Robert Liu-Trujillo x Erin Yoshi: Stories of Diversity and Joy

Robert Liu-Trujillo x Erin Yoshi: Stories of Diversity and Joy

In today’s episode of the Not Real Art Podcast, guest host Erin Yoshi is joined by Robert Liu-Trujillo, a fine artist, illustrator, muralist, children’s book creator, and lifelong Bay Area resident.

Click play button above to hear this great episode with Robert Liu-Trujillo

Born in Oakland California, Rob is the child of student activists who watched lots of science fiction and took him to demonstrations. Always drawing, Rob grew up to be an artist, falling in love with graffiti, fine art, illustration, murals, and children’s books at a young age.

Illustration by Robert Liu-Trujillo
Illustration by Robert Liu-Trujillo

Rob now illustrates and writes bilingual children’s books to share stories of diversity of joy, like Furqan’s First Flat Top, where readers meet Furqan Moreno, a 10-year-old Black Latino boy who always had “real curly hair” and decides it is time for a new haircut.

“When my son was born, it was 2004, I was like, ‘Where are the books about kids like him?’ I’m a mixed kid. He’s a mixed kid. He has curly hair. Why are there no books about kids like this? Furthermore, he was learning Spanish and I was learning Spanish; why were there very few bilingual books [for] kids like him? A lot of the bilingual books I’d see were from Spain or they were [depicting] white kids or white-passing Latinos. I was like, there’s a whole array of Latinos. Why is this not in books?” — Robert Liu-Trujillo [0:14:24]

Illustrator Robert Liu-Trujillo
Robert Liu-Trujillo

Through storytelling, Rob scratches the surface of many untold stories, and he is also the Founder of Come Bien Books and a Cofounder of The Trust Your Struggle Collective. In this conversation, he offers some insight into the evolution of his artistic practice and shares some of the narratives in his books, which he created for kids like his son, who is mixed race and bilingual. He also walks us through the process of building stories and creating characters, using art to address social issues, and the power of encouraging young BIPOC artists, plus so much more, so make sure to tune in today to learn more!

“Especially in [communities of] Black folks, people of color, it’s really important to encourage young people who want to be artists early and give them encouragement and show them other people like them and say, ‘You can do this too!’ You may not understand fully what they are trying to do but [you can] find as much as you can on it and encourage them. I hope [my art book] will be a tool for parents and adults to encourage kids.” — Robert Liu-Trujillo [0:52:23]

Illustration by Robert Liu-Trujillo
Illustration by Robert Liu-Trujillo

“I didn’t want to do a story that was about pain. I wanted to do a story about happiness.” — @RobertTres [0:15:49]

“We are part of a legacy of people [using] artwork to talk about current and past social issues and to also illustrate what could possibly be.” — @RobertTres [0:31:17]

Our guest host Erin Yoshi
Our guest host Erin Yoshi

Key Points From This Robert Liu-Trujillo Episode:

  • Robert shares some of his early memories of art, starting with his love for graffiti.
  • How he learned about graffiti and design and ultimately went on to study fine art in college.
  • His lifelong passion for art and how growing up in the Bay Area influenced his work.
  • From working in libraries, antique shops, and art stores to teaching; Rob’s career trajectory.
  • The evolution of his work from graffiti to illustration, inspired by animation and comic books.
  • Finding his niche in children’s books and writing contemporary stories of diversity and joy.
  • Hear more about Rob’s DIY route to becoming a published author and illustrator.
  • Some of the storylines in Rob’s first books, which he created for kids like his own.
  • What Rob’s disciplined art practice looks like and why he believes it’s like being an athlete.
  • Rob on his process of ideating, iterating, and creating narratives and characters.
  • Challenges he has encountered on his journey and what they taught him about picking his battles, consistency, and the power of saying ‘no’.
  • Learn about the Trust Your Struggle Collective and what inspired the formation of the crew.
  • Using art to address current and past social issues and to illustrate what could be.
  • What Rob has learned from collaboration; why he believes that “steel sharpens steel.”
  • Find out what artistic sovereignty and artistic sustainability mean to him.
  • How Rob looks after himself by taking days off social media and doing consistent exercise.
  • Staying relevant and ‘fresh’ by working on a wide variety of different projects.
  • Some of the artists that Rob admires, including Olivia Fields and Abelle Hayford.
  • How Rob overcomes artists’ block as a professional by practicing regularly.
  • Balancing being a parent and a working artist and inspiration Rob gets from his children.
  • What’s next for Rob, including his new picture book, Alejandria Fights Back!
  • How he hopes his art book, Art of Rob, will encourage young BIPOC kids to be artists.

“Ever since I was a kid, I really enjoyed and had a passion for [art]. No one needed to tell me to do it. I just did because I loved it.” — @RobertTres [0:05:22]

“When my son was born, it was 2004, I was like, ‘Where are the books about kids like him?’ I’m a mixed kid. He’s a mixed kid. He has curly hair. Why are there no books about kids like this?” — @RobertTres [0:14:24]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

“Especially in [communities of] Black folks, people of color, it’s really important to encourage young people who want to be artists early and give them encouragement and show them other people like them and say, ‘You can do this too!’” — @RobertTres [0:52:23]


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