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Rising Stars: Meet Jane Shi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jane Shi.

Hi Jane, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was born and raised in Singapore and never even realized that a career in the art industry could be a reality until I was about 20. Even though I have always loved to draw, I always stuck to the “safe” classes like the sciences, maths and economics (which I hated), partly due to familial pressure and partly because this was all I was taught and knew. Naturally, though I tried my best, I did poorly for my A levels – sorry mom and dad! and they finally allowed me to pursue art. It took me another couple of years to learn about the industry because it was so scarce in Singapore. I took a one year course in 3D Animation and modeling but quickly realized that anything post-production was not my interest. I realized that the 2D drawing and design classes were what I looked forward to the most, and so I finally decided on illustration and design. I knew I didn’t want to have an arts education in Singapore, so I started looking at schools all over the world.

Eventually, I narrowed it down to USA and UK and applied to nine different art schools (I had back up schools for my back up school :’)) It was definitely a challenging but also exciting process trying to research and figure out what even is an art portfolio. Eventually, two years of basic drawing classes and fumbling around in the dark, I got into 7/9 of them! One of them was Art Center, so I packed a couple of bags and flew halfway around the world to get that education that I have craved my entire life. When I got to Art Center, it was my first time ever being surrounded by art. I could not believe how happy and freeing that felt. I was older than most everyone else, which pushed me to make the most of my Art Center education. I tried out as many classes as I can, from sewing to designing to fashion history to model making. Eventually, I settled into Illustration and design, and now, here I am, about to graduate in a few months!

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?
It’s about 50/50! In the beginning, I really struggled with my maths and sciences classes because I had no interest in a lot of them. Despite my hardest attempts, I was failing them and I had no idea what to do with my life because all I wanted to do was to draw. Unfortunately in my culture, I am taught that all artists are “starving artists” and there was no future in it. It created a huge amount of tension between me and my parents. I think it took flunking my A Levels for my parents to realize that I will never do well in the maths and sciences because I was not passionate about them and for them to finally let me pursue my dreams. Once I got to Art Center, I started doing better in school and I was a lot happier. I started to have long-term goals that I wanted to achieve and I had so much to look forward to and work for. Ever since then, my relationship with my parents have also improved. They have been incredibly supportive, helping me in any way they can.

A happy accident of moving to Los Angeles was that I could finally develop my self-expression. Having grown up in a very conservative asian environment, my voices were often stifled. Having a “different” fashion sense, multiple piercings, tattoos, etc. anything that makes you stand out was frowned and looked down upon. It also doesn’t help that I am tall (5’11) and slightly overweight in a culture that sees small and skinny girls as the beauty standard. Being in LA and surrounded by people of all shapes and sizes that are so comfortable in their own skin and voice was unbelievably inspiring for me. I was able finally able to experiment with fashion, hair, and lifestyle as well. I feel incredibly lucky that I am now finally realizing myself as a person as well as my career. After learning more about who I am and what I wanted to do, I could plan my life and education a lot better, and it has been a lot smoother ever since!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I specialize in creating illustrations, character designs and patterns. I aim to create designs and illustrations that invoke emotions in my viewers by playing with faces and gestures and colours. I also think that my experiences of growing up with migrant parents and then becoming a migrant myself by moving to Los Angeles allow me to view the world in a unique light. I also enjoy creating short comics of my life and experiences and recently made one about my experience of being detained at LAX September 2020. Ever since I uploaded it on Instagram and my website, my people have approached me with their personal experiences, and it has opened up many interesting conversations about being an immigrant. While it is unfortunate and deeply saddening that so many immigrants have had to go through that experience, it also made my heart warm and full that my art could touch people and open up these meaningful conversations. I am also currently working with Spinmaster to do character and pattern explorations. I still think that it is unbelievable that I am getting paid to play with and come up with different characters and colour schemes and patterns every week! This is honestly my dream job, and I hope to be able to do this full-time when I graduate.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
One of my favorite childhood memories was a Christmas dinner more than ten years ago when we took a family holiday to Cairns, Australia. We stayed in a beachside resort, and the adults cooked up a storm of both eastern and western dishes. It is the perfect combination of two of my favourite things – Christmas and the seaside.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Credits to Ana at Vancouver Photoshoot Tours for my profile picture.

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