Sunday, May 13, 2018

Diva's Reylo Fan Art Series: Rachel Xin's Unmistakably Fluid and Dynamic Art Style

OK, OK. Red Dot Diva has to confess.

She cannot get enough of Reylo.

For the uninitiated, that's the ship name for Rey and Kylo Ren - the two characters from the latest Star Wars trilogy who represent the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force. Their fateful bond and intertwining destinies have spurred the imagination of fans who dare (or dare not) hope for their romantic relationship to succeed. Who else other than Rey is able call Kylo by his real name Ben, without having him visibly scowl and flinch?

Thanks to Rian Johnson, Reylo fans were given more soul food in "The Last Jedi". After much debate, Reylo has now become canon. The sexual tension during their ForceTime together was undeniable. And ooh, those few seconds of shirtless Kylo. *fans self* Mmmm...

A deluge of Reylo fanart has been flooding social media since then, and many of them have been either tragically angsty, gleefully humourous, or simply beautifully rendered.

To keep the flame of Reylo going, Red Dot Diva will be putting up a blog series on selected artists who have produced some of the popular Reylo fan art in social media. The first in the series is an interview with USC animation department graduate, Rachel Xin.

Rachel hails from China, and before studying in USC, she was a graduate of Beijing Film Academy, majoring in Animation. She has also recently finished a freelance job at Warner Bros as a character designer. Her passion is drawing (obviously!), and she enjoys watching movies and travelling.

One just needs to take a peek at Rachel's website and social media timeline to see that her fluid, almost Chinese brush-like artistic style is obviously East Asian. Other hints include the posture and facial expression of the characters in her art.

These translate so well in her Reylo art, as Chinese love stories are usually quite tragic, and Rachel skillfully infuses that sentiment with Western pop-culture with nuanced details that are familiar to Asian fans.

It is amazing how Rachel is able to conceptualize and make these static images stick in one's visual memory. Judging by her artwork and content, Red Dot Diva is sure Rachel will go far. So, she got in touch with Rachel to find out more about her art style, her thoughts on Reylo, and her aspirations.

Red Dot Diva: How did you get into art/ illustration and animation? 
Rachel: I have been fond of drawing since I was a kid. The white wall in my house was painted to a mess by me. The good thing was that my parents never blamed me for that. Instead, they sent me to various interest classes, like piano, dancing, calligraphy and drawing. 

For a 4-year-old, these classes were pretty heavy, so I found all kinds of excuses to skip the classes. I pretended to be sick to avoid practicing piano, but I never gave up on art! From that time I knew I probably would draw for the rest of my life! I love drawing manga, watching animation and movies. I love telling stories. My parents had always been supporting me with the attitude of “do what you like”, so naturally, I chose a high school which specializes in fine arts. I went to the best film school in China to learn animation, and after that I chose to further my study in the U.S.!

Red Dot Diva: Who are some of your artistic heroes? Who do you list as your primary influences in developing your artistic style?
Rachel: My style has changed a lot. A few years ago, I was still into the anime style. At that time, I was influenced a lot by my environment. Everyone around me was drawing like that, so I just drew the same style as everyone did. But I never really liked the style. It was just that, at that time, I had no artistic heroes. 

The change of my art style happened after I came to the U.S., as all my classmates were Americans. My mentors were Tom Sito and Eric Goldberg. They were all excellent Disney character animation masters, so my style was influenced greatly by them, and I was also greatly touched by them! Through their mentorship, I found my artistic direction. My artistic hero now is Gleen Kearn. I really learned a lot from him and because of him, I have now found my own drawing method that I really like!

Red Dot Diva: How would you describe your art style?
Rachel: I think my style is the Disney style in the general sense, because I learned from them right? Maybe I am not very sure about that yet, I am still a work in-progress. I pay attention mostly to how fluent is my linework and how to depict the expression of characters, so my style is really fluid, very rough but vivid. My mentor once said that my style was very elegant. This was a rather good compliment, but I wish that I can draw more different things, more masculine styles, let's say. This is the direction that I will strive for in the future.

Red Dot Diva: What made you decide to study/ work in the field of art and animation?
Rachel: I LOVE drawing too much. I don’t want to do any other work except draw stuff! My mum always says: “it’s happy to have your hobby as your job.” I am very lucky.



Red Dot Diva: I really like how you infuse the Chinese cultural style & images in some of your art. Japanese style animation (anime) is internationally known, but I feel there is a lack of availability (or is it awareness) about Chinese animation. Other than the Disney-fied Mulan, what are other Chinese fables/ stories do you think would be great for a full-length animation film?
Rachel: Yes, the influence of Japan’s anime is so great in Asia. There are excellent styles in China, but in artistic and cultural output, the current situation is not satisfactory. China has a history of 5,000 years; there are so many wonderful stories to discover. Any popular Chinese fairy tale can be made into a film or TV series. For example, one of the four major classical novels – Journey to the West, which tells the story that an eminent monk goes to the west for Buddhist scriptures with his three apprentices after enduring 81 disasters. Or, the legend about Goddess Chang Er’s Flight to the Moon. There are so many interesting stories, and every one in China grows up listening to these stories. I wish that more and more Chinese artists can produce these stories on the global media latform in the future! Perhaps, I might also want to direct such a movie someday!


Red Dot Diva: Oh, and your Reylo fan art pieces are stunning! I love how you mashup Disney or movie-related ideas in portraying their relationship. Which is your personal fave Reylo fan art you've drawn to-date, and why?
Rachel: Yes! Let’s talk about Reylo! Thank you for liking it, Reylo is range of fan art that I had the greatest fun with. Since Star Wars was bought by Disney, it seems like Star Wars has become part of the realms of fairy tales. Reylo made me connect all fairy tales. 

One of my favorite fairy tales is Sleeping Beauty, where two people meet each other in the forest, and have a feeling of seeming to have met before. Rey and Kylo’s first meet also happened in the forest, what a beautiful coincidence! Someone commissioned a Reylo-Sleeping Beauty fan art, and the moment when my client told me this idea, I fell in love with it! In addition, I always thought that Reylo was very suitable for the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Rey is Little Red Riding Hood and Kylo is the Big Bad Wolf. LOL… I must do this when I have the time!



Red Dot Diva: So what is it about Reylo that inspires you?
Rachel: I can talk about this subject for a very very long time! Reylo reminds me of many other love stories, especially those in fairy tales, like The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast (in fact, isn't it the classic Beauty and Beast story?), ancient Greek mythology, like Psyche and Eros, Apollo and Daphne, particularly Persephone and Hades! I have already seen many Reylo works of Persephone and Hades actually. Many works of literature classics are reflected on Reylo too, the Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice that everyone enjoys talking about. The famous Kylo declaration to  Reylo: “you are nothing” in The Last Jedi reminds me of Mr. Darcy. 

Not to mention, I also notice the yin and yang philosophy in Reylo - two people, one black, one white. One represents brightness, one represents darkness. When the two are together, they form the whole world. Star War’s core ideas have always been very Asian. This is one of the reasons why I love Star Wars. Under all the science fiction, there lies an unmistakable Asian philosophy, and it's beautiful. 

So, Reylo gives me tons of inspiration. And I believe that each person who loves Reylo feels the same. Kylo's and Rey's rather fated relationship awakens a sense of sadness, hope and empathy, which is probably why Reylo attracts me so much!


Red Dot Diva: Let's lay it down, once and for all - Reylo or Huxlo?
Rachel: Haha, Huxlo is the ship of General Hux and Kylo Ren, right? It's also called Kylux, right? Ok, I am so happy that you ask me this question. I think this ship is really interesting.

I have a friend who really hates this, and tells me that how awful it is to put these two people together; the result of them must be one of them killing the other! I am not against her view. I think they will really end up killing each other. Maybe, that will be the outcome in the next movie! 

As a loyal Reylo shipper, I do not think Kylo and Hux will develop into a romantic relationship, but I really enjoy their moods when they are alone with each other. What’s more, Hux is such an interesting character, serious yet as proud as a peacock. You cannot help but tease him. Huxlo fan art can be such a fun thing to do, because of the inherent dynamics between the two from the movies. Hey, then again, I believe fan art for the Rey-Rose ship may have the same kind of sentiments too.


Red Dot Diva: Other than your Reylo art, I also love your mermaids ones. The drunk mermaid at the bar is hilarious! What other creatures do you love to draw, and why?
Rachel: Thank you for paying attention to my drunken mermaid series. I like that series very much and plan to continue doing it. I love drawing animals too. I like drawing cats, because I am a cat person, particularly hairless cats, lol, they are so lovely. I like furry cats too, but hairless cats look strange and have personalities like a dog, and since they have no hair, their eyes appear to be particularly big, their limbs particularly thin, and when you look at them, you will have the urge of drawing them, isn’t it? Maybe it’s because I like weird things. Because, I also like drawing crocodiles and lizards!



Red Dot Diva: Any tips for artists out there who are intending to start a career in animation, as well as an online shop?
Rachel: I am still a green hand at this, but regardless if you are new or have been in the industry for a long time, we will give you the same suggestion: paint well and socialize! It’s a must-do to train your painting skills, but at the same time, in the industry, people are always hiring people that they know, so you should socialize often, keep in touch with people in the industry. This is very important! The first freelance work of mine at Warner Bros was obtained via twitter, thanks to social media!

Red Dot Diva: Oh, and congratulations for winning Best Animation at the Los Angeles Film Awards! Could you share with us what the animation about? How long did you labour on this piece of work?
Rachel: Thank you!! I was very surprised myself, because that was a film called "Contagion" that I made a very long time ago. The story starts off about a black and white world, and there was an artist who had a heart full of colors. One day, he sneezed, and changed the color of this entire world. The film is my first animation short film, and I spent about a year or more on it. There were five of us working together. Every team member was an excellent artist! We had a really great time working on the project.

Here's Rachel's award-winning animation short:


contagion from xinyingzong on Vimeo.


Red Dot Diva: From where you are right now, what are your aspirations?
Rachel: My current little goal is to work for Disney, I wish I can participate in the production of an excellent animated movie! My wish is that my parents and friends can see my name on the big screen. Regarding the future, I wish I can become a director and make my own films. Like what I said before, I wish that I can make the films that will make the world know Chinese culture better. Perhaps, I will start on making short films! Other than all these, there is something I should do at the moment, which is to draw better!


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Go visit and follow Rachel Xin's lovely artwork in her various social media profiles:

Website: http://www.rachelxin.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kiddo_hah
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachel_xin_yz
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/yingzonganimation
Online shop: https://rachelxinart.bigcartel.com



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