We had the good fortune of connecting with Yuan Huang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yuan, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I have always been very into art since I was a kid, especially animated films and cartoons. Watching them always made my heart race, giving me a special kind of excitement I can’t even describe. To me, the stories that happen in those worlds reveal various possibilities on how life can be lived. I treasure the way animation pushes us to think, imagine, and feel the emotions of people and the world we’re in. I realized that that is what I want to do: to tell stories that will make people feel that adrenaline that I once felt before.
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 am an artist who is good at stressing myself out and throwing myself into a black hole all the time. However, I believe it’s this uneasiness that makes me want to create work that can heal other people (and, of course, myself), as well as bring some warmth to the world.
The stories I want to tell are often simple messages that are forgotten by people, because we focus on worrying too much. An example would be: “Go out and enjoy the sunlight.” My most recent project is about a writer who suffered from extreme insecurities. It wasn’t until she encountered a magic sparrow that she stopped trapping herself in her own mind and started focusing on the beauty of the outside world. (It is based on a poem called “Publication Date” by Franz Wright. A really nice, short little poem.)
One of the biggest challenges for me is how to create and tell good stories. Good stories never come from sitting in front of a blank piece of paper, grinding my brain, and praying for some mysterious inspiration. I believe it’s the process of finding emotional connections between the outside world and my own experiences. I do that by drawing random stuff, being happy with the mess-ups, reading, talking to friends, and going out to feel the world.
I am not a person who is good with words, but I hope to be an artist who communicates and tells stories through images.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have been living in LA for the past four years (which is actually not very long lol), mostly in Pasadena. Old Town Pasadena has some nice streets to walk around and besides shopping, I would recommend several yummy dessert places. We have one of the best ice cream shops in LA called Salt and Straw, The Pie Hole next to it (earl gray milk tea flavor is my favorite!), and Jin Tea, that has really fine organic Taiwanese tea with brown sugar boba that is worth your visit.
Around the Pasadena area, there are many pretty gardens and parks. I love seeing the various kinds of flowers and plants at the LA Arboretum, as well as walking around with their peacocks. There’s also a park called Lacy Park, where my friends and I picnic all the time.
Outside Pasadena, I would say the must-visit places in LA are Huntington Library, the Getty Center, and Griffith Observatory. They all have beautiful parks and gardens to walk around, collections of artwork, and beautiful architecture. I was excited when I first visited Griffith Observatory, not only because it’s the stage of the movie “La La Land,” but it’s also the best place to watch LA at night.
Then, for theme park lovers like me, I’d definitely spend one or even two days at Disneyland and California Adventure. Disneyland has more classic decoration, while California Adventure has more exciting rides. Whether to watch the fireworks show or World of Color is always a conflicting debate for me.
If the visit is just one week, I’d consider visiting one of the closest National Parks which is Joshua Tree. It shows the distinct landscape of the desert look of south California. I went there multiple times with my friends, and the sunsets there are the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Like many other students who go to an art school, I spent all my time and effort polishing my skill sets, fulfilling all the requirements, dealing with peer pressure, and learning as fast as I can. I learned how to make pretty images and how to follow all the rules when I painted and drew, but I gradually forgot why I want to do art. “Why do I like doing art?”
“What do I want to say with my art?”
I ignored these important questions but became more anxious, more doubtful, disappointed in myself, and unhappy. Then, I met my Visual Development teacher, Noah.
Noah Klocek has been working for Pixar Animation Studios for 15 years. He does visual design as his job, and he also does children’s book illustration, which is an art form that not only shows his love and passion towards art, but tells the stories he wants to tell. He is also a plein air painter, and he paints with his family. He was the first teacher who gave me the true lesson that, as artists, we have the ability to tell stories that only we can tell, and that is what makes us valuable. It’s not about the capability to make beautiful images or how strong our technique is, but it is our ideas that make our art unique and solid. Asking myself “What do I want to say?”, “Why?”, and “Is this a story that I would want to see?” has become an essential part of my process, and it simply makes me attached to my work so much more.
Another thing I got from my teacher Noah is the importance of experimenting. If I can’t surprise myself, how will my art surprise other people? Making art is always a mix of problem solving and decision making. Failing and struggling are crucial parts to creating interesting work. Even though it was often uncomfortable and discouraging to go into the unknown, the outcome of finally feeling excited again about my work was incomparable. “I like my art more now” was the best thing I would ever allow myself to say, and it was happening because of this amazing learning journey with this amazing teacher.
Last but definitely not least, my friend Megan, who was in the same class, supported and encouraged me a lot. We both felt unsure about our art before taking the class, but I feel that we grew so fast together as artists. We always shared our thoughts and talked enthusiastically for hours after Noah’s lectures. I was so lucky to have an art pal who could sympathize, understand, and motivate me. We tried our best and ended up creating work we love, which made the experience so great.