Thursday, May 5, 2011



Goro Fujita Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I was born in Japan and moved with my family to Germany when I was about 3 years old. I went to public German school during weekdays and to Japanese school every Saturday. In both schools I remember getting yelled at by my teachers because I was drawing during class. I was always facinated by drawing ever since I was a little child. I also loved playing instruments like piano and trumpet but since my brother was 100 times more talented than me in terms of musicality I gave up my instruments and shifted my focus to art.

My brother was also very good in drawing but I felt that I could catch up when I practice hard enough. In 1999 I first got in touch with the 3D media. I saw the famous animation by Victor Navone “Alien Song”. I remember watching it over and over again trying to find out how he did it. I started researching about 3D animation and did my first still renderings of pimitives in Bryce and 3D Studio Max. I instantly fell in love with this new media and started learning from books and managed to do some little animations with very primitive characters.

3D was not very popular yet and there weren’t many schools where you could study 3D animation in Germany. After graduating highschool in 2000 I applied for an Art School in Hamburg but I got rejected. I was bummed cause I was expecting to get in.

While I was looking for other options I was reading a Computer Graphics magazine where I found an advertisement about a private 3D animation school near Berlin founded in 2000. It seemed to be a the perfect place for me to study and I payed them a visit. When I entered the facility I instantly had a good feeling about this place.

The only problem was that since it was a private school it was very expensive. I couldn’t make my parents pay for everything so I decided to earn some money first and founded a company with a friend of mine for software development, web design, programming and selling computer hardware.

I was a programmer for about a year and a half. I didn’t feel comfortable with the job at all cause my brain didn’t seem to function very well in a logical/technical way. The web design part was a lot more fun for me to do. I was able to earn some money to pay a part of the study fees and together with my grandmothers savings that she left for me I could start my studies at “The German Film School” in 2002. My parents took care of my cost of living. I’m incredibly greatful for that.

It was a 3 years program and we had to create 12 film projects during the time. You can watch a few of them on my website. Because of the tight schedules we were hardly able to perfect our work but we learned how to work very fast and efficiently which prepared us well for the outside world. After the first year I was sure that I wanted to become a 3D character animator. When I was in my second year I met Stephan Stoelting.

An extremely talented artist. I heard rumors that he did incredible paintings in photoshop. At that time I didn’t even know that you could paint in that application. I thought it’s for photo manipulation only. My jaw dropped to the floor when he showed me his paintings. I set a new challenge for myself. I needed to learn how to be able to paint like that. Even I was extremely buys at school I started doing one speedpaint (30min up to an hour) every day.

Stephan mentored me throughout the next year. At the time of my graduation I had done over 350 paintings. The whole time I only thought about this as a hobby and I was still absolutely sure that I’m gonna be a character animator. After graduating in 2005 I started working as a freelance character animator in Germany but I also kept creating personal art work on the side. My online exposure through my website, art forums and blog attracted companies wanting to hire me as a concept artist. At first I was very insecure since I didn’t feel like I was capable of that kind of job since I didn’t go to school for illustration but soon I gave it a shot and started offering both, 3D animation and concept arts.

Ever since I started school my dream was to work over seas for a big animation company which came true in 2008. I applied to several companies for both positions character animation and visual development and DreamWorks Animation hired me as a visual development artist. I have to thank Stephan for this since I would have never started painting if I didn’t meet him. I’m still creating little animations in my spare time to keep my 3D knowledge alive but I don’t really miss doing animation for a living. I’m always amazed how on single person can have such a huge impact on your life.

How do you go about painting, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

It depends what I want to do. When I’m working on a color key at work I try to collect as much information as possible before starting to work on the image. First I get launched by the production designer. We discuss things like light direction, composition, which characters are in spotlight etc. I’m also looking through the storyboards to understand what’s going on in the sequence. Then I spent some time looking for reference images. Using reference is essential. There are many things you wouldn’t come up with if you are only working from memory and imagination. When I start painting I try to keep my layers as organized as possible and try to work in a way that I can always go back to make changes easily. Most of the times we paint over a rough 3D layout. Sometimes we only have a storyboard panel and we basically paint everything from scratch.

When I work on personal illustrations I work in a similar way but with less layers. I don’t like having too many layers in my photoshop files and since I don’t have to get my personal work approved by a director I usually flatten layers once I know I won’t make major changes on the painting.

There are times where I just like doodling without thinking too much. Then I just let my hand flow and wait for happy accidents. It’s a very relaxing process and a lot of fun since you don’t know what you are going to paint. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but other times you can come up with amazing images you never thought of painting.

But no matter what I’m painting I always start out rough and lose. You can add the details later. The image has to read at a rough stage already. I’m also always aware of the lighting before I do my first stroke.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

I get up at 6AM, drive to work and hit the gym for an hour and a half every day. (We have a gym on our campus which is very convenient) I grab some breakfast and start working at 9AM starting with checking my e-mails and the schedule for the day.
We have a touchbase with the Production Designer and the Art Director every morning. We show our work in progress paintings/designs and talk about the next assignments etc. We have Director art reviews once a week where every artist is presenting their work to the Director.

I simply love our working environment it’s probably the nicest little group I ever worked with. Everybody has their different strengths and all of them are very individual and have strong personalities. I’m looking forward to working with them every day. Some of them like Erwin and Kory I’ve known for years through online forums before I met them personally. I feel blessed to be able to share my passion with such amazing artists.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

I was working on several TV commercials and a feature film called “The Flight Before Christmas” in Germany. You can see some of the shots of the movie in my animation demoreel. I was a supervising animator on the short film Descendants which will be posted along with this interview too. Since I got hired by DreamWorks Animation I have been working on Merry Madagascar and Megamind.

Is there a painting you have done that you are most happy with?
I’m very happy how my “CU-02 in Love” painting turned out. I wrote a whole story for that painting and wish that I can create a short film of it some day. I need to find time and the right team since I won’t be able to do it all by myself.

What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

Right now I’m working on Madagascar 3 scheduled to come out in 2012.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

It’s really hard to say since there are so many amazing artists out there. And with the internet you have a lot more access to artists than you used to. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the amount of great work out there. People that inspire me are Craig Mullins, Tadahiro Uesugi, Dice Tsutsumi, Uwe Heidschoetter and the list goes on…

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

My main tool is photoshop. I hardly use any other software packages. When I paint on my iPad I use “brushes” and “sketchbook pro”.
When I start a painting I’m thinking in shapes rather than in lines. Often times I don’t even do a drawing and start blocking in shapes directly. But it all depends. If I have a specific idea in mind I would start with a linedrawing. The key is to keep it rough and fast in the beginning. When I start a painting I imagine how the scene would look when the lights are turned off. Then I start illuminating the scene thinking about key, bounce and fill light. It’s an easy way to keep track of the lighting especially in very complex scenes.

What part of visual development is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

I guess the most fun part is the exploring. Especially in the preproduction where you hardly have any restrictions. You are responsible of creating and designing the world. It’s a huge responsibility but it’s also a lot of fun since you can contribute with your own ideas. What I find difficult is having to go back to a painting and redo it over and over again. It doesn’t happen a lot but sometimes it takes a while until you find the image that the director has in mind.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

I love to travel. Traveling to different countries always gives me new energy and inspiration. It’s like fuel for my creativity. I also like to participate in events like or going to comic-cons. Seeing all the amazing artwork and meeting the artists in person always inspires me and makes me work harder on my own skills.

What are some of your favorite art work which you have seen?

When I was growing up my parents took me to art galleries. They were big fans of Pablo Picasso and Rene Magritte. We had a framed piece of the horse of picassos guernica haniging at our house which I still remember very well. As a kid I was somehow disturbed but at the same time attracted to this piece.

When I was learning to paint digitally I remember that the painting “hover ship hall” by Craig Mullins blew my mind. It’s still one of my favorite digital paintings out there.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

I guess you can tell by looking at my paintings. It’s robots. Usually they interact with nature, animals and little kids. I always loved robots. I used to have a lot of robot toys as a kid. A bunch of train cars transforming into little robots and you could combine them all together to a gigantic robot. God how I loved those toys.

These days I like to see them as our friends rather than killing machines. I love to give them personality by letting them interact with animals and kids. Contrary to adults, kids and animals have no prejudices and the robots feel comfortable around them. I just love the idea that robots have a soul and can live independently from humans.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

Since I wasn’t plainning to become a Visual Development Artist I have to give it to Stephan Stoelting whom I’ve mentioned before. He created a whole new path for me to follow. But also all the artists I met along the way kept me going especially my online art forum buddies, Matthias Verhasselt, David “Vyle” Levi, Nicholas “Sparth” Bouvier, Kory Heinzen, Erwin Madrid, Min Yum, Nicolas “Viag” Ferrand and many more. Over the past two years I met most of them in person. Even if I met them for the first time it felt like meeting old friends. It was an amazing experience.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

A neat thing is that there are countless ways to get to the same goal. In my case it was Stephan who opened up a new path for me I never even considered following. I think that’s pretty neat!

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

The most important thing is that you love and have fun at what you do.
Work hard and eliminate your weaknesses step by step. Not all at once.
The key is to stay focused on your goals. Never be scared of Failing. Failing is good and necessary for you to grow.

One of my favorite movie quotes:
“Life ain’t about how hard you hit, it is aout how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”
- Rocky

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?




facebook page:

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

I do have a deviant art print store where you can buy prints of my work.

Goro Fujita Gallery

Animation Demo Reel 2010