Student reveals inspiration behind expression

She stands in a space decorated with old movie posters, a blue T-shirt with a dinosaur-themed puzzle hot glued to it and a map of California revamped with an assortment of watercolors. An oversized piece of canvas paper is attached to the wall and her work provides a serene focal point — especially when the daylight streams in.

The space is actually a room. It belongs to junior art major Josie Lipkin. She is working on a piece for her painting class.

“I can’t write, so this is like a journal to me,” she said.

Pointing to different sections of past brush strokes in an inviting shade of blue, she begins a verbal tour of the visual.

“Here, I might have been thinking about doing laundry and running errands — whatever I might have had at the front of my mind,” Lipkin said.

“As my mind starts to empty, it’s my work that fills up,” she said, drawing attention to another “entry” to the lower left of the first an orb that has a wispy, feathery feel about it.

“I was probably thinking about something more intense,” she said.

Lipkin’s artwork charts her thoughts and feelings. The final pieces portray a story contrary to reality. Nothing she does artistically is prearranged or controlled.

“Art isn’t organized, so why should I be?” she said.

Nils Lou, professor of art and visual culture imparted to Lipkin that you can’t get bogged down with the process of art.

“You have to play around and tap into this side of yourself that society tells you to repress but that [Lou] tells you to tap into because it’s one of the most creative aspects of yourself, your play side,” Lipkin said.

Lipkin grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., and her inner creativity was nurtured by her parents long before she reached college.

“In terms of how I do my artwork, it wasn’t so much the town that I grew up in,” she said. “My mom was an illustrator, and her love for art and also my dad’s love for art encouraged me to go to art museums in my free time.”

The artistic influence wasn’t limited to museums. Lipkin said her parents are avid art collectors. Two of their favorite things to collect are Japanese prints and “crazy, wood-carved Mexican masks.”

“I do notice a lot of my drawing and line work is similar to the line work in the prints and it’s because that’s what I grew up around. We had prints on our bathroom walls,” Lipkin said.

“You can see some similarity between the organic shapes carved into the Mexican masks and the organic shapes that I paint.”

When she was a toddler, Lipkin said she and her brother would draw together.

“It was very cosmic, out-of-this-world fantasy drawing which was weird because it kind of mimicked how we played,” she said.

Lipkin admits she has often pondered what drives her to draw. “There’s something that I feel like I need … I need to just put something on paper — it’s not a calling because that sounds too pompous — I really just need to draw,“ she emphasized.

When she’s not on the way to the art building or in her studio space in the Miller Fine Arts Center, you might find Lipkin in a dimly lit living room, Sharpie or Zebra pen in hand, doodling away while half listening to a Netflix movie streaming from her Mac computer.

Septembre Russell/Copy chief
Septembre Russell can be reached at

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