Students Rising AboveBy Michelle Griego

VALLEJO (CBS SF) — For Lucy Lopez, art is an escape and a calling. But it’s also a career choice the 19-year-old UC Merced student says she was discouraged from making.

“‘It’s not a job. It’s not something that is going to get you anywhere,’ That is usually something that I would hear,” said Lopez of others’ opinions on her passion for art.

The Vallejo resident majored in psychology, but a few viewings of online digital art how-to videos changed her mind. She began to see art as a viable career choice.

“Art is in everything,” Lopez said. “It is in designs. It is in restaurants, TV. It’s everywhere, so I think it’s something that I want to do.”

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And it’s something she’s been doing — and creating — since she was a young child. Back then art was the connection Lopez had with her father.

“My dad used to teach me how to draw and sketch,” Lopez recalled. “It just reminds me of him…precious memories of him…you know sketching and drawing together.

His deportation in 2007 to Central America devastated his daughter, and the family, both emotionally and economically.

“For years I was also in depression because of my father leaving,” said Lopez.

Lopez’ mother was not able to be home because she had to work 14 hours a day to support her children, Lopez cared for her younger siblings when her mother was gone.

Money was tight. So Lopez turned to art again. This time for connection to her mom.

“During like her birthday or Christmas, we weren’t having enough money for presents,” recalled Lopez. “So I would draw her something she likes like a flower.”

Pictures that are now framed as keepsakes, like one Lopez drew of a mother comforting a child who has skinned her knee. Lopez says that drawing is one her mom keeps by her bedside.

Now anime is part of Lopez’s art time too. It’s another connection to her mom, who introduced Lopez to anime cartoons. Lopez has created some anime herself and hopes to do more in the future professionally.

“I would like to do some designs for anime,” said Lopez. “That would be really cool if I did get the chance to.”

Right now Lopez is getting a chance to design for Students Rising Above. She recently submitted a proposed design featuring Black Lives Matter for SRA’s annual report.

And she’s hoping to test out her skills in art school. It’s a change she is embracing with newfound courage.

“Everybody doesn’t know what they want to do off the bat,” advised Lopez. ” It’s good to discover and try to learn more about yourself in the first few years of adulthood. That is something that I had to learn.”

And while Lopez has not seen her father in several years, she speaks with him regularly by phone. She’s the first in her family to go college. She hopes to be the first to attend art school, news she would love to share with her father soon.

“I like drawing,” said Lopez. “It makes me happy.”

Michelle Griego