Tiya Zhong, known to the interweb as Addictiya, is an animator, illustrator, designer and doll artist still brushing off glitter from her graduation just a few weeks ago. Her final film as a student of Sheridan College’s Animation program, “Lost, Stolen, Dropped,” is an autobiography of her daily struggle. It is also among the most relatable, inspired and squishy 2 minutes of animation I’ve seen in a good long while. Enjoy the short above, then read on for Tiya’s journey from schoolgirl doodling in her textbooks to professional artist!
Did you always want to be an animator or artist?
I discovered my passion for drawing when I was 4 years old, and I have always loved doodling figures on my textbooks, reading comics, and watching animation. When I was little, I never thought about becoming an artist – I just thought it would be fun if I could draw forever. In high school, I wanted to be a comic artist, but I became fascinated with making characters come to life. Animation was even more vivid than comics, which is why I chose to major in it.
How did you decide to move from China to Canada to attend Sheridan?
I grew up in China, so at first I planned to attend a university in Beijing that features the best animation program in China. In an extra-curricular art school where I was studying to pass the university’s entrance exam, I met a substitute teacher who’d studied abroad. Talking with him made me realize how many opportunities and great artists are out there. That’s when I started to research animation schools in North America, and got to know Sheridan.
What did you like best about studying at Sheridan?
I learned a lot at Sheridan. The school has great, experienced teachers. But I learned the most from my peers, who are all amazing artists. Being in that group gave me no choice but to improve. What I enjoyed most is how free the environment is, compared to the one I’d been in. I also had a lot more resources at my disposal. Being at Sheridan really helped me discover my own art style.
Did you work any jobs during your time in college?
Since high school, I have always worked on stuff for conventions: things like zines, charms, and commissions. During college I actively kept my eyes on the industry and started to take freelance jobs. I’ve done character illustrations for games, art for a published illustration tutorial, design work, and more commissions, mostly with Chinese companies. I think it’s really important for artists to have at least some experience working with partners or employers before finishing school.
What are your favorite techniques, considering you’ve worked in both 2d and stop-motion? And those are just the two I know for sure!
Yes, I’ve done a little bit of 3D for assignments, but so far I’ve only worked in 2D and stop motion. I love both techniques equally! They are two different forms of art and each has stunning aspects. I love how free 2D can be, and how much you can play with crazy distortions, squash and stretch. I also love the process of crafting puppets and sets and being able to hold them in my hand.
What inspires you and your work the most?
Japanese anime definitely influences my work. They are my childhood and what made me keep the pencil in my hand! In the process of creating, I also look for references in many forms: live action movies, fashion, short films, photography. Anything related to art.
Is there anything that comes up in your work over and over?
I built my interest in life drawing while studying at Sheridan. Now, emphasizing the beauty and curls of human bodies has become a core part of my drawings.
How was the experience of creating “Quarters” in a team of 9 animators?
Creating “Quarters” with 8 other amazing artists was a really great experience! It was our first try, but there were no conflicts and everything went smoothly. Everyone pitched an idea for the film and we voted for the ‘four neighbors’ idea, which became “Quarters”. I worked on layout designs, prop and sets fabrication, shooting area setups, animation, and some post-production color corrections. We spread the work pretty much equally to everyone, so that we could all gain experience in every stage of creating a stop motion film.
What inspired you to create “Lost, Stolen, Dropped”?
I had two other ideas for my final film before “Lost, Stolen, Dropped,” but they didn’t feel authentic to me. Personally, I prefer telling stories on subjects that I’m knowledgeable about, or have experienced myself. So one month into my 4th year, I gave up my first idea and all the storyboards I’d done for it. I thought, “What subject am I really familiar with? Is there anything that I know better than anyone else?” At the same time, I lost my brand new Cintiq pro pen. Not long before then I had lost my wallet. Aaaand my portable hard drive. My roommate commented that losing things is my everyday life. That’s what inspired me – I am really good at losing things! So I decided to make a film about that.
Love it. Do you often pull from your own life in your stories?
Actually, I can trace it back all the way to primary school! I used to draw comics as my diaries. With four panels comics, I’d record anything that happened in my life that I found fun. By the end of grade 7, I had a whole sketchbook of my personal life. I only showed it to my closest friends.
What were the biggest changes you made to “Lost, Stolen, Dropped” while working on the film? What were the biggest challenges?
I made a big change in the story. At the end of the first version, I made lots of copies of the main character, which came from all the different scenarios or timelines. They all appeared in her messy room, staring at her and guiding her to find her phone. That ending had a very dark and absurd feeling to it. The problem was, in order to explain that story and deliver the right feeling, the film would need to be a lot longer. And so, too much work for me. In the end, I changed lots of things and compressed the storyboard so I could finish it.
What do you plan to do now that you’ve graduated? Sorry to ask that question, I know it’s the worst for new grads, haha.
Haha, I was so lost on this before, but now I kind of have a blueprint! The very first thing I want to do is find a job that I like, start saving, and get my PR (permanent residency) here in Canada, which is very realistic. I’ll use my savings to go to grad school or take online classes: anything to improve my skills and broaden my perspective. Eventually, I want to work on personal projects without having to worry about financial issues.
What’s your biggest dream?
My biggest dream used to be becoming a zoologist! That was when I was 8. Now, my dream is to connect with great artists and studios over the world. To learn from them, work on fun projects, live a happy, healthy life, and occasionally go on vacations so that I can work on my other hobbies!
What are your hobbies outside of animation?
I’m interested in a wide range of things! Biking, gym exercise, photography, choreography, sculpting, sewing, leathercraft. But my greatest interest, outside of animation, is dolls and puppets! I love all kinds of dolls and toys. Different doll artists always make dolls with different characteristics, and that self-expression element is what appeals to me. I want to be able to create my own porcelain or resin doll one day. I am working hard toward that goal! ❀
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Thank you for the interview Tiya! Love your work and am so looking forward to seeing what you do next. Enjoy home and your summer vacation pre-Adulting, you’ve earned the heck out of it!
– Cooper ❀