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Meet Yumi Yamazaki

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yumi Yamazaki.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Yumi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a Japanese born Illustrator and Visual Development Artist for Films, Animation, and Theme Parks.

I started seriously pursuing art in my latter years of high school. Because I was raised in a pretty traditional Japanese family and a community where “real” education was taken very seriously, I never thought art was a practical profession to pursue. However, the more I immersed myself in art, I soon could not see myself seeking anything other than art. I managed to persuade my parents to let me attend art school, and I soon found myself beginning my studies at Otis College of Art and Design.

I initially began studying animation at Otis, but as I was exposed to the many colorful disciplines of the program there, I found my interests growing in different directions. While I continued my core studies in animation, I also branched out to learn traditional illustration and art for entertainment. I began building a balance between my commercial artwork in the entertainment industry, and my personal passion for traditional drawing and painting.

As I began building my body of work in both fields, I was very fortunate to find an outlet for my traditional fine art in local galleries. I continue to show my personal work in these galleries today.

During my third year in college, I entered Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition with two of my close classmates. We designed and pitched a theme park design to Imagineers and made it to the final six teams. We were invited to Imagineering for a week to present our project to a room full of Imagineers. And, to our pleasant surprise, we placed third in the entire competition. Through this, I was given the opportunity to intern as a Concept Designer on the Tokyo Disney Resort Team upon graduation.

I worked as a designer at Imagineering for about a year on an incredible team. I feel so fortunate and spoiled to have worked with such skilled and humble people so early in my career.

Unfortunately, my internship was recently cut short because of the company’s countermeasures toward COVID-19. Although it was a tragic end to my time there, I am looking positively toward the future to begin building my own brand and career as a freelance illustrator and designer in LA.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The first time I told my parents I wanted to attend art school was when I was in my third year of high school. My dad was angry with me for not studying, and he asked me what I was going to do with my life. In the heat of the moment, I told him I wanted to be an artist for Dreamworks! It was something I had been thinking about, but I didn’t think it was practical, so I was only thinking of it as a dream. But after I said it out loud, I realized this is what I really wanted. My parents were quite worried because they didn’t think I would be able to make money pursuing art. So, I pitched to them that I would try out art school in a pre-college art program at California College of the Arts and see if I still want to pursue art at the end of it. It was a three-month program for animation, and I worked as if my life depended on it. I ended falling deeper in love with art and came out with a scholarship for the top-performing student. That was enough to convince my parents to let me pursue art.

After high school, I attended Otis College of Art Design, where I studied Visual Development for Film and Animation. I actually went into Otis to study 2D Animation, but I soon realized that the school did not have a strong program in what I wanted to study. It was extremely disappointing, but I knew I had to make the best of my environment. So, I began constructing my own curriculum by piecing together different classes from different majors. I would go around seeking out the best teachers and crashing their classes too. Soon enough, I found what I really loved to do and was able to pursue it despite the curriculum. In retrospect, I think the obstacles in the school program taught me to take charge of my own education and helped me develop a positive mindset always to make the best of the opportunities I have.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a traditional Illustrator and Visual Development Artist for Entertainment and currently work as a freelance creator in LA. I am a designer for Films, Animation, and Theme Parks mainly creating worlds, environments, props, and story illustrations. Once I finish up my work for the day, I crawl into my little studio to create traditional drawings and paintings that pop up at fine art galleries from time to time.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was extremely shy and stubborn. Like most artists, I loved to draw from when I was young. Unfortunately, I have many memories of being discouraged from drawing in school. I was even bullied in middle school for being bad at drawing! Looking back, I think those negative experiences fueled my ambition to keep on drawing because I’m stubborn. I ended up having this deep motivation to prove everyone who didn’t believe in me wrong. On the other hand, I value and love the people who believed in me and supported me through my journey. Now that I am a working artist, I’m so happy I did not stop working hard for something I love.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Vanessa Chen (for my personal photo)

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