We had the good fortune of connecting with Janelle Feng and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janelle, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
All the way to high school I was an incredibly hardworking student. Looking back at it I am amazed with my speed and efficiency: I always did homework first thing when back from school and did not play until I finished. In comparison I procrastinate so much right now haha, and it kind of makes me ashamed. But to be fair, I think that is because the nature of the work has changed. In high school the assignments are always short-termed and very small. However in college as well as the job place the work is much bigger and more long-termed, and it’s simply impossible to “grind and finish” it within a day. Yet for a while I carried this attitude with me into college (and I probably still carry some of it) and it bred a lot of struggles and feelings. Sleeping late, belittling of my own exhaustion and others’, fear of falling behind, competitiveness etc all the fun stuffs. The mentality of “I will relax after I finished the work” does not function here because the work cannot be finished. Right now what happens instead is that I schedule the things I wish to accomplish today. Mentally planning the scope of a day makes my schedule much more realistic and it gives me a sense of productivity if I’ve hit all of these small goals. Though I must admit sometimes I still overestimate myself and set unrealistic daily tasks.
At this point, I have quite a relation with my work so much so that I want to use this as an inspiration for a story idea. I suppose a good thing about the struggles is that I may finally reflect and turn them to use!
Because obviously there is no end to “work”—we will probably want to busy ourselves with something even after retirement, I think the epitome of a perfect work life balance is when work is viewed as part of life and not life begins after work. I am not there yet. I still think work and life as very separate entities but I hope to be there soon.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am currently a junior 2D Cel Animator at OddFellows at the time of this Shoutout article. I am very early in my career so I am afraid I don’t have much to share haha.
The road to my first job is a little bumpy. I met Oddfellows during portfolio day in March 2020 and was initially going to intern with them in the summer, but COVID happened and I didn’t want to sacrifice the internship experience for something remote, so that internship was dropped. However after a few months I realized that this COVID thing was going much longer than expected and any in-person activity wasn’t going to happen soon. Fortunately I was approached with an internship offer from Warner Bros. but unfortunately, that one fell through due to payroll jurisdiction issues. Instead the producer from Warner Bros. introduced me to one of the Canadian studios that they work with and that was how I received my first job as an ink and painter for the summer. During that position I learned all about the software Toon Boom Harmony and that skill had been incredibly useful since. After I left, I tried out freelancing before I finally joined Oddfellows as a 2D Animation Intern. I remember being surprised by just how friendly everyone is. Being able to get direct pointers and guidance from people have been very helpful in accommodating myself to animating as a job.
I had a heavy impostor syndrome when I first started as the intern. If it’s comforting to other new starters, I legitimately didn’t know what I was doing and I felt I was really slow. I haven’t found my work process yet and would restart my cleanups several times because I felt like I’m not doing it right. Talking to my animation mentor and the director really helped to alleviate the unnecessary stress and gave me more confidence in myself.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I really look forward to when cities reopen up again and when we can hang out normally again. I am not too familiar with Downtown LA but if we are talking about the area near CalArts, I would most definitely bring friends along to visit the Farmers Market as well as the cafés and diners on Newhall Avenue in Santa Clarita. I remember in particular Way Station Coffee Shop, which is an old school diner crowded with a lot of people and serves simple but lovely breakfasts.
If we are talking about Vancouver, Canada, which is near my hometown, I would definitely bring a friend over to the Macleod’s Bookstore and also right across from it, Cartems Donuts. The bookstore itself is stacked with books on the shelves, on the tables, on the floor, and on top of other books. The donuterie is a small cute shop to visit and get an earl-grey glazed donut to nibble on right after.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First of all, I absolutely have to thank my Mom and Dad! Thank you all for being so supportive of me studying the arts. Studying in the US is not cheap at all and I want to thank my Dad for supplying the house and express how fortunate and grateful I am that I have the ability to go to CalArts. My mom has been singlehandedly taking care of me and my siblings in Canada and I want to thank her for all the wonderful meals she cooked and all those car rides to school and extracurricular classes. Upon returning from the US when COVID broke out, I literally cried upon eating home food and realized how much I missed it.
There are so many people I wish to thank and I feel like I am not going to do them enough justice. Thanks to many of my high school teachers as all as my art mentor Don for being such a big part in my education. Thank you to my siblings for roasting me and being big memes in my life. Of course I have to thank my current colleagues for both being such a inspiration as well as emotional support even during the pandemic. I also want to thank my animation mentor at Oddfellows, for she has been so welcoming and helpful to introduce me to what it’s like in the work world. And finally, this might be a strange one, I want to credit this French Revolutionary who has been dead for over 200 years. I draw a lot of inspiration for my arts from Maximilien Robespierre to the point that it has become a characteristic of my brand. It was through this niche interest in history that I came to know many people and begin learning a whole new language.