Born in LA: Lina Yu
A studio visit with Lina Yu stirs up the feeling of nostalgia for many Asian Americans whose lives intersect between western & Asian pop culture.
Lina Yu is an illustrator and designer who graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. She comes from a biracial background. Her mother is Korean, her father is Chinese and was raised in Korea. Yu herself was born and raised in Los Angeles. Growing up in a home where three different languages are spoken interchangeably, Yu's illustrative style represents what many first generation Asian American youth experience; a collision of west coast aesthetic with a Japanese anime appeal.
Yu's work recalls a childhood filled with manga, anime and k-pop music. It's easy to call her art "cute", but that is not to dismiss a layered narrative of personal experiences set in dreamy landscapes. Her work is a lot like the artist herself: approachable and full of charm. Make no mistake, Yu's laid back timidness is not apprehension. Her skills at subtlety steer the viewer exactly where she wants them: right in the guts.
When you look at Yu's pieces, you can't help but feel sentimental. Look closer and you'll discover a witty sense of humor. Her offbeat quirks tempered by an Art Center education creates a balance between professional presentation and fun, playful curiosity.
We make our way from a busy local cafe in Pasadena to her live & work studio in Alhambra. In the car ride there, lo-fi hip hop plays in the background and I ask her what she's been listening to lately. "A lot of 90's hip hop and Kendrick Lamar." I am reminded that Kendrick Lamar is from Compton, CA and it seems to me that the west coast influence comes in multiple forms for Yu.
"Draw, erase & repeat"
A black guitar sits against the wall next to an art book by Adrian Tomine; another influential artist of hers. Posters of k-pop stars, shelves filled with books and zines by other artists much of whom are friends, and other illustrator's pieces fill the room. Yu's process is a "draw, erase, and repeat" method. Rather than creating dozens of thumbnails, Yu often gets straight to the point once the concept is clear in her mind. As the burgeoning demand for equal representation for Asian Americans rises, I can see Lina Yu's career as an illustrator flourishing. Her art brings to the table a unique perspective following her philosophy of "draw what you know."
Her advice for artists is that "confidence is key. Even if you think you're not as good as you can be, you have to fake it 'til you make it."