Follow us on Twitter


Student Artwork in Space: The Unworldly Talent of Xuan Ao (Steven) Liu

On March 28, 2023, Mr. Jeremy Green, the AIS Learning Activator, and Mr. Zachary Post, the AIS Middle School Principal, sat down with Xuan Ao (Steven) Liu and his mother, Esther Liu, to discuss his passion for art and a rare, out of this world, accomplishment. 

When did you first discover your passion for art?

S: I was very young! Probably around Grade 1. I enjoyed drawing for fun in my free time here at AIS.

What are your favorite art forms?

S: I prefer drawing cartoons, but when I want to draw properly, I enjoy sketching using pencils the most – sketching realistic stills such as scenes from nature or the city, even smaller items like fish and turtles. I have entered competitions for drawing Victoria Harbour and Lion Rock as well.

I really enjoy drawing scenes from the natural world, especially when I see complex or complicated things.

What’s the most complicated artwork you have created?

S: Definitely it’s the historical wild animal sketching that I have done. In total, a piece can take me up to 30 hours to complete. That was for an art school competition. 

“The art teachers here are amazing! They give me a lot of freedom and ownership over the types of art that I want to create. They provide materials and guidance but I get to create what I want. Right now in art we are practicing still life. “

— Xuan Ao (Steven) Liu

Have you ever tried digital art?

S: I have tried but I find digital art to be more complicated as I have to relearn the tools in order to create. I prefer the traditional methods. 

Who are your favorite artists?

S: I honestly don’t know many artists that I really like. Many of the artists I have studied usually use humans as the subject of their artwork and since I have not yet begun to draw humans, it’s more difficult for me to relate my interests with their work. I’m just not there yet. The closest I have drawn to a human subject is a character from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and some “Dog Man” comics.

I would say my biggest influences have been my mom and dad and my art teacher Ms. Shackleton. My dad is an architect and has encouraged me to create drawings a lot since I was a child. Both of my parents often give me ideas for making my artwork more unique.

Mrs. Liu, are you an artist as well?

E: Not this kind of art, but I actually have a Masters in Opera.

Steven, since you have been here at AIS since EC2, you are a great person to speak about how the school promotes creativity and builds confidence for creating.

S: The art teachers here are amazing! They give me a lot of freedom and ownership over the types of art that I want to create. They provide materials and guidance but I get to create what I want. Right now in art we are practicing still life.

What types of contests have you been involved with and what awards have you won?

S: I have been involved in some competitions here at AIS, including the Literacy Week Bookmark Contest for 2022-23 and the Winter Fair Poster Contest for December 2022. I also received honors from the International Youth Art Exhibition Repin Academy of Fine Arts in June, in July I won the 2022 Youth Artwork Competition of China and French from the Sino-French Youth Art Competition, and I have received honors from the CEIBS Youth Pioneer Art Competition, Central Academy of Fine Arts Foreign Art Education Exchange Center, China Academy of Art Wangjing Creative Competition Center, and the China Academy of Art.

It’s really cool that your artwork has been sent to space! What was your motivation to join the Tian Gong Painting Exhibition?

S: The rockets! Ever since I was very young, I have enjoyed spacecraft and rockets. I love astronomy.

At the time of the competition, the Winter Olympics were being held in Beijing so I decided to create a painting around that theme to celebrate how China had successfully arranged the event and built the stadiums for it.

How did you feel when you got the results that you had finished second?

S: I felt really good, but I honestly was expecting to finish in first place. With more experience, I hope to get first place when I am older. 

Are you thinking about being an artist in the future?

S: Yes, thinking about it. I would love to study art in Cambridge. 

Mrs. Liu, how have you motivated Steven in his artistic endeavors and what advice would you give to parents with younger children who want to get them more involved in art?

E: In the beginning, I had no specific idea for giving him motivation to pursue art, but I just helped him to develop some ideas and did not give him any rules or limitations. It was just about ideas, the freedom to draw. Ever since EC2 with his first teacher, Mr. Wise, who encouraged Steven to draw in his free time because he saw that he had potential. His first real direct encouragement to draw came from Mr. Wise.

The second teacher is Ms. Shackleton, his Middle School Art Teacher. By this age, during parent-teacher conferences, I began to express areas that I wanted to guide Steven’s progress in and she was very supportive and was happy to guide Steven in the areas that we requested. She is very supportive and always says Steven has lots of potential. Because of their encouragement, Steven now attends art classes outside of school as well for more intensive training. He’s been attending them for two years now.

Steven also spent a lot of time during COVID school closures taking online classes for sketching and his skill improved a lot during that time.

Lastly, Steven, if someone was interested in getting into more serious drawing, where would you suggest for them to start?

S: Just grab a notebook and a pencil and bring them with you during the day. Try to sketch whatever you see that you find interesting. If it doesn’t look good, it’s okay. You can always redraw it and keep redrawing it until you develop an understanding of lines and shading. There’s lots of great YouTube videos that offer tutorials. You can also try to practice drawing things you see in your books, like comics. 

So, just don’t be afraid to give it a try and it doesn’t have to be perfect, just keep working on it.