Close-up: An Interview With Artist Yaoyao Ma Van As

Yaoyao Ma Van As is an art director, painter and illustrator whose work brings a fairy-tale touch to real-life moments – whether whimsical, introspective or poignant.

Close-up Culture caught up with the LA-based artist to chat about her work, Parker the dog, drawing for Disney, and much more.

Q: How would you describe your style and what do you feel it says about you?

A: I really enjoy storytelling in my illustrations. I don’t really think I have a “style” because I’m really trying to learn new techniques, whether it’s lighting, paint strokes, color combinations, etc. Sometimes I try to convey a certain feeling, other times I just have an idea that I want to explore.

Q: Looking at your work, I wouldn’t have guessed you were based out of LA. Where do you usually draw inspiration from?

A: My inspiration comes from a lot of different things- sometimes people, experiences, thoughts, song lyrics, observations, or other artists. Most of all, my dog Parker is my greatest inspiration.

Q: I always love seeing Parker in your work! Can you tell us more about Parker and your love for animals?

A: Parker is such a special boy! We adopted him when he was 8 weeks old, and he’s been the centre of our world ever since. He’s hilarious and has a mind of his own. The more I love Parker, the more I love all animals, because so may of them remind me of him. Loving Parker has made me respect animals so much more.

Q: I am also always excited to hear when someone is a Vegan. Can you share your Vegan journey with us?

A: I was never really that into eating meat anyway, and one day my husband and I decided to watch a documentary about veganism. As soon as we watched it, we knew immediately that we could never eat meat again. It’s been really easy living in Los Angeles because there is such a huge vegan food scene out here.

Q: You did a number of background paintings for season two of ‘Rick and Morty’, including the Simpsons master bedroom. How was your experience working on such a popular show?

A: I really enjoyed working on Rick and Morty, mainly because I made a lot of really amazing friends on that show. It was my first background painting job, so at first it was pretty nerve wracking because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. Luckily I had a lot of talented people around me to give me tips and feedback.

Q: You also did background paintings for Disney XD’s ‘Futureworm’. Can you share any memories or thoughts from that project?

A: Futureworm was also an extremely awesome experience. It was my first time working at Disney, so that was a dream come true. I learned so much from the people around me and I felt so lucky to have been part of that team.

Q: What would your advice be for upcoming artists looking make their way and get noticed by big companies such as Disney and Warner Brothers?

A: My road to getting into the animation world was pretty difficult, and it took a couple of years of struggling in the beginning. Once you’re in though, it’s really important to learn from those around you. Don’t really worry about making it into a bigger studio initially because every experience is invaluable.

The willingness to learn and get feedback is really important. There are so many talented people out there, and for me I just wanted to be a sponge and put all the ego aside.

Q: I believe you learnt your craft mostly on-the-job experience and by practicing. What do you feel has been the key to your success?

A: I really enjoy doing what I do, and I love pushing myself everyday to improve. I watch a lot of tutorials and study a lot of different types of artwork from artists I admire.

Q: What are your ambitions and hopes for the future?

A: Hmm, that’s a tough one because I’m realizing now that I just want to be happy and not stress out about jobs all the time. I’m in a really good place right now with my career, and I’d like to focus on making myself a better artist, whether it’s painting, drawing, sculpting, or whatever else.

I’d love to create my own content one day, so that’s probably my immediate focus right now.

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