Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Art Movie Night 2.0 features “VESSELS” animation by NYC-based Ignacio Serrano and Xiao Hua Yang

Join us Thursday July 18 at 7 pm, as the Gallery welcomes animators Ignacio Serrano and Xiao Hua Yang  Our second Art Movie Night features a screening of Serrano and Yang’s short collaborative animation exploring intercultural identity and exchange, VESSELS, followed by a talk with the artists. See Ignacio Serrano’s work here, here, and here and Xiao Hua Yang’s work here, here, and here.

Ignacio Serrano is a Fulbright Scholar and assistant to legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser, and Xiao Hua Yang is an illustrator for the Wall Street Journal and GQ. The Art League chatted with the artists about how they met, what inspired them, and how they got started in animation.

How did you meet? Who suggested collaborating first? 

XHY: “I met Ignacio in New York at the group show of his SVA illustration summer residency program. Later, we both attended the same MFA program: MFA illustration at SVA. Ignacio suggested collaborating first.”

IS:The first time I met Xiao was in the summer of 2014 when attending the School of Visual Arts’ Illustration Summer Residency Program in New York. Later on, both of us joined the MFA Illustration program also at School of Visual arts and were classmates during 2016 and 2017 academic year. I suggested the collaboration to Xiao. 

A year and a half after we graduated, I got contacted by friend and curator Noelia Lecue, asking me to participate in a solo exhibition at La Nacional about Spanish immigration in the last century. La Nacional, also known as Spanish Benevolent Society, was founded by Spanish immigrants in New York in 1868, to host Spanish migrants who wanted to start a new life in the city. 

Nowadays, La Nacional hosts diverse cultural events such as exhibitions, concerts, movie screenings and so on. It was a coincidence that I met Xiao a few days afterwards for a casual dinner, when I asked him if he would like to work on a new project, still to be defined, about immigration.The only premise was that had to be animation, because I never had done it before and I was curious about it, and also I knew Xiao had worked with fellow illustrator Cen Jun on one of his animation projects.”

Xiao Hua Yang’s work featured in Latin American Ilustración

You’re both illustrators, but how did you get into animation? Has it been an easy transition from illustration to animation?

XHY: “We both were working and honestly, we didn’t have much time for our own art and craft. They were very much neglected. We talked about this often and wanted to make a change. 

We knew we wanted to collaborate on something but I didn’t have any idea on the subject matter nor format. Then one day he told me that he was approached with a fantastic opportunity to have a show at La Nacional, the Spanish Society, as part of a series of activities in celebration of this venue’s 150th birthday.

We initially talked about having still images for the show but we all like challenges and are willing to explore uncharted territories. That’s how we landed on the idea of creating an animation, though we had very limited knowledge of animation.

It was hard and not at all an easy transition from illustration to animation. Yet, it was not impossible. We still were able to finish the project and learnt a lot from the process. Most importantly, we enjoyed it.”

IS:We are still learning about animation, as none of us took any classes in the past and we learned as we were working on this project. I think we are still pretty much illustrators who wanted to try something new as a way of keeping things interesting. We are already thinking about new animation projects but we both keep still working on static images.”

Whose work are you inspired by? 

Demosthenes by Ignacio Serrano

XHY: “Peter Paul Rubens, Dali, Matsumoto Taiyou, Van Gough, David Hockney, Liu Xiaodong.”

IS:I think it was really inspirational to see some illustrators like Jun Cen, who came from the illustration field, and started playing with animation at some point, I think as part of his instruction at the MFA in Illustration at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). Being influenced by so many animation movies, anime and also music videos, animation has always been something I wanted to try.

Specifically with Vessels, I wanted to keep things simple and capture the look and feel of some of the drawings I did on location in the city. Robert Weaver played a huge influence on me ever since I discovered his work.”

What one thing would you tell artists looking to get into animation?

him, me by Xiao Hua Yang

XHY: “Don’t be discouraged, it’s worth the time!”

IS:Just jump into it and start working on simple shots. I tend to be much more meditative and focused on planning the whole project before starting to work and that always plays against me. 

Thankfully, Xiao had a very different approach with can be summed up with one of his best expressions: ‘Let’s Do It!’ That [advice put me to work on] simple loops and as soon as we saw the first tests, we got really encouraged to keep working on more and also try different things.”

Just for fun: What’s your favorite medium other than digital? 

Part of The Ragpicker Series by Ignacio Serrano

XHY: “Amongst the limited range of media I have tried, I think I like colored pencil and oil the most. The former gives me a controlled precision and gentle texture, the latter offers me the versatility.”

IS:In my case, I usually do not even use any digital devices for my own work. I rather prefer dry media in big formats, such as charcoal or pastel on big sheets of paper, or ink-wash and big brushes.”

VESSELS (get a sneak peek here or below) explores the idea of human beings transposing culture across the world. Bringing the cultural luminosity of the New York City’s landscape into focus, VESSELS, takes a closer look at migration in the urban landscape as well as the legacy and imprint that migrants leave on culture in which they settle. 

Xiao Hua Yang: Yang is originally from Shanghai and is now based in Queens, New York.His work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustrations, Association of Illustrators, 3×3 Magazine, Creative Quarterly, Applied Arts Magazine. His client list includes Wall Street Journal, SeatGeek, Surf Twenty Magazine, Howler Magazine, Wissen Magazine, Elle Men Magazine, The Beast Shop.


Ignacio Serrano: Fulbright Scholar and assistant to legendary designer Milton Glaser, Ignacio Serrano and illustrator for Wall Street Journal and GQ, Xiao Hua Yang speak at The Art League Gallery on the creative process and collaboration. Featuring a screening of their short animation: VESSELS.



Can't get enough?

Sign up for our weekly blog newsletter, subscribe to our RSS feed, or like us on Facebook for the latest Art League news.

Visit our homepage for more information about our classes, exhibits, and events in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

Share this
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Did you know?

You can support The Art League every time you shop through AmazonSmile!

Simply set The Art League as your chosen charity, and every time you shop at, a portion of your purchase will be donated to support our mission to share the experience of visual arts with the community.