The Practical Artist

Li Mei Norton follows her heart to the canvas
By EDDIE RIVERA, Weekend Editor
Published on Apr 5, 2022

LI Mei Norton, owner of Li Mei Art World (Studio/gallery), isn’t your typical artist. She is far more pragmatic and practical. She never wanted to be a struggling artist, for example, she’s sure of that.

Before opening her gallery in the midst of the pandemic, she was a successful real estate agent who still dabbles in the marketplace, though art may be her natural calling, she says.

“I’ve always been in sales,” she said in a recent interview at her gallery. “I love it and I am good at it. I was very successful in real estate.”

But then came the pandemic,  and like so many, Li Mei took a look around at her life.

 “I started meditation and thinking about what I should pick up on,” she recalled.

“I should draw. I should be painting,” she thought.

She had mostly drawn with pencil as a child, but was suddenly seized with the idea that she should be painting. With color. As it happened, there was a flower painting in her living room at home, which she ultimately tried to duplicate.

“It was a beautiful drawing of a flower,” she said.  “I decided to draw it. So that was my first painting. She painted it on July 25, 2020, she remembers.

“And the art was selected by an art gallery. Wow!,” she remembered, laughing. “And I I thought, ‘That’s a mysterious sign from God.’”

It was a sign, but she apparently needed a few more of them. On a trip to Europe six months ago, she traveled to Italy, Amsterdam and Spain for 3 months, briefly considering the idea of living there. She soon realized, however,  I’m not ready for a new country and I missed home in Pasadena.

But something else occurred.

“When I started painting, I felt the vibration. I felt like this might be something I want to do. I began thinking, ‘Am I an artist?

But soon after, her art began to sell. She sold a painting of a flamenco dancer to a collector in Madrid Spain.

“So I started to sell my art,” she said. “$500. Three months. That’s what told me there is something big behind me. I believe I can be a great, great salesperson. But artists, she said, don’t control their own fate”

But every sale of art led to another and another. She began to sell art to galleries in Laguna Beach, a well-known art hotspot, befriending a gallery owner there, who inspired her sales, and her own dreams.

When she confided those dreams in a close friend, the friend reassured and encouraged her,  saying that whatever she could visualize for herself, could really happen. Soon after those words of encouragement, she happened upon an empty storefront on a quiet stretch of Green Street, seemingly just itching for a gallery tenant.

And that was that.

Now, more than a hundred of LI Mei’s works line the walls of her studio gallery, and she paints regularly, every day. Self-trained, her paintings can be described as sophisticated folk art, sometimes rough-hewn, others far more detailed. The subject matter is primarily portraits, many of them commissioned works, but there also are a number of celebrity paintings, along with stylized versions of known artworks, which she has reinterpreted.

After only a year and half of practicing art, she may even find that real estate is something that she “used to” be involved in and she found her true calling! She’s here to share with her art with you in hometown Pasadena.

Li Mei Art World is at 1057 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91106 (818) 913-9979. Also visit, ,, or

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