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Life & Work with Janet Lin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janet Lin.

Hi Janet, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My name is Janet Yingxi Lin, and I’m a Concept Artist based in the Los Angeles area. I’ve been drawing ever since I was five, but never thought I’d get into it professionally until Junior year of high school! Before that, I’ve always been more focused on music. I went to an arts high school for classical piano, intending to become an accompanist and/or teacher in that field. I soon realized that I function better in a team environment rather than practicing alone in a cubicle for 5 hours a day. Additionally, in trying to fulfill my parents’ dreams of me becoming a computer scientist, I also dabbled in robotics programming. I then entered several “FIRST” robotics competitions with my team. This also did not ignite my passion, so I tried to add an artistic element into it. I got an apprenticeship in Gray Area, a foundation based in San Francisco focused on combining technology with art. Along with a team of 3 other apprentices, we designed and programmed an interactive art piece that was displayed on the Ribbon Wall at the Dolby San Francisco Headquarters. I greatly enjoyed the artistic element in this project and the fantastic teamwork that made it possible. The experience encouraged me to further explore other artistic endeavors.

It was around this time that some dear friends of mine introduced me to the world of gaming. Being raised by immigrant parents and coming from China meant that I was not exposed to many games nor films growing up. Learning about the expansive worlds of Zelda and the creative mechanics of Portal were eye-opening to say the least. In particular, there were two small, underrated (at the time) games that really set my path into the entertainment industry. One was “Device 6”, made by Simogo; and the other was “Oxenfree”, made by Night School Studio. I knew then I would be most passionate when working on narrative-driven projects starring relatable and emotional characters that stick with audiences. I decided to find ways to finish school a semester early and went through any loophole I could during school to work on my portfolio. I moved to Pasadena alone for Artcenter College of Design while my peers were walking on stage for their high school diplomas.

Many have argued that the price of a prestigious, private design school such as ArtCenter is not justified. However, I’d argue that the extremely close-knit groups of friends I’ve gained from the shared all-nighters and pre-final panics were worth what I’ve paid in tuition so far. We are now mostly scattered in the industry but still make time once (or several times) a week to hang out and keep each other in check when it comes to work/life balance. My Sophomore year at school was my last and also my most transformative. I met several mentors that pushed me toward the path of Environment Design and Visual Development for animation. They helped me unlock the door to color, mood, story, and playing with those elements with controlled freedom. I landed my first freelance gig in Feature Animation after this year and have stayed on this path of narrative projects ever since.

In October this year, I officially joined Night School Studio + Netflix as a full-time Concept Artist. Joining the studio that essentially put me onto this path was surreal to say the least, and I’m so grateful to my friends, mentors, and co-workers for all that they’ve taught me. The biggest thanks goes to my mother, who’s always encouraged me to nurture my artistic side. She’s supported me through everything, even if she does not understand much of what I’m currently doing. I feel eternally fortunate to have all of you in my life, and I hope to support you all as much as you have for me.

Alright, 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?
No, I would not say it’s been a smooth road. Most of my struggles in the beginning came from not knowing what I wanted to focus on. Because everyone’s attention was always on the flashy main characters on the posters, I started art school adamant in the fact that I wanted to be a character designer. A year later, my eyes were opened to how complex environment design can be. I was fascinated by how my mentors could convey mood and story through one seemingly simple environment painting. Although I’m currently a more environment-focused artist, I still go back and forth between the two. This is a struggle I appreciate though, as it helps me hone my versatility.

Another struggle that I think most artists face is having a good work/life balance. I still struggle with drawing the boundary between my professional and personal work – this fact is not helped by how much I truly enjoy my job. I’m once again thankful to my friends who help keep me in check and make sure I’m not always being a goblin in my art cave. As I begin my first full-time job, I’m excited to navigate this balance and have it fuel all my work in a healthy fashion.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m currently an environment-focused concept artist. I really enjoy painting seemingly mundane scenes the way I see them. I hope to show people how fascinating everyday life can be if we just took a second to notice the details. On the front of personal work, I’m pretty proud of my recent Plein-air paintings. I hope to add more to that list and get really creative with the colors. Professional work-wise, I’m very proud of our team’s work on “Oxenfree II: Lost Signals” (stay tuned on that!). The few paintings/assets I contributed will always remain some of my favorite projects.

What matters most to you? Why?
What matters most to me will always, always be my chosen family and my mother. I can not imagine being where I am today and having the growth I’ve had without them. It still warms my heart how much we’re able to support each other, be it professionally or personally. There are some words spoken by one of my mentors that have always stuck with me: “At the end of the day, your job is temporary. If something falls through, your family – be it blood or chosen – will be the ones to catch you.”

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Jake B. (@ninetyeyes) – Personal Profile Photo

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