We had the good fortune of connecting with Marika Tamura and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marika, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The biggest risk I took in my life was when I decided to study abroad in order to pursue a career in animation. When I was 16, I watched a documentary about animation production in the US. Because I wanted to work in a team and art has always been my hobby, I was attracted by the creative and collaborative environment of the animation industry. Although I was focusing on my studies at that time, I wasn’t able to ignore my dream to be an artist in the U.S. Eventually, after graduating from my middle school, I started studying abroad in Canada to prepare myself for college applications. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave my home country on my own when I was only 16. My parents were concerned about my future as well; however, I was able to convince them by researching information by myself, including researching the high school, scholarships, and a list of art colleges that could prepare me for the industry. After graduating from a Canadian high school, I was able to attend Ringling College of Art & Design in 2017 with a major in Computer Animation. Although it was tough to keep up with their program, I learned so much and gained skills I needed to enter the professional world. I was fortunately able to get an internship offer from LAIKA right after graduation and will be a full-time employee next month! Because of the risk I took at that time, I have encountered many challenges. However, I have never regretted my decision to pursue a career in animation; deep down I have almost enjoyed these challenges since they made my experience more rewarding when I achieved the goals I set for myself. The experience of taking risks made my life more fun for me because I love chasing a big dream and working hard towards it!
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.
My job as a visual development artist is to design environments and props for animated films. I believe that my strength is my curiosity in stories and different cultures around the world; I enjoy collecting reference materials from movies, books, photographs, and traveling. While this process doesn’t involve drawing or painting, it is an important step in visual development. I am confident that each prop and environment that I design contains background stories of the characters and reflects their personality because I research and think a lot before starting to draw. It has not been easy to come this far. Born in Japan, I wasn’t able to speak English before studying abroad; I even struggled to make simple conversation with my classmates and host family at first. It was a challenging time but I was still full of energy and kept studying everyday because I knew that all those efforts were for my dream. At Ringling, I worked on my projects day and night. Although it was tough, I really enjoyed working on them, especially my thesis film; it is because I chose a subject matter or an idea that I care about for each project.
One of the lessons I learned along the way was that I should not stay passive. I was originally a shy person (and still am!) but I have been trying to stay proactive and ask for help and feedback. I was afraid of bothering people at first but soon I realized that people around me are very kind and generous; they helped me learn much faster than when I was just staying passive. While I still have so much to learn, from now on, I also want to help other artists working hard to enter the industry.
While studying abroad, I started to re-examine Japanese culture and learned more about Japanese art. It is interesting that I appreciate my own culture more after leaving Japan; I found that learning about the cultures around the world is deeply connected to knowing your own culture because you see unique and special things about your culture. After realizing that, I started to express Japanese culture in my artwork as part of my identity. While working for the studio, I also would love to continue thinking about my own story and I hope to bring that to life someday.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It’s been only three months since I moved to Oregon, so I am still learning! However, I have visited Washington Park and I recommend it to anyone who visits Portland! Their hiking trails and the rose garden are beautiful and they even have the Oregon Zoo and Japanese Garden.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First, I can’t express my appreciation enough for my parents, grandma, and uncle who let me pursue my dream! I understand that it was not an easy decision for them to let me study abroad; I wouldn’t be here today without their support. Also, thank you to all amazing friends and faculties I met while at Ringling College of Art & Design! The experience at school taught me not only technical skills but also the importance of supporting each other and growing together.