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Check Out Shutianyi Li’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shutianyi Li.

Shutianyi, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I am a character designer who recently graduated from USC. I studied animation in college because it has had an impact on me since a very young age. As a very introverted child, animation provided me with a small world to dream in the safety of my own imagination. Never really growing out of it, I decided to pursue a career in animation. The journey is long and at times difficult, and I am only at the very beginning, but I’ve never thought about giving up. Currently working as a freelancer while incessantly sharpening my toolkit, I look forward to see where this road will take me!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I’ve really just started but I know there are going to be rough battles throughout my journey. Hitting art blocks can be terrible. They make me question my ability as an artist and feel like I have wasted hours on something meaningless. That frustration can be extremely difficult to recover from. It is only recently that I have started to understand how to navigate out of it and adjust the way I see obstacles.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a character designer and I have designed for children’s books, games, and animated films. The job description of a character designer is to work with a team and come up with the look of a character for a variety of mediums. We do everything from sketching out the character, polishing initial designs to creating technical pieces, such as expression sheets and turnarounds for animators and 3D artists.

I work predominately in 2D and I really enjoy crafting dynamic characters that tell stories and resonate with the audiences. For inspiration, I draw a lot from cultural influences that I grew up with, such as old Chinese folklore and historical epics. I also love diving deep into research to tease more out of a character and make sure they seem relatable and have unique personalities.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Not giving up and understand that you are exactly where you need to be. I think it is really difficult to know your self-worth in an industry that is so saturated with people who are as talented as you are. There are times when things don’t turn out well and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it, I have to scrape myself off the floor and just remember to take baby steps forward.

Coming from a family that is supportive of my career choice is really fortunate. But I feel that most of the pressure is coming from myself because I desperately want to prove to them that they made the right decision in supporting me. A healthy amount of stress is constructive, but the pressure and guilt I give myself can be crushing and doubt my ability. It took me a lot of time and tears to accept reality and view my work in an unbiased light. Being fair to yourself is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned along the way.


  • $30-50 A sketch of your character design
  • $150-$250 A full turnaround of your character
  • $70-100 A character pose sheet consist of 3-4 poses.
  • $70-100 A character expression sheet with 3-5 expressions.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Credit: Shutianyi Li

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