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Meet Yiqiu Xu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yiqiu Xu.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
My name is Yiqiu Xu. I’m currently an MFA student in the Animation and Digital Arts program at USC. Born and raised in South China, I also spent my undergraduate years there. I never expected myself to be an animator before entering college. The reason for me to chose animation over other kinds of art forms was actually a little bit farfetched. As a teenager, I was a self-proclaimed movie fan. I did imagine myself to be a director for live-action movies. However, I never paid any extra attention to animation. It was about the same time when I started reading graphic novels every now and then and gradually developed interest in European indie comics and graphic novels. Meanwhile, I didn’t stop practicing drawing to create stories. So movie and drawing were the two things that I was most attracted to.

After the first year in college, I came to this realization that making movies, in most circumstances, is a collaborative work. And for someone who wants to have full control over their work but lack of smooth communication skills, it might not be the right path to pick. On the other hand, it always seemed to miss something when I was doing illustrations or painting. That’s why I decided to find a workaround. And animation seems to be the answer: a good balance and combination between vision and motion. Though, of course, at that time, I was only able to see the similarity of animation to movies and drawings. I wasn’t able to find and appreciate its unique charm until much later.

We’d love to hear more about your art.
I focused on 2D animation mostly for a quite long time in school. After moving to LA, I picked up some 3D skills just to have a better understanding of the CG world. I’ve also tried cut-outs and stop-motion in some shorts I did before. It’s exciting to be curious and step out of the comfort zone by experimenting with various styles and techniques.

To me, drawing seems to be a more intuitive way than other expressions. And it seems to contain more possibilities when served for animation. That’s why I chose to do 2D in the first place. Masaaki Yuasa really opened my eyes when I first stepped out into the animation world. Masaaki’s name has been repetitively brought up by tons of animation artists that it almost becomes a cliche to make him an example of inspiration. Though I still think his works can not be overemphasized when we talk about 2D animation nowadays.

My preference for artistic and aesthetic values over sophisticated skills and techniques was developed by watching various animation shorts and features worldwide. I used to have a rather fixed, or narrow aesthetic view towards artworks I watch. However, the more subjects and styles I’m exposed to, the more tolerant I feel towards all the artwork that I wasn’t able to appreciate before. Being an animator myself makes me notice the sparkles contained in those works I once neglected.

As for my own works, I’ve always wanted to explore methods and techniques that normally wouldn’t be able to achieve in live-action movies and to push the boundaries of visual storytelling. I’d like my stories to have a personal touch, to be a specific and unique experience of a certain thing or feeling I feel related to. It interprets what’s too private, too shy, or embarrassed for us to speak out loud. I’d love to pass to the viewers these emotions and feelings, which I think are universal.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
I’ve learned enough stories from artists I admire about how they survived in the industry as independent creators, to the extent that I’ve already lowered my expectations to the working conditions for animators in this business. I think for indie artists globally, life wasn’t easy at any time. I had the chance to speak with some amazing indie animation artists in Japan and I was surprised to learn that no matter how great their works are, the working conditions and opportunities still aren’t satisfying in their own industry.

Despite that, I think LA does have a diverse, inclusive culture in the overall entertainment industry, which is a bless. There are some tycoons in the city that produce great commercial masterpieces every year, which for sure helped to support young artists. However, I still believe that it is possible in animation to preserve a unique personal expression and an imaginative aesthetic style and stick to independent, small-budget work, while not having to compromise to the external demands of large-scale productions. Ultimately artists have to have their own vision and judgment of what they really want to do.

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Yiqiu Xu

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