I've always seen my role as Art Director as being the bridge between a story and its visual. Working with the great teams at Axis, I'll hone in on a story to understand what emotions it conveys and what messages it imparts, and turn those concepts into shapes and colours that support the narrative. My mission is working with the team on translating words in a script into pixels on the screen. Every project is an exciting creative challenge.
We tell fantastic stories at Axis with stunning worlds and fascinating characters. The process of developing the cinematic and illustrative style of Tales of Runeterra with Riot Games, for example, was an incredible experience. We got to explore the world of League of Legends and create Mount Targon (the mightiest peak in all of Runeterra), craft stunningly beautiful FX for 'The Vaulted Road' and introduce the mischievous Yordles and their shenanigans.
But perhaps the project I am most proud of was our trailer for Ruined King: A League of Legends Story. We directed this project internally with Carlos Stevens, and the team went above and beyond. Everyone always brings incredible artistry to every project and the team's results just shine on the screen.
From architecture to animation
As with many working in the creative industry, the path that led me here was not a straight one. I started with a degree in architectural design and worked for three years as an architect and project lead building towers and parks in China. I suppose you could consider those projects my first location designs, that could be visited in real life!
After a few years, I found myself designing a building in collaboration with a film director. It was then when I realized filmmaking could be pursued as a career so I took all my savings and worked at a restaurant at nights to make rent while studying filmmaking by day. I read everything I could get my hands on for free online and attended every talk and event about filmmaking I could find.
After a year of study, I landed my first job in the VFX industry as a concept artist, matte painter and storyboarder. I was lucky to work on projects like Jason Bourne as a matte painter and on Disney's live-action Aladdin as a storyboard artist. While working on such projects, I became more involved in creating stylized animation pitches. I gravitated toward the power of the animated process as I could craft every pixel on the screen: it was pure potential, and I loved it.
My passion for animation led me to Cartoon Saloon, where I worked as a scene illustration and background artist on the animated films Wolfwalkers and My Father's Dragon. Next, I joined Axis Studios, where my work on Riot Games' cinematic shorts began. I am so grateful for the support I received when I first started at the studio, especially from CG supervisor Steven Barbour, Art Director Bram Sels and Head of Art Jon Beeston. They made me feel so welcomed, and I still learn from them every day.
Women and animation
Working at Axis is such a rewarding experience; we have incredible talent working across our three studios. As we're celebrating International Women's Day, I'd like to highlight some of our female team members. Our production head, Amy Paterson and Producer Sophie Robeson have such a positive impact on all of us; and our Head of Characters Amy Ash and Character Lead Ekaterina Pushkarova do amazing work, our leads Anastasia Shiyankova, Sara Vineis, Camille Fourniols... There would be too many to name them all, — so many of my colleagues bring fantastic craftsmanship to the table day after day.
I am thrilled to work shoulder to shoulder with them, as there was a time in the industry where highlighting female artists would have been challenging considering the lack of women pursuing animation as a career. Thankfully, we're now experiencing a blossoming moment where increasingly more women are joining the creative industry and progressing through its ranks. The world is more interconnected than ever, and opportunities are flourishing independently of gender, background or geography.
We see the hugely positive impact of this inclusion every day: Axis is a fantastic example of diversity in the creative sector. I see such a range of cultures, languages and backgrounds in our reviews and dailies, and even a single session might involve artists from New Zealand, Singapore and Los Angeles. All these differing points of view invite more in-depth perspectives, enrich the creative process and elevate the overall quality of whichever project we're working on.
Confidence and inspiration
There are many things I have been lucky to learn over the years that I wished I could have told my younger self.
I would suggest to step forward and ignore discouraging statistics or trends that suggest you might fail in your goals. Don’t be unafraid of the spotlight. It can be daunting for everyone in the beginning, but if you work hard and are confident of your work and skills, everything will work out.
Also, try to jump on upcoming challenges. Filmmaking is a tough process for everyone, but if you bring your best to every project and make each story as great as it can be, you will achieve great things. Find the skills you can bring to the table that you love and that are unique to you. You'll be surprised at what difficulties you can overcome when you're enriching the process with something you genuinely enjoy.
Finally, life can always be a treasure trove of inspiration. I love spending time getting lost in a museum's maze of corridors, for example. The dustier, the better! Or getting my feet covered in mud on a walk through the forest. My neighbour's banter, my cousin’s school story or the last summer holiday I got visiting my friend’s hometown; all these things always fuel my ideas.
Creativity is not just found in the studio, but everywhere.