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Wed, Oct. 16

'Accidental discovery' leads to newfound talent for Prescott Valley woman

Mei-June Liao describes how she altered a scene of Willow Lake from the photo to a sketch before demonstrating pastels to members of the PV Art Guild on Tuesday.<br>
TribPhoto/Sue Tone

Mei-June Liao describes how she altered a scene of Willow Lake from the photo to a sketch before demonstrating pastels to members of the PV Art Guild on Tuesday.<br> TribPhoto/Sue Tone

Mei-June Liao is relatively new to the world of art, but her talent is evolving in leaps and bounds. In fact, her recent pastel of the Grand Canyon has won five awards - so far - and will be published in the January/February 2012 edition of the Artist's Magazine.

Liao, 60, moved to Prescott Valley two years ago this month, took a couple of art classes and already has won top prizes in several juried art shows in Arizona and New Mexico, including Prescott Valley's Fall for the Arts, and the annual National Pastel Exhibition in New Mexico. The "Grand Canyon" painting received Best of Show in the New West exhibit at Prescott Center for the Arts, and 2nd place in Artist's Magazine's 28th Annual Art competition student/beginner division (for people pursuing art for no more than four years).

Liao came to the United States in 1975 to attend graduate school at Yale where she earned a PhD degree before gathering postdoctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a career working in the pharmaceutical industry in New Jersey. After 25 years, she retired in 2008, although she continues to work as a consultant for two biomedical companies on the East Coast.

"I keep my brain active. I spend about 50 percent of my time painting," she said, "so one half in art, one half in science. I keep my left and right brain busy."

It was soon after retiring that she accidentally discovered an interest in art after visiting a Chinese painting club in New Jersey with a friend. She took a Chinese watercolor painting class, practicing the traditional Chinese style painting in black and white.

In Prescott and Prescott Valley, Liao looked into Western art training and began pastel lessons with Don Rantz. She joined the Prescott Valley Art Guild and participates in its monthly competitions. In July, she moved up from Level B to Level C in the pastel category, and has begun entering oil paintings at Level A. She also won the Guild's June special "Trees" theme competition.

At Tuesday's PVAG meeting, Liao demonstrated her pastel techniques, and how to sketch from photos.

Liao's husband also is retired and her son is pursuing postgraduate education in the field of computer video gaming arts. He played video games while young, which led to an interest in graphic arts and designing. He plans to work in "environment art" providing the background art for video games.

Liao advises retirees or those getting to "senior" age to keep learning new things.

"It keeps your life much more interesting."

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