2018 Up-and-Coming Vendors

We are excited to share new talent each year that needs to be discovered! Each up-and-coming vendor is selected by a jury of professionals to bring you fresh artists eager to show what they are made of!

LACIE BARKER – @thedarkdoodler

Hi, I’m Lacie! I’m a character designer/visual development artist from Southern California! I strongly believe in doing what you love for a living, and I’ve never found anything more fulfilling than creating art! I have my BFA in Animation from Woodbury University, and had the amazing opportunity to work for The Jim Henson Company on the show Splash & Bubbles. Now I’m working freelance, and I can’t wait to see what other exciting projects the future has in store!


XOCHITL THIENES – @choxinabox

Hello fellow artists! My name is Xochitl Thienes and I am a character designer/visual development artist from California. Characters, are one of the aspects that I look forward to the most when I’m about to delve into an animated story. Nothing brings me more satisfaction than creating characters and worlds that are not only believable, but relatable as well. I hope to one day, work in the animation industry and help craft even more characters and stories that everyone can enjoy.


JOHNELL HIPOL: @nellufy_artz

My name is Johnell Hipol and I am a creator whose tools range from a pencil to a tablet pen. In other words, I am a Character Designer who hails from sunny California. Character Design is a passion of mine born from my fascination of animation from cartoon shows to feature films. I love exploring many different ways on how to create a character from shape, form, and style while figuring out the motivations, desires, and flaws. The greatest reward to me when it comes to being a character designer is to create characters that many people can enjoy. I want to produce comic books, cartoons, and animated movies filled with great characters to entertain and inspire generations to come like how works such as Tarzan, Powerpuff Girls, and Yu Yu Hakusho did for me.


CHRISTINE LE: @_lechristine

Hi, I’m Christine and I’m a story artist! My love of storytelling began at a young age. Sitting at the laundromat with my dad or walking home from the bus with my mom, I could always adventure into the world of my imagination. My love of telling stories has led me to some really incredible experiences. I was able to be a part of the Nickelodeon Internship, OK KO Cartoon Network Animation Jam, and the Pixar Story Intensive! I’m incredibly excited for what the future may bring, but I know for a fact that I’m excited to meet YOU in the future at the Ground Zero Animation Expo!


VANESSA FLORES: @missjazzdafunk

Character designer, cartoonist and illustrator who loves foxes and velociraptors way too much. My favorite movie is Fantasia 2000 and I have a huge love for 50s fashion and retrofuturistic style. I have a craze for colorful eyeliner. Secretly a cute faerie princess in disguise. Hope to see you!


Christie (Jee) Kim: @paperobott

Hi there! My name is Christie Jeehye Kim, but most humans call me Jee! I’m from Hawaii and studied 2D animation. It all started from watching cartoons every morning when my parents would allow it. To drawing my favorite characters, then eventually creating my own. But that wasn’t enough! I wanted to see my drawings move and come to life! I continue to animate using post-its, creating music videos for different musicians, and exploring different ways of telling my stories with animation! I am very excited to be part of Ground Zero Animation Expo this year and I can’t wait to learn new things and most of all, meet you!


MIKE ESSA: @Mikessart

Mike grew up always watching any form of animation with his brother and friends. As they moved on to doing more “adult” things, he remained watching cartoons and animation as he grew. Once he  realized this is what I want to get into as a goofy kid, he started drawing and practicing his abilities everyday. Today Mike makes a living as a freelance Character Designer, Pre-visual Artist and Storyboard Artist for TV animation along with illustrating three children books to his name. He is eager to break into an animation studio and bring his knowledge and ideas to their table, showing them what he’s made of.


BONNIE BRANSON: @artbonnie

Hi! I’m Bonnie, nice to meetcha! I’m an LA based background artist. I love creating worlds for animation and helping to tell stories through color and light.  I’m new to California and recently drove across country from Boston – just me and my cat! When I’m not busy working on projects, I enjoy going outside and exploring the gorgeous CA landscape.


SIJIA LUO: @mojosplus

I am a storyboard artist with 10 years’ experience in international media who specializes in cute, quirky animated comedy for television. I was born in China and now live at Los Angeles. Story telling is my true passion, I write, draw comics and animations with my heart.

JANET RODRIGUEZ: @pueblodejanet


ANDY MANLEY: @andymanley

I’m a versatile artist with a strong passion to bring ideas to life. I spend my time visualizing people’s ideas or working on my own projects. I’m currently working on a short film for El Grupo Animation, and looking for other opportunities. I do just about any assignment that comes my way, but working in an animation studio as a character designer and collaborating with other creatives is what I would enjoy most.


LELIA WOODS: @leliamaywoods

Lelia Woods was born on boxing day 1996 in Annapolis Maryland. She grew watching cartoons and making fairy houses in the woods. She moved to California when she was 13 and is currently pursuing a career in his dev/background painting in animation.
PRISCILA SANTOS: @p.napsalot
Hi, I’m Priscila and I’m a story artist! I studied Animation at Santa Monica College and CalState Fullerton. My love for visual story telling is inspired by my love of film and drawing. The flexible use of shot progressions, angles, and timing to tell a story really moves me when watching a film and it’s something I hope to achieve through my art. I’m super excited to bring to light new stuff I’ve been working on and be a part of GZA Expo alongside such talented artists!

CINDY QUACH: @cqillustrations

Hello, my name is Cindy Quach and I’m a storyboard artist/illustrator! My interest in stories began when I was a little girl reading books and letting the images play in my mind like a film. My fifth grade teacher took me to a Reading Conference where I discovered the magic of drawing and started on a journey to create my own stories through art. I enjoy telling stories that make people laugh and smile. I want to work in the animation industry, create fun storyboards, and tackle my biggest dream of creating a series of my own.


STEPHEN LEE: @teeben_art

Hello! I’m Stephen Lee, aspiring storyboard artist, illustrator and recent graduate of the CSU Long Beach Animation BFA program. I love that storyboarding for animation is as much about good ideas as it is about draftsmanship–many times I find my loose, kinetic boards are far more successful than my carefully rendered “correct” ones. In my personal art, I always find myself drawing weird and ugly monsters. Maybe it’s because I find imperfect characters more relatable than flawless ones. My dream is to one day be a showrunner on my own animated show, hopefully filled with lots of weird and ugly monsters.

JORDAN CADERAO: @jordancaderao
Jordan Caderao is a character designer/visual development artist in Socal who loves everything cute, whimsical, and pretty. She has recently graduated from CSUF’s animation program. Traditional painting is one of her favorite methods of creating art, and animals are among her favorite subjects. She is a big fan of 2D animation and video games, some of her biggest inspirations for becoming an artist. Exploring light, color, and shape have become a major focus of her work. She is working toward a career in general visual development for animated television and film.


STEPH RIZO: @steph_oble

Hello, I’m Stephanie Rizo! I am a character designer & storyteller working in animation. I am passionate about telling stories though my characters & giving them life. I get excited to learn about animals and draw them. Discovering & watching simple things around me like architecture, color, and humans fascinates & inspires me. Recently I have been working alongside my art partner Janet Rodriguez, @pueblodejanet, creating stories & developing characters. It’s an amazing time working with her! I am currently working at Disney Feature as a story trainee & my art was just recently published in the @characterdesignquarterly magazine.



Hi! I’m Melanie, an LA-based designer who specializes in hand-lettering and custom typography. I graduated with a BFA in Art & Design from Cal Poly SLO in 2014 and have been working in entertainment since. Currently, I’m helping to create signage and graphics at Walt Disney Imagineering in Anaheim. Whether it’s for film, advertising, or themed experiences, I am incredibly passionate about letters and how meaning can be elevated through their design.


BEVERLY ARCE: @trimcoast

Hello there! My name is Beverly Arce and I am a freelance illustrator and visual development artist. I have worked on a variety of projects in many different capacities: from comic art for HarperCollins, to costume design for Lionsgate, to storyboarding for Coke-A-Cola! I have a deep love for animation and hope to one day bring some of my big ideas to the big screen; In the meantime, I can be found either drawing my favorite monsters or rewatching old episodes of Parks and Rec, cuz hey… we all need a hobby!


PAIGE HALSEY WARREN: @rampaigehalsey

Paige Halsey Warren has been painting and making comics for years. Now she’s ready to move those sequential storytelling and character creation skills over to animation.



Mary J. Lai is an animator and illustrator hailing from Portlandia. Being a Jill-of-all-trades means part of her time is spent in a ceramic studio throwing pottery for shows, designing pins or stickers, doing pro bono work for the non-profit Vote For Monarchy, working from home on freelance, as well as local animation studio gigs (sometimes, unfortunately, all at once). She has a fondness for birds, which are a frequent subject in her work and source of quite a few shenanigans in her life.  Her favorite mediums include ink, watercolor and clay.  She misses the SoCal sunshine and reappears now and then throughout the year, like a legendary Pokemon but without any defense or attack skills worth mentioning (maybe more like a Magikarp?). Mary currently resides in Portlandia with two canaries, a princess reincarnated as the cat Mugi Meow, a green cheek conure, four Tosakin goldfish, and an engineer named Josh.



BECCA QUANT: @beccaquant

Becca Quant is an illustrator and designer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She moved to Southern California in 2010 to study art and design at Cal Poly SLO with a concentration in studio arts and art history. After completing her BFA in 2014 she moved to LA, and has been working as an independent artist while continuing to explore new mediums and pursue artistic growth. She has had a passion for art and animation since she was first inspired by the works of Jim Henson, Studio Ghibli and Pixar Animation Studios as a child. As an adult she aspires to work in the animation industry herself, working to create something that may inspire the next generation of young artists to pursue their passions and embrace their creativity.


RACHEL WOLFE: @raychchel

Rachel is a veteran artist of the mobile game industry and a recent California transplant. Since 2009, Rachel has been building worlds and creating engaging characters for some of mobiles most beloved games and and has finally made the leap into animation as an aspiring story artist.  Her love and passion for storytelling is present in her work and she can’t wait to be a director someday!


DANIEL SCHRADER: @ningkamess

Daniel Schrader is a storyboard artist working in the live-action and animation industries. On the side he does comics, conventions, and sketches of strange monsters. He graduated from CSULB in 2017. Make sure to stop by and say Hey!


ISABELLE MARSHALL: @dirtfish_art

You want texture brushes? You want macaroni and cheese? Well me too. Im a recent CSULB graduate, freelance illustrator, and aspiring storyboard artist. I believe doing what you love, whatever it is, is an important part of being happy. Growing up, I’ve never been able to imagine myself doing anything else besides art. I want to continue to grow as an artist and whatever form it takes, I hope to be able to follow my passion.


SIJIA LUO: @mojosplus

I am a storyboard artist with 10 years’ experience in international media who specializes in cute, quirky animated comedy for television. I was born in China and now live at Los Angeles. Story telling is my true passion, I write, draw comics and animations with my heart!