From China to Central Arkansas, Y Illustrations Draws Perspective
by Grace Ann Brown
photography by Amanda Shelley Ledbetter
Artistry takes talent, but to achieve true success, it takes a certain level of commitment and
discipline; architectural artist Yang Luo-Branch knows all about discipline. At the ripe old age of 24, Luo-Branch emigrated from China to America to pursue her interest in architectural design. Today she lives out her dream as founder of Y-Illustrations.
Luo-Branch grew up in a traditional Chinese home in central China where she received her undergraduate degree in architecture. As a child, her family pushed her towards academics and the arts; as a result she is a skilled pianist and dancer, but chooses to hang her hat on a different medium–paper. She began drawing around the age of six, and at nine she won an international children’s drawing contest in Japan.
After completing a five year undergraduate program in her home country, Luo-Branch packed her bags and pursued her version of the American Dream by attending Texas Tech University to complete her master’s in sociology, and later her PhD in urban planning.
“The first year was tough, I’m very lucky my first move was to a university campus,” said Luo-Branch. As a graduate student, Luo-Branch taught architecture and freehand drawing at design studios part-time for four and a half years. Although she felt out of her element teaching, it was an enriching experience that allowed her to refresh on the fundamentals.
Luo-Branch’s specialty lies in drawing structures, mostly from photographs.
She feels that her work exceeds photography, because she can manipulate the landscape around a building that would otherwise obstruct a clear view. The structures she draws all have some meaning to them; she prefers to stay away from generic structures because the lack of emotional attachment to it. Her degree in sociology allows her to understand the relationship people form with these structures, and she enjoys creating works people will appreciate on a much deeper emotional level.
Working meticulously over the past ten years to perfect her skills, Luo-Branch continuously draws, but it took her husband commissioning her to do a piece for her to actually start drawing for a living. After finishing an illustration of the Old Main building at the University of Arkansas just one year ago, she had the idea to brand her work. Today she works closely with Hot Springs Village assisting with its redevelopment and she also draws independently under the name Y-Illustrations.
“I’m just satisfied I’ve had this chance,” she said.
Luo-Branch has experience in both 2D modeling and 3D design, allowing her to excel at her job. Comfortable in most mediums, Luo-Branch allows each piece to speak to her individually before she chooses her plan of attack. She mostly works with pens, markers, and colored pencils; however she plans on integrating watercolors into her work in the near future.
Identifying as an artist proved to be one of the biggest challenges she has faced over the course of her career. The negative connotation surrounding the title really threw her for a loop, making her feel like attaching the label would hold her back.
“I had a really hard time taking on the title in the beginning. People hear you’re an artist and automatically feel like it’s more of a hobby than an actual profession. I felt that my work was too good to fall into that preconceived notion,” she said. Eventually, she accepted the role and began making a name for herself in the local art community, drawing a commissioned piece of the DeSoto Club in Hot Springs Village and an aerial view of Little Rock.
Luo-Branch recently presented her work publicly at DeLuca’s Pizzeria in downtown Hot Springs. She was visiting the establishment with her husband one day, and decided her work would look good hanging on the walls. This was the first public venue she approached with the idea, and after viewing her work, the owner was more than happy to display it in his restaurant.
“I think it went really well; I got a lot of exposure,” she said.
Her most recent challenge comes in the form of marketing her brand, like most artists. She hopes to extend her reach throughout the artistic community, and continue to work on commissioned pieces. Recently, she finished two of those commissioned pieces; the Majestic Hotel in downtown Hot Springs and the new skywalk at Mid-America Science Museum.
“I’m very fortunate my husband is so supportive. He helps me with everything and accepts the artist lifestyle,” she said. Luo-Branch’s work is featured on her website, www.yillustrations. com, her Facebook page, and on her Instagram account @yillustration501. Currently she is accepting submissions for commissioned pieces, and prefers to draw buildings that have a strong sentimental meaning to the commissioner. Her eye for detail and background in architecture make her works stand out from the crowd, like that new building in the old neighborhood.