We had the good fortune of connecting with Sydney Chen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sydney, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Hi! My name is Sydney Chen and I am a graduate student in Animation at USC School of Cinematic Arts. I come from Taipei, Taiwan, a beautiful, convenient, and comfortable city to live in.
Taiwanese culture is very different from American culture in many perspectives. Growing up, the main focus for Taiwanese students is to study to get into prominent high schools and colleges. However, I have shown interest and talent in art from a young age – I always doodle, read shōjo manga and make my own comic books (in class). But I appreciate my parents for giving me the freedom to pursue my passion and not being terrified when their child said “I want to become an artist!”.
The art-learning environment for students in Taiwan is not accessible. Besides going to academic cram schools after class because I don’t want to fall behind on grades, I also go to art cram schools, where they teach you professional techniques specifically tailored for the exams that get you into primary/middle/high school art talent programs (美術班). The programs are highly competitive and require a national entrance exam, but it also seems to be the only way for young students like me to truly learn art. After being in this system for 6 years during adolescence, I started to reflect on my decision, questioning if this is what I truly wanted. I decided to major in advertising in college since I got into a creativity slump and thought I was exhausted and wanted to quit. Advertising has taught me a lot about how businesses and marketing work, it is still useful until now, but I started to wonder again: “Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life”? I discovered I haven’t drawn anything just for fun anymore. And I don’t want to lose my creativity and ability to draw, I came to realize that I could regret it for life.
Then animation came to my mind. I thought it is the best format of art that could make people laugh, cry, and be touched at the same time, and it has no limit. Still-life drawings are great, but I hope to apply those skills and create a story that is actually “alive”. I decided in college that I wanted to study abroad in the States, to learn more from a different perspective and pursue my dream of working in the animation industry.
However, I struggled with not having the techniques and knowledge needed to apply for an animation school since I have been away from art for a long time. I began to draw again, practice, self-taught animation fundamentals, and had the pleasure to study abroad at Gobelins Summer Schools. After a crazy preparation of regaining my skills back, luckily, I got into the USC Animation program. It was like a dream come true, and now I get to learn every aspect of animation, from directing to 2D animation, it has been a blast and I have truly grown artistically and personally.

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 have been in the Taiwanese art talent programs for 6 years during middle/high school where I learned structured and fundamental techniques about fine arts such as traditional sketching, watercolor painting, Chinese calligraphies, etc. But during my study, I have always felt creativity is lacking in my work. So when I discover what concept art/visual development art is in college, it opens up a new world to me. I love how those artists create fantasized environments, props, and characters, just to fit into the worldview they built from scratch. I have always been heavily influenced by Japanese manga and animation (especially Hayao Miyazaki), which is graphical, retro, fun, and lovable, but I was also into Western TV series and culture. So I would describe my style as a combination of the Eastern and Western styles. I usually start with a simple and graphical look for characters and make the background as colorful and abundant as possible. I enjoy drawing and telling stories about girls. I consider myself a feminist, I have so many stories to tell and voices to share as a woman. My films and drawings focus on female characters and personal experiences, too. My 2nd year film, “Drunkland”, is about a girl going on a crazy journey of going to a bar. She thought she was going to meet someone and cure her heartbreak, but ended up enjoying herself. I get comments about my film being funny and encouraging for girls, that makes me really happy! I think women are powerful, gentle, and extremely strong. I will continue to find my voice as an Asian female artist in the State.
Most importantly, I love to add in some humor since there’s nothing better than to make people smile!

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.
The best thing about LA is that you get to experience it all – the fun and glamorous side, the artistic side, and the tasty side. I love to hang out at the Fairfax/Art District area in LA, where there are so many cute clothing and coffee shops around, and Koreatown for the best bbq. As a foodie, I enjoy exploring different places. CHICHA San Chen is a must-try Boba place that is praised by all my Taiwanese friends. République Café has the best brunch (I highly recommend kimchi fried rice if you want an Asian taste). Verve Coffee Roasters is a great place to enjoy coffee or work on your laptop. Afuri Ramen is the best ramen place in LA, the Yuzu ramen is one of a kind. The beaches are a bonus for living in LA too – the weather in Santa Monica would never disappoint!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to shout out to my parents who supported my passion from a young age. The environment for students who are passionate about art is harsh in Taiwan, but they gave me freedom to pursue my dreams and always encouraged me to do what I really want to do in life. I also appreciate the people I love – friends, cohorts, and companions that give me confidence and cheer me up when I feel down, so I could be at where I am today.

Website: https://www.sydneychenart.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/koalarts_/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sydneychenart/

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