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Rising Stars: Meet Michael Ajayi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Ajayi.

Hi Michael, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
It’s all started just like how everyone started, watching cartoons. When you’re a kid, that’s usually your first introduction to everything. You start drawing because your preschool teacher asks you to draw your favorite animal, back then you didn’t use references, you drew what you thought a lion look like off the top of your head. You don’t realize at the time, but everyone’s superpower is imagination and just like superheros, you have to learn how to can control it. Some people use dancing, singing, writing, I use art specifically drawing. At first, drawing was just something to do, I didn’t take it seriously until after high school when at the age of 18 you have to figure what you want to do for the rest of your life, in that moment I thought about cartoons and how you do that for a living. Animation the answer and since then, I have been pursuing that career path with a passion getting better and closer every year to accomplishing my goal, using my imagination to create realities.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
After graduating Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (BFA) your not sure where to go from here but you do know you got to get a job and that’s a struggle in itself. My first somewhat art-related job was being an assistant video editor at a Political Advertising Agency called 76 words in Washington D.C. There I got to work on projects like Black Lives / Black Lungs— Truth Initiative, collaborate with Artist Like John Kinhart where I got to do a little small Adobe After Effects animation in his documentary based on Skip Williamson called Pigheaded. As fun as this was, I was nowhere close to where I wanted to be. 2018 was the year I decided to move to Los Angeles (LA) to pursue a career in the Animation Industry. It’s now 2020 about to be 2021 in a couple of weeks during a pandemic, I don’t think there’s such thing as a smooth road when you want something that’s hard to get. Obstacles and challenges are just that, stepping stones towards your goal and so far, my struggles have only made me a better artist and put me in the position I’m now in, a freelancer with an article about himself.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’m a storyboarder and a visual development artist, I specialize in storyboarding out shots and scene that leans more toward acting comedy and drama. What I’m more known for right now is character design and drawing real people as cartoon characters. I love learning new styles like Michael D. Mattesi’s FORCE Drawing and Alex Woo Gesture Drawing. What I’m most proud of right now is how better I gotten at drawing and storyboarding because of teachers/mentors like the ones I mention and storyboard classes like The Copeland Brother’s Storyboard Class, David Joseph Chlystek’s Masterclass Art of Story, and STORY! with Mike Rianda which I took all this year. I’m also proud of myself for not giving up despite how difficult the road feels, I plan on continue my journey until I reach my goal. Being African American and Nigerian helps set me apart because that alone allows me to have a different perspective on how a character should act and feel or how the scene should be storyboarded out.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
Being in LA has been amazing so far, I get why people come here, there hiking, beaches, Disneyland, a bunch of movie and animation studios, beautiful scenery. This place has everything plus In and Out. I’m glad I moved out here and advise anyone who wants a career in the entertainment industry should move out here. What I least like about the city is how high the homeless population is here, it’s ridiculous, hopefully one day I can make an animation movie about it. Also, the traffic can be hell out here sometimes.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Simeon J. Ellis

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