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Meet Bryan Bae

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bryan Bae.

Bryan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Atlanta, GA, but my family and I moved to the suburbs of Baton Rouge, LA. I am from a Korean-American Family, my mom’s side of the family all reside in Louisiana, but my dad’s side is in still in South Korea. Shortly after I was born deaf, my parents discovered that I was born deaf. They have done everything they could to love and support me. My mom decided to put me to public school instead of school for the deaf because I knew I would have a harder time fitting in with other kids my age if I didn’t and with hearing aids it has made life growing up a bit easier. I can also read lips, it’s my superpower. As the technology has been advancing through the years, I have gone through many different hearing aid iterations and brands. I’ve got Bluetooth in my newest hearing aids way before Apple came out with their new earbuds, “Take that AirPods!”. I remember growing up watching Pokemon, Spiderman, and Power Rangers on Fox kids. Saturday mornings I would wake up and drawing these the characters on stacks and stacks of computer paper while the shows were on. These shows are big influences on the type of work I enjoy to draw.

My parents own a donut shop in town called “Mary Lee’s Donuts” and in High School, I would often pick up shifts on the weekend as their fryer when they were understaffed. I was still drawing, but I had to help out at the shop as well. But that time as the donut frying would come to an end. It came time for me to leave my home in Baton Rouge and move to Sarasota and begin my next chapter in college.

I got accepted to Ringling College of Art and Design in the Illustration program, which is pretty broad, but I found my niche in my sophomore year when the school opened up a visual development major. I knew then that it was the path I wanted to take and focused my studies more towards visdev. College was spent expanding my craft as an artist, but also expand my circle socially. I remember Ringling didn’t have many sports programs, but they did have a Quidditch team. Quidditch like from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. I joined the Quidditch team and shortly after shared a bond with a group of friends that I would make everlasting friendships with. I also met my partner while on the quidditch team. In 2012, I was selected to play at the Olympic Quidditch Expo Tournament in London, representing team USA as the team’s Golden Snitch. If you’ve seen the Harry Potter movies, the snitch is a tiny golden ball with wings, but since muggles don’t have magic, we had to represent the snitch with a person, that’s me. The snitch is a runner dressed in yellow with a velcro tail attached to their shorts. In order for the game to be over a seeker would have chase down the snitch and pull off the velcro tail to end the game. It was an experience that I will cherish forever.

After graduating college, I knew I wanted to go out to California because that was where the whole animation industry was. My friend got a job in the Bay Area, so the two of us packed up what we had from college and road tripped to our new home in Oakland. I spent some time there in Oakland looking for a job that would suit my skills, but all the work up there was either advertising or commercial work. It seemed like the jobs that I was looking for were all in Los Angeles. LA is the hub of animation and if I wanted to get a jumpstart in my career, I needed to be in the center of it all. My partner was moving to Los Angeles at the time and I decided to make the move down. I moved to LA in 2016 with another friend of mine who recently took up a job in Burbank, and before we knew it, we found ourselves a little apartment within walking distance from Bob Hope Airport. Since being in LA, I have had opportunities to do freelance for multiple shows and companies. Working from home hasn’t always been ideal, but I will be starting an in-house job at Warner Bros Animation prop designing later this month.

Has it been a smooth road?
It hasn’t been a smooth ride for me at all. I mean, not everything’s gonna work out the way you planned it. You don’t always get a job right after going to college. I knew I wanted to do character and prop design and work in animation, but I didn’t realize how tough it would be to reach my goal. A lot of people told me that my art was really good, your time will come, but I always wondered when that would be. Would it be now? In a week? Month? Year? When I was in Oakland, I was rebuilding my portfolio and doing a lot of soul searching. I was in an artist block and aside from my roommate, I wasn’t surrounded by a community of artists anymore. Whenever I get in a block, I would go out biking late at night. Feeling the cool breeze hitting my face while riding beneath the stars gave me that sense of freedom. At that moment, nothing else mattered. Yeah, a lot of soul searching in Oakland.

When I moved down to Burbank things got a little easier. I was finally living in the hub of animation, I was closer to my partner and also more of my friends from school were down there. I was a bit broken in Oakland and Los Angeles was where I had to rebuild myself. I would meet up with old friends for coffee to catch up, go cafe sketching, and pick their brains about art. They would give me some pointers for catering to my portfolio or introduce me to other friends of theirs in the industry who could give me helpful advice to grow towards my goal. While looking for jobs, I would dive into my own personal projects during the quiet days to keep myself actively working. I have an ongoing project that I’ve been doing for a while. Whenever I look back at it, I see something I can improve on or my style has grown and ended up redrawing all the characters. I rarely sketch on paper, I prefer to draw digitally and once I start a digital drawing kick, I can’t stop. It’s infectious. Sometimes I stay up all night.

When I was given tests for tv animation shows that I would pour my heart into and receive an email back with, sorry to inform you but we decided to go ahead with another candidate. I thought, take the test get the job, but you have to realize that there are a dozen more people just like you pouring their heart into their work as well who deserve the job just as much as you. Rejection was a hard wound to heal, but my friends would encourage me to keep going. During my time in California, I have been supported by my parents, my friends, and my partner. If any of you are reading this, thank you so much for all the help you’ve given me. I appreciate all the kind-hearted people in my life who never gave up on me.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I specialize in Character/Prop Design. What sets me apart from other people is my keen perception of a person’s attitude/style and being able to capture that in my work. I have a very observant eye and notice little details about people, which are oftentimes overlooked by the average person. I am an observer in nature.

I took a minor in film photography in college and I fell in love with taking film pictures. I like the grainy look on the film and the excitement of not knowing what the picture looks like right away. I’ve been taking photos of friends throughout the years and it has helped me find a unique perspective on capturing the right moments. When I’m not drawing or if I have an art block, I go out and explore with my cameras. It’s a great way for me to stay creative while flexing a different artistic muscle.

Observation has also allowed me to be very versatile as an artist. Being able to adapt to many different styles has allowed me to work on a handful of diverse projects since breaking into the industry. I take pride in my work and always strive to push myself as an artist and creative.

Early last year, my partner and I launched our brand Baer and Lamb, where we focus more on enamel pin designs and stickers. You can check out our work at baerandlamb.com!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I enjoy the diversity that the city has to offer. Although Los Angeles is a big driving city, I found a way to enjoy a slower-paced without a car. I spend my time walking around my neighborhood and to my favorite local restaurant and cafe. Steampunk Cafe is my favorite hidden gem in the neighborhood, I go there so often that they know me by name. The staff is all so lovely and the food is great! It’s always a great start to my morning when I visit.

Sometimes I like to take trips to Little Tokyo, another favorites spot of mine. I go to Cafe Dulce to get my goto drink and doughnut, an Iced Cafe Dulce Latte and a Blueberry Roti. I also like to hit up Mitsuru Cafe for their chicken skewers and other quick bites to eat. But it’s not all about food. I also enjoy Little Tokyo for their cool stores and shops. One of my favorite bookstores is in the plaza of little Tokyo called Kinokuniya. I could spend hours in there browsing all the great art books and mangas that they have. If I’m ever feeling low on creativity, that is a great place for me to recharge.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Charlie Parisi

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