twitter: @RobertTres

Head to Rob's website for so many more examples.

(You can tell I'm partial to the yoga ones. Time for a yoga book...right?!)

Thanks for reading. Until next week...keep making art. Keep raising hell.


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