Hailing all the way from China, Yang Luo-Branch grew up in a very traditional Chinese household. As such, she studied numerous art classes from dancing to singing and drawing. When she grew older, Luo-Branch studied architecture and was classically trained in China before coming to the US to study at Texas Tech.
Those classes she took as young girl helped instill an affection for drawing, one which she still has today. “I have always found a peace in doing drawings,” she says from her chair in Hillcrest’s Mylo Coffee Co.
When I ask her about her current position, Director of Placemaking and Design in Hot Springs Village, she starts to explain placemaking, pointing around the room at Mylo’s various intricate details. “Placemaking comes down to making places. Take this store – every single detail makes it a place. It’s more of a down-to-earth term for urban planning,” she explains.
The field is currently up and coming across the US. She continues, “The idea is to care for and celebrate the character of a place and build a creative identity. Placemaking aims to make a place authentic, more usable and livable – all through art and design.”
Her job actually ties into her recent exploration into creating drawings of buildings and architecture, which she says all stems from a request her husband made recently. “He was graduating from law school and he asked for a drawing of his school building, so that’s how I got started doing this,” she explains.
Her drawing process involves being present in a space and feeling it out. “I could draw a place from photographs, but I like to sense its character and authenticity,” she says.
Architecture may draw her eye, but it’s not the only thing she’s concerned with in her images. She says, “I like to be honest about a place. I’ll chose my own angles and perspective, and if it feels authentic, I’ll make sketches to note my emotions.” Her favorite drawing so far depicts grain elevators in a field in the middle of nowhere, but she considers the subject pure.
When she taught as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech, she was dismayed with the little amount of drawing the students got to do, as today’s architects more and more rely on technology to do their jobs. “It’s kind of sad how they don’t get to draw anymore,” she says.
Her ambition with her own drawings is almost therapeutic as she says, “I feel this process is one piece of the big picture and it helps me to be a more holistic, reflective person.” As she continues her endeavors, she is hoping to do work on a larger scale, which she is currently experimenting with.
She and her husband, who is originally from Texas, have decided to make Arkansas their home. For this reason she says, “I want to contribute to it and make it better…. In the future I hope to be involved more in city development. … We all need to be more conscious about how we use spaces.”
Now that she knows she’ll be staying in the Natural State for a while, she wants to see the local art scene step it up a notch. “It’s great to see what we have, but we need quality artists. We need to have some very high standards,” she says. “I would like to see us be more critical of ourselves so that we can compete with the rest of the country.”
When she’s not working or creating, she likes to cook. She and her husband are very adventurous in the food scene and are always trying something new to eat either at a local restaurant or at home.
To connect with Yang Luo-Branch, check out her drawings under the name Y Illustrations on social media and visit her site. You can also view her full portfolio or check out this book she recently co-authored.