A color pencil drawing of a girl with flower petals growing out of her head.
“Bud,” 2022, color pencil and graphite on paper, 14 x 11 in.

From a young age, NYU art student Coco Guo immersed herself in making art—painting with acrylics, experimenting with watercolors, and drawing portraits. She gravitated toward fine art, but she never locked herself into one medium. While oil paints, graphite, and colored pencils became her go-to materials, she eagerly explores other art forms to find the best vehicle to express herself.

“I always tell myself to get out of my comfort zone,” says Coco. “It’s good to explore your interests and try new things, even if you’re not sure how they will work out. I did this before college, when I completed summer programs in fashion and interior design at the Parsons School of Design and the Rhode Island School of Design, respectively. I did not end up pursuing these art forms in the long term. Still, the programs helped me pinpoint the best mediums for my artistic voice. So it wasn’t time wasted. I was just adding more tools to my tool kit.”

A ceramic creation of a doll’s head with petals surrounding it.
“Catharsis,” 2023, ceramics, 6 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 3 1/4 in.
A ceramic set of breakfast foods with a doll’s face as the yolk of an egg.
“Morning,” 2022, ceramics, 7 1/4 x 7 x 1 1/4 in.

An Organic Process That Yields Beautiful Results

In fall 2020 Coco joined the Studio Art major at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. As a first-year student, she honed her craft, expanded her skill set, and explored her interests in art history and business. Then, during her sophomore and junior years, she decided to try something new yet again, so she registered for her first two courses in ceramics. There, she learned how to hand-build, making pottery using only her hands and simple tools. Additionally, she started mixing glazes and throwing pottery with different types of clay. Soon, Coco grew to love the medium and its unpredictable nature.

“With ceramics, you never know what the final product is going to look like until it’s fired and out of the kiln,” she explains. “There are a lot of beautiful accidents that have happened for me in between glazes. When painting or drawing, that isn’t really achievable if you’re someone who likes to plan your compositions.”

In high school Coco was one of those people. Before starting a piece, she’d brainstorm an idea, sketch numerous compositions, and carefully choose her color palette. Only then would she start creating. Nowadays, she embraces a more organic process—one that’s less methodical and more focused on the overarching message. For Coco, that often centers on gender identity, cultural identity, and the female bodily experience.

“I just go with the flow,” she concludes. “When inspiration strikes, I put the ideas in my phone so I don’t forget. Then, I choose a topic and just go for it. Even the color palette—I don’t plan it. I just have something in mind and trust that it will come across in my work.”

A set of three drawings that illustrate the following: an elephant, a girl with a small animal, and a giraffe.
“Showman,” 2021, graphite and tracing paper on paper, 7 x 12 in. each

Unleashing Her Creativity

At NYU, Coco finds that exploration and self-discovery are often celebrated in the classroom. Students aren’t confined to a certain art form or medium; they’re encouraged to play, try new things, and experiment beyond their comfort zone. “Here, students have the freedom to unleash their creative minds,” says Coco. “You can see that in our critiques because there’s such a diverse range of works in different mediums, presentations, and styles. It’s not prescriptive here. Students have the flexibility to explore their interests.”

So what’s next for Coco? Graduate school, for one thing, in either Visual Arts Administration at Steinhardt or the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Beyond that, she plans to focus on her art, keeping her eyes and ears open for the next opportunity to expand her tool kit.

Learn more about studio art at NYU.
Studio Art