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Life & Work with Yvonne Liu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yvonne Liu.

Hi Yvonne, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
A phrase I often hear in the art industry is to say that someone is talented. But for me, the idea that someone has to be born with the skill and drive to make a living in visual arts doesn’t exactly fit. I don’t think I was exactly talented in art as a kid – I just really liked playing video games, watching TV, and not studying! And that just easily translated into drawing my favorite characters, coming up with cool designs, and expressing myself in general.

While I enjoyed making art for fun in high school, eventually there was a line between hobbyist and professional artist that I had to define and consciously cross. Although I had initially – naively – chose this career because it was just the fun and cool job I dreamed of, in the past few years since I’ve started studying at the ArtCenter College of Design, I’ve realized that my work is more than just making pretty pictures – it had to be a vehicle for storytelling and conveying messages that aren’t so easily said. After a long time of creating fan art and cool images just for fun, I’ve become more interested in the storytelling side of games and film – and creating visuals for a purpose that sends a message.

Now as a full-time artist invested in game production, I’ve realized since I’ve started on this path that the stories and messages we convey as creatives in entertainment media are important and influential – and I’m proud to be at the forefront of that.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Making art was never hard, although the journey to become a professional had a ton of other challenges. While I enjoy making art both professionally and for fun, I think a big struggle for myself and other creatives – anyone, really – is to not feel pressured to be obsessively passionate about our work. Too often as creatives we’re expected to revolve our lives around our craft – and I think striking a healthy work-life balance is key to not feeling overwhelmed, especially in competitive fields like game design where the pressure is always on to deliver. Personally, I find a lot of comfort in community – not to be confused with networking! – because I’m able to connect with so many people who are going through the same things. Having non-art related hobbies too, such as cooking, playing music, and the likes is definitely a help too! And of course, always grabbing a breath of fresh air no matter how busy my schedule is day to day.

I definitely worked myself to the bone in an effort to make my career as smooth as possible, and sometimes now I still get into a grind-y mindset where I feel like I have to overachieve. In retrospect, I think I would’ve told myself that it’s okay to sleep more, hang out with friends, and have some downtime where I can catch a breather. I treated my goals as a race I had to finish within four years or else, but now that I’ve branched out and really met people, I can say that you can’t rush a good process, and both my work and I are better off with that!

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
The best way I can describe a concept artist is to say that we take the very first ideas of stories and games and illustrate them. Whether it’s a little eureka moment or an adaptation of an existing story, it’s up to us to put pictures to the words and get the ideas rolling for everyone else! Since I lean heavily towards game development, I cover a variety of game visuals, everything from designing characters, environments to figuring out menu systems and typefaces. When it comes to games, I really think that variety is key since different messages require different methods of delivery. One project I work on might have realistic graphics and a long complicated story – where others might just be simple pixels that get to the point quickly. I think it’s really important to be able to adapt to each game – our industry is so broad and appeals to so many people, and I just want to be a part of that!

With all that said, I consider myself a storyteller before I consider myself an artist. In the end, the pictures that I create aren’t really meant to be viewed by the public – they’ll be made into games and movies that come to life and speak to a bigger audience. The work I do is just one branch of a large, collaborative picture, and I’m proud to be a part of something that can really embody a collective hope and speak to others.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
If you play games, you’ve probably played some from the studio I’m currently at! A lot of work and passion goes into every single game out there, and there’s really no other satisfaction than knowing that someone enjoys a game you’ve made or introduced them to. And if you don’t think you’re a big game person, I really hope you give it a try! There’s thousands of games out there, made by so many different people, so I’m sure you’ll find one that suits you. Honestly – there’s no better support I can ask for than just liking games. Whether it’s just a small phone game or a huge community with millions of players, the fact that people of all kinds out there are playing games is encouraging.

For people who are interested in making games, you’ll often find me participating in public game jams that everyone is free to join with no experience required! Events such as Ludum Dare, GMTK, and Global Game Jam are all huge networks of strangers who group up to make games every year, and beginners are always welcome to try a hand at it. I’m always excited to meet new people and put our heads together for some really crazy and spontaneous ideas, and it’s always cool to see the results of everyone’s hard work after.

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