Meet the Illustrator: Jenny Yu
Our new collection of articles is a deep dive into the relationship between humans and machines. To capture the mood, we asked Jenny Yu, one of our favorite illustrators, to create original artwork.
Jenny first fell in love with art through the animation and games she adored as a kid, especially Miyazaki’s film, “Spirited Away.” “I was so touched, not only by the story but by the sheer artistry of the film. It was so beautiful, and to think that all these artists could make something so meaningful.”
We checked in with Jenny to find out about what inspires her today, her creative process, and the thoughts behind her pieces for our Human and Machine collection.
Hi Jenny! Where did you find inspiration while you were creating art for the Human and Machine collection?
I really had to educate myself prior to tackling these illustrations, as AI was still a completely nebulous concept to me. I began to realize technology can be infused in our everyday lives, almost unnoticeable as a physical presence. Most of the images I created are scenes from our surroundings in nature and life, with touches of technology. I looked to Spike Jonze’s film “Her,” which showed how AI can be an embellishment in our future daily lives rather than something that overtakes it.
Tell us about your process and the tools you use.
My process is pretty straightforward and simple. I love looking at different reference materials first — I’m particularly fond of photography, film, and traditional oil painting for inspiration. I love loosely thumb-nailing in my sketchbook with pen or pencil, just trying to figure out a general composition without focusing too much on detail. Later, I take that idea to Photoshop and start with a simple, loose sketch. From there, I block in values and colors and add in adjustment layers and details.
How would you sum up your approach to illustration?
It might sound corny, but I always try to start with a feeling. The imagery that comes with it usually comes simultaneously, but I think illustrations are a way to capture a single moment and feeling that can be particularly intense. Sometimes I see the way light hits a certain material and I think, “Wow, that’s so incredibly beautiful. I hope I can show someone else how beautiful and wondrous this feels to me.”
What do you hope people experience as they view your work? Are there certain elements they should keep an eye out for?
I want to convey magic in the minutiae of everyday life amongst the experience of growing up and changing. I want to be able to capture the ephemera of day-to-day moments — what it’s like to watch light scrambling through the curtains on a Sunday morning, or the world flittering by through the window of a train, or to be in the midst of a bustling crowd. It’s in these idle, solitary moments I sometimes feel most human and contemplative, and I think those are the feelings I’m trying my best to depict.
My personal disposition tends to skew melancholic and nostalgic, and art is a means of comfort for me to remind me of memories and emotions I thought I’ve lost, and to remind me of my gratitude for life when things become disheartening or difficult. I hope I can comfort others too — that’s all I can wish for.
Which is your favorite piece from this collection? Why?
My favorite piece is the one about using AI in photography. I think with this piece I was able to really balance the idea of AI existing in our everyday lifestyles while also showing it in action, aiding our work and creativity. I think it was a good combination of both abstract concept and artistic execution. The idea, composition, and mood also came very spontaneously, and I was excited to draw it out very quickly. I love when that happens!
As an artist, how do you feel about advancements in AI? Do you think they could support your work in the future?
I’m a bit of an idealist, so I feel positively about the developments of AI. I think AI can help us expand and grow as artists. What if it was able to make suggestions about composition, color, lighting and perspective, or make artistic observations we haven’t quite noticed before? In this way, we evolve alongside the machine. When AI learns, we also learn.
What advice would you give to other artists and designers?
Know what’s important to you, and always keep creating. Learn to keep falling in love with your craft over and over again, and never get formulaic. Prioritize impact and feeling over technique (although technique is also important). Keep practicing. Keep failing. Remember to take care of yourself and others, and how you make your work will eventually fall into place.
Read more from our Human & Machine collection.