Featured Alum: Shinji Fujioka

Hi everyone! For this month’s Featured Alumni, we caught up with the very talented Shinji Fujioka!

Every month we’ll be featuring SVSLearn “alumni” who have either gone on to get repped by an agent or do professional work. They are a little farther along in their illustration journeys and can share some insights on what has helped them get to where they are. We think they are inspiring!

For April, meet:

Shinji Fujioka

Art by Shinji Fujioka

Art by Shinji Fujioka

Below is a Q&A that Austin Shurtliff (@AWSHURTLIFF) conducted with Shinji. They discussed his experience with SVSLearn, the need to make art more often, and challenges that he is facing on his own journey towards becoming an illustrator.

Could you share a little bit about your journey towards illustration and what stage you are at now in your career? 

I was more certain about pursuing art when I was a child. As I grew older, the dream of being an artist was pushed aside in favor of more traditional, corporate jobs. It wasn’t until I realized that I kept turning to art as a means of escaping everyday life that I decided to revisit my childhood dream.

For a short time, I dedicated my time to improving my drawing skills and learning more about what illustration careers were available. It was during this time that I came across Will Terry’s YouTube channel and started entertaining thoughts of becoming a children’s book illustrator. I remember he always had a plug about his online art school at the end of his videos, but I didn’t pay it much attention. He eventually wore me down (repetition works!) and I decided to check out SVSLearn.

I can wholeheartedly say that SVSLearn was a great investment and resource. The classes were easily digestible, and the instructors always provided actionable feedback. The monthly prompts were incredibly fun as it felt like I was part of a community of like-minded artists all encouraging and supporting each other, despite working from the privacy of my own room. One of the pieces I worked on for an SVSLearn assignment provided the opportunity to connect with a wonderfully passionate agent that I eventually signed with.

Do you have a project you are working on or recently finished that you can tell us about?

My art journey is still in its infancy—to be honest, much of my time is still dedicated to my traditional office job as an account manager. I’ve realized that like the process of starting and working on an illustration, everyone has their own unique path when pursuing their art career. Mine is very much a balancing act of my 9-5 job, family time, and illustrating/creating. Basically what I’m trying to say is that there isn’t any specific project that I am working on.

When I do work on art related projects, it’s mainly focused on my own manuscripts and creating art for them. It’s been a slower process than I expected, but it’s a trade-off of time. I don’t feel I’m yet at a place where I can dedicate most of my time to my artistic endeavors.

Could you tell us a little about the story behind your "Helmet and Hound" illustrations and any plans you have for these fun illustrations going forward?

The seed of “Helmet and Hound” really started years and years ago—before I even decided to pursue illustration. I had remembered seeing a commercial that involved a child running around the house with a makeshift helmet and cape. I can’t recall what the commercial was about, but that image stuck with me. It captured an essence of childhood that I had long forgotten—the ability to create a reality that wasn’t bound to the physical limitations of my surroundings or the mental limitations of titles and accolades. 

So one evening, when I sat down to draw a character, this scene from the commercial came up and I decided to see where that went. What resulted was “Helmet and Hound.”

For now, “Helmet and Hound” is a fun personal project that I don’t put any pressure on. If I feel like creating a new image, I start drawing. If I don’t feel like working on it, I stop. Each image represents some idea that I want to express to the world. Its been interesting because working on each image has been a sort of inner dialogue that I get to have with myself and the characters. Sometimes I find myself understanding the idea more clearly and becoming more passionate about it; other times I find myself changing my mind. 

What are some things you are doing now to keep progressing with your art skills/career?

Not much.

Haha, I’m sure that’s not what you were hoping an alumni of SVSLearn would be saying.

But it’s true. And I think it’s important to say. Creating art is a very enjoyable process, but after a certain point, there needs to be a good amount of consistent discipline in order to turn it into a profession. 

I feel that the most successful artists and illustrators I know are constantly producing art and improving their technique. Especially in today’s social media driven world, the artists that are able to stay at the forefront of people’s attention are the ones that progress the most career-wise and skill-wise.

If there was one thing I could start doing that would help progress my art skill/career, I think it would be daily dedicated art time. Even half an hour a day would make a difference. It’s like the gym. Smaller, daily doses do more for your health than one hardcore gym session once a month. 

Do art daily. Something positive is bound to result from it. 

Do you have any suggestions for newer illustrators on how to purse their art goals and use the tools on SVSLearn?

Aside from what I mentioned above, having a focus for your practice will accelerate your growth. There are so many people that want to improve their art skill and knowledge, but they draw the same “fun” subject time after time. I know this because I’m one of them. And as a result, my hands and feet ALWAYS turn out wonky on the first, second, and seventh try.

Do you have difficulty drawing hands so you always shove them in your character’s pockets? Then focus on drawing hands.

You can either find projects that involve only drawing people with hands in their pockets (I’m sure they exist), or you can dedicate the next two weeks to understanding hand anatomy and practice drawing them from every angle and in every position. My guess is that it’ll be easier than finding “hand-pocket” projects.

(But if you happen to find “hand-pocket” projects, please email me…)

In regards to SVSLearn, it’s an excellent resource. I’ve met Will Terry and Jake Parker and while it goes without saying that both are insanely skilled and knowledgeable, they are also very interested in helping others succeed. The way that they’ve structured SVSLearn and brought instructors on board has resulted in a communal and supportive feel to the online school. I know many SVSLearn students who still keep in touch years after first participating in the forums.

For anyone that decides to join the SVSLearn family (which I highly encourage!) definitely take part in the forums and monthly prompts. And if you have the opportunity to get a live critique from one of the instructors, jump on that chance.

Also, take a hand-drawing course.

That last suggestion is more for me.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview and giving such great insights!