Monday, October 23, 2006
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Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
I was born in Taiwan and grew up in a small farm town near the beach. Growing up with just three television channels, all government-run, I spent most of my time making up games, drawing and chasing farm animals. I remember going through phases of different hobbies but drawing never left me. At eleven my family and I immigrated to Toronto, Canada. For a long time I never seriously considered art or animation as a career; it was not a very popular topic in my family.
My senior year in high school is when I’ve decided to enroll in art school. I was at Parsons School of Design in New York for two years studying graphic design and illustration but it was when I transferred to Cal Arts that I began to focus on visual development and character design. I’m currently enrolled in my final year of the Character Animation program. Here, students produce a personal film each year and it’s a great challenge to undertake. By doing my last three, I have learned much from my errors and setbacks.
Dan Hansen was my layout teacher and he is still a major influence on me. In class he would break down movies so I could understand what made them visually tick. Not only is he an amazing experienced ex-Disney artist, he treats me like a fellow artist, not as a student. We discuss movies and trade opinions. I feel so honored that a great artist like him is willing to spend time conversing with me. Shane Prigmore was my 2nd year animation teacher. Without him I wouldn’t know about artists like Earl Oliver Hurst, the Provensens, Eyvind Earle, Jack Davis, and Franquin. I had Mike Disa as my freshman animation teacher and he made me realize there are many more films out there, other than animation, worth studying, such as those of Billy Wilder and Kurosawa. Lastly, my greatest influence comes from the fellow students in my class. All of them are amazing artists that I have come to respect greatly. I can’t wait for the chance to work with them on future projects. What’s more fun than working with your friends?
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
Before I start drawing I explore the character and find sources of inspiration to help me with the design. That exploration consists of figuring out the character’s biography, locale, story, and relationships. Then I start with small rough sketches in my sketchbook. I seek out the gesture, composition, character traits, expressions, environment, and possible props. I usually sketch with an ink pen instead of pencil. I find it’s easier for me to color with marker or watercolor without the troublesome smudging. Also, since I more readily see characters in shapes instead of lines, I sometimes do a quick gouache sketch of the design. After that, I do a lot of research with photographs to find the most interesting color, value, and depth that support the design.
When I’m satisfied with the sketch I go straight into completing the piece. I approach each design with a different thought process. I try to envision the finished piece in my mind and decide which medium would be the best to realize it. I’ve just started using Photoshop as one of my media of choice. It’s more convenient for me to make changes.
If I’m unsatisfied with the final result I usually start over from the sketches, depending on the deadline.
Sometimes I get awesome random ideas at the most untimely moments, so I try to keep a sketchbook and a pen at all times. If I’m ever stuck with a design job I go out of the box and find any sort of inspiration to fire my energy. Countless times I’ve gotten ideas from books, magazines (Wallpaper*, National Geographic), music, film, the Internet, and friends.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you are with?
I’m still enrolled at Cal Arts so that’s where I’m usually at seven days a week, surrounded with very talented classmates. I am also a serious tea drinker, so I usually have a small tea party every night at my apartment.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
Bill Plympton’s Hair High, Laika’s Jack & Ben, backgrounds for a Random Cartoons short, and random freelance gigs.
Is there a design you have done that you are most proud of?
I don’t think about whether it’s good or not, I just do it. As long I am not bored, it’s time well spent.
What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
Recently, I freelanced on a Frederator short called “Samsquatch” and this past summer I worked as a junior visual development artist at Laika Entertainment (Jack & Ben). I’ll be busy this school year working on my own short film.
Who do you think are the top artists out there?
There are too many to name… Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, Dosneau, Weegee, Sasek, Kiraz, Gustave Moreau, Rodin, Hank Ketcham, Earl Oliver Hurst, J.W. Waterhouse, Arthur Rackham, Quentin Blake, Mary Blair, the Provensens, Paul Pope, Craig Thompson, Jason (the Norwegian comic artist), Hayao Miyazaki, Maurice Sendak, Peter de Seve, the list goes on . . .
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
One of the greatest aids in coloring is studying photography. Black and white, color, other paintings, any sort of inspiration that sparks an image in my head. I love to discover the use of an unconventional color placed with another color to create a new impression. For example, I noticed that in some of Maxfield Parrish’s paintings he places neon green on top of dark indigo to create a spring morning feel. That gets me really excited! I always try to experiment with that into my own work.
I also think that when there is color there has to be a theory of lighting. Subtractive color is what we see when light is cast on an object. Therefore, the color we see is a reflection of the light. That’s why color is such a major player in atmosphere and mood. And then there’s additive color, which basically is the color we print or paint on top of another object. So when I’m designing something I ask myself a series of questions. What’s the color of the prop? What’s the color when a yellow bulb light is cast on it? What texture is best to describe its weight and material? For a character it’s a bit different. If it’s a human character then what race or skin color does he or she have? What kind of light is cast on the character? Human skin and flesh are different from an inanimate object’s. Don’t they absorb light? What’s the texture and pattern on the costume? Sometimes I get specific. How can I make it look like he or she is hot without a sweating gesture? Like when I watch Fight Club, throughout most of the film I feel like I’m sweating. Research! Lots of research on film, music, book, magazine, culture, etc.
My two most used color media are gouache and Adobe Photoshop. I usually paint gouache on black matte or illustration board (cold press preferred). I’ve been painting more in Photoshop since it’s still novel for me. I haven’t tried Painter yet, and I would love to when I have enough money once I’m out of college.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
I love coloring my work and relish the moment when that stage begins. Coloring is not easy but I just happen to enjoy it the most. My most obvious weakness is in finding a strong character gesture. I think that’s probably why I envision my designs as shapes instead of lines. That being said, I have to be careful not to get too comfortable with that process.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
I run a lot so that’s when I usually think about everything without any sort of distraction. I try to watch a new movie once a week to feed my knowledge of the film language. I flip through magazines, especially National Geographic and The New Yorker. Currently I’m addicted to a radio show called This American Life. It’s a wonderful show about ordinary people and their unordinary stories. If I’m really bored I go somewhere full of people and draw them.
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
My “favorite” seems to always be changing. One day I’ll be drooling over Mucha and then the next day I’ll only want to look at Evyind Earle. Currently I’m crazy about Kiraz, Macintosh, Jordan Crane, and Vespa scooters. I guess I can say those vintage Vespa scooters are my favorite designs.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
Lately, I’ve been drawing more human characters. I haven’t thought too much about the reason behind it. It may be that I find fashion and architecture design very appealing so I am always looking for the opportunity to incorporate that into my work. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to draw creatures or animals or whatever else that is not human. Only humans? That’s boring!
What inspired you to become an Artist?
It was the first time I was strolling through the Met in New York and my eyes were caught by Degas’s horse motion bronzes. I stared at them for a very long time. All I could think was, “how did he capture that moment?” It amazes me how an artist is able to interpret life into a breathtaking artwork. That’s when I started taking my study in art more seriously. That feeling comes up every time I see or experience an inspiring piece.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and one I’m still learning, is patience. Especially in animation, patience is everything! The second lesson is starting over. Don’t ever get obsessed with a single drawing; that only delays the process.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
Art-related websites. I usually check out met.org for its latest show. There’s also a French comic archive website Coconino-world.com its got a good collection of lost vintage illustration. Or else I usually check the BBC for news and WBEZ’s This American Life (thislife.org)
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Patience and passion. If you don’t have patience then you will never finish anything. If you don’t have the passion then you will never want to finish anything.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
I feel I still have a lot to learn and I’m not ready to sell any of my work yet. However, I am selling t-shirts that I’ve silk-screened on my website. If anyone is interested in buying a print you can contact me through email and we’ll talk.