Work / Animation

Illustrator Manshen Lo’s ability to capture an atmosphere is second to none

We’ve long admired the tranquil, delicate scenes illustrator Manshen Lo creates with just brushes and ink. So when we found out she’s stepped into the world of animation, we couldn’t wait to see how her quietly-powerful characters moved off the page.

The illustrator’s first animation brief came into Manshen’s inbox in the middle of last year when she “woke up to a sweet and surprising email from Jeanette Bonds, the director and co-founder of GLAS animation festival,” inviting her to create the poster, but also the signal film for the event. “I’d been thinking about making my drawings move for a while, so I was, of course, thrilled to hear this news.”

With pretty much an open brief, Manshen developed a loose dual narrative, with two scenes running in parallel to each other. “I wouldn’t say there is much more than a hint of a story in this film, I wanted to promise a good story to come in the actual festival event rather than spoiling it,” she explains, “I wanted to make an intriguing sequence.” This manifested as various fragmented scenes in two parts. The first full of straight lines and the other full of natural curves, “one moves stiffly and the other smoothly”.

The short film expands on what has become Manshen’s signature; a certain melancholic atmosphere, full of introspective moments between characters. “I took a long time to ponder on what the animation should be like, especially with that girl riding the bike,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I wanted her movement to feel like an in-between of seriousness and playfulness, so I designed the key poses of her riding the bike calmly, in a kid’s way. It was a rather tricky one but my animator nailed it perfectly.”

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Manshen Lo: Rimowa

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Manshen Lo: Rimowa

As well as producing this work for GLAS, Manshen has been growing her client list with commission after commission, notably creating a series of illustrations recently for Rimowa and Remy Rančys’ Sountracks. Using these commissions as a way to extend her personal work, the former saw her exploring the theme of “purposeful travelling”. She concentrated on city dwellers who travel on a regular basis, instead of adventurers and wanders. “This concept gave me another chance to explore further into the contemporary urban spaces and how humans behave in them,” Manshen adds. As a result, the works feature the illustrator’s aptitude for composition, inducing a sense of loneliness and stillness in a vast space.

For Soundtracks, Manshen took an equally emotion-led response, allowing the music to dictate the visuals. “His clear and minimal composition reminded me of the tranquil moments in Victoria park when the sun goes down to a super low angle, stretching the shadows of the tree longer than ever, and anything walking on the shadow followed the rhythm,” she explains.

Whether commissioned or personal, moving or still, Manshen’s ability to capture an atmosphere within her work is second to none. Through the use of subtle moments; the angle of a character’s gaze, or a shadow extending across the scene, she creates serene worlds which are both inviting and slightly sad.

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Manshen Lo: Rimowa

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Manshen Lo: GLAS Animation Festival

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Manshen Lo: Remy Rančys’ Soundtracks

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Manshen Lo: Poetry Review

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Manshen Lo: The New Yorker

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Manshen Lo: Tom Rosenthal

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Manshen Lo: The New York Times’ Magazine