GRADUATES 2017: KATY WANG.

A TACTILE ARTICULATION OF CHARACTER THROUGH ILLUSTRATION

On October 3, we hosted a select presentation of the Graduates 2017, the latest cohort of the most promising design and creative talent from the UK as judged by the gimlet eyes of the prolific London-based graphic platform It's Nice That. In partnership with A/D/O, two of the most promising young talents – Ben Hutchings and Katy Wang – were invited to present alongside more established designers – Braulio Amado and Anna Kulachek – in an overview of work styles and personal histories – From Starting Out to Making It.

Katy Wang, a native of Oxfordshire, graduated from Kingston University in 2017, which she pursued after learning some of her favorite animators – including Becky and Joe – had attended the school. She found that, unlike some other institutes more closely focused on the technical aspects of illustration, Kingston preserved a complete foundation in illustration.

Some of her earliest student work such as "Mind The Gap," an animation she designed while in her first year at Kingston represents that foundational approach.

The short sequence is based on the brightly colored, 90s-Memphis-esque upholstery patterns found in the London Underground. Stressed by the hectic quality of a rush-hour commute, she found that they "came to life." In her clip, the chromatically vibrating geometric patterns begin to take on the characteristics of their surroundings – shuffling in sequence like the steps of an escalator, or parting into two halves, mirroring the motion of ticket barriers and train doors.

"The process was really intuitive compared to my graduate film," she recalled, showing a  sketchbook page detailing the sequence of images from the film. "Animation was only introduced in the second year, so I didn't really know to do storyboards or animatics, as I do now. So looking at this now, it scares me a bit."

The panes trace abstract ideas in a flowing series of inventions across the pages – rather than the tight grid of a traditional animation storyboard, each section encapsulating a single idea about the transformation of seat patterns into motion.

"But I'd like to go back to doing something like this again," Wang mused. "Because it's just sketches and arrows linking them, trying to figure things out. Maybe in a way you can come up with more novel ideas this way because it's a form of thinking through making."

Her graduate film, by contrast, was a work of concerted and deliberate effort, mapped out in prototyping different color plans and deliberate, film-like framing and pacing. "After the lightness of my earlier works, like this girl who is obsessed with toothpaste – I wanted to challenge myself to make something that was more serious and more character-driven," she said.

The finished product, Contact, is a seven-minute atmospheric exploration of outer space and inner turmoil: capturing a lonely interstellar voyager's emotional landscape through intricately colored spaceship interiors and the moody inky expanses of empty space.

"There's no dialogue because I wanted the audience to empathize with the character as much as possible, just through facial expressions and body language." Despite the absence of spoken words, she found that developing a script helped articulate the stages of the story and affected her approach to approaching the characterization of her protagonist.

The interiors are simultaneously richly textured and formally simple, with simple dials and interior panes in steady, faintly glowing rows echoing the infinite expanse outside. Volumes are emphasized with daubs of contrasting shades, "a textural brush that gives it a flickering effect – the feeling of traditional animation."

"I also realized that it's really good to have someone along for the ride when you're trying to make an animation by yourself. It's quite a solitary process," Wang said. "It's good to have someone to ask, 'Which color combination do you like best?'" For her next project she is delving even further into scripting and storyboarding, a collaboration that hints at connections with some of her earlier whimsy: a live-action project called Pistachio Boy.

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