My name is Susan Huang and I am a concept artist and background painter working as a freelancer. I was born in Taiwan— fondly known as the kid who always doodled on her textbook but was not interested in studying. As a child, I loved reading manga and even learned to draw human figures from it, but I still struggled with my studies and college applications during my high school years.
Luckily, I got accepted into a design major where I could still draw as part of my curriculum. I didn’t know animation was an actual career and thought I would become a designer: designing all the cool products like laptops or mobile phones, but my passion for 2D art led me to become an illustrator.
After years of drawing cute images, in the summer of 2014, I watched the movie The Tale of Princess Kaguya by Studio Ghibli and I knew that that was what I wanted to do. After applying for an animation major, I began my journey through the entertainment industry.
In animation school, I had the chance to go through the entire animation pipeline, from story to the final editing. Compared to the production work or creating the story, I found myself more and more interested in designing the characters and imagining the worlds they inhabit. I enjoy figuring out the relationship between the environment and the characters, using the smallest of details to show their personalities.
Animation is a unique medium where paintings come to life. There is a wide range of animation techniques and styles that can be used to create different looks and feels, including 2D hand-drawn animation, stop-motion, and 3D animation. People have a lot of freedom to create their imaginary worlds.
I can decide the look of the characters and build the sets right from my head through my art. Every time I see my drawings acting on the screen like real people, I remember why I became an animator.
I get inspiration for my animated worlds from when I travel to different countries. I learn about their cultures and sketch whenever I see something interesting.
Through traveling, I have learned to appreciate what I have. The more countries I visit, the more in awe I am of the beauty of Taiwan. I hadn’t noticed it before because I am surrounded by it every day, but it is truly beautiful.
It can be challenging explaining it to people on the other side of the world, but I want to share my culture with others. Specifically, I want people to know about Taiwan's Democracy Movement. Many people suffered during that time and they sacrificed so much for freedom. They had families; they were someone’s father, husband, and child. I hope people today will not forget that our democracy and freedom now required the courage, determination, and sacrifice of many people who came before us. We may be able to forgive, but we should never forget.
It is a heavy topic, but I hope to tell this story through animation or images to raise awareness in the world.
Currently, the biggest challenge for me is balancing my work and my life. When I graduated from school, I struggled to get my foot in the animation industry. I worked on my portfolio every day and applied for as many jobs as I could. I believed that if I couldn't succeed in my career, it meant I hadn't spent enough time on my work.
Even today, I feel guilty when I take a break. After I finish a job, I prepare for personal work and get ready for the next project. I feel the same even on weekends. But I've learned that I need breaks to improve the quality of my art. Working for 12 hours a day won't make my art look better or help me succeed in my career. Instead, the quality of my work suffers when I'm tired.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing animation?
1. Have some hobby that is not related to animation or film. Art comes from life. People who make amazing films are inspired by their daily life. Little mice in the kitchen, toys from childhood, pets, birds, video games, and so on. Those little moments from your life will make your art unique. Enjoy your life, and share those stories your way.
2. Do your best in every assignment. No matter how small the assignments are or how short the contract is, you will always learn something from the project you get. Every assignment is an opportunity to show yourself to others, which will bring you to the next one.
3. Try your best to have personal work. This is hard, I'm also still working on it. But I feel personal work is a good way to keep my passion for art and show people who I really am.
4. Figure out what you really want to do, and go for it! You can do storyboarding, design, animation, modeling…etc. People play different roles in the animation pipeline. Find your passion and don’t give up!
WRITTEN BY: Shay Santos