Sylvia Liu is an LA-based illustrator currently working at Dreamworks TV Animation. We take a look at some of her work for backgrounds as well as her equally impressive personal projects while she gives us an insight into what it’s like to work in the industry.
While she talks about developing her own style still being a challenge, the character designs she created for some recent group shows come across as confident in their distinctive style. She has a really strong grasp of composition and colour, which she continues from the work she is doing now.
Sylvie talks to us about the shows she’s been working on with Dreamworks, what she’s discovering about herself and the industry, and the tools and process she uses.
I’m an illustrator based in LA and currently working in animation. I have also worked in video games and comics. I’ve always loved playing video games and have read manga most of my life so I have drawn influence from those things in some of my recent work.
I normally use a Wacom tablet and paint digitally and I try to add some traditional touches with the printing or adding things after. I really like the idea of digital and traditional media melding together like when a video game looks and feels like a real painting.
I keep a little notebook next to my bed and in my bag to write quick ideas or sketches for things I’d like to work on in the future.
I’ve been working on the ‘Mr. Peabody and Sherman’ show for the past year and a half and have learned a ton from my peers. Working with others has made a huge impact in my work, it’s always helpful to have advice from others and see their points of view.
At home, I also sit next to my boyfriend and I always ask him for help when I feel stuck, he’s not an artist but I think any opinion can be helpful.
Every episode, half of the show takes place in a different period of history and we come up with a new palette so each one is unique. I think reference makes a huge difference in the work, I pay very close attention to the details and try to show the essence while also making it my own.
I’m really into color, different kinds of lighting, and interesting compositions. For example, doing cinematic lighting on flat compositions is something I’ve experimented with.
I love finding ways to come up with different color palettes, it’s like there’s infinite color combinations and ways of telling a story. I do a lot of research for photo references, movie screenshots, historical references etc., depending on every project.
I try to make sure there’s purpose and meaning for the choices I make, and always keep it specific to that project.
I haven’t been in the industry for long and I feel like I’m constantly figuring out how I want to do my art. Personally, I love a lot of different styles, genres, and look up to many artists so it’s hard to settle on anything.
Honestly, I’d like to work for the artists I love and be like a chameleon for them, but I also want to develop my own thing too. It’s complicated I guess and might always be but it’s always fun even when it’s frustrating.
I think I’ll probably always feel like I’m trying to find my own way, but what’s amazing about art is that there is never one way and I hope I always keep an open mind.
© Sylvia Liu, 2015