By Geneva Ge
Collingwood student Helen Peng has been creating since she was very young; she loves storytelling and designing characters through her art. Born in China and immigrating to Canada when she was 6, her family moved back when Helen was 12. They returned to Canada when she was 15, and Helen says that all this moving around confused her; “I guess moving around made me feel confused a lot of the time, so art was the only thing that held me together for all these years.” She’s done academic artistic training; sketching classes in China, as well as architectural and interior design classes. Two years ago, she even attended the Rhode Island School of Design summer pre-college program for interior design. “My family is also fairly artistic: my dad was an artist in college, but he gave it up because of the circumstances in China back then, and he started a business instead. Other than art, I enjoy a good movie, book, or sitcom during my free time.”
“My fourth-grade teacher–she had such an energy and genuinity when she approached art, which I really admired and took in as my approach when I created my own art,” Helen recalls. She tells of a network of support; teachers and instructors outside of school who helped her realise her own potential that she couldn’t recognize before. “I had no idea I had the ability to put together a portfolio in 6 months,” Helen says. She would like to give special thanks to Robin Mitchell; as her mentor, the professional animator has taught Helen the ‘ropes of the industry’ and encouraged her to push herself artistically.
“I feel that the more complex the process, the more you’ll be able to show as the final product. If you think of it in terms of layers, the more layers you have when you create it, the better your audience will be able to feel your intentions,” Helen says wisely. The ideas that come and go happen anytime; when she takes long walks in the park, when she’s in the shower, or just when daydreaming. Helen says that the process doesn’t really begin with pen and paper. “These ideas are usually bits and pieces of a character, or a dialogue exchange between two people. Over weeks of time, I develop the dialogue and put together the puzzle pieces, and the result is some kind of story or universe that I can express through drawing.”
Helen is inspired by many different creators in storytelling and film; including film directors Damien Chazelle (best known for directing La La Land and Whiplash) and Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan, and more). She also enjoys animation; her favourites are Makoto Shinkai (who directed animated masterpieces such as ‘Kimi no na wa.’ and ‘the Garden of Words’, best known for their astoundingly detailed and beautiful cinematography) and the studio, Kyoto Animation (i.e A Silent Voice, Violet Evergarden).
She hopes to pursue a career in the arts, namely character animation.