Alumni Stories

James Paick: Designing a Life of Play

BFA 04 Illustration

With its bookcases full of toys, games, models and monstrous action figures, the lobby of Scribble Pad Studios could double as a Comic-Con booth or a teenager’s fantasy boy-cave. Not far off is a large room full of people mouse-clicking in front of monitors containing the dark landscapes of video games. While this kind of activity might get a person in trouble at most other jobs, the work is all about play at this entertainment design firm, founded by ArtCenter Alum James Paick (BFA 04), specializing in character, creature and concept design for video games, TV and film.

Paick, who founded Scribble Pad in 2008, didn’t attend ArtCenter with the intention of becoming an entertainment designer. In fact, the Entertainment Design department didn’t yet exist back then. But in the years since, it has become one of ArtCenter’s most sought-after degrees, which has inspired the launch of the new Character Animation track.

Ultimately, it was Paick’s passion for popular culture and science fiction that informed his illustration work, which he leveraged to land work in various video game design firms before he set out on his own and launched his business. There’s a lot to admire about James Paick, who now spends his days creating fantasmagorical alternate realities and conjuring the creepy creatures who inhabit them. Check out the Q&A below to learn more about his creative inspirations and the wisdom behind making work out of the booming business of play.

ArtCenter: Where are you originally from? What city do you currently live in?

James Paick: My family is from South Korea. I was born in L.A. and lived a few miles from ArtCenter my whole life, without knowing it was such a prestigious school.

AC: Can you briefly describe your home life, upbringing or life experiences before attending ArtCenter?

JP: My family did not have a good understanding of art and design as a career so the support was not always the best. As a child however I was always drawing, doing creative things and not following the norm. My mom was also an amateur artist, painting and drawing on weekends while I played with my toys beside her. As my passion for art became more evident, I was able to convince them to let me apply one time to one school: ArtCenter College of Design.

AC: What do you do with your downtime?

JP: I love to enjoy outdoors and experience nature. Although art is the driving force of why I enjoy these things, its become a past-time to take a breather by going on nature hikes, museums, aquariums, zoos, car shows, music shows, etc.

AC: What was your background prior to ArtCenter? Did you earn a previous degree or have previous work experience?

JP: Sad to say now, but I barely graduated high school and was not intending to pursue much college. There was no interest in it. Being a kid who didn’t follow the norm, I was not much of a studious child. I didn’t have the inspiration to do so. Once I focused on art as my path, there was no stopping me. It was a complete change from when I was a grade school student to being an artist at ArtCenter.

AC: What one (or two) lesson(s) did you learn at ArtCenter that have most benefited you as an artist?

JP: ArtCenter teaches and molds students to be professional reliable artists with a network of colleagues, friends and classmates that will be a huge bonus in the future. I also learned two key things: love for art and design and time management.

AC: What is the name of your company or place of employment and what is your job title?

JP: Creative Director at Scribble Pad Studios.

AC: How would you describe your career or creative practice as it exists today?

JP: I try to stay consistent in practice and developing new skills. Some of the new developments are to push the direction of the studio and try to influence other artists in a positive way—similar to the experience I had with great art directors and projects.

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