Victoria Ying is a true talent indeed. After attending the Art Center College of Design with a BFA degree in Illustration, she has gone on to work for Disney and participating in numerous projects including the most expensive animated film to date, Tangled. We sit down and talk about her new art book, her creative process, and her road to working on some of the biggest animated projects around. Read below for the full interview…
Could you tell us a bit about your experience as a development artist and how you’re career ended up working for Disney?
Victoria: I started as a High School student actually be really interested in comic books. I loved the storytelling aspect of it as well as the sense of autonomy that Comics had. When looking at Colleges, I decided to attend Art Center in Pasadena for their strong fundamentals. After my first year, I decided to try and be part of a new experiment at the school starting a new program called “Entertainment Design” The program was more geared for students who were interested in working in film and video games, but I found that I was able to learn a lot about animation as well. It was about this time that I realized that my real passion was in the art of animation. When it came time to graduate, I had my eyes set solely on Disney Feature Animation. I applied for the Training program where I got rejected the first time. I worked for a year working at what is now called Disney Interactive Media Group, and applied to the program again, The second time they accepted me. After our six month program was up, they had to decide if we were worth keeping or not, and they decided to make me a full time Visual Development artist.
A lot of your character development revolves around fashion and attire. Do you draw inspiration from any place in partciular or do you try to create a wardrobe that is appropriate towards the character?
Victoria: I always think about character first. Everything that a character wears should be reflective of their personality. I think that having a passion for fashion and an open mind to costume helps me to see outside the box but still maintain a personality when it comes to costume.
I suppose that question could be geared towards the overall personality of the character drawn as well. Do you find that you discover things along the way as you draw the characters that you didn’t realize you wanted to incorporate in the beginning stages?
Victoria: When I draw characters, I always find inspiration first. Sometimes it’s clothes, sometimes it’s actors, but I always get an idea of the person that I’m trying to capture. After a few drawings I keep stumbling upon other sources of inspiration, with the internet there are so many rabbit holes you can spend days getting inspired about characters!
When creating an environment, could you describe your mindset on how to tackle this? Do you draw inspiration from real places?
Victoria: My favorite kinds of environments are the kinds that I feel like I want to go to or ones that I would have decorated. I love doing interiors and architecture because they are so reflective of the characters and time period when they were built. I traveled a lot as a child and [as a] teen with my family and one of the most important things about travel was that it taught me how to really marvel at spaces. I think that you cannot really understand something grand until you have experienced it in your heart. There’s a very particular feeling about being in a place and smelling the smells and feeling the light that really help inform me how to make my paintings feel more real.
Tell us a bit about ‘Freckles’, your new art book!
Victoria: My new Art Book ‘Freckles’ will Debut at the Creative Talent Network Expo in Burbank CA in November! It’s a collection of work since 2008 that has been printed in a high quality format. I did a very tiny run of books (2) when I graduated college in 2008 and I used it as a portfolio. After showing it around the studios and to friends and fans, they all asked if there was a way to buy a copy. I decided to make a version of that book updated with new work and some never before seen stuff as well!
Word on the street was ‘Tangled’ was the most expensive animated film ever produced. What was it like working on that film and what was it about that film that made it so special?
Victoria: It was a very special film. None of us knew it at the time, but we had something really spectacular going on in the studio. The energy was really palpable, working with Glen Keane and a character that he had thought so much about really helped push the film to a place that was appealing and different. I had a really great experience on the film, there were very few female Visual Development artists at the time so they gave me a lot of work that I had an absolute blast working on, such as her Bedroom and Tower interior. I loved being able to think about a character and develop spaces that they would live in!
I’m aware that you also create art for charity on occasion. How does it feel knowing you can use your talent to help raise money for a good cause?
Victoria: It’s something that I could have never expected. Being a working artist, sometimes you forget that drawings have value, and working on these charities is great because you get to see everyone’s true self in their art. I’m always humbled when I’m asked to do charity work, and I’m often still surprised people buy the art.
Your husband did some work for Dreamworks animation studios. Do you guys have a healthy competition when it comes to your art? or do you learn things from one another all the time?
Victoria: We have been together for 6 years before we got married and he was with me during my days at college. At the time I was a very young naive artist and he was already working as a professional at Dreamworks. He taught me a lot and helped me grow, for a long time it was more one sided. At some point, I decided to take my own path and make artwork that didn’t look like his at all. Now I think that we recognize each other’s unique merit, but we still sometimes argue about the finer points. We definitely inspire each other and push each other to keep growing and working.
Would it be foolish to rule out the possibility of you working on any future Anime projects? Are you a fan of Anime?
Victoria: I LOVE anime. I started drawing because of Anime. I’m a big fan of the work that they do in Japan and I think that their thinking about animation is something that Disney can really draw from and be inspired by. I think it would be great fun to work on an Anime!
Are you tight-lipped about future film projects? Or would you be able to spill the beans a bit about any upcoming animated feature films you’ll be working on?
Victoria: Unfortunately, I can’t really talk about the current project, but I can say that it’s going to be exciting and really great looking! I did some work for the upcoming feature “Wreck It Ralph”, where I was able to really work in a different way than I ever had before, and work in many styles that I had not previously explored.
Lastly, you work a dream job I am sure many artists would kill to have. Could you provide any advice for artists trying to make it in the business?
Victoria: Be UNIQUE! There are thousands of people out there who are fans of animation and animators. If blogs and “art of” books are your only inspiration, you’re going to become a regurgitation of what is already out there. I always encourage artists to look at ouside influences such as modern art, or classic painters. All of those things will keep you fresh, and make you a necessity at a studio.
Want to keep tabs on Victoria’s future projects? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: