Before moving to America, Aiden Jangyong Lee, a graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design studying Animation, studied fashion design in Korea and launched his own clothing brand. Now, Lee mostly focuses on digital illustrations and concept drawings that reflect certain moods. His work has over 13,000 project views on his website, which features over 200 original drawings. After completing his studies, Lee hopes to pursue a career as a visual development artist for an animation studio like DreamWorks.
Maddie Ngo: What steps do you take before you create something?
Aiden Jangyong Lee: Before I draw anything, I visualize the finished painting in my head. If I’m happy with it, I just start sketching, which usually takes about three hours to finish. After I have a rough sketch done, I like to incorporate and add more details later on. Sometimes I implement certain moods in my drawings by adjusting the lighting and hue through different tools in computer programs.
MN: What is your favorite medium?
AJL: I use the digital brush tool in Corel Painter frequently, because it allows you to utilize various brush sizes, like the Real 2B pencil brush and the blunt soft pastel. I recently bought a tablet, so that has definitely given me more freedom to create art through different formats. I think the digital art industry has huge potential, so I’m always trying to practice creating digital illustrations with different computer programs.
MN: What inspires your work?
AJL: I’m inspired by soft and strong light, mood and figure. I’ve been drawing ever since I was a kid, and I’ve never stopped enjoying it. I love line, and I respond to light. I’m inspired when I watch scenes from movies with unique stories and compositions.
MN: Is there a message you try to convey through your work?
AJL: I don’t really incorporate a specific political or social message, but I hope my work implicitly conveys that all humans are the same and that we should be kind to each other. I like creating artwork that doesn’t have a specific meaning behind it; viewers can feel their own emotions and develop their own interpretations through my illustrations. Naturally, I think I reflect certain moods or intentions in my drawings, but I hope people can formulate their own diverse messages and themes through my work.
MN: Who are your favorite artists?
AJL: Jin Kim was the first Korean animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios and worked there until 1995. He has such brilliant drawing skills, especially because of his unique and impressive use of line. Kim also lived an incredibly brave life. Even though he was colorblind, he still continued to create art he was passionate about. I hope through my work I can emulate his perseverance and work ethic.
MN: What is life at SCAD like? Are there are a lot of opportunities for Animation majors?
AJL: A lot of animation studios visit SCAD each year to hire students for internship programs. Many famous animators also come to SCAD for lectures and different events throughout the semester. I’m still an ESL student, which means that I’m studying English as my second language, but I’ll be able to officially start the animation program in three months.
MN: What are your future plans?
AJL: I’ve always liked setting big goals for myself; by 2019, I hope to win an international animation prize. By 2020, I hope to work for an animation studio like DreamWorks. It would also be pretty amazing if my team and I would eventually be nominated for an Oscar award. By 2025, I hope to return to SCAD and become a professor here. I know I have high hopes, but it pushes me even more to achieve my dreams.
MN: What art classes have you enjoyed the most?
AJL: I majored in Fashion Design in Korea and had my own fashion brand for several years. Before I moved to America, I never studied animation. I’ve worked as a fashion illustrator and a film concept artist, but this is the first time I’ve delved into this form of art. I hope to pursue a career as a visual development artist; they’re usually responsible for the digital-design aspects of animated film scenes, ranging from characters, backgrounds and prop design. They make stories and composition while incorporating certain moods in each scene.
MN: How did you become interested in animation?
AJL: As everyone probably does, I loved watching animated films when I was a kid. While managing my fashion business, I was upset because I didn’t really have enough time just to draw for myself. I recently watched “Zootopia” and “Inside-out,” and at the end of each I was moved to tears. I enjoyed managing my fashion business, so I don’t regret the years I spent working in the industry, but I’m excited to pursue something completely new. I hope I can someday connect to others and make them feel emotions just from watching the stories I bring to life through my drawings.