The dynamic and gestural marks that define my visual art arise from a desire to understand, and give form to, human connection. These images are collaborations with life models, artists, and other subjects, and their palpable energy has much to do with their sources of inspiration. In my work, I have pictured a range of unique individuals—including freedom fighters on location, an award-winning filmmaker, and the first-ever professional male Palestinian ballet dancer. I seek energy and immediacy in my work, and to that end I often draw in front of a live audience, in the highly expressive medium of charcoal.

My work as an artist co-exists with my career in information technology, which continues to sustain my art-making. It was in 2011 that I left a job in IT and began to pursue art with a new energy and commitment, though the seed had been planted twenty years earlier.

A course in Chinese art and art history that I completed in Taiwan during 1991 and ‘92 provided my entry to the art world. While there, I had the opportunity to learn techniques from the daughter of the court artist to Chiang Kai Shek, Liang Dan Fong, who became my mentor. A circle of established painters accepted me among them and gave me a Chinese name—Li Da—that remains my artist signature. Eastern philosophy has always been an important influence on my work, and when my practice moved into a form of expressive figure drawing in 2011, it inevitably honored traditional Chinese brushwork.

The years 2011 to 2014 saw numerous highlights for my art career. In 2011, I took a hiatus from technology work, rented out my San Francisco apartment, and took an extended trip to central Europe, during which art was my focus. In 2013 I funded and pursued a conceptual project that took me to the Middle East, where I aimed to educate myself, to collaborate with, and empower other artists. In 2014, I performed A Mark for Peace, an exploration of art amid politics, on stage in London, afterwards exhibiting the pieces I produced during the performance. The ideology of A Mark for Peace continues to drive my thinking about art, and my successes in this field go to support other artists working toward the same purpose.

My art is essentially collaborative. Since early 2016 that collaborative element has taken a more specific form in tandem projects with fellow artist Juliet Sikora. In January 2016 Sikora and I created drawings together during a live performance at the San Francisco Movement and Arts Festival, garnering praise and further commissions. Our work seeks to document the movement, life, and energy of the moment before us. Visit to learn more about our collaborative projects.

Conceptually, my art plays with the subjectivity of seeing. I find it fascinating that even western science cannot establish one definitive, shared way that we perceive the world. My work embraces multiplicities of viewpoints, and while it is experimental in form, I consider it a kind of realism.

I rely heavily on social media to connect with other artists and data scientists all over the world. I am always learning from these connections and frequently sell work upon inquiry. I study inferential statistics and history, and I find other people, as well as music, essential in creating new works.

John Ligda