Nature-loving student incorporates homemade clay and pigments into her art

December 9, 2019 — by Vicky Bai and Cici Xu

Sophomore Tina Hu expresses her passions for both art and nature through the comparison of art classes from China to Saratoga

Water dripped down the leaves into a mud-filled wooden basket that sophomore Tina Hu had dug with her own hands near a river in her hometown: Shenzhen, China. She dipped her hands inside the wooden basket, scooped up a handful of wet soil that had been soaked in water for days and placed it on a table, waiting for it to dry. 

She then pressed and rubbed gently, molding the clay silhouette of an animal inspired by those on her family’s farm. 

Hu’s unique approach to art involves working directly with natural elements.

“To me, art and nature are always connected and intertwined in some way,” Hu said.

In soil art, a medium she discovered online, she uses only soil as pigment to draw on a canvas. Hu has tried to create different pigments made of natural materials.

Besides soil, she also learned to create pigments with various kinds of fruit. Hu’s curiosity in making her own materials has allowed her to explore her home village and the mountains surrounding her in China. 

“Shenzhen, where I moved from two years ago, is always raining, so the plants that grow there are mostly tropical, but here in California, because it’s dry, there are many plants that I haven’t seen before,” Hu said. “So my curiosity drives me to take inspirations from there.”

Hu started exploring her passion for art at a private elementary school in China at age 7.

“I started to appreciate nature when I was really little, but no one really taught me how to do art until the start of elementary school, when four of the classes were taught in nature,” Hu said. 

In China, Hu took a variety of art classes, including ones in hand-crafts like ceramics, origami and wood carving.

At home, Hu’s family is very supportive of her passion for art, allowing her to spend hours and hours creating art. Hu said that creativity, imagination and happiness are valued more than anything else in her family. 

“I’ve tried and explored a range of different types of art styles to find out what I truly enjoy the most,” Hu said. 

Hu’s love for art was inspired by her grandfather, also an artist.  

“My grandpa does a variety of hand crafts, and he often creates intricate designs that are used to decorate my house,” Hu said. “I just want to do the same thing and follow in his footsteps because I feel like it’ll be fun and imaginative.”

 Since Hu’s move to Saratoga, her love for art has grown. Hu is currently enrolled in Art 2 and Ceramics 2.

Even her teachers notice her  different approach compared to other students who grew up in Saratoga. 

“Tina is a very kind, quiet and humble student. Her voice comes through in her art,” art and ceramics teacher Diana Vanry said. “I couldn't believe the quality of the pieces that she created. She took every project that I presented to the class to a higher level.”

In China, Hu used to make most of her artwork directly from nature; here in Saratoga, this complex preparation process of picking plants to create the exact color pigment she wanted or to make clay herself proved unnecessary because the art classes provide all of the needed materials. 

Hu also noticed that in Saratoga, each class focuses on a specific type of art, but in China, students explore different types of art in different classes instead of focusing on a specific type. 

“I was able to create whatever type of project that popped up in my mind, and the specialized teacher would help me develop my ideas into actual products,” Hu said. “The classes were more open to each student’s individual interest.” 

Although Hu has not decided whether she will major in art in college, she will continue fulfilling her passion for art throughout high school.

“I believe that it is not necessary to take art classes to continue being an artist because sometimes you can just get inspiration from anything,” Hu said. “You can freestyle and express yourself however you choose to.”

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