Header from Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist
This is the fifth in a series of interviews with hopefully, all eight artists who participated in the show we co-organized with Los Angeles’s Gallery Nucleus, then collaborated with each other to create the image below. I know it’s been… a while since the end of May, but there’s just one artist left to go.
Previous ones: Tom Bancroft |Pernille Ørum |Brigitte Roka |Jenna Gray |Whitney Pollett
After hours of research, trawling social media and old blogs, I’ve learned just two things about Genevieve Tsai:
- She likes to draw.
- She does it a lot.
Her entire social presence revolves around drawing, and if that’s indicative of the amount of time and focus she puts into it in real life, that might be why she seems to be as productive as three normal artists.
She’s currently the lead character design for Warner Brothers’ Animaniacs reboot, and before that she was the background painter for Netflix’s Green Eggs and Ham. And before that, she was an absurdly prolific freelance character designer and illustrator, having worked on or with:
Beverly Hills Chihuahua, DC Super Hero Girls, DisneyToon Studios, Free Birds, DOTA 2, Hearthstone, Helluva Boss, Hasbro, Intel, League of Legends, the Secret Life of Pets, Shrek, the Sims, Skullgirls, Sly Cooper, Spyro Reignited, Zynga
…Among others I couldn’t identify. Relevant to the topic of MerMay, she also illustrated Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist by Chris and Jessica Sanders—a YA novel about mermaid lifeguards.
She seems to take breaks from drawing by drawing more, somehow finding the time to do more fanart for more titles than I’ve ever seen from a single human.
League of Legends fanart. …Don’t worry, it’s just sewer water. From Charicreatures
I will admit, it was hard to come up with interview questions for her, since her vast body of work speaks for itself. And over the years, she’s developed a truly captivating style—I have a bad habit of comparing artists to other artists, and today won’t be the day I break it—that resembles Kill La Kill pushed even further, imbued with the wild energy of Skottie Young.
In the collaboration piece, her art style was one of just two I immediately recognized the first time I saw it. Oh yeah, and she also did some other super-unique and creative ones over on Instagram.
Lantern fish mermaids. From Instagram
I talked to her via email.
How did you get involved in the Gallery Nucleus show?
My friend and curator of Gallery Nucleus, Nicki France, reached out to me and mentioned that I was personally invited to contribute by the incredible industry veteran animator and character designer Tom Bancroft, creator of Mermay!
What made you decide to participate in MerMay?
I’ve been participating in Mermay since it started! I enjoy drawing mermaids and I love supporting Gallery Nucleus and what they do.
Since you produce so many character sketches, what advice would you give artists who want to learn to draw fast but accurately?
For speed and accuracy, I think it’s just practice and observation. Just doing something over and over again builds motor skills, but observation is essential to learn and make choices in your work.
Character concept from Cherry HiJinx. From Twitter
Are there any background painting hacks people in the industry might know that hobbyist digital artists wouldn’t?
Gosh, I don’t know of any hacks, I think I’ve been doing things the hard and painstaking way? If there are any, someone please share it with me!
And how about advice for drawing action poses?
Practice and observation again! Take your own video references or pause frames in your favorite action sequence and observe how motion is conveyed through line of action.
You’re one of the most prolific fanartists; across the widest range of shows, movies, and games; that I’ve ever seen. Has that opened career doors for you or helped you meet other creators who’ve been influential to you?
Thank you! I share a lot of love for fandoms across both the games and animation industries, and it really helps me connect with other fans and creators when exhibiting at conventions like Comic Con and WonderCon. I was fortunate that doing fanart has even helped lead to some amazing opportunities with some of my favorite game studios, such as Valve, Riot and Blizzard Entertainment.
What is your longtime passion project Cherry HiJinx? A comic in development, a potential animation concept, a fiction project, or something else?
It’s a world I’ve been building since early 2012, that I plan to develop into a book and pitch someday!
Genevieve’s website is genevievetsai.com, and her incredible Instagram is @genevievetsai. Her Twitter is also @genevievetsai. (It must be nice having a distinctive name.) By the way, there’s also a third thing I learned about her, which is that she likes video games, but that would have diluted the intro.
About the Interviewer
CS Jones is a Philadelphia-based writer and illustrator. The former is best seen at thecsjones.com, and the latter at @thecsjones on Instagram. He usually has a topical one-liner in his bio, but not much is going on in his life right now.