Hey guys! For the poor souls out there reading this, greetings from the land of desperate academia. Recently, I’ve been listening to Radio Los Santos and crying about how many essays I have to write. And I have it easy! This week I want to talk a little about April Liu, who went to Calarts for a couple of years before being hired as a Visual Development artist at Paramount Animation. Her work is pretty much the bomb. For the sake of self-deprecation, I’ll link the article Cartoon Brew did on her work.
I don’t want to write something too fancy. I love April’s art for a couple of reasons: in drawing figures, she focuses on natural movements and natural poses. Her work displays a really pleasing mix of digital and traditional media. She has a great sense of color. All of these things sound a little dry to me: what I mean is her art can really only be described as lovely and exceptionally charming.
Like a lot of my favorite artists, April isn’t too preoccupied with depicting people and places realistically. She’s rather more focused on capturing the mood and “sense of place” of a scene. For characters, the goal isn’t necessarily realism or accuracy, but rather, movement and personality. In these circumstances I display a pretty heavy bias towards illustrative, stylized art. But what use is impeccable lighting when you’ve lost the underlying emotional narrative? Also, what use is realism when you can’t charm your way into the heart of the audience?
If you guys haven’t guessed already, I love talking about the little glimpses of personality you can see when you go through an artist’s blog. It’s a humanizing and comforting practice. April talks pretty candidly and humorously about drawing and painting; for example, she mentions how a certain painting looks like a mess, how using color was a terrible mistake when the black-and-white version looked better, how her art style consists of a “‘lazy” mode and and “even lazier” mode. She has a weakness for making nice drawings in nice notebooks when she herself realizes a better way to practice is to use scratch paper and focus on quality, rather than sweating it out over every mistake. I know in some ways it can seem like a lack of self-confidence, but I think these thoughts are good to vocalize, because they’re such an intrinsic part of the process. The fact that she thinks she could do a lot better, but that she’s still posting the work anyways— it means she’s come to terms with her flaws and she can move on and try again. Also, it’s heartening to know everyone struggles.
April’s blog also features a lot of watercolor paintings; a medium I have a real weakness for. The places she depicts: the ocean, the beach, the clouds, the wide blue sky— I’m also involuntarily attracted to these places, and I think I’m right in saying they have universal resonance. In fanart, she favors lighthearted, nostalgic subjects like Animal Crossing, Pokemon, and Zelda.
From her work, you can get a sense of joy, looseness, and simplicity. Not all artists display those traits, and as for them, they excel plenty in other areas. I personally value those traits highly, because I am always trying to return to the root of art— a simple love for drawing. I think April exemplifies this simple love, and in this she’s extraordinary.