Meet the Team: Yangtian Li
By Anna Rettberg
Casey Muratori
Yangtian Li
When I first decided to do Handmade Hero, I assumed there wouldn’t be any custom art, we’d just use a sprite sheet from Oryx or something like that. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be able to own the rights to as much of the project as possible, so that it could be bundled up and preserved for future educational purposes with no third party restrictions on how it was used.
So I decided to try to find an artist for the project. I crawled through hundreds of portfolios online, and was feeling pretty pessimistic about the options, until a random comment on an art message board lead me to Yangtian's web site. Hers was the first portfolio I was really excited about, and I felt like her artwork was a perfect fit for Handmade Hero.
As luck would have it, she was interested in the project, and she’s been working part-time ever since, preparing the visuals for the world of Handmade Hero. We wanted to put up a page here on Molly Rocket so fans of the series could find out a little more about the person behind the artwork. I sent Yangtian a bunch of bio questions, and here are her answers:
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chengdu. It’s in the heart of China and it’s where the pandas are from! You might have heard of Sichuan cuisine and it’s from there as well. I then moved to Melbourne for college and worked there for a few years.
When did you first get interested in doing computer art?
If you literally mean my “first interest”, that was very young, actually! My parents ran a landscaping design company, so I knew about Photoshop when I was around ten years old I think. At that time it was too complex for me (and it was only the English language version), so I just drew using the mouse in Microsoft Paint, but I really liked it.
What were some of your early artistic inspirations?
I’d say my family environment has influenced me greatly, but my early artistic inspirations came from all the animated movies and shows I watched when I was young. A lot of these were imported, though sometimes they were Chinese-made. Most were US animations like Disney, of course, and TV cartoons, Japanese anime, etc. I also read a lot of fairytales, and later a lot of comics and manga, and I loved playing games  —  especially RPG games. So I always wanted to be an artist in one of these fields ever since I was very young.
What’s your favorite kind of thing to draw?
Girls  —  LOL :) I don’t know why, but I just really like drawing girls. I guess overall I like to draw characters. It’s always fun to create characters and imagine their background story.
Did you go to school for art?
Yes, I went to several schools. I took some art classes before I went overseas for my bachelor degree in Melbourne, then afterward I took another diploma course in Singapore.
Do you prefer digital or traditional art?
I do both, so it depends. Traditional art is really fun, and when I’m thinking/designing it’s the best, because with a pencil and paper it’s really easy to just sketch out some ideas, and I just simply love the feel of real pencil and paper. But I love digital art for it’s versatility, because it’s really easy to make changes and it’s very efficient.
Do you like working on game art, or do you prefer other types of projects?
Yes. I love working on game art, but I also love doing illustration or animation for films.
How has it been working on Handmade Hero?
It’s been really fun! Because I’m freelancing, I’m not on this project 24/7, but working on the project with you has been a pleasure and definitely a great experience for me. I love that I’m participating in such a special, “handmade” project.
Are you working on any other projects beside Handmade Hero?
Yes, some of my own, and some work for other clients. Otherwise, I’m traveling around at the same time, to see and to experience more of the world. I think it’s great for me as a person and artist, not to mention it’s fun, too. Though it does make me technically homeless at the moment!
What sorts of projects are you looking to do in the future?
I’d love to work on more RPG games like the classic RPG games that I played when I was young, and maybe a comic project for myself, or animated film. I’m interested in all sorts of projects really, and I just have to find more time!