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Meet Mabel Ryu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mabel Ryu.

Mabel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Korea, went to high school in Canada, and now I’m here in California, majoring in Character Animation at CalArts. I have always loved watching animes, cartoons, and comics. There was this one anime show that I loved, it was called ‘Mermaid Melody’; It was a show about mermaid princesses with magical power transforms as human girls and fight the villains by singing. I was a kid who was obsessed with magical girls and mermaids at that time so I would just sit down and copy its drawings over and over as a kid. Drawing cute characters and writing stories of them were definitely what I have enjoyed the most ever since I can remember.

Up until middle school, I was a student who was very not passionate about school works. I could not find any motivation to study and get good grades in exams and instead of studying, I would just doodle on the margin of my textbooks in class. My mom was really worried about me not having any dream, so she would tell me often to think about what I want to be in the future, One time when she asked me if there is anything that you want to do in the future, I suddenly reminded of the comic book I was reading the other day, and asked my mom should I become a comics artist or something like that. It was a half joke and I was not very serious about it at all, but she took me to an animation/comics academy a few days later. I think she thought drawing comics and animating would fit me very well since I loved drawing characters as a child, and she was right! The art academy was fun, and I found the passion for animation and a reason to study.

During the time at the art academy, I developed the love for American animated films and cartoons, and it made me want to study in U.S, where all my favorite shows were made and where the artists of the shows studied at. Luckily my parents were very supportive at my art education, so we decided that I should go abroad to study art, and they sent me to Canada for high school to learn English ahead and to experience the culture of North America early. I later applied to schools in North America, got accepted, and came to study at CalArts which was my first choice.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I would say the biggest struggle I had along the way was the language barrier. I first went to Canada when I was still not good at English enough to convey my thoughts clearly and to understand what people are saying. I feel like now I am much more comfortable speaking in English, but it took me years to get to where I am now. Because my English was not good enough I had been seen as a very quiet and shy kid in high school, and it made me feel awkward around people and to even feel uncomfortable about myself. Speaking and communicating with a limited language skill made me feel like I was a different person than who I really thought I was. I was so tired of not being able to truly express myself and my feelings and that’s when I started writing in a journal. I wrote about myself, my days, my emotions and it was very helpful for me to get over the negative feelings. Later during I was working on my college portfolio, I would just read through the journal for inspirations whenever I felt stuck. The experience of encountering the language barrier and my journal had become a fuel for me to create artworks that tell stories about emotions and personal experiences.

What else should our readers know?
I finished my first year at the Character Animation program at CalArts and I am going into the second year next fall. We learn lots of stuffs here including story, 2D animation, 3D Maya, life drawing, and character design. Overall the classes are very helpful and enjoyable, and I am happy to study Animation at CalArts. However, my favorite part about school is that I get to know people in other majors, artists of different backgrounds pursuing art in various fields. I got to be friends with composers, graphic designers, actors, filmmakers, etc., and it had been a wonderful chance to widen my perspective, to get inspired, and to collaborate with different artists.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My future plan is to finish my film and to figure out which part of the animation I want to dig deep in. Also, I’m planning to learn programs like After Effects and Premier to improve on my film editing skills. As a person who just finished their first year, I am not sure if I am more interested in story or visual development or animation yet, so my goal is to explore those areas more. and to find what I am the most passionate about. I am looking forward to experience lots of film making process throughout the rest of my school years and to meet lots of new artists in the future.

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