We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Jiang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Drawing was my best escape from reality my whole life, and I often preferred animated media over live-action. My family entertained my hobby as a child, but they were adamant that art could never be more than just a hobby. Years later, when it came time for me to choose a major in college, I found I didn’t have any real goal in life, and the only thing I could even possibly imagine for a career was something in art. So, against my parents’ wishes, I decided to study animation/illustration. At least they eventually warmed up to the idea of it.
Now, as a college graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, I’m ecstatic doing what I love for a living!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a 2D digital artist. I usually take part in visual development in projects with others, but I primarily enjoy the character design aspect of it.
The reason I care so much about creating characters is because, in most forms of media, characters are usually what the audience enjoys the most. People often find them relatable whether you’re watching the main character slay a dragon or playing a video game as a student dealing with high school drama since they’re essentially human like us (or have a degree of human qualities to them). Even villains, though you may not agree with what they do, can still possess traits you find lovable, or at least love to hate. That is what I’m most fascinated by, and what I keep in mind as I design characters for others to enjoy. Even objects and backgrounds, when associated with a culture of people or one person, can also have a personable aspect to them. With these factors, everyone and everything can look and be like anything with such a flexible medium as 2D art. It’s also just fun to be able to translate pictures in my head onto paper (or my computer screen).
That’s not to say choosing this field hasn’t had its difficult moments. Between people, even loved ones, side-eyeing you when you tell them you’re an artist (yet not as much as I expected), discouraging critiques, and knowing how difficult it will be for someone of a minority to find a job (though this is hardly exclusive to the art field), it makes you question yourself quite a bit. But through it all, I learned to be more confident in my drawing abilities, and to improve means to constantly be learning. My time at Cal State Long Beach also introduced me to the world of 3D computer animations, which heavily overlaps with 2D animation anyway. Being open-minded not only adds to your skills, but lets you see new perspectives from other people who you’ll most likely be working with eventually. With hard work and a good support group of like-minded artists, the challenges I have and will face don’t feel impossible.
So with my knowledge in both 2D and 3D animation, I want to create art for the big theater screens (or more like streaming sites as is the trend now) for everyone to resonate with in some way. I want everything I draw, especially the characters, to feel as real to someone else as they do to me. And the reality is that there is simply needs to be more representation in media, something I seek to contribute to. Like real life, people of all kinds of cultures, genders, sexualities, and disabilities all exist, and deserve to be heard in our mainstream media. I’m honored to be part of this because now I finally have the ability to make something for someone to finally feel seen.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite haunt in Los Angeles is mostly just around Little Tokyo. It’s easy to get there just through the Gold Line Metro when I visit my mom for lunch during her breaks at Bank of the West.
Most of the businesses I visit are in the Japanese Village Plaza. I pass through it to visit my mom, and I often find myself dazzled by all the stores and restaurants from that area alone. I usually browse through the Sanrio Gift Shop and Tokyo Japanese Lifestyle store for cute merchandise. The food advertised at every restaurant looks, and is, delicious, especially if you’re in the mood for sushi or ramen. My favorite restaurant would be the Kura Revolving Sushi Bar where, as the name implies, a variety of foods go around the whole restaurant and you can pick whichever you want right off the assembly line.
Once I finish my visit to my mom, I tend to hang out a little longer around her workplace on Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka St, where the famous Space Challenger Memorial Statue stands. I go to the other plaza I know right next to Bank of the West for the Marukai Market and Kinokuniya Book Store. Marukai market has lots of yummy Asian and other foreign snacks that I usually come here to stock up on. The Kinokuniya Book Store carries a variety of books from cooking, mangas, novels, and other crazy books. There’s even an art section to the store if you’re in the market for Copic Markers and other art supplies, especially Japanese brands. Most of the books sold there are in Japanese, however, so I’m more content to look at the book covers.
Of course, Little Tokyo is not just a fun tourist site, but a place with a history for Japanese Americans. The Japanese American National Museum and the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center are prime places if you want to learn more about the people who shaped this space within LA.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to thank my friends and family for bringing me to where I am today!
My friends Tamsyn Martin, Georgina Fang, and Lauren Lee have been such wonderful moral support for me! They taught me to be more confident in myself, that I am worth love and respect. I appreciate how patient and kind they are to me, especially since I first met them when I was in a bad place having to unlearn all my toxic approaches to relationships. Even though I didn’t meet them until college, they have permanently changed my outlook on life for the better in every single way.
Lastly, I want to thank my family for financially supporting me my whole life, especially through college. I was never an easy child (and still am not), but that never stopped them from being there for me. Knowing how much they sacrificed for me to finish college, how proud they are of me, made all the challenges worth it.