Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in San Francisco and I always drew as a kid but at the time I never thought being an artist would be a viable career. Being an artist and applying to art school was sort of out of the question but deep down I had this feeling that I would regret it if I didn’t try. So I tried to apply to both UC’s and art schools. I took AP and Honors classes while making a portfolio for art school on the side but I felt like I wasn’t being honest with myself and my heart wasn’t fully committed to both aspirations. This sounds super cheesy but I followed my heart. I dropped everything that was a part of the UC process and focused all my energy into applying to art school. I just thought, it would be better to commit to something 100% instead of doing something halfheartedly.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Ca and majored in Illustration with an emphasis in Entertainment Arts. Going to an art college and being surrounded with other creatives really helped me build my foundational skills and fueled my desire to get better. When I wasn’t working on school assignments, I did a lot of studies to practice things like color, value, perspective, and figure drawing.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
In my family, being an artist was more of a, “Wouldn’t that be nice?” sort of thought. My dad was really against it but my mom had some family members who were artists and was more open to the whole idea of me being one. I was able to gain everyone’s support when I chose Art Center as my school of choice but my dad still needed convincing. I think he was always reluctant about sending me to art school but on the night when I called my parents to tell them I got a job after graduation all I heard on the phone was my mom saying to my dad, “Why are you smiling? Why are you smiling?” and that was pretty much all I needed to hear.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
I grew up with mostly Disney, Pixar, and live action movies like E.T., Indiana Jones, and Home Alone. American, Korean, and Japanese cartoons, comics, manga, and books, All of these things helped influence and impact me artistically somehow.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
The hardest part for me is getting started. There are just so many ways to start something that I struggle making design choices. I’ll start with getting all the quick initial thoughts out of my head and then create ideas with more research. Once I get over that hurdle and go on autopilot for a while, I get to a certain point where the image is almost fully realized and starts making sense to me. Getting to fine tune and finalize things is where I have the most fun and work more confidently because then I can see what needs to be fixed or redone.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
A typical day for me right now would be a day at work. I’m currently at Sony Pictures Animation and I’m having a really good time working there. I come in, say good morning to my cube mates and start working. Sometimes I’ll get launched on something when I come in or just continue working on whatever I was assigned previously. I have never collaborated with anyone yet but would love to if the opportunity arises! Some weeknights and most weekends I meet up with a group of friends and we all work on our own personal work. I found these meet ups really beneficial to me because it’s a chance for me to break away from stuff I do for work and just draw whatever I want.
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
The most important thing I learned while working with other artists was to live a balanced life. Work is great and I love my job but there’s a whole world out there with so much to see and do. Looking at different types of art, gaining new experiences, reading an awesome book, making new friends, traveling, and so many other things to list but these are just some of the ways that I like to pull inspiration from my life instead of just looking to animation and film. It’s really great because we all feel and see things differently and I think it all helps influence your work somehow to stand apart from others.
What is your long term career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long term goal would be to work my way up and become an art director/production designer and then a director on my own project. My long-er term goal, I know this will not happen but I always like to say that I want to be the next Hayao Miyazaki but I think what I really mean to say is I just want be able to retire doing what I do best and what I love to do the most. My dream project would be to work on a feature film with my closest friends and then watch it in a movie theatre together.
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
I enjoy doing both! Working for a company definitely helps with stability and freelancing is great because you can pick and choose the kind of work you want to do and also be involved with multiple projects at once. If I had to choose one, I would choose working for a company because I get to work with people and be in a team.
What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
Art-block is poison and everyone goes through it! I had this terrible art-block during Art Center and I was considering quitting art altogether. It happened during this awkward phase where I wasn’t happy with how well I was doing and felt like no matter how much I practiced it wasn’t helping me at all. How I fixed it was a combination of more practice, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Letters to a Young Poet, awesome friends, and good food. That’s how I dealt with it but to anyone else I’d recommend going back and try to figure out what it was that made you excited about art in the first place. What was that crazy thing that made you decide to go to art school? Gather everything, your old sketchbooks, your favorite artwork, artists, books, movies, etc. I can’t tell you how long it will take to get out of an art-block but it will definitely pass and that you shouldn’t stop creating.
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
I strongly think you should do everything you can while you’re young. You should never stop learning but you should do it while you still have the energy and time! You never know how something will influence you and change your mind about something. It’s always better to say you don’t like something after trying it yourself instead of dismissing it because of the way it sounds.
Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
I’ve been told this before but I’ve also been told the opposite. I feel like you should just do you. Do what makes you happy because I have some work that isn’t consistent with things I normally do and I get emails from people offering me freelance work because they liked the style of a particular piece. If anything, by being more versatile, I feel like it opens more doors for you instead of restricting.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Sorry for this long list but i’m always inspired by Jeff Turley, Shiyoon Kim, Helen Chen, Dice Tsutsumi, Robert Kondo, Kevin Dart, Tadahiro Uesugi, John Klassen, Geoff McFetridge, and Tatsuro Kiuchi
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I have a soft spot for hand drawn animation too! I’m sad that we don’t see it as much as we did before. I feel like the artists in the industry already miss it so I’m gonna assume other people will start to miss it too. There’s no way 3D is a replacement for it and I hope it comes back in some shape or form. If it does I feel like it will be a little different but not sure exactly how. It’s exciting to think about!
Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online service, you name it. New media on the internet are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this affecting the industry and what are the pros and cons?
I love it! It’s a lot harder than you think to get original content out there to a massive audience. Through the “proper” channels I feel like a lot of projects get diluted or just end up becoming something else entirely because of too many people being involved. With crowd funding and social networking I feel like it’s a great way to shake up the industry from being too predictive and formulaic.
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
You can follow me on Instagram: ( @arex_cho ), Tumblr: ( arexcho.tumblr.com ) and my portfolio website is at: ( www.alex-cho.com )
Thank you Alex :)