Artist Highlight: Livia Radu

Livia was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, she moved to the Eden Area four years ago. She wants to explore San Francisco and its surroundings but admits, “. . . I started painting, now I don’t wanna go out anymore, now I just wanna stay at home and paint!”

Livia first put paint to canvas in May of 2017. Although she is only ten months into her journey, Livia had been seeking her art for some time, “I’ve always had that dream inside and the wish to paint a horse! But I always thought painting was so complicated and I never studied art. Where do I start?”

Unacquainted with paint or canvas coupled with a lack of time prevented Livia from courageously pursuing her desire to paint. Livia has been creating art in various forms throughout her life, playing with graphic design and crafting art. But recently Livia found herself amidst a family of artists whom she met through mutual friends. Livia has built bonds with Pam Holloway, Paula Cameto, and Diane Higgins. One of the most influential artists, is Livia’s friend and mentor Betty Lou Loeffler, who is 95 years old and an accomplished painter. “Every time we meet, which is pretty much every day, they would be talking about art saying ‘I started this painting,’ and, ‘ I finished that painting,’ and I’m thinking to myself 'I wish I could try, just see if I could do it'.” Eventually, Livia, finally tried her hand at painting, “and my first painting was the horse.” Naturally, Livia sought input on art from Betty Lou and her artist friends and they all confirmed "you're a natural". 

Livia loves the challenge of painting horses and how detailed the process is, “for me horses are  majestic creatures with their distinct personality and theatrical expressiveness. There is something very elegant about them and I always try to show that in my paintings but it’s not easy . . .it’s not easy at all to capture that and show it in your paintings.” Livia has also created landscape paintings and abstract art, and each time she has dabbled she has been surprised to find people who love her experiments.

“I get inspiration from everything around me.”

“I get inspiration from everything around me.” Livia describes herself as a “nature person,” and will intentionally seek out environments that inspire her. She frequently drives from Concord to Castro Valley via Crow Canyon Road, “where it’s full of horses! And I always drive slow just to look at them!”

Livia often turns to fine art magazines like Plain Air or the internet to reference photos of horses and seeks out western and equine photographers to observe. Each painting Livia creates begins as a sketch. After she is satisfied with the sketch she begins to add texture, “I use modeling paste to give a nice texture to the painting. I love paintings that have lots of texture, bold colors and bold lines.” After she adds texture, Livia paints from the outside in, beginning with her background and finishing with the focal design. She admits that her process is unconventional but it is where she has felt the most comfortable, “and for me it helps with the detail, I think the details take a lot of time and a lot of work and if I have everything else done, for me it makes it easier to concentrate on the details.”

Livia’s paintings take anywhere from a week to a month to complete depending on the nature of the piece and the size of the canvas. Once she begins a painting, it is rare for Livia to put off finishing it. However, she has procrastinated on her current project, a painting of four horses, “that is my dream.” The piece has produced equal parts passion and nervousness, “the horses are huge,” Livia says of the 50 by 60 inch canvas. The familiar fear of starting crept in when Livia took on the four horses painting, “Where do I start? Where do I finish?” Livia is a self-taught painter and relies on her intuition and her mentor and artist friends for technique but also on sources like YouTube. After she sketched the four horses painting, Livia felt she needed to take a step back. She took time away and delved into abstract, landscapes, and floral paintings, “but I’m thinking about that painting every day.” 

Livia is often learning more about herself through the trial and error of art, “I discovered a whole different side of me. I’m a very detail oriented person but in art you also need to be very messy sometimes. I discovered that you can be very creative and messy and ordered at the same time,” she says with a laugh.

For Livia, the challenge of art has continued to inspire her. She always admired art from a distance, “and I was always wondering, could I ever do this? And every single time I start a painting, I feel the same thing! Can I ever create something as beautiful as this! And I just want to start and try to see if I can do it.” Livia has gradually fallen in love with the feeling of trying something new and creative for nothing more than the opportunity to see if you can succeed.

The conversation shifts from art to Smalltown Society. “What do I like about Smalltown? Where do I start? I mean look at this place!” She says from the black couch in The Space. “I love the name first of all,” she says with a laugh. “Now being an artist, I’m trying to figure out this world, and I’m trying to put my work out there, and it’s not easy, so I really love that you guys are making this possible for artists. Because I think there is a big need in this field.”  Livia continues to meditate on the opportunity for artists and how Smalltown is satisfying, “You just need a place where you can put yourself out there. Of course you have Facebook and Instagram but it’s not enough. And many of the artists are not known locally, so this is great especially for the local artists.” Livia concludes, “In time, this is going to be really big. And I'm happy to be part of your journey.”

Check out Livia’s art on display at the space in February, and online at