Meet Amaro, a Swiss-born conceptual designer, illustrator, 3D artist, and recent graduate from LAAFA with a BFA in Entertainment Art. He moved to Los Angeles in 2015 after spending much of his childhood years dreaming about becoming an artist in the entertainment world.
On the event of our 2018 LAAFA Graduation and Exhibition, I asked Amaro to share his experience during his time with us at LAAFA. Below is a set of questions to help get to know him:
Q: Tell me about your experience at LAAFA, what was it like? What were some challenges that you faced?
A: Coming from Switzerland, what stands out about my experience at LAAFA is the “LA” part as much as the “AFA” part. This urban jungle took a while to get used to. Initially, the downsides of this city were a bit daunting; it was built for cars rather than for pedestrians, getting anywhere of note takes up large chunks of one’s day. The blatant display of vain consumerism and material distraction plastered across every inch that isn’t devoted to something more substantial was pretty off putting, only in the US have I seen advertisements and logos hung up in bars and restaurants as if they were there to create a desirable aesthetic. It took me a while to fall in love with the unique things only this city has to offer; an incredible diversity of cultures and cuisines, an unending variety of services, products, experiences and communities and a distinctly amicable attitude from even the most casual of acquaintances. LA is the world’s megaphone, blasting out ideas and culture with a force that no other city can rival. Also, California has some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes I have ever seen.
The AFA part was also challenging of course. We all start out doing art because we enjoy doing it and once one commits to doing art systematically, including external pressure to perform and meet deadlines, the enjoyment can drain out of the activity fairly easily. This was especially true during the first half of the education, which is solely focused on practicing the fundamentals of figurative art. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot and improved tremendously. I really do enjoy the craft, but drawing a dozen naked people a month can be daunting. In the end though, the practice has paid off greatly. My grasp of traditional draftsmanship has made my digital art all the better!
Q: How does it feel for you to have finally graduated?
A: It feels great! After having spent as much of my life in school as I can remember with any accuracy, I finally have full control over my time. Of course, this is soon to change if I am to find a job, but it feels like a breath of fresh air for now. I am currently just working on improving my portfolio and applying for jobs, the former of the two activities makes me look forward to every day spent working on it.
Q: Tell me a bit the artwork that you submitted to the exhibition. What are they about and what made you include them?
A: Some of the work is simply the product of practicing the craft and is not representative of some deeply personal motivation for self expression. Some pieces are part of a personal project, the Edge Inn, which is something I intend to keep working on in the coming years. I hope to make it a full fledged VR experience.
Q: What is next for you? What are your plans for the future?
A: Finding a job and working for the 12 months that I am allowed to stay in this country. Apart from needing to put food on the table, I have plenty to learn and there is no better way to learn than by working in the industry. What I ultimately want to do is apply all the skills I learn to my own personal projects and try to make a living off of those.
Q: What advice do you have for current and future students of LAAFA?
A: If you are in the entertainment art track, do yourself a favor and decide the following three things as early as possible, even while you are still learning the basics of the craft during the first 18 months:
- What kind of job do you want to apply for when you get out of school? Be specific, acquaint yourself with the positions that make up a movie or game production pipeline, pick one or two, don’t dilute your focus too much and get good at doing the things that people working in your chosen position need to be good at. Companies hire artists that can solve a specific problem that they need solved (character design, story-boarding, environment design, etc.), they don’t just hire “talent” and hope for the best. You have to show that you can do exactly what they need you to do. That also means that you need to prioritize classes and perhaps under-perform in some so that you can focus on what you actually care about.
- Find successful portfolios that have gotten high profile jobs that you want to do. Marty [Director of Academic Affairs] can help you get your hands on some if you ask him. Use those portfolios as a reference. Write out a list of pieces that you want in your portfolio by the end of school (i.e. 3 character designs, 2 environment designs, 5 key-frame illustrations, etc.) Try to be specific, know how many pages a character design constitutes and what part of the design process you want to display on each page and then start working on them. Your first attempts are inevitably going to be mediocre at best, which is why you want more than one attempt at whatever you want to put into your final portfolio.
- Right from the start, decide on one or two projects that you want to develop for your portfolio. Those can either be a truly personal narrative/world or an adaptation of an existing fictional universe that you love. Stick to your projects as much as possible so that you have a cohesive body of work by the end of school. Also, consider that the more time you spend working and thinking about a particular fictional universe, the easier good ideas and fitting designs will come to you. If you keep switching between 15 different themes each and every one of them is inevitably going to be half baked and shallow. Basically, don’t wait until a month before Graduation to start putting your portfolio together…Bad idea!