The ability to convey your perspective of the world through art is a magnificent gift. Here at GKIDS we have created #GKIDSHighlights to share the stories of passionate artists. We’re wrapping up the series for the season with this commission from the talented illustrator Binglin Hu who crafted this GKIDS holiday card to spread some holiday cheer!
How did you first get started as an artist?
I’ve been drawing my whole life, but I got serious with it starting in high school. I started out at maybe 4 or 5 years old, feverishly drawing the same Powerpuff Girls fanart over and over.
Where do you find your inspiration from?
I find inspiration in a lot of media, like cartoons, video games, music, and work by other illustrators. I also pull a lot from the world around me, like observing nature or exploring thoughts I may come across in conversation with other people.
What do you if you ever have artist’s block?
For me, artist block usually comes as a sign of creative burnout from having wrung myself too dry, so I’ll start by just taking a break from drawing. When I’m ready for it again, I’ll ease into it with observational studies, master studies, or mindless little ink doodles in my planner. Low-stakes stuff like that is usually the best way to get me excited about art again.
How did you develop your own personal/signature artistic style/voice?
I personally started enjoying artmaking a lot more when I made the effort to think less about style. I think it’s best to just make art in the way you naturally enjoy making art; study the art that you like looking at, and ask yourself why the art you dislike doesn’t appeal to you.
It’s also fine to have multiple art styles—I go for different aesthetics depending on whether I’m drawing for kids or adults, as well as whether I’m working on a project that prioritizes accuracy or something that’s allowed to be more fun and goofy. My kidlit art tends to be soft, round, and chunky, whereas my adult or personal art can be sharper, higher contrast, and more detailed. Each direction gives me its own kind of artistic satisfaction.
For your illustration with GKIDS, please describe the process. Did you immediately know what you wanted to do? Did you try out a few different drafts?
Cynthia sent over a rough sketch, which was super helpful! From there I finalized the composition and put together a rough color sketch, then blocked in the shapes with a textured brush. Once shapes were blocked, I filled them in with colors, then added shading, lighting, and texture on a clipping mask.
What have you been currently watching, reading, listening to?
I’ve been super into the Ryu Ga Gotoku/Yakuza video game series the past few months!! I don’t have a PlayStation and I also don’t find most beat-em-up games enjoyable to play, so I’ve been watching no-commentary playthroughs on Youtube while I knit.
What is one thing that you wish you were told when you were just starting out as an artist?
Hm, probably the same thing I said about art style earlier! I remember being really stressed about it as a younger artist. I wish someone had told me earlier that you really don’t have to worry about it so much! As long as the process itself is enjoyable (or at least not painful or working against you), the destination will be good. That’s what I believe.
Also, have hobbies outside of art! And don’t monetize them!
Are there any illustrators in particular that inspire you?
I really look up to Kiyohiko Azuma (creator of Yotsuba&!), Hirohiko Araki (creator of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure), and Kaoru Mori (creator of A Bride’s Story). These three mangaka have an incredible sense of attention to detail and respect for research that I want to always prioritize in my own work.
What is one of your favorite moments in animation?
Oh I adore the moment in Princess Mononoke when Ashitaka gets shot through the gut and keeps on walking. I feel like that was a really formative experience for me.
Please let us know your top 3 GKIDS title recommendations, and one sentence why?
Miss Hokusai: A slow, tender, and quiet celebration of life, death, and artmaking that I didn’t expect to hit me the way it did.
Lu Over The Wall: This movie was just a visual and musical delight from start to finish!
My Neighbor Totoro: I grew up watching and rewatching this on VHS since before I could even read, so nothing else has the same amount of nostalgia for me.