For most of her life, Lia Mendez was afraid to call herself an artist.
She thought that title was reserved for those who went to art school or sold high volumes of work.
But art has always been a passion for Lia, whose parents nurtured her creative side at a young age. While her formal background in art is minimal, she had a notable teacher in Art Sherwyn at Stockdale High School for two years. Even after she earned a bachelor’s in creative writing, Lia knew that visual art was going to be a big part of her life.
MAKING OLD-SCHOOL ART IN THE DIGITAL AGE
With all the technological advancements available to artists nowadays, Lia prefers wood, knives and ink. As a printmaker, she impresses her work onto a sheet of paper after carving her designs onto wooden blocks by hand.
It’s therapeutic for Lia. Time disappears when she’s carving, as she enters a meditative state in her “happy place.”
“No two prints are exactly the same,” she said. “That’s what I like about it – the wabi-sabi, the beauty of the imperfections.
DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM OTHER PASSIONS
During the day, Lia works at the Buena Vista Edible Schoolyard, where she teaches kids where their food comes from and shows them how to prepare the food that they’ve grown into wholesome, healthy meals.
“I feel fortunate that my day job is also something I’m passionate about and that it fuels the creativity for my art,” Lia said. “The garden is a major inspiration, as are the kids.”
In fact, Lia has created several garden-inspired coloring books, including one on the Edible Schoolyard, which includes garden facts, games and recipes.
“I really try to instill in the kids an appreciation for interdependence, how we all rely on one another and how in the garden, just like in life, you can’t separate one thing from another,” she said. “We all rely on one another. It’s a fun, down-to-earth way to help instill pretty abstract concepts that are hard to grasp when you’re 8.”
FROM A PEACEFUL LITTLE STUDIO IN BAKERSFIELD
With the wonderful world of social media at her fingertips, Lia’s art is accessible to people all over the globe. She receives inquiries from all parts of the world asking about commissioned pieces or help with businesses, which she also enjoys.
“I’m really into helping entrepreneurs with logos and branding, especially when it’s something I’m really excited about,” she said.
Lia’s done work locally for organizations such as Broadfork Acres and Bike Bakersfield as well as large institutes like Warm Showers, a worldwide community that provides hospitality exchange for touring cyclists.
“I can be a part of many things from my peaceful little studio in Bakersfield,” Lia said.
ART MAKES US HUMAN
For anyone in a creative field, whether it be visual arts, performing arts, even culinary arts, the ultimate goal is finding your voice.
Lia believes she is on the cusp of achieving that.
She’s always been inspired by animals and nature and her aim is to create works that make people feel good. And connecting to those who view her work – something that is an expression of what’s inside her – is exciting.
“Art is a way to really soothe the soul and it’s very therapeutic for me to create it and I really get a lot of satisfaction when somebody looks at a piece that I’ve made and they say, ‘This makes me feel good,’” Lia said.
Now, Lia doesn’t hesitate to call herself an artist.
“The thing that makes human is that we want to create,” she said. “I think everybody has that knack. We are all creative; we are all artists.”