I was born in Shanghai, China. I go back once every year, around Christmas time, to enjoy the food, the cold temperature and beautiful foggy scenery. The rest of the time I stay in Auckland, New Zealand, working as a CG artist and illustrator.
When I was little, I enjoyed doing all kinds of things, like running around naked, playing action-packed theatre with my figure toys while mumbling unscripted dialogues, breaking family property and drawing characters from my favourite picture books. When I was sitting bored in the classroom, I would draw portraits of the teachers in my textbook. I even got commissioned by fellow classmates to do popular cartoon characters, like Aotoman, on their textbooks. In return, they would give me some snacks or invite me to play Contra at their place when their parents were not around. This was my earliest experience as a commercially successful illustrator.
What I really wanted to be back then was a fine art artist, after I read Lust for life by Irving Stone. It is a fictionalized biography of the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. I was deeply moved by the passion and dedication that a true artist can possess. I didn’t want to cut my ear off for my art, but I always wanted to put lively strokes on my canvas like Van Gogh did to his trees and sky.
On the other hand, I was also really interested in visual narratives. My Dad used to do a lot of TV commercials back then and he always held production meetings with fellow producers at home. They sat down talking about scripts and drew storyboards. I always wandered around with great curiosity and took sneaky peeks at what they were doing. Once, I caught a moment when they were both absent and had left their storyboard behind. Such a precious opportunity just shouldn’t go to waste! I filled in all the blanks with my doodle figures, which looked like toilet symbols in motion. I still remember this was a commercial for a washing machine brand and my first experience of being involved in a serious production. My Dad was greatly amused and eventually sent me to study fine art.
Some time passed, and I wasn’t satisfied with paintings that didn’t move. I got interested in making movies and animations. I went to study graphic design and 3D animation so I could pursue a career in that. I have been working in the animation and game industry for quite some time now, and still enjoy every aspect of this creative industry. I have been doing all kinds of things, from concept design to 3D production. In my spare time, I do commissioned illustration works for various publishers as well as working on my original stories. And not so long ago, I finished making a fully animated music video with my friend, who directed it. I enjoyed working on it so much because I learned heaps along the way and we were both so proud of the outcome. I still feel like a newbie to this industry because there is always so much to learn—especially if you want to do your own production one day.
I don’t think I have a very personal style yet. Maybe I do, but it’s only temporary because I am always trying to get out of my comfort zone and explore more unfamiliar areas. However, I always want to do things a little more realistically. That means I tend to enjoy drawing normal people walking around and going through their daily routines. I like observing what they do, what they wear, what they say and how they are connected to other people around them. For example, I enjoy observing and drawing neighbourhood people gathering around on a hot summer night, eating simple homemade dinner in their singlets and talking about their work. To me, this is true life with real emotions that all fantasy should be based upon. It can be simple but full of stories to tell.
I don’t want to put a label like CG artist or book illustrator on myself just yet because there is still so much virgin territory that I haven’t stepped into. However, no matter what medium I use, I know ultimately I want to be a storyteller who can make people stop whatever they are doing and think for a while.