Student Spotlight: Nicole Li

Meet Nicole Li, a fourteen-year-old watershed explorer from Johns Creek, Georgia. Nicole's art piece titled "Tree of Life" (above) was selected as River of Words' 2016-17 Category III Art Winner and will be printed in the much-anticipated 2016-18 Anthology.  In January of 2018, Nicole participated in a student spotlight interview, in which she told us about the story of "Tree of Life," the view from her favorite tree, and much more.

Nicole Li, a 14 year old student, stands outside, in front of a window and a row of large bushes. In her hands at waist level, she holds the Georgia River of Words 2017 anthology.Q: What is your current age?

A: Fourteen.


Q: How did you begin creating, and what do you enjoy about creating?

A: I’ve enjoyed drawing as far back as I can remember. I enjoy creating because I can make whatever I want to.


Q: What do you like about being able to make whatever you want to.

A: Well, I can make anything! Like if I want to make a dragon, I can make a dragon.


Q: Wow, I love that it sounds like you understand the power that you hold. What does it feel like to be able to do that?

A: It makes me feel free to express myself and create my own worlds


This image is Nicole Li's artwork "Tree of Life." The medium appears to be acrylic paint or pastel. The background is split between a blue sky with white light at the center, and green grass on the bottom half. A large tree takes up most of the foreground. The tree is comprised of many thin curvy branches that end in clusters of green leaves on top, and deep roots that sink into the grass but remain visible. In the grass, among the roots, are painted fish of various sizes; on the top half of the tree, which touches the sky, are several birds perching in the branches, one flying, and a snake coiled around a branch.Q: So, tell me about “Tree of Life” what inspired you to create it and what were you thinking about while you created?

A: “Tree of Life” was inspired by a trip to Florida, where I saw mangrove forests and the tour guide talked about how many animals lived in the trees and what the trees could provide for the animals.


Q: Has art and the environment always been linked for you?

A: I think they’ve always been linked. I’ve always liked landscape drawings, and drawings with rivers and forests.


Q: Do you like to explore the environment? What do you normally do when you explore the environment?

A: Walk around, go fishing, climb trees.


Q: Wow, that’s a very different group of activities! What helped you to get into fishing?

A: Well, my dad likes fishing.


Q: What about climbing trees?

A: There’s a very big tree in a park that I go to often, and it’s tall and fun to climb.


Q: What else do you do when you go out into the environment?

A: I’ve gone camping a few times.


Q: What was that like?

A: mosquitoes everywhere.


Q: What is it like for you when you climb up the big tree you mentioned? It must be interesting to climb such a big tree, to have a different view of the world.

A: When climbing the tree, you can see the whole—there’s a lake next to it, and you can see the whole lake from up top.


Q: What do you normally do when you’re in the tree?

A: Look at things. I observe the lake most of the time. Sometimes there’s ducks in it. I also try to find flowers on the tree.


Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to explore more about their watershed and their environment, like you do in the trees?

A: Go to a park and explore. Hike in trails, walk around the lake if there is one, discover new things.


Q: So, for you it sounds like going into the environment and interacting helps you to understand your environment. How did you first hear about River of Words?

A: My art teacher introduced it to me.


Q: And did your art teacher suggest you send things in?

A: Yes


Q: What was it like to enter your work into a contest?

A: I wasn’t sure if I would win, but it was fun! I drew lots of fish.


Q: What are you currently drawing?

A: Oil painting. I’m drawing this place in Switzerland. It has a waterfall


Q: Are you looking at pictures to draw it? Or is it a place you’ve been?

A: looking at pictures.


Q: How do you normally select what you’re going to draw?

A: I usually draw whatever interests me at the time.


Q: So what ways do you begin creating your art?

A: I think of what I want to draw, and then look up pictures for reference.


Q: What is some advice you would give another young person who wants to create art?

A: Practice, draw lots of different things. Try lots of different styles, try to develop your own.


Q: What do you think helped you to get started on creating art?

A: I don’t know. I’ve always liked it, ever since I could remember.