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Regulars / The Graduates 2016

Animator Jennifer Zheng builds strong, personal narratives through her rich visuals

Animator Jennifer Zheng studied illustration and animation at Kingston University and we were mesmerised by her ability to build a strong narrative and rich visuals in her beautifully sequenced shorts.

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Tim Bowditch: Jennifer Zheng

One of her best projects is Tough, a film about cultural misunderstandings between a Chinese mother and her British-born daughter, which draws upon her own experiences. This personal and factual aspect of her work is something Jennifer hopes to carry on with now she’s graduated: “I want to create films that have a truth: an honest and well-researched embodiment of my specific perspective.”

Before university Jennifer had no knowledge of what design or illustration courses were, and found herself applying to Kingston University’s foundation course on a whim. “I figured it would be a good idea to go and figure out what I really wanted to study at university,” she says. “I found I liked responding to briefs, drawing, making things and trying to communicate weird ideas, which are all the things I could do in illustration and animation.” Jennifer stayed on to do the BA course at Kingston having enjoyed the studio culture, the projects, and “the fact they seemed like really lovely, friendly people.”

Throughout her time at university, Jennifer was drawn to animation, which was sparked when she met Martina Bramkamp, head of animation at Kingston, in her first year. “Immediately she was this massive force of energy, excitement and humour. After she spoke to us I wanted to do an animation straightaway – she was passionate and genuinely loved animation,” says Jennifer.

The best bit of university was the sense of community Jennifer felt and being able to rely on her peers for support. “I have many fond memories of working really late with my friends and ordering take out to the studio and eating together. We were there for each other and everyone was helping each other as much as they could despite being stressed to the gills.” Those bonding moments usually occurred during the most demanding parts of her course: deadlines. “It was incredibly stressful. But I do think deadlines can sometimes get the best work out of people and it is super important to learn how to juggle your work and manage stress levels.”

One of Jennifer’s big takeaways from her tutors was not to be too precious with her work. “I like to use my work to try and understand issues by working through them. It is a discovery process: as I research and find out more about the subject, the project evolves. I like visual metaphors, similes and interesting transitions because they allow for faster digestion of the narrative,” she says.

Having interned at Moth Collective last summer, Jennifer will soon be starting a full-time job with the studio as a designer/animator: “I can’t wait to work with them again, Moth’s work is not only beautiful but tackles many important issues.” With this opportunity she hopes to tell more stories and continue her passion. “There is just something entrancing about the moment when you press play and see your static drawings start to move. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that sense of delight – I hope I don’t anyway!”

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Jennifer Zheng: Gaze, storyboard (created in collaboration with Anna Streit and Ines Nikko)

G . F Smith

It’s Nice That’s Graduates 2016 is kindly supported by G . F Smith, whose gorgeous range of papers and services can be just the thing for new and soon-to-be creative grads. The 130-year-old paper company has a long history of working with designers and artists at all stages of their careers, with its high-quality and innovative paper products offering a huge range of creative possibilities.