Spotlight on Danni Shinya Luo

Shanghai-born Danni Shinya Luo fuses high fashion, art nouveau and psychological tension in her elegant, unabashed portrayals of the female form. Babe Lab was privileged to conduct an interview with Miss. Luo at her booth at San Diego Comic Con 2011.

Babe Lab : Hi Danni! Thanks for giving us a moment out of your hectic schedule.

Danni Shinya Luo : Hi there! You’re very welcome! I’m using this as an excuse to not work for 30 minutes.

BL : "Psychological tension" comes from your own description of your work. Can you expand on that a bit? What should we be getting from your stuff aside from some pretty ladies?

DL : When I say psychological tension, I refer to the feeling the viewers get when they look at my paintings. Do they get uncomfortable? Do they feel puzzled or intrigued by what’s happening in the painting? Do they feel charged with emotions? Do the feelings make them question the root motivations for their own emotions? If you feel uncomfortable starring at the paintings then what emotions are you trying to hide from yourself? That’s what I meant, and that’s what you should pay attention to besides the pretty figures.

BL : You're involved with Girls Drawin Girls. [above] What do you feel is the primary difference between works from this collective vs. that of the "perpetually male-dominated world of comics and animation?"

DL : In the years I’ve been with GirlsDrawinGirls, I’ve seen all kinds of comments and criticisms from both sexes. Some people say the GDG organization is amazing; they applaud the recognition of talented female artist doing female pin-ups to empower the gender. Others say GDG is worse than men who exploit the female figure, because we are selling our own sexuality to get attention. I think the truth is somewhere in-between. Yes we are using our own sexuality as the subject matter, but unlike the “perpetually male-dominated world of comics and animation” we are doing these on our own terms.  It’s pin-up, from a woman’s point of view. One can’t say that doing so is worse just because some of our point of views overlap with the male gender’s point of view.

BL : I'd say the overlap is pretty significant in your case. Is there anything you feel you can get away with that a male artist might flub? Some subtle yet crucial nuance?

DL : Hmm... Well, personally, I think there isn't anything I'm trying to get away with, but if I have to point out something specific I would say it's the interaction between two female figures. When I have two nude figures interact with each other, I see the message behind the surface, and I try to convey that with symbols in the background and/or subtle expressions.

BL : Artists tend to settle on tools based on feel and ease of use. What's your favorite part about using what you use (particularly the ink and watercolor), and was finding them a revelation?

DL : When I first learned drawing and painting, I apprenticed with this old Chinese watercolor painter from China. Then I tried acrylic and oil in Art Center. After I graduated I ultimately went back to watercolor painting. Because, among all the different mediums, watercolor is most spontaneous one. I love the way watercolor flows and bleeds on paper.  It’s very free, and it creates patterns on paper unlike any other mediums.

BL : You've done covers for Marvel's X23. [above] How do you juggle commercial and gallery works? Are you your own dream client?

DL : It actually doesn’t feel like juggling. I just line them up according to their deadlines, and work on them simultaneously. Of course, working on commercial projects I have to follow someone else’s instruction instead of my own, but there's still a lot of creative freedom. I would say most people are their own dream client, because you know what you want to do, and you CAN do what you want to do.

BL : And what's that for, you, mostly? Gallery shows? Do you consider yourself more of a fine artist working commercially or a commercial artist dabbling in the fine arts?

DL : For me it is to showcase my work to a wider audience, in the US and outside of the US. I create to better my technical skills and my concepts. A commercial artist is executing clients' ideas a majority of the time. A fine artist is executing his/her own ideas a majority of the time. I would definitely say I'm a fine artist working commercially.

BL : Be honest. What's the most useful thing you learned at your alma mater, Art Center?

DL : Honestly, it was work ethics and foundation skills.

BL : The hearts above the cleavage...don't think we didn't spot them! What's the story with those?

DL : The heart shape came naturally. The cleavage itself lends to the heart shape. Also one element that is consistent in my work is the representation of femininity. So the heart shape stuck because it serves that purpose.

Danni Shinya Luo is currently hard at work for the up coming two person show in MondoPop Gallery (located in Rome, Italy), and a group show for Ltd. Gallery’s grand opening show, and can be found in numerous spots on the web : Facebook, Twitter, Concept Art, Deviant Art and Girls Drawin Girls.