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Meet Echo Park CG Artist: TJ Fuller

Today we’d like to introduce you to TJ Fuller.

TJ, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Born and raised in rural Kansas. Always loved the countryside and animals. Studied Fine Art at the University of Kansas and painted Neo-Baroque compositions of animals. Graduated and did some traveling, lived in Costa Rica and hung out in the jungle chasing poison-dart frogs and iguanas. Went to Cal Arts to study animation and became enamored with it. Realized CG Animation is a fairly new and unexplored art form, much better suited to comment on the 21st century. Three days before graduation, created the world’s first video game for an animal- Game for Cats on the iPad. Got a job directing animation and Maker Studios, continued to dabble in making video games, and started making GIFs of animals in CG. Currently freelancing for VR projects and exploring the expanding definition of “video game”.

Has it been a smooth road?
Not smooth at all! Being born in the rural midwest brings a huge set of challenges for a young artist. There are very little opportunities for artists there, and the idea of moving to the coast to “break in” is daunting.

I also feel like I met computers fairly late in life. I didn’t even have a computer till the age of 26. And I found CG animation to be a total mystery when I was introduced to it. Now I feel I’ve got a pretty good understanding of computer graphics but I think knowing how to code would really expand my palette.

Do you feel luck has played a role in your life?
Just like anyone else, I’ve had my share of letdowns and rejections throughout life, as well as many fortunate opportunities. The key is to persevere and seize those rare opportunities when they come along. My answer to this is probably a little cliche but it’s true!

Is there a quality or characteristic that has played an outsized role in your success?
Artists have a moral obligation to develop their own voice. I’ve done commercial work for studios and clients, most artists have to do this to pay the rent. But it is imperative that they make time to develop a unique perspective. This quality is undoubtedly the most important.

The other is work ethic. For me, this has almost become obsessive. The hours I spend on a cintiq staring at pixels and polygons is horrifying. My social life has been severely minimized and I feel like my friends think I hate them, haha. But I also find serenity in this somewhat monastic way of life. That kinda sounds weird, but it’s true.

What do you love about our city and what do you dislike?
I HATE THE DRIVING! When the auto lobby convinced local politicians to strip out public transport in favor of this car culture we have now, they prevented it from becoming the mecca of American culture it could have been. But in spite of this, Los Angeles has everything else going for it- the beach, great weather, multiculturalism, palm trees. The entertainment industry offers so many opportunities to artists of all kinds. To avoid driving, I stubbornly construct my life around Echo Park and DTLA, which are both great places with walkability.

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