Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 30 Jan 2018, and is filled under visual development artist.

Soyun Park

Hello! My name is Soyun Park and I am a visual development artist and illustrator living in Pasadena. I was born in South Korea and lived most of my life there (about 20 years) before I came to United States to pursue my dream. I stayed for part of my childhood in Florida attending preschool and watched Hollywood animations, which totally got my attention. Since then, one of my biggest joy was watching animations and being part of their world. It all started there. My love and passion drove me to come to United States to study art and animation. In April 2017, after four and half years of study, I graduated from ‘Art Center College of Design’ in Pasadena, majoring ‘Illustration: Entertainment Arts’. I am currently working in DreamWorks and in the mid of my journey of ‘becoming the artist who makes inspiring animations.’

When did you decide you wanted to be visual development artist?
In fact, I didn’t know about visual development until I came to United States and entered Art Center. But I did know that I have dream towards animation and had wanted to work in the field since I was young. Childhood memories from Florida affected me a lot. However, it took time to feel a sense of dedication. When I came back to Korea my surrounding environment pushed me to do academic studies and in South Korea educational fervor and expectations are really high and going to a good university is a big thing. So I studied really hard and attended a good university in Korea. But I wasn’t happy. Then, I realized people should do what they want to do. So I started to think about what really makes my heart run and looked back at my life. Then an idea began brewing in my mind: I love art and animation! With this in mind, I decided to leave the university and prepare for the art school in U.S.A.

Visual development was actually a happy accident. At first, I was just glad that I could draw and paint. Then, my dream got specific after I entered Art Center. At school, there is a specific major called ‘Entertainment Arts’ which focuses on visual development. This major actually matched perfectly with my dream. And as I took more classes and study more about it, I figured out this is the path I want to go.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
I think it will depend on the person and his/her aim. But from my experience, art school is a good school to get trained and be prepared for professional world. Art Center does not provide overall animation major, but it focuses more to specific studies and it is a good school to learn about visual development. From many courses I developed strong skills in background, environment and prop designs based on drawing and observational abilities. Best part for Art Center was that I met many great people. Not only learning from the teachers who were the masters in the animation field but also from my hardworking peers I learned a lot.

However, the sad thing about art schools are that they are too expensive. Before making decision It is important to think about if those money are worth it. I recommend Art Center for those who are ready to pull all their efforts and passion to their work otherwise the money and time will be wasted. And I, who was thirsty to learn art and animation was ready for that.

How long was it before animation became your primary form of income?
I was lucky, I started my first career in DreamWorks right out of school. I started as a visual development trainee and after 12 weeks of the intense ‘Talend Development Artist Program’ I become full time visual development artist. I didn’t need to get another job to support my income.

Could you describe your typical day?
In weekdays, my day starts by going to a work to the worldwide animation studio. In ‘DreamWorks Animation TV’ I am working as a visual development artist on an upcoming unannounced show. My job is to create the world for the characters by designing sets and props based on the story. I mostly spend my creative time with my art director and other visual development artists who are super talented. In work, I am learning about how to work smart and how to cooperate and communicate with each other(teamwork).

After work and during weekends, I try to take a little rest and spend more time on my personal projects.

What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
I wish I knew about the real professional world a little more. In animation, learning about the pipeline and how the industry works are crucial. It is a elaborate field that is composed of several departments and it is all about teamworks. Also, Feature animation with tv animation, 2D with CG shows have different pipelines. Thus, being informed with each production process is necessary.

For those who are young, it is important to find out what makes your heart run. I would suggest to try out and explore more. Don’t hesitate to give it a shot when you are young. You will be narrowing down your path and have specific thoughts as you go on. For me it took time to figure out my path to an artist. But it was never too late.

What’s the best thing about being an visual development artist?
I think animation is one of the strongest media that tells a story, attracts people’s eyes, and moves people’s mind. Nothing is impossible in animation. All the magics can happen. This fact appealed me. And visual development is the first step that visualizes this magic by taking creative role in the process. Coming up with concepts and designing the world are truly fun!

What’s the worst thing about being an visual development artist?
Well, I don’t want to see the bad sides. But since it is a creative job, the hardest part of being artist is that you will frequently face artist blocks. Art is not a field in which you can see the improvement rapidly. So it is easy to get depressed. This also means it requires a lot of steady hard work. After I decided to study art and came to United States, there wasn’t much free time. Staying up all night was normal. But you should keep going.

If you weren’t a visual development artist, what would you be?
Well, I am not sure but after lots of trial and errors I must have find my way to become designer or artist in the end. No matter how long it might take, I must have find the work I wanted to do.

Any other tips you could share?
I would love to give message for those who are in the middle of pursuing their dreams, or those who are having hard time finding their way. First of all, having passion and being ready to pull all of your energy into what you want to do is the most important. I came to United States because I needed to ‘pursue my dream’ even though it meant sacrificing a lot of things. I could make it because I believed in my dreams. Secondly, take actions. Don’t just think but show that you can do it. Working hard is the key to everything. And ‘say yes’ to most of the chances you get and you will never know what will be waiting for you after that. Thirdly, always ask help for the people around you. No one ever achieved by himself/herself. Let them know what you want to do. Ask teachers, friends people who went to the path that you wanted to go and ask, take directions. The more people that knows about your dream the more people will help you achieve that. Lastly, Risk is a chance to learn and by learning you will overcome the block. You will see how much you improved after all those hard times. You will never know how far you could go unless you overcome those hard times.

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