We had the good fortune of connecting with Kotta Katsuda and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kotta, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
My mom has always led by example when it comes to my persistence as an artist. When I was in elementary school, she was the assistant art teacher in my art class, and was known by all of the teachers for her work ethic and artistic eye. When my mom is tasked with a project, she refuses to stop until it’s perfected. No matter how simple, she devotes herself wholeheartedly to every assignment and puts in the time and effort.
When I was in middle school, my mom would stay on campus late into the night to finish painting backdrops for the school’s theater performances. Other teachers would advise her to spend less time on the paintings, saying they were just for a high school show, trying to assure her that no one would notice the minute details she had painstakingly designed.
It was only years later when I began to start helping her on these sets that I understood why my mom chose to spend so many hours surrounded by paint fumes and sawdust every evening. Her discipline and perfectionism was driven by her respect for the craft–if the props and set pieces were beautiful, the students who were performing would feel more immersed in the story and become inspired to perform. If I ever painted anything too quickly or sloppily, my mom would remind me to put the utmost care into every single piece I created.
Because of this, we would often stay on campus long after everyone else had gone home, often turning the lights off at midnight. After work every day, we would stand at the back of the empty theater to admire our progress, noting what needed improving.
I believe the school’s theater productions were successful because of my mom’s tireless attention to detail that cost her so much sleep. I have learned to put the same care into all of my artwork no matter how small the project to properly honor the craft.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Because I love capturing how people move and act, I’m a character designer at heart. My favorite things to draw are animals and dancers.
I started carrying around a sketchbook in high school, where I began drawing my friends during the everyday in-between moments–waiting for food at a restaurant, looking bored in class, or standing in line to board a train. Through drawing, I’ve become attuned to the ways my friends sit in chairs, talk with their hands, or laugh out loud. Over the years, these sketches have become a repository of character moments and funny memories that inspire my art.
Since moving to LA for college, this appreciation for detail has led me to fall in love with creating animated short films. Because every second is so precious (and expensive!) to create in animation, it’s essential that I put careful attention into every movement and frame. With every short film, I’ve grown more addicted to the experience of fine-tuning details. I find myself bonding with my teammates when trying to perfect every story beat, acting moment, or camera movement while trying to produce as much work as possible to meet a looming deadline.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Most of my friends from Tokyo haven’t experienced living in a place as sunny as LA, so I would skip the traffic and take them for a walk around my neighborhood in Pasadena. My favorite spots are the college campuses: ArtCenter College of Design’s breathtaking hillside view, Caltech’s clever architecture, and Pasadena City College’s sprawling lawns. We’d have to dedicate a day to the antique shops on Fair Oaks and afterwards, stop for tacos at El Taquito Mexicano’s (it’s the iconic red truck always faithfully parked in front of Nishikawa Auto Service). On a sunny day, we could walk in the shade on Green Street and check out Century Books, the cozy second-hand bookstore, and end the night at Regency Academy Cinemas for the $4 movies. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
All of the opportunities I’ve had had to pursue art have been due to my family’s generosity and diligence. My mom paints and my dad and sister write for a living, while my dog provides comic relief for all of us. My family’s hard work has allowed me to study abroad in the US. There’s a lot of pressure for me to succeed because of the risks my family has taken for me, so I try to pay it back where I can. I’m grateful to have parents that encouraged me to pursue art from the very beginning, especially as not all kids in Japan end up in creative fields in their careers.