Whether you’re at Anime Expo LA, Comic-Con, or any of the various cons around the country young artists are intrinsic to the landscape; they are the future of the biz. The artist alley is always lined with individuals “hocking their wares” and producing impromptu sketches. These streets are teeming with creative, hungry talent.
For fans and aspiring artists it’s not only a networking moment, but also a chance to buy original art at a phenomenal price.
Art, anime, and manga go hand in hand. So, at least once a month I’ll try to profile a young artist that catches my eye. At Anime Expo LA, I found two: Emily Hu and Zélie Bérubé.
Okay Zélie, who are you? When did you start drawing?
“My name's Zélie Bérubé, I'm 20 years old, and I'm currently going into my fourth and last year of animation at Sheridan College in Canada. This summer I'm interning at Auryn Inc., an animation studio in LA.”
“I've been drawing since I can remember. It's something that I've always done. I've wanted to be an artist since I was 10 years old or so, and I've wanted to go into animation since I discovered it was possible in eighth grade.”
Do you always make the long trip out to LA for the Anime Expo?
“I've been going to Anime Expo for 2 years so far. It all depends on getting a table in the alley (otherwise the plane fare is too expensive to justify), but I'd like to continue going in the future.”
Your work is clearly not limited to the "anime style" or subject matter, have you always been an anime fan, or did this come later in your work?
“Anime was pretty much my introduction to art, and I drew it for a long time. Then I dropped it in favor of western styles as I got older. Recently I've started drawing it again, since I enjoy the style and it makes sense to me to be capable of variety in my work.”
What anime and/or manga do you love? What are you currently watching and/or reading?
“I loved 'Tekkonkinkreet' and all of Studio Ghibli's work, especially 'Spirited Away', and my favourite series so far is 'Samurai Champloo'. The most recent manga that I've enjoyed have been 'xxxHolic' and 'Death Note'.”
“I don't get a lot of time to watch much of anything anymore since college and work have become so hectic, but currently I'm in the middle of 'Mushi-shi' and 'Soul Eater', and 'Afro Samurai' is on my list to start.”
What do think about all the cosplayers?
“I enjoy cosplayers. It's fun to see people's take on their favorite characters' costumes. And sometimes there are some really good interpretations. I've thought about trying it, but I don't know how to sew.”
What’s the best/worst thing about the cons?
“I think the best part of conventions is getting to see people enjoying and reacting to my work, getting to meet new people, and spending time with my other artist friends. Some of them I don't get to see except at conventions, so talking to them in the alley and getting together afterwards is a real highlight.
Probably the worst part is not getting enough time away from my table to go see as much of the convention as I'd like to. Next time I think I'm going to try to bring a helper so that I can explore more. (Also, when I get creepy guys coming by who are way too pushy about getting my contact information. Talking to a girl for three minutes does not qualify as enough interaction for her phone number, guys. Really.)”
So what's inspiring you? What direction would you go right now, if you could do anything?
“I think with my art I'm still learning and finding the stylistic direction I want to follow. I'm definitely becoming more satisfied with where my work is taking me, but I feel like I have a long way to go! I'm inspired by a lot of movies, comics and illustrators (people like Michael Whelan, Claire Wendling, and Jason Chan -- to name a few). I think if I could do anything right now, I'd be doing comics and storyboards and generally messing around. I have a few ideas that I'm working on at fever-pitch, and I keep getting more concepts that I just want to explore.”
You're obviously at the beginning of your career. What's the goal?
“I think in the long run I want to get into major story work for animation, and I would really like to branch out into comics. And, of course, to produce work I'm happy with for longer than twenty minutes (though, if I keep learning, maybe that'll never happen, and maybe that won't be such a bad thing).”
What I like about Zélie is her dexterity. She easily blends both anime and Western styles of animation. Remember anime fans, the anime aesthetic is not a limiting playground. Go look at Moonlight Mile and Red Garden.
Check Zélie out at redpennant.deviantart.com. And please, talk to her. Read her words. She’s a smart one.