In your opinion, is there a conceptual difference between Anime and Animation? How has it influenced your art?
I think that anime has definitely influenced my style because I watched a lot of it growing up. I’m actually half Korean and I definitely identify as an Asian-American woman. When I was growing up a lot of my visual influences came from anime or animated shows that drew from similar influences (like Teen Titans, Samurai Jack, Sailor Moon, Avatar the Last Airbender, My Life as a Teenage Robot.) Conceptually I think there’s no difference between anime and animation - they’re both forms of sequential art that tell a story with the same kinds of techniques/technology. I think the big difference comes down to the visual style of it - the way we simplify complex forms to identifiable symbols. If you think about the way that an American TV show might symbolize a face- what you’re looking at isn’t really a face and it doesn’t look like a 3D face that occupies real space, but you recognize that it’s a face. It’s the same with anime, but the symbolization or simplification of forms is different. I think there might also be different emphasis for the story in anime as well because our cultures are very different (for example, Miyazaki is well known for creating these animated movies that really emphasize the relationship with nature or lack the really clear good vs. evil themes we’re used to seeing in western animation).
Where do you get your inspiration from? What is your art about?
I definitely get my inspiration from studying the kinds of stories I’m drawn to, be it through television or movies or the ways we expand the worlds in those mediums through merchandising. I think my art is about that relationship that I have with those stories.
When did you decide you wanted to become an artist? How did you get started in art?
I’ve always been drawing ever since I was a kid. I used to watch the “how to draw” sections of Disney movies to try to copy the characters and I was always creating my own characters and drawing little comics for them. Even in high school I did a lot of collaborative creative work with my really talented friend and studio partner Amy Zhang (who goes to Dartmouth), so art was always a big part of my life. But I think getting started in art as a career can be very challenging because a lot of people will make you feel that art is somehow a less intellectual field, or that it is a non-essential function of our world and you won’t be treated with the same respect as other people. I once had an artist friend joke “oh, I should have been a doctor, that way I wouldn’t have to prove myself to everyone I ever meet”, which was a funny thing to say but is also so true to the way some people will treat you when they learn that you’re an artist. But at the end of the day I think the job market is tough no matter what you end up doing, and I decided I wanted to be an artist when I realized that making art and collaborating with other creative people is truly what makes me happy and fulfilled. So much of our culture and understanding of the world is formed by the things we watch and that’s especially true for children. I particularly was affected by the animated movies I grew up with, so to contribute to that kind of legacy would really be a worthwhile way to spend my life and career.
Which artist has inspired you?
I’m really inspired by the illustration work of Joey Chou - he does a lot of in-house work for Disney. In terms of animation I’m also a big fan of Rebecca Sugar’s work- she’s the first female show creator in the history of Cartoon Network and that’s huge. She’s spearheaded this effort with her show (Steven Universe) to bring in a more diverse cast of voice actors and the show itself is very progressive. I love that. Other favorites of mine include Avatar the Last Airbender (by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko), Over the Garden Wall (Patrick McHale), and Adventure Time (Pendleton Ward). Creating and running a show takes a lot of work because you are responsible for the creation of that entire world, and the characters come from your experiences and your voice. All of these shows have very distinct worlds and feelings to them and I really admire that.
Are you aware of or have you experienced gender discrimination in the visual arts?
I think the problem of gender inequality is something that is just more recently coming to light in the animation community. For a very long time women were not allowed to be artists in the industry because companies didn’t want to train them; they thought that female artists were bound to leave to raise families and so they weren’t allowed to do any of the creative design or story work. That’s something that still has its reverberations today- female story artists are few and far between and there are virtually no female show-runners. In many ways an animated show represents your story or your voice as an artist so it’s overwhelming to think that the stories and voices that we’ve been listening to in the shows we grew up loving were really entirely male. We’re lucky now that this kind of gender discrimination is coming to light and I would love to see more big name studios making an effort to combat that by encouraging and listening to female artists. I hope to see female artists support one another and male artists recognize that this discrimination is real and listen to their female colleagues.
Have you ever become aware of / experienced gender discrimination in the visual arts?
Growing up, I noticed how the vast majority of the artists I've studied were male and about 90% of the figures in the art were female. However, I assumed that it was a past/ historical issue and not as prevalent today until I learned about Guerilla girls and learned the mind blowing statistics of gender's role in the art world even today.