We had the good fortune of connecting with Lola Zhang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lola, why did you pursue a creative career?
Ever since I was a kid, I have always had huge passion in video games and anime, they have been in my life for as long as I can remember. That’s also where my interest in art was initially sparked, I wanted to follow what makes me the happiest. After I took my first ever art class I came across by chance in middle school, everything just immediately clicked. I picked up all the painting techniques extremely fast, and always have different approach to design from other kids in my class. And from that moment on my career path could not be more crystal clear. Although these days I rarely sit down and read comic books or dedicate hundreds of hours into one video game, my connection with art never fades away, but rather it has connected with me on a much deeper level. Now art is part of who I am.
As my career unfolds, I spend more time on my other hobbies: hiking, working out, dirt biking, motorcycle road trips…they have also become a big part of my life, and that’s where I recharge my creative energy from, they also allowed me to have a “balanced diet” in life. Although sometimes I just get carried away. There were times that my focus was entirely on leveling up my dirt bike techniques or coming upon the most stunning views on my road trip and thinking: ” man it’s so good to be away from computer”, and just never want to go back. But then at some point, deep down inside there will be a deep feeling of needing to “go home”, to go back to where I belong. And I came to realize that art is the only thing that connects me on the deepest level no matter what, and I’m so grateful to be able to work on what I’m really good at and brings me true joy. To me, there’s no better feeling than painting in the early morning while the world is still asleep, or late at night when the whole world quiets down, that’s the moments I achieve my true inner peace.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I enjoy taking inspiration from everyday mundane objects, or patterns in nature, reconstructing them in a visual manner, adding twists to them. Power tool parts, fasteners, Insects’ patterns, engine parts, symmetry in nature…they are the best ingredients of my design. I guess I’m weird in my own way, I’m good at sniffing out those intricately designed art forms in nature. I extract those shapes, patterns, textures, color palettes and recompose them based on my aesthetic taste. Sometimes I got engrossed in them and completely lost in the inventiveness of nature.
I also love watching documentaries on how things are built, creature biology, weird structures in nature etc or reading science magazine on anything that I found interesting. I take notes of their functionality, how they’re manufactured, fun facts or interesting details. Over time, those things have gradually shaped my artistic taste, built up my visual library that’s allowed me to bring things to life that don’t exist yet.
Being a concept artist has never been easy for me, although I developed interest in art since a very young age and I always knew where my talents lie, but those alone is not enough to be truly successful in this field. There are many more factors that play a role. But knowing what truly matters to you, your worth, and what you are good at are crucial to strategize your personalized growth path which only works for you.
For me, one of the challenges was the process of finding my own creative voice in art. That was a very long process filled with of uncertainty and self doubt. But you’ll know you made progress in your art journey when you wake up the next day and still love the piece you made yesterday even with fresh eyes, or when more and more people start to resonate with and notice your work. Little moments like that act like confidence boosters, make you more and more certain about your own creative choices. My art style and my artistic taste have changed and evolved over time, I won’t say that I’ve found “the ultima form of my art” already, but I’m happy about the direction where my art journey is heading towards.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a outdoorsy person, so if I’m not working, I’ll be in the nature hiking, surfing, dirt biking, paddle boarding and so on. If my friends were visiting, I’d more than happy to take them to go on scenic hikes like Eaton Canyon Trail, echo mountain trail, Griffith Park sunset hike, or First Water Mt. Wilson Trail if we feel like burning more calories. Or go rollerblading along the boardwalk at Venice Beach, it’d be even more stunning if it’s around sunset. Third option is to go paddle boarding at Marina Del Rey, guaranteed you’d get some killer views. In terms of places to eat, I’m a huge ramen/udon fan, my go to spots would be R101 Ramen in Glendale, Ramen Tatsunoya in Pasadena and Marugame Monzo, their udon is incredible. I also go to Chengdu Taste a ton, absolutely love Sichuanese cuisine and it’s a great place to treat yourself after work too. Also Bhanu Indian Cuisine & Market is such a hidden jam, I can never get enough of their butter Naan. Lastly! how can forget my favorite donut place on earth—Mochinut in arcadia, which is also run by a good buddy of mine. They’ve got hands down the best donuts I’ve ever had, I can live off of just their donuts for a whole year!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate this shoutout first and foremost to my mom, she is always super supportive of me, and I’m grateful to have her by my side. At every turning point of my life by far, she is always the one who helps me through difficult times. From the very first comic book she bought me which totally opened up my eyes to the art world as a whole when I was in elementary school, or quitting my first job I got back in China and continue pursing my goals in the U.S. She has been my biggest supporter ever since. Being a concept artist working in the entertainment industry has not been an easy ride, it’s a mental game. Sometimes you are in a battle with so many internal and external forces in your life while you are trying to stay inspired and stay consistent with your creativity, it’s both emotionally and physically challenging. I couldn’t be more lucky to have my mom to always support me alongside my art journey, believed in me when I don’t even believe in myself.