What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Keiko Murayama, my current occupation is a BG painter at Nickelodeon Animation Studios.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I used to work at a Motion Studio as a vis dev artist for TV commercials. One fun project I had there was for a sugar company where I had to design a set and props made only of sweet stuff, and then they actually had to build that.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I got to work on a couple pages for the Big Golden Book for Wreck-It-Ralph. A lot of my friends from school also worked on it I’d never seen my work as a published book form, so when I saw the actual product, I was very proud.
How did you become interested in animation?
I grew up watching anime stuff, which I love, but it’s not my passion. Then, I came to the U.S after high school and saw Samurai Jack for the first time. I fell in love with it at once, and decided to pursue this career.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Japan. For years before this gig, I didn’t have any luck trying to crack into the animation business. But then my friend told me about the Nickelodeon Artist Program, so I tried it out. Luckily they adopted me and trained me. All thanks goes to the Nick Artist Program, and my mentors, especially Ernie Gilbert and Peter Bennett.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I come to work in the morning, eat a free bagel or cereal in the kitchen, start painting, eat lunch, then paint again. Hahaha. A lot of food and painting! A little chit-chat here and there with my co-workers (which is important, too!). Sometimes I attend breakdown meetings (designers gather together and go over the storyboards together) and revision meetings with my art director.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I get paid to paint! Also, it’s like a learning experience: getting notes from a great art director and my colleagues. Also, Nickelodeon is a very inviting place to work. They throw fun events, and everybody says “Hi”, which is nice.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
It’d be awesome if I got paid to draw props and characters too, hahaha.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use Illustrator and Photoshop. I get eps files from the Clean-Up team and organize the eps files in Illustrator (so that it’s easy to paint later) then export to Photoshop to paint.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Socializing. It’s a big part of any business and it can get you very far, but it’s also hard if you’re not a naturally outgoing person.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I met Genndy Tartakovsky once. My classmate Sung Jin was working at Cartoon Network under him and he introduced me. I was so nervous that I bet I was freaking awkward.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Balancing your personal situation with your jobs. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice your time and jobs for your family stuff. Missing time can be critical.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’ve been working on an illustration that needs some help from a Motion Designer to animate. It’s about some foxes and an evil plan involving an ice cream truck. If anyone is interested, please let me know.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m horrible at it, but my mentor Ernie is teaching me the Ukulele. I’m terrible with anything regarding music, but I enjoy it very much.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Well, I’m not really established enough to give really great advice, but I can say what I think helps to get your career going. Be good at what you are good at, but be versatile – don’t stick to just one style or way of working. Make connections, especially when you are in school. Take advantage of being in school, such as internships. Also, the Nickelodeon Artist Program is a really great opportunity for people trying to get into the animation business after school. You can check out the program here: