Serena Phu

Serena sometimes introduces herself as Ren, and mostly presents herself online as phoodledoodles. She is an artist with a focus on painting and illustration, and describes her work as “a precarious balance of cutesy-lovely-pretty, and ominous tension.”

She received her BFA from the Hartford Art School in May 2019. She has had several gallery shows and has attended anime and pop culture conventions as an artist since fall 2015.

What is your favorite food?

I have 2 separate answers for this. My favorite food for looking at is cake, especially modern cakes. I’m very much a fan of whipped cream texture, and looking at finely piped whipped cream dollops and swirls makes me elated.

My favorite food, according to my boyfriend, whom I had to ask for input on this, is good curry. I do enjoy sweet curries, like Japanese curry and Thai curry. In general, I like a lot of sweet-savory foods, and foods with a soft or even mushy texture.

Favorite travel spots:

I’ve been to Japan only one time, and it was my only time traveling internationally, but it was definitely a highlight for me. A lot of people want to travel there, and for good reason; when I was there, everything felt like a dream. It felt like regular mundane life, but easier and all-around nicer. I was mostly in the city, and public transit was straightforward despite any language barriers, food was easy to come by, and the shopping landscape was new and exciting. I would definitely recommend visiting Japan to see their city life, particularly Tokyo and everything it encompasses, and Osaka and the nearby Nara Park, where you can bow endlessly with very polite deer (or get chased by them when you have food, as I did). Another spot I’d recommend is the Zao Fox Village in Shiroishi, which is a far train ride from the major cities, but a good opportunity to experience the Shinkansen.


Art Process:

My art process starts with the medium. I usually get an intrinsic sense of what medium I think suits a work best, based on what the subject matter is and whatever inkling of a composition I have in mind for it. My usual default is oil paint, as it is the most versatile and the most comfortable for me, as well as most fun. I like oil for the texture that it’s capable of, and when I work with it, I often try to incorporate large, brushy strokes and globby paint chunks if I can. If a piece requires a lighter or more delicate touch, I go for watercolor and/or gouache (unless it requires a dark background, in which case I go back to oil). I find water-based medium to be so dainty, and works very well to convey a feeling of sunniness or fragility.

From there, I figure out composition; I usually have an immediate sense of what kind of impact I want from a piece and what it ought to look like, so I’ll then do a few pencil sketches, take some reference photos I might need, and work out any wonky parts until I get exactly the vibe I envision. Once that’s ready to go, I’ll either redraw it or transfer it onto whatever surface I’m working on (watercolor paper, canvas, board, digital scan, etc.) and start to paint. Painting is a very straightforward, step-by-step process for me, although there are a few decisions that I leave out during the planning portion that I make while executing the final product; I feel that this keeps it from getting too stiff or overly structured.