Zhong Xian has extended her stylish illustration practice featuring long and beautifully languid characters into an animation for the Korean pop artist Kona’s latest music video Love it. Using pencil, acrylic and pastel processed through an old-school animation software called Ulead, Zhong’s animation “encourages people to show their love.” The illustrator discusses her animation process with It’s Nice That, which attempted communicated the musician’s belief that “showing your love is more important than loving somebody inside your heart.” Zhong linked this idea to one of her illustrations A Way to My Heart to develop a story about love.
The Teipei-based illustrator is more interested in narrative style than visual aesthetics as visuals are subjectively understood according to environment, age, culture and so on. Zhong goes onto say, “I don’t pay much attention to a specific visual style or trend. With this music video, I draw on my feelings after listening to the track” which aroused visions of a “fancy dancing pool, cutting-edge interior design and fashionable people dancing to the music.”
The self-taught animator isn’t bothered by the arduous process that goes into the hand-rendered, frame-by-frame animation. For Zhong, “presenting the idea is always the biggest challenge” in a creative process. “How do you successfully convey an emotion or even a hidden secret within an animation that is constantly moving and has background sound?” The hand-rendered essence of the animation adds buckets of charm through the textural brushstrokes and imperfect pencil lines. Additionally, the music video is all the more characterful because of the jaunty mannerisms that are a result of the stop motion process.
Zhong is obsessed with the idea that “there is no such thing as ‘fake’ in animation”. Although lots of animation characters are animals or objects, “they always express real, human emotions such as love, hate, sadness, desire”. She further asserts how characters in animations are “not like actors in a movie as these characters don’t need to act or perform. They represent and embody the story itself.”
Zhong’s illustrations are full of skin coloured tones that focus on facial expressions. While illustration can present an emotion in one image, the art of animation can artistically elaborate on a story through a sequence. Zhong’s work is brimming with personality that is expressed in very few visual elements; a testament to her artistic ability to evoke human traits.
Currently, Zhong is increasingly using her smartphone as an illustration tablet “because nowadays, the smartphone has become one of our body parts that a lot of people can’t live without”. Zhong utilises the smartphone as one her hands to draw and create, hoping to extend these experimental approaches into animation, comic books and art publications.