Student success: Q&A with concept artist & illustrator Xiaoya Lin

Student work by Xiaoya Lin

3minutes read


Xiaoya Lin always wanted to be an artist. But it was after attending a Pixar art exhibition, that her career goals began to take shape. Now in her final term of CG Spectrum's advanced concept art course and with valuable job experience as a concept artist and illustrator at Universal Orlando Resort under her belt, Xiaoya is ready for her next adventure!

She shares her story, her experience studying digital painting at CG Spectrum and some of the art she's been creating in and outside of class.

[UPDATE OCT 2020: Xiaoya was hired as a 2D character artist at Crazy Maple Studios 🎉]

Xiaoya, tell us how the Pixar exhibit helped influence your career path and where you're at now.

I was a high schooler in Taiwan at the time. It was the first time I learned about concept art, and I was blown away at how feasible it can be to have a successful career doing what I love.

Although 2D concept art was what originally inspired me to pursue a career in art, I came to believe that 3D artists have an easier time finding jobs and went for a computer animation degree at college instead.

I eventually came back to my origin and am currently honing my skills as a concept artist and illustrator.

xiaoya-lin-robot-girlRobot Girl, Xiaoya Lin

How did you get your job as a concept designer/illustrator at Universal Orlando Resort? 

My first step into Universal was through an internship with them when I was still a student at another college. The internship was mainly a 2D focused position. This was a turning point for me that set me back to the path that I originally had eyes for.

I was hired as a full-time concept designer/illustrator after graduation. I was responsible for environment artworks ranging from sketches to key illustrations that help define design ideas.

For later design stages my role also included color and texture designs. For an unannounced project, I was involved in developing a specific style for a large scope of characters to bridge the original IP’s highly stylized look to Universal’s more realistic style.

Announced projects I worked on included Epic Universe, Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, and Super Nintendo Land.

Aztec-Temple-Xiaoya-Lin-ProcessAztec Temple (finished piece and creative process) by Xiaoya Lin


Tell us about your experience in the advanced concept art course at CG Spectrum.

Around the end of last year, I really felt I was hitting multiple dead ends. In terms of work, the project I was dedicated to was set to go overseas, and my chances of staying with the project looked bleak.

In terms of personal growth, I felt that my personal work just wasn’t as good as I would like it to be.

I chose CG spectrum because I felt I needed guidance when building my portfolio, and CG spectrum’s course provides a long period of mentorship which is crucial for me.

Also, the curriculum provided at the school fits with my career goals of transitioning into game or animation as an artist.

Mediaeval-Xiaoya-LinMedieval Knight, Xiaoya Lin

One thing that is unexpected for me is how encouraging my mentor is of incorporating 3D workflow. That turned out to be the best thing I got out of the course.

I literally uninstalled all my 3D programs prior to registering the class, wanting to narrow my focus. But thanks to my mentor's guidance, I was able to bridge 2D with 3D.

I think my mentor is great at tailoring to different needs of his students. He has a lot of flexibility to adapt to what the students want to learn when it comes to how to execute the assignments and provide the best mentorship.

I also learned a lot from him the importance of thumbnailing, design, and functionality.

Your designs must be grounded, functional, and to scale. Your images must work in the rough thumbnail phase for the later renderings and details to come through. There is no end to learning about the basics.

Warrior-Xiaoya-LinWarrior, Xiaoya Lin

How do you describe your style? How do you overcome a creative block?

I am getting closer to be able to produce the style that I want to produce, which is bringing realism to my work. My style used to be more stylized coming from a background in animation.

Nathan Fowkes, Trent Kanuiga, Miyazaki, and John de la Tour are some of my favorite artists. The Harry Potter Franchise, 2D Disney films (Atlantis: the Lost Empire and Treasure Planet are some of my favorite films), Final Fantasy 7 and animes like the Studio Ghibli films are some of the mainstream media that inspire me from time to time.

When I come across a creative block, I do anything to keep my hand moving, like doing gesture drawings, sculpting in Zbrush or rendering a piece that is not completed yet.


What personal projects are you working on at the moment? 

I am currently trying to develop a concept art bundle that tells a single story. I started with some sketches and now I just really need to find more reference and develop an initial mood piece.

I find that if my major goal in art career is to become a better artist, I will always be achieving my goal if I keep drawing and improving.

There is no end to that goal because there is always something new to learn. This is a very empowering way for me to truly stay motivated.

What is next on the horizon for you, Xiaoya?

I would very much like to try my hand in different industries like games and animation. It will be cool to work in an AR/VR related field. I have always been interested in environment/background design.


Connect with Xiaoya Lin and see more of her work at: and @xartistcreates.

Learn concept art and illustration from award-winning artists!

Turn your artistic skills into a career with CG Spectrum's Introduction to Concept Art and Illustration course. Learn the fundamentals of both disciplines, and get a taste of what it's like to work in the film and game industry from mentors who have worked with clients such as Blizzard Entertainment, Marvel, and Disney Publishing!

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