Art, // February 12, 2015
Shan Huang – ARTIST
Interview with artist Shan Huang —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Shan Huang. I am the art director and designer of Shenzhen Yuzuo Culture Development Limited Company. Besides this, I also do some creative work in photography, and I am a model.
2. Why art?
Why art? I can not answer this question directly when I am asked. I was born in a scholarly family, my grandfather is good at Chinese calligraphy and photography, and my grandmother is good at the Chinese landscape painting. I was in such art circumstance when I was a child. I learned painting as well (of course by the western art eduction) at that time. When I was young, the Japanese cartoons were very popular in China, and I was affected by those excellent works and started my creations in animation. After having a long time of professional training, I got an admission notification from China Academy Of Art in 2003. When I was studying at there, I was greatly inspired by the art environment around me. I would spare some time to make some cosplay works which were very popular among my classmates, and I became known for my work. After graduated, I got started creating BJDs and found my own brand Ringdoll. I continue to create more works for it.
Why art? I think it is not only because that I was born in such art circumstance but only because that the art is in my blood and bone when I was born. No matter what I was doing (traveling or playing games)in my daily life, I can get many inspirations from what I was doing and put them into my works.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?
As I said above, I am deeply affected by grandparents since I was a child, my grandfather’s calligraphy is unique and masterful, which had an impression on me. I like the Chinese classical painting and calligraphy art. Frankly, I was going to learn the traditional Chinese painting. I practiced the calligraphy for years since I was a child. When I am back to my hometown, I will hand write with my grandfather, and my grandpa always complain that I do not keep going to practice the calligraphy each time. However, my friends always compliment on my handwriting, and the moment I hear their praise, I will remember my grandfather’s complaint. (LOL)
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and media(s)?
My favorite subject? Frankly, I don’t have any, as every subject is possible to be my favorite subject. Any works for any subject actually is worth of being appreciated. However, if I must choose one, then the subject about supernatural is my favorite, such as those subjects about legend and mythology. Because these subjects make me think a lot, there will be lots of images in my brain. For instance, if I am going to make a vampire or a zombie, I will think that how to re-create it so that people will be surprised, and appreciate it as both of them are well known by everyone and their images are deeply in people’s hearts. Thinking of these is very exciting. For the media, a good subject will has a number of media, such as painting, photography, sculpture, music, movie, etc. For me, I like all these media. I often use different ways to make my work. Currently, I prefer to make my doll through sculpture to show my favorite subject. In this way, it will take more time than painting or photography. I spent half a year to sculpture a body for the grown man doll. I enjoyed the process of making a living doll from a pile of lifeless clay.
5. How do you work and approach your subject?
Usually, when I get started to create a doll, my sale manager will give me some suggestions. She will suggest a doll that is a popular theme with the market recently, which movie or animation is popular now; and suggest I use these subjects. Generally, as an artist, I would resist her suggestion, as art is free, and I don’t like limitations. I would not like the business decisions to affect my creation. In the previous years, I objected to all suggestions to connect with the market, but I came to accept these suggestions gradually, because I realize that even though the art is free, the art which does not connect with the market won’t get its audiences.
I would like to make some works that can only be understood and appreciated by myself but I understand that the art can not be alone in some extent.
Usually, after deciding to make a subject, I will read all materials and information about it, such as pictures, games, movies etc. It will take me one or two months to think how people created this classical character and analyze the reason.
The moment I am satisfied, I won’t think anymore about these document and forget all designs made by the previous people for three days. I would like to surprise people, and have them appreciate the character in their heart deeply.
Then I will get started with drafts which have many versions. I will show them to my team and let they choose the one they would like. The work I make won’t be appreciated just by myself only, so I invite my team to take part in the creation and listen to their comments about my drafts.
Sometimes, they will suggest I revise the design again so that it can be more accepted; while, sometimes, they will suggest me to ignore bad comments people said about my works and stick with what I’ve done.
I love my team. I am just in charge of my creation, but my team needs to consider many factors like the market, etc. However, when we have some awesome design concepts which may not be accepted by the market, they will encourage me to do what I want to do. After the design drawing is approved by everyone in my team, we will move to the next step, that is making sculpture, outfit pattern, and makeup. This step will take us another two months. In these two months, I am not only making sculpture, but revising the design again and again and also I keep going to understand the subject deeply to make my work better. Let us take Frankenstein as an example, I have two versions for him, in fact, I have already had the third version draft and inspiration in my brain. And I have made a Lucifer Arios version, I have another Lucifer Awake version in my mind already.
6. What are your favorite art work(s), artist(s)?
Leonardo da Vinci is my favorite artist because he was not only a great artist but also a talented scientist. For the recent artist, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen are my favorite. Christian combined the traditional costume with his creative cut contour line, created a series of classical works and made CD to be a high-level custom brand. Alexander is totally a genius, his works are fabulous, unique and controversial.
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
The best responses I have to my work is subversive. Usually, I would like to subvert some traditional aesthetic things. Sometimes, I will make some dolls whose are met the mainstream aesthetic but are impersonal, such as Lucifer and Frankenstein. While sometimes, I will make some dolls who meet the violence aesthetic,such as zombie or Norman Dark 2.0
Ringdoll is gradually developing. The biggest difference between Ringdoll and the other BJD brands is Ringdoll’s “Infamous” series. This series is for audiences who appreciate my violence aesthetic works. Usually, I won’t chase the gorgeous face too much like the other BJD brands do, instead I would like to make works that can touch and hit the fear in everyone’s heart.
Of course, there are some friends who can not accept this kind of violence aesthetic. Making this Infamous series is one of my “self-willed”instances, in which I don’t need to consider the market. If you love this series you will be much appreciated and welcomed.
8. What do you like about your work?
Completeness. Making a self-satisfing work done requires of you a 100% effort for the work in all aspects, including the detail sketches of sculpture, the clothe, the makeup and the refined accessories. To tell you the turth, the majority of Ringdoll’s current works do not meet the expectation of completeness in my heart due to the time arrangements for the new doll releasing and the lead time for the mass production. These two factors limit my creation in a certain extent.
9. What advice would you give to other artists?
My advice for them is that loyal to your heart meanwhile pay attention to the market. One of my artist friends told me that the artists should be self-willed to do whatever you want because the world is changed by the self-willed person. I am agree to it very much. As the inspiration of art creation comes from the artist’s heart, so the artist should be self-willed.
Although paying attention to the market sounds like a poor taste for an artist, it is a vital factor to push the artist be self-improve and aggressive. We need to pay attention to it.
Those famous paintings passed down from the Renaissance Period, they were not made by artists who made their works regardless of the world. Maybe there are many talented and experienced artists in this period but few of their works were noticed by people and most of their works could not be found. From that period, those artists who paid attention to the market were loyal to loyalty, served for the noble and left lots of popular works. Communicating with people and with the society was the most important part of their daily life.
Therefore, both factors: loyal to your heart meanwhile pay attention to the market are very important. I don’t think I am a full artist but I always know that the feedback from the market is a vital part for my creations.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I got my first job as an art director in a BJD company, after graduating from China Academy Of Art in 2007. One day in 2009, when I was looking around the whole office, I found that my inspiration had gone and my mind was dull. I quit in advance as I realized that I could not be creative in this situation. Months later, I found Ringdoll with my friends’ support. I tried my best and worked hard to develop this brand. It was a hard time in the first few years. I even fainted in the bathroom due to hunger because I used all the money I earned to buy raw materials for production, so I had no money to buy food. Fortunately, my previous team and I went through it with encouragements and supports from each other. Misfortunes never come in singles. We could not ship dolls to our customers for more than 6 months due to the production issues with our factory in 2010 when we released our first Grown doll Sol, and Ringdoll was becoming noticed by everyone. That put us in an uncomfortable state when they were dealing with our customers’ doubts about our capability.
I was considering quitting many times because it is very hard to develop a new company. I told to myself that there were lots of ways for me to make creations, why not chose a way that you could achieve what you want smoothly and easily. During that time, I was edgy and sleepless, doubted myself for numerous times per day. Finally, I persuade myself to continue because making BJD is what I loved. I would like to share ideas in my heart to everyone via my creations.
In the past 5 years, Ringdoll kept developing and been noticed by more and more people. I have to thank my team who encouraged me and stayed with me when I faced difficulties. Thank you to our customers and supporters who always trust and support us.
In the next 5 years, I am inviting more friends who love Ringdoll to joint our design team. And I am also planning to work with some excellent designers in the oversea.
There are numerous design inspirations streaming in my brain, including designs that I love so much, but won’t be accepted by the general market, and designs that do match with the market. So I am planing to make some special high-level designs whose craftmanship and higher price and won’t be conflict with my team’s sales plan. I am also dersirous to do some creations without considering the lead time. The reason why I need to do it is because I would like to show people that Ringdoll can do anything, and has an endless amount of possibilities.
For other creations, I will keep going to make some characters designs, work as a model and release a works collection. I am also going to make some short movie, work with designs in all industries, and share inspirations with each other.