Masayoshi Nakamura

Impromptu decision-making, we hear, has its virtues.
If anyone bears that out, it’s Masayoshi Nakamura: After this
unassuming motion-graphics designer moved to the U.S., he landed in his
current profession through a combination of happenstance and
off-the-cuff life choices.

While growing up in the suburban town of
Nishinomiya, Japan, Nakamura first wanted to be a cartoonist. He took
art classes and rigorously studied life drawing. With no certainty, as a
teenager, about what to do with these skills, he was open to a
friend’s suggestion that graphic design was the way to make a
living from art—even though, as Nakamura puts it, “my
understanding of graphic design at the time was movie posters.”
Simultaneously, he developed the notion of moving stateside. “I
was in high school, trying to decide what to do, and this just came to
mind,” he says. With little English, and few U.S. connections,
Nakamura boarded a plane to Boston and eventually moved to New York to
get his degree; he chose the School of Visual Arts because Keith Haring
had gone there. Not until he took an After Effects course in his junior
year did he discover an interest in motion graphics: “It has all
the elements I like—movies, images, and music,” he says.

Nakamura’s ability to act on his instincts finds its creative
apotheosis in his quietly joyful animations. A stop-motion film made
with a collection of cloth dolls opens up a world where the tiny figures
wobble, raise their stitched eyebrows, and cause an explosion (rendered
ingeniously with painted cotton balls). His music video for Earlimart
documents a day in the life of the band with a series of shifting
photographs, an effect Nakamura produced by actually cutting up his
footage with scissors. “I like to make things imperfect on
purpose,” he says. “I like the unevenness that you
can’t get using the computer.”

Nakamura’s first
chance to apply this aesthetic after school was at MTV—a job that
ended swiftly when the company opted not to sponsor him for a work visa.
With only a month left before certain ejection from the country, the
post-production house Spontaneous agreed to sponsor him. His three years
there produced a range of work, including a graceful animation evocative
of scroll painting for the Chinese classical musician Wu Man. The piece,
for which he scanned rice paper to layer under a computer-based graphic,
appeared as a backdrop during her concerts. (“We got to see my
work at Carnegie Hall!” Nakamura says.) Lately, he has embarked on
life as a freelancer, helping to rebrand Nickelodeon’s program
TEENick at New York design firm Adolescent. While he enjoys the work, he
longs for the kind of life where he can balance his interests more
fully, rather than saving passions such as music (he plays in a rock
band) for the evening hours. “Right now, it’s the whole
night-and-day thing,” he says. “I’m hoping everything
will come together one of these days.”

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