Melanie Xiong (XioArts)

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Artist Name: XioArts

What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other?

In the broadest sense, I would consider myself an artist. I enjoy working in a wide variety of mediums and am always trying out new things, so it’s a bit difficult to decide what kind of artist I am. I mostly draw, but I don’t know if I would be considered a full fledged illustrator yet.

What kinds of work do you currently do or what kinds of projects you have done in the past?

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve tried all sorts of things from drawing to printmaking, book binding to animation and metal working. At the moment, I am focused on illustration, comics, and book binding.

Could you talk about how you got into art or doing what you do today? What’s your story? What made you want to pursue this path? Were there any challenges you had along the way?

I’ve always loved to draw, but I was afraid to pursue it as a career because I wanted financial stability. My goal had always been to become a doctor like most people, but after I entered college, I was given a push to pursue what I desired. I was a biology major who was struggling like my peers in their first year. I was lucky enough to be in a scholarship program that provided wonderful advisors and peers who pushed everyone to go above and beyond the norm. After speaking with an advisor and struggling with deciding whether to pursue money or passion, I finally took a leap of faith and became an art major. Making a decision was the hardest part, but after that, I was extremely happy with what I majored in and I loved every bit of college, even the most stressful times.

Did you attend art school or majored/minored in Art or Design in college? If so, what were your experiences with it and did you think it helped you become a better artist? If you did not attended college or attended but did not majored in anything art-related, what helped pushed you to pursue art or improve your craft?

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and majored with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in metals, illustration, and animation. Going to school taught me many things and gave me access to resources I wouldn’t have on my own. I was able to learn metal smithing from a world famous artist, practiced drawing from a real model, had access to programs like Adobe Creative Suite, Maya, and Those things are extremely expensive and unaffordable for most. Not only that, but I was able to receive critical feedback on my progress from professionals, which is difficult to get outside of school.

How do you balance art with work and life? How do you make time for art?

Right now, I’m lucky enough to be able to work on art after work every day because it doesn’t tire me out like previous jobs I’ve had.

Do you make money from your art? If so, how?

At the moment, no. In the near future, I would hope the answer is yes! I’m currently working very hard to create original and fan art inspired products to sell. We’ll see how that goes in the following months!

Where do you get your ideas from?

I find inspiration from my own life experiences, folktales or legends, but mostly music. When I listen to a song, it evokes a story or character idea from me, which I then work and elaborate on. So many of my characters are based on the music I was listening to at the moment, so I’ve gotten used to connecting the characters to those songs.

What kinds of tools do you use to make your work or what is your typical artistic process like?

I mainly work in digital media nowadays, so I draw digitally using a Wacom Pro Small and my laptop. My usual process involves brainstorming or finding some type of inspiration, then doing a brief a sketch or outline of the project. After that, I ink and color the work.

Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring?

I’ve come to know of a few artists whose styles I really like. Kozaki Yusuke, Hidari, Wada Sachiko, and Senri Kita are my favorite artists. There’s one big thing they have in common and it’s that…they’ve all been artists for the Fire Emblem series! Fire Emblem is my all time favorite game series and is probably an influence in why I draw today. Kozaki has very beautifully detailed designs and I also think he’s capable of giving his characters a different look. Many anime artists suffer from “same face syndrome”, but I think that he manages to give every character a difference appearance, which is worthy of praise. Hidari was a fairly recent favorite of mine. His art style is absolutely stunning. The watercolor and textured look is mezmerizing. I’d love to be able to do that someday. I like Senri Kita’s designs because they’re usually practical in design, but still manage to have intricate details. And last but not least, Wada Sachiko. I’ve loved her art since I was a little girl. I thought her style was great when I played Fire Emblem on the Gameboy SP, but seeing how her art has grown today amazes me. I didn’t think it could get any better, but she proved me wrong. I think it’s absolutely perfect. The proportions, shading, the designs, the colors…every last detail is perfect.

Do you have any favorite books, apps, movies, resources, or art tools that you recommend?

If you’re interested in digital art then I definitely recommend getting a drawing tablet and digital art program. Wacom is the main contender for tablets, but I’ve heard Huion is the next best thing. Photoshop and Clip Studio are the primary programs to use for digital art, but there are free programs like Krita and GIMP out there. Youtube can also be a great free resource for learning. But often times, I’ll find someone who knows about what I want to learn and ask them in person if possible or online. I recommend finding online groups and forums that have your interests. There are usually experienced people who are willing to share info or give advice!

Is there any advice you would like to give to young artists or people just starting out?

Here are some things I would’ve liked to know earlier on. Number one: network! Sadly, in the real world, it’s all about who you know. People will get you places where you couldn’t alone. Meet everyone you can and build a relationship with them. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’ll be worth the effort. My second piece of advice is to specialize in one thing. In college, I was so busy trying everything out that I never mastered anything and that left me at a huge disadvantage. I never felt qualified or confident enough because I hadn’t mastered anything. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try new things, but make sure you pick one focus. And my last piece of advice is to make art! If you really want to do it, then just do it! You have no idea how much I regret doing nothing with my free time. Now, I’m fired up and am always working on art in my spare time. But make sure you take breaks too.

Who would you like to collaborate/work with or work for, if anybody? Could be a person, another artist, or company.

I’ve always wanted to work with Nintendo on a video game, preferably Fire Emblem or Zelda. I’m also a huge fan of Harvest Moon, now called Story of Seasons, and I’d love to be a character artist for the series. I’m not sure if it’ll ever happen, but it’s motivation for me to keep working!

What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)?

My ultimate dream would be to have my webcomic series, The Adventures of Marina Storm, turned into an animated series, but if I can finish drawing the series as a comic, I’ll call it even.

Are there any current projects that you’re working on or in the near future that you want to tell us about?

As I just mentioned, I have a webcomic series, two, actually. The Adventures of Marina Storm and MelancholicThe Adventures of Marina Storm is a story I’ve been working on for the past three years, but I only just started drawing it in 2018. However, it was very rushed and I stopped publishing it online after a comic competition ended. I’ll be working on it in the next few months and hopefully have it released sometime in 2020. Please keep an eye out for it! My other webcomic, Melancholic is a slice of life comedy featuring the narcissistic watermelon, Melon E. You can find it on LINE webtoon in the discover section! I’ll also be debuting at the Midwest Comic Book Association on May 18th and 19th in Minneapolis, MN as a guest creator, selling fanmade art and of course, my own original artwork and merchandise! I’ll actually be attending a handful of other conventions throughout the year and opening up an online shop! I’ll be posting more information as the time comes closer.

What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work? You can list links to your website, online store, or social media.

The best way to see my work is via Facebook or Instagram. I go by XioArts (show-arts). I’m not the most active person, but I’ll do a post every once in a while. Facebook is more personal and detailed than Instagram and my website though.