Artist Spotlight: Alice Meichi Li

Alice’s Portfolio 

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Where are you from/ where do you currently live and work?
I’m originally from Detroit, specifically the East Side. (Yeah, the actual city of Detroit, not the suburbs like most people who say they’re from Detroit.) I currently live and work in NYC, after having moved here for art college.
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Could you give us a brief overview of your art background (when you first became interested in art, education, work history, etc…). 
I’ve been drawing since I could put pen to paper, but didn’t think I could actually be an artist “when I grew up” because of my traditional-Asian-immigrant-parent-upbringing. However, I started to become more passionate about art in high school and applied to art college without their consent. Fortunately, that traditional-Asian-immigrant-parent-upbringing actually aided in helping me obtain all the scholarships and grants that paid for my tuition. (Yet simultaneously disappointing my parents who thought I could put my 4.055 GPA and Valedictorian status to a more financially-secure college major.) My time at School of Visual Arts was invaluable to me in not only the technical skills I developed in class, but introducing me to peers and friends who continue to inspire and motivate me today.
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Describe some of the jobs you have done professionally how they have helped develop your artistic skills.
 Working on a Mega Man cover for Archie Comics was definitely something that was out-of-the-box for me as it was the first time I ever had to draw on-model in their defined cartoony style. It actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and helped me to feel less afraid of trying new thing and varying my style a bit.
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Has working professionally around so many other artists influenced your style? If so, in what way?
Art certainly doesn’t evolve in a vacuum, so I’m sure it has. Simply hanging out and talking shop with my artist friends has introduced me to various instruments, techniques, or styles that I’ve incorporated into my process over the years. A good friend (and former housemate), D. Yee, actually introduced me to the idea of printing out my sketches to continue drawing over them to continue to refine them without losing the original energy of the under-drawing to erasing. And another friend of mine, Y. Sanders, constantly inspires me with how hard she works every day and how much progress she’s made in her art since I first met her. Even little snippets of conversations stay in my head when I’m working, like when Amy Reeder mentioned that her style of inking was different to many comic artists because she focused on adding line weight to areas that should feel “heavier” or in shadow rather than other inkers whose line weight varied due to the natural stroke of the brush.
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Has working with GirlsDrawinGirls inspired you and your art?  If so, how?
Absolutely! All too often when people think of art that depicts the female form, male names and their male gazes jump to mind immediately. I wasn’t immune to that, either — even as a female artist who applies the female gaze to the female form. But the very act of participating in GirlsDrawinGirls and being exposed to fellow lady members has shown me that we are certainly not lacking in talented woman artists. It caused me to become more conscious of this unspoken bias towards the male gaze in our society, and actively seek out woman artists and the female gaze instead.
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How did your particular comic style evolve? 
A professor I had in SVA, Joo Chung, actually told us that he would knock us down an entire grade level if we ever turned in digital work. Being that I was pretty desperate to keep my grades up in order to qualify for my scholarships, I worked traditionally in acrylic through most of college. It fostered a love-hate relationship with the medium as I loved some of the “happy accidents” that would come out of it, but I also hated that I couldn’t control a precise finish on it. By Senior year, I’d rebelled a little bit and started finishing my acrylic paintings digitally, and I’ve been working like that ever since.
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Do you have a preference between working with digital or traditional methods? Could you give a couple reasons why?
My preference is actually for combining the two as I do with my current style. I like to keep my rough sketches loose and flexible in a way that I can only manipulate digitally. But I enjoy the control of line and value in a finished drawing that I can only achieve with pencil. And in a complete reversal, the traditional acrylics I use for color and texture add a chaotic element to the atmosphere whereas finishing it up in Photoshop helps me control it more exactly.
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Are there any artistic disciplines (sculpture, painting, photography, fashion, etc, anything….) that you have a passion for? 
Fashion is something I’ve dabbled with in my own art. I enjoy being able to design clothing on characters that tell a story about who that person is, and what they might symbolize. I’d also like to try my hand at designing actual clothing in the future that I could incorporate my art into. Again I’m constantly inspired by my friends in this field, like the fantastically-talented Kelsey Hine of I Do Declare, who actually graciously designed my wedding dress.
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Is there a type of art that you’ve always wanted to learn?
I’ve always wanted to learn more about film-making — particularly making music videos. I love being able to set visual art to sound and motion, and I used to make anime music videos back in the day but never pursued it further due to financial and time constraints. But I was actually so fixated with the art of music video making, that I bought all the Directors Label DVD collections of acclaimed music video directors and studied them extensively for inspiration. I’m still obsessed with the work of Floria Sigismondi, Wong Kar-Wai and Michel Gondry, and find that their surreal/dreamy style of direction and photography continues to inform my own art.
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Based on your professional experiences, do you have any advice for aspiring young women artists?
This is something you hear a lot because it’s true, but never stop working hard. If you quit, you reduce your chances of success to 0%. Also, it’s important to be a part of and contribute to an artistic community. As I said before, no artist exists in a vacuum and having that constant connection to creative people will help pull you through periods where you’re struggling with yourself and your art. It’s especially important for creative women to bond with and help other creative women. So many creative industries are dominated by men, and all too often it’s difficult for women to find the mentorship and guidance that so many young men already enjoy in their budding careers. Let’s lift each other up!

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