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Born and raised in Tokyo, illustrator Dice Tsutsumi moved to New York in 1993. After graduating from School of Visual Arts in 1998, he began his career as a staff illustrator at San Francisco's Lucas Learning Ltd. Two years later, he moved back to New York to work for Blue Sky Studios as a visual development/color key artist on film projects such as Ice Age, Robots and Horton Hears A Who. In 2007, after a seven-year stint at Blue Sky Studios, Dice joined Pixar Animation Studios as an art director and was the color and lighting art director on Pixar's latest feature Toy Story 3. He's been actively pursuing his illustration career outside of animation and had his first children's book, I can Hear, published in Japan in 2009. In response to the recent catastrophic disaster in his home country Dice recently started Artists Help Japan.

04.19.11

Everything Begins with A Story

If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BFA in illustration from School of Visual Arts in New York.

Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? I always liked drawing but was never good at it. I took a painting class during my first year of college only because I didn’t speak any English and couldn’t take any other class. Eventually, I fell in love with painting but I had to work really hard to catch up with other talented kids.

What was your first paid assignment? Hmm.... I was a street caricaturist in New York but it didn’t last long.

Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? There are so many. How much space do I have? Joaquin Sorolla, John Singer Sargent, Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell, NC Wyeth, Rebecca Dautremer, Hayao Miyazaki...

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I wanted to be a baseball player but I wasn’t any good. I’m not so sure I could could make a living playing for a weekend amateur league.

From where do your best ideas originate? Everything begins with a story.

How do you overcome a creative block? I look at other people’s work to get inspiration.

In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Gulp.

Do you have a personal philosophy? It’s OK if I can’t do something the first time; eventually I’ll be able to do it if I try hard enough.

Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? I’d like to write. I can’t do it now but I want to be able to someday.

What music are you listening to right now? Lately, I’ve been listening to film soundtracks—specifically Thomas Newman.

What’s your favorite quote? “Beauty is an intangible thing; can not be fixed on the surface, and the wear and tear of old age on the body cannot defeat it.” —Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Be in it because you love it. If you love it, you will continue doing what you love whether or not you are famous, employed or financially successful.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I’d had an iPhone back then... kidding. Actually, I’m OK with the fact that I was ignorant when I started my career and had to learn all I know little by little.