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On Raising Balanced Artistic Kids: Insights from an Illustrator

Monoke (courtesy Jerrod Maruyama)

Princess Mononoke (courtesy Jerrod Maruyama)

Jerrod Maruyama is an illustrator/character designer whose style is eye-popping, unique, and clean. His work has been commissioned by Disney and Disney Japan, along with other movie studios and major toy and entertainment companies. His style is iconic and highly recognizable.

Jarrod spoke to me about his influences, how his family supported his dream, and what advice he has for parents of artistically-focused children.

Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? And if so, can you talk about how your family supported that dream?

My family has definitely been supportive of what I do. They are not into cartoons and animation in the same way that I am. I grew up in a sports family. The emphasis was on my siblings’ sports. Art has definitely been something I’ve pursued on my own but they have all been completely supportive and proud of the work that I’ve done.

I’ve always loved to draw. I didn’t seriously consider a career in art until much later. Seeing The Little Mermaid convinced me to pursue art in college. My original intention was to become an animator. That quickly changed and I finished with a degree in illustration.

What advice might you give to a dad or mom whose child wanted to become an artist? What could they do to help?

HipsterMickeyMinnie_Alice_7

Hipster Mickey and Minnie (courtesy Jerrod Maruyama)

Find a way to encourage your children in a constructive manner. Talk to them about their drawings. Ask them questions about the decisions they made. I believe that kind of dialogue encourages a child to think about what they’re doing. All kids love to create but that doesn’t mean they’re going to want to be artists when they grow up. Most of the time, a drawing is just a drawing. And that’s fine. But like any other skill, drawing takes practice. So, somewhere between over-praising every piece of art and screaming at your kid like a crazed parent at a little league game there is a balance. I think it’s mainly about showing an interest in what they’re doing and encouraging them to work hard at something.

For older kids looking to pursue art as a career, that’s a bit tougher. I’d say, help them educate themselves on the jobs available in the art world. If they want to work for Pixar, help them research what that means. Do they want to animate? Do they want to be a concept artist? Can they major in this? Are there similar jobs at studios other than Pixar? Most parents probably don’t know a lot about this stuff so help them find resources that can teach them. I think you will be surprised at how many artists can be reached via email or social media. Have them write to artists and ask questions. The creative arts field is tough and extremely competitive. The more they know about the world outside of art school, the better they can focus their studies and efforts.

Jerrod’s latest series of illustrations, Hipsters in Wonderland, can currently be seen at the WonderGround Gallery at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA.

You can read more of Craig’s interview with Jerrod on his blog.

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