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Life and Work with Jackie Huang

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackie Huang.

Jackie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I’ve always had a love for animation so after high school, I moved out to Los Angeles to attend USC for film school. While there, I interned at the Walt Disney Company and Dreamworks Animation. During those internships, I learned about this job called ‘visual development’. After talking with a bunch of different artists, they all kept mentioning this school – Art Center College of Design. So after graduating, I wound up going back to school at Art Center College of Design to study illustration/visual development.

However, while studying there, I took a course on 3D Paper Engineering which taught us how to make pop-ups. I was super fun and thinking dimensionally came very naturally to me, even though I didn’t know it at the time. During the rest of my time at Art Center, I was trying to reconcile my new love for working with paper and my love for illustration. That’s how I wound up making dimensional paper illustrations (i.e., paper art).

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Personally, it’s never been a smooth road. Growing up in an Asian household with parents who were immigrants, they were constantly challenging my dream of a career in art. Now that I’m older, I understand it came from a place of fear – wanting to make sure I had an easier, more stable life than them. But as a kid, it just felt like my parents weren’t supportive.

My advice for anyone starting out on their journey is that it’s not always easy, but it is possible! You’re going to have to learn to be your own biggest champion because sometimes it may just be you and that’s ok. As long as you still believe you can do it and want to do it, keep going!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Currently, I’m mostly known for my paper art and pop-up work. I specialize in creating art for galleries, commissions, and clients such as Disney and MoMA. However, I’m now looking to branch into children’s books! I’m looking to fuse my love of paper art and storytelling, which is why I went to film school as well.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
I think the idea of networking is really hard for a lot of people, including me! But I also think there’s a misconception about it – I think most people view networking as going to mixers and chatting people up. While I agree, that can be a way to do it, I like to approach networking as making friends – real friends. I think developing authentic relationships with people and becoming friends with them is the best kind of networking.

As for mentoring, I’ve been lucky enough to have several mentors in my life. All of those relationships have developed organically and continue to grow. I would encourage anyone looking for a mentor to look at who is already around them. You’d be surprised to find that a mentor can be anyone from your teacher last term, to an industry professional you admire, to your friend who’s just a few steps ahead of you in their career.

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Image Credit:
Portrait credit:; All other photo credits: Jackie Huang

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