Freelance Animator and Children's book illustrator, Qian Shi, spoke to us about her life and animation career, and how that all led to a beautiful children's book 'The Weaver'.
She Drew That February 2020 Workshop
Organised by Hannah Lau-Walker
In collaboration with Julia Parfitt
Filmed at Nexus Studios
Q : Throughout my animation career I’ve found that there are some things I like animating more than others, for instance I love animating morphs making something really fluid and fun, whereas I find realistic walk cycles less exciting as they’re so technical. I was interested to know what it is you like to animate and how that relates to your work?
A : I find myself drawn to the subtle, but sweet, acting side of animation. I’m mostly interested in storytelling and developing the visual style, colours, and patterns, which explains how I slowly leaned towards illustration and children's books, besides the love of animations.
Q : Clients can vary from project to project but when transitioning from animation to illustration, did you find you faced different challenges working with clients?
A : Don’t get me started on the clients! Hahah! In general, the most frustrating thing I find is bad communication, for example when client is also figuring things while you’re already working on the job; also micro-management, I’d rather hear what isn’t working and why, so I can make suggestions on how to improve, rather than client suggesting options, often driving the project in a worse direction. I mean, we’re hired to solve problems creatively, isn’t it?
In terms of the challenges on the publishing side, I have noticed how much slower a book turnaround is! Publishers could take as long as a whole month to reply to one email! But now I have a superpower new literal agent, I’m hopeful things will move relatively faster!
Q : Having gone from animation to children's book illustration is there something unexpected you learned from making the transition? Perhaps about the world of illustration compared to animation or the way you thought when it came to designing work for books rather than the screen?
A : Surprisingly, designing (or writing) for books is very different for the screen! First of all, a book comes in (very) different formats, you should avoid putting any important elements in the middle of a double spread; secondly, there are no sound effects to help you, at least for the traditional paper books!
Writing for children’s books, you should also consider your audience’s age group, it determines how wordy your text should be, how complex your artwork should be, etc.
Q : Everyone has low points on jobs, and I feel it’s important to turn those low points into something you can learn from and grow with. Have you learnt something from a low point on a job that changed the way you worked?
A : Yes, definitely, I’m constantly trying to battle those struggles in freelancing: come up with a short personal project instead of worrying too much when having downtime in between jobs. Doing a job that I don’t enjoy, made me question what I’d rather work on; and that led to learning and practicing the skillset to take me in that direction.
Q : Freelancers can get stuck in making the same mistakes from job to job, what advice would you give a freelancer?
A : For freelancers and people who are considering trying out freelancing, it’s a blessing to have the freedom! But it requires discipline in time management and communications with clients and co-workers. You shouldn’t get too stressed out if work dries up for a while, take the opportunity to develop your own work during downtime whilst actively reaching out for potential jobs.
TIP OF THE MONTH
Do you have a software tip that changed your world?
A : Yes, this function in photoshop has blown my mind when I first learned it and totally changed my practice at the time: You can create a vector line with the pen tool, then right click, trace the vector line with your chosen pen brush!
Qian Shi created this style frame for our February Workshop. We use these styles frames as a jumping off point for our community to create animated work too. You can see the results to this animation challenge below.