Keika Yamaguchi

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What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Keika Yamaguchi. I am a Children’s Book Illustrator and Freelance illustrator.


What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I wish I had a fun story to tell, but none of the jobs that I had before getting into animation were crazy.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
While I was an art intern at Walt Disney Imagineering, I worked closely with the producers illustrating the very first concepts for the kids room for the New Disney Cruise Ship, and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Trading Card Game at Walt Disney World. I was blown away when I found out that the project is now real and the public can interact with them. I treasure the time I was working there to this day. I am also grateful to have been able to illustrate childrens’ books such as Sick of Being Sick, the big golden book for Wreck it Ralph, and The Tale of the Gingerbread Man. To see kids engaged in books that I worked on is a magical moment to me!

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a small town near Glendale, California. My first work I have done for the animation business was with Peppermelon. They offered me a job to be their BG designer for their short film that was for Sony. I worked on the layout for a short period of time. It was fun!


What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
The very first thing I do in the morning is to look at the piece I’m currently working on, and take notes on whatever I need to fix. There are usually something that I didn’t see the night before. Then I grab a random book or article that I can read to gain facts or to get inspired. I leave those by my desk so that I can flip through them while saving a file. Then I make coffee, write in my journal, check email, and then start painting. I work about 6 to 8 hours. I would stand, stretch, and walk away from my work every half an hour to stay energetic and to look at my piece with fresh perspective.


What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I get to see kids smiling and giggling while interacting with the product that I worked on. It means a thousand words to me. Kids give me purpose to what I do for living.


What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Time to time I have to drink more coffee than I would like in order to stay up and finish a project. It takes me several days for my sleeping cycle to get back to normal after that.


What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I work on my laptop using a tablet. Many of my jobs demand everything to be done digitally and quickly. Therefore, I carry those two things with me all the time. It’s very convenient when I have to be out of my town, or even to switch up my work environment to get work done accordingly.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
As a freelancer, I feel that technology can get expensive can be tough on my wallet. Computers and softwares can get old fast in this day and age. When working for corporate companies, they work with some of the top end computers and softwares. I need to make sure that I am working with tools that is up to date so that it will not interfere my work ethic.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I had opportunities to get one on one critique and advice from many art directors who work in the animation industry through college programs held at Art Center. Some of the people I met were Ricardo Delgado, Mike Humphries, Lou and Carol Police, and Paul Felix. They were involved in the making of animation that were from my childhood, so t was such an honor to meet and talk to all of these artist and receive careful feedbacks.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
It was challenging to create happy paintings for childrens’ book while dealing with family mournings back at home. If I want to make sure that the audience can feel that a painting looks happy, the artist must be happy too in order to communicate that emotion effectively through my work. I learned the importance of clearing my mind when approaching pieces. Be aware of my emotions and take good care of it.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I recently finished working on line works that will be part of a coloring book for Drawing for Dreams Foundation. It’s a non-profit organization that collects money for art supplies that would be distributed in children’s hospitals. Please check it out!

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can cross one eye at a time. It can be a great way to lure people into talking to you.


Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Since I have little experience in the animation industry, I may not have the greatest advice, but if I can share what I learned while being out of college, it would be that there are significant number of opportunities that a college student can take compared to people out of college. I would take as many advantage of internships, events that can help you get any insight to the industry. I would ask questions to people who are living the career that you want whenever you have the chance to do so. People are usually friendly and they are there to help!

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