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(Image courtesy of Alice Mao)

Artist of the Week: Alice Mao

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
I’ve been making art for as long as I remember, but I got really committed when I was 12. I’m 17 now and I hope to do this as a career! I primarily paint with oil and digitally, but I’m also branching into printmaking and 3D work.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Generally, I look at photos I’ve taken or artwork I’ve saved for inspiration, and work from there. It’s nice to have a jumping off point, and then diverge from it. As for process, I generally lay down large blocks of color and refine from there.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
I’m inspired by books! There’s a second-hand bookstore near where I live, and the art section has anything from Degas’s sketches to contemporary installation work, theory on arts education to a collection of British artists in the 1980s. There are artists books and essays on photography, and the sheer breadth of it all means that something is bound to catch my eye and spark an idea.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I always come back to portraiture. There’s just something so pleasing about painting a face, and exploring the subtle tones in skin, and it’s a great way to get to know somebody better and have fun conversations.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I don’t really have a favorite! They’re all very personal.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Being able to take different classes definitely impacted my art the most. For example, I took a fascinating figure drawing course at Seattle Artists League, and was able to go to summer programs at Yale University and the School of Visual Arts. These courses showed me artists I haven’t heard about, encouraged me to read more about art theory, taught me new techniques, and encouraged me to think. I’m currently going into senior year of high school, and I’m planning to major in art in college as well.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
I have an Instagram page! Find me at @alicemaoart.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I’m currently working on organizing a show featuring the work of over 30 artists aged 15-21 with my partner, Taylor Wang! Through support from amazing local grants, we are able to put on this show with absolutely no cost barrier to the participants. The show will be in the Seattle Artists League building, from August 31st to September 2nd. More information will be on our website, and our social media, @studentartspaces on Instagram.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
I don’t really drink coffee! I prefer lemonade or tea.