Mentor of the Day: Mike Yamada
We’re so very honored to have the wonderful Mike Yamada returning as a Spring 2016 mentor.
After about a 3 year hiatus with us, Mike returns now as Production Designer at Walt Disney Animation. With a few new films such as Big Hero 6, Mike has continued to grow as an artist and share his wealth of knowledge. Mike has even started a GumRoad page where you can download lots of fantastic items to learn from.
His past 2103 mentee, Jess Blank, picked to apply to Mike because she felt like they had some of the same visual language and it would be easier to communicate. She wanted to learn about what it was like to work in the industry and wanted to see how to improve her work.
“The first several hangouts we talked about existing work and Mike gave me some demos and presentations on things that he and I discussed as my weaknesses. I worked on a painting to explore the ideas and methods Mike showed me, and we worked together to revise it and make it stronger. A little less than halfway in I landed on a story I wanted to visually develop, Grimm’s The Golden Bird. Mike and I talked about all the planning it takes to develop a whole story. The dialogue covered both broad concepts and how those concepts could be applied directly to my project. I started working on elements of the story and thumbnails of scenes from the story. I also started gathering reference, both practical and artistic. Mike and I talked a lot about where inspiration comes from and how to integrate disparate visual elements we were attracted to into one cohesive design. I worked on painting some of the ideas and we worked together to revise those while I also did smaller exercises, like color and shape studies, or technical studies, like creating custom photoshop brushes. I also created a working map of the story so I could start planning and tracking the rules I need to keep my story unified. I am currently working on creating more finished pieces for this story. We also had a couple of discussions about studio life, and what his daily work life is like.”
“The most important thing I learned from Mike was to remember to look at the whole. When working on one painting I need to step back and make sure it is working all together, and when working on several pieces in one narrative I learned planning strategies so that all those pieces would work together so that color, shape, direction, and composition would all be storytelling elements.”
Final words of advice from Jess – “I would tell them that he is open, smart about work, and friendly, but to be prepared. The student is the driver and so you have to prepare what you want to talk about and what you want to learn. Mike was open to anything I wanted, but I had to ask first. And also to be patient, sometimes it feels like your emails get sucked into the ether, but he will respond and it’s worth the wait.”