5 Questions for Clio Chiang

Today we have Clio Chiang for this interview. She's a DreamWorks Animation story artist who currently lives in Los Angeles. She has worked on films like Frozen, Paperman and more.

She likes drawing sketches and caricatures of people around LA. After eight full sketchbooks, she's now compiling her best works to put out her personal artbook called Stranger Danger on Kickstarter. The campaign ends on 4 Oct 2014 and you can see more details at https://kck.st/Z5M8rV

To see more of her works, you can also visit her blog at https://blog.cliochiang.com/

Alright, on with the questions.

Qn: Can you tell us about how you got started in art and your training?

I've always been interested in drawing as a kid, but it wasn't until I watched The Little Mermaid that I discovered that people can do this for a job!

I drew a lot of comics for myself and but didn't study art directly as my parents didn't think it would make a good career. After graduating college I went to Capilano University and took the Commercial Animation program. They have all the typical animation school classes: life drawing, animation, design, layout... as well as a class where we had to shoot a live-action short.

After graduation I worked in Vancouver's TV animation industry for a few years, then applied for Disney Animation's Story Trainee program. I got in and was hired out of training, worked there for 5 years, and then moved to DreamWorks Animation where I currently work also as a story artist.

Qn: Let's talk about your Stranger Danger artbook on Kickstarter. You mentioned the drawings are of people in Los Angeles. What is it about them that attracts you to draw them?

There are a lot of actors and creative people in Los Angeles, and I think that many of them enjoy the attention from strangers — they certainly dress like it!

There are some genuinely unique creatures in LA — different faces, attitudes, emotions that are cranked up to 11 — they've been very inspiring to me to try and capture those features that makes them stand out. I think a lot of LA residents wear their emotions on their faces. My first week after moving here I saw a man driving his pet pig and dog in a sidecar down the Pacific Coast Highway — I think strangeness is relished here and I love drawing it.

Qn: How do you go about finding these people to draw? Do you take a photo and use them as reference or draw on location?

They're everywhere, really... Just about any neighborhood you go to you'll find a flavor to its residents. I live in North Hollywood and it's chock full of dancers, actors, and art students, and more than a few of them dress loudly even on their regular days. I park myself anywhere and I'll find someone to draw — the hipsters in Silverlake, cute yuppies in Pasadena, grungy Melrose ave, bohemians in Venice, and the muscles at Muscle Beach....

I will occasionally take a picture if the person is wearing a pattern I want to recall in detail, but usually just get a quick gesture of them down and fill in the blanks from there. I like getting the first impression down, maybe some strange facial features or a unique piece of clothing, but the rest I fill from my head or memory.

Qn: Do you have weird or interesting stories to share about any particular person that you meet before? Maybe about something that catches your attention?

Haha...nothing particularly weird. Sometimes when people spot me drawing them they'll pop into a more ridiculous pose, and I've even had some burst into dance moves. Sometimes they'll pitch me their movie ideas and talk my ear off... But that's Hollywood for ya.

Qn: What tips do you have for drawing figures and characters?

Try to draw the emotion behind your character, and not necessarily the figure itself. I think it's more engaging to see an emotion captured than a very accurate figure drawing (of course, this is important too and should be practiced through a lot of life drawing!)

It’s helpful to take a mental “snapshot” of the person and quickly get a gestural drawing of them down, and fill in the details as you see fit. Usually you can get a better caricature that way; relying on your memories for capturing the notable details, but not getting the exact likeness of them because that’s what cameras are for. Use just enough time to take down what’s unique about the person and make up the rest!

Special thanks to Clio Chiang for this interview.

Check out more details of his Kickstarter campaign at https://kck.st/Z5M8rV

Campaign ends 4 Oct 2014.


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