We had the good fortune of connecting with Dannie Niu and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dannie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
In fact, and this is not to brag, but I would really say that I am probably busier than most of my peers. This busyness is not just physical, but sometimes mental. I don’t like to put things off until the deadline to get it all done because I think that is not good. If you always procrastinate and then muddle through when you’re almost at the deadline, it does look like it’s done, but what about the quality and results? This probably stems from my own perfectionism and high expectations. So I usually plan early, prepare in advance or start working on it ahead of time.

Now I’m preparing to finish my graduation works and thesis, and I’m involved in some freelance works too. So I can say that I need to do several things while others are doing one thing. But I’m not a workaholic, and I know I have friends who forget about their own life when they start working, eating and sleeping are not important to them. I think life is just as important as work, and even when I’m very busy I choose to cook or make my own coffee.

I always make a plan for myself, such as what to do at what time. If I need to have breakfast and coffee in an hour, then I will relax and enjoy the breakfast in that hour. And the next four hours I have to work, well, I will be fully focused on my work, maybe I will ignore some other chores in these four hours and just sit in front of the laptop. Honestly, I think this is a very efficient way for me to not waste so much time and get what I need to do done as fast as possible. I’ve always believed that life and work should be in a 50/50 ratio, I can’t lose my work and I certainly can’t let my life be taken over by work.

Sometimes I may switch the balance, but there is only one possibility: to increase the percentage of life. My work sometimes requires a lot of inspiration and creativity, but sometimes I look like a rock without any interesting ideas at all. This is the time for me to go out for a walk, look at the trees on the street or go through my collection of recipes and try to make a new dish. It’s another way for me to relax, but it also allows me to have more time to think, and in the process I’m likely to come up with some new ideas. So I would really say that life is more important than work, and that a quality life will help you a lot with your work.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I currently work as a freelance illustrator and also do some graphic design. During the day, I mainly work on children’s illustration or commercial illustration, such as packaging illustration and so on. Probably the biggest difference between me and others is that I don’t like to express negative emotions in my work. Although I have many negative moments, I always want my work to give people a positive or good feeling. I like gorgeous golden things, so you can see a lot of shiny and glowing elements in my work. I’m proud to have won some awards in 2021, and I think I’m slowly being recognized by the professionals in the industry, so maybe in the near future I can really achieve what I want to be.
It is certainly not easy to get to this present step, from the initial family’s opposition, and then to my own continuous training, although also often experience the psychological gap and self-doubt, but I still feel that my efforts are rewarding, these are from my continuous persistence, and I believe I can do this thing.

What I have learned most so far is: value time and continuous learning. Especially for our industry, to broaden our horizons, not just limited to some small scope, more reading and more thinking is very important.

I simply hope that my works can bring beauty to others, and that even people who do not know anything about painting can easily understand my works.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Atlanta is really a very interesting city, and I have to say that I love the people here, they are really very kind and lovely. If I have friends coming over for a visit, I would take them to midtown first and dive them into a random bar, then someone will definitely come and talk to us. Or walking down the streets of Atlanta, you’ll hear hip hop songs coming out of cool cars everywhere, and it’s a really great feeling! I can only say that there are really too many interesting places in Atlanta, everyone should visit little five points, and then you can go to the beltline, where there are many graffiti walls, I really love them. To tell you a little known secret, if you want to enjoy the biggest bird’s eye view of Atlanta, you can go to SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, which has a big lawn where you can see the whole downtown view of Atlanta. If you want to find a good place to eat, my personal favorite is buford highway. There are many good Asian restaurants and Mexican restaurants along buford highway, and many cool ice cream stores or bubble tea stores. You won’t be disappointed there!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So, first, shout out to my mother, she is my best friend and my best family to me. She is a very kind and wise woman who has precious qualities and taught me many things when I was young that are still very useful today. She always supported me and believed in me when others did not support my decisions, and of course, I proved to everyone later that my decisions were right. Another person who saved me when I was in middle school. She is Lady Gaga. During middle school, I was ridiculed by the boys in school at that time because of my fat body, they were very excessive. At that time Lady Gaga had just released 2 albums and everyone thought she was a weirdo. But I followed her and fell in love with her. Her music is interesting and her personality is quite cute. Under her exaggerated appearance at the time actually hides a kind and gentle heart. When she launched [Born This Way] really gave me a huge shock. Her other song [Gypsy] also gave me a lot of inspiration, so that I have more courage to love others, as well as to travel around the world, embrace the world.

Website: https://www.dannieniu.net/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dannie.niu/

Other: Email: dannieniu@gmail.com

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